Determined or Responsible?

I recently wrote about King Hezekiah and his second chance when he repented and sought The Lord. I drew an important lesson for marriage partners, namely, confession and forgiveness as a route to restoration in their relationship. My wife read that piece (she always checks them out). She suggested another lesson from the life of Hezekiah that we shall explore.

In our culture we put a lot of stock in the environment being deterministic. In fact, we are not quite sure how to explain a Dr. Ben Carson; from poverty in a single parent home in the projects to neurosurgeon. How can that be? Oh, I know, he is an evolutionary anomaly. Right! Well then, Hezekiah and several other Old Testament kings must also be put into that category.

Please do not misunderstand. The Bible clearly teaches the importance of parent modeling (environment). But it also teaches that God can and does often overrule environment. Obviously God’s providential working is not limited to the environment of family. My mother was a Christian (though mostly self taught since she lived in a liberal church). My father was not a believer, but he did live a Christian ethic to a large extent. However, my environment was anything but one that modeled good citizenship yet alone Christian character that would produce a good marriage and leadership qualities.

But God!

But God intervened! At seventeen He gave me surrogate parents who were in their late twenties. God used them to influence me with the Gospel in all of its variegated dimensions.

And so you see, no one need view her/himself as determined. God teaches us “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The truth of the gospel will set you free from the bondage of sin and it can set you (or your rebellious child) free from the bondage of environment.

Oh, yes, our Sovereign God has ordained our place and role in life but He has so constructed life that we are not puppets on a divine string. Rather we have a real reasonable option to affirm His course in the flow of history. The mechanics of how God has construed this process is inscrutable to our human capacities. We affirm it, as revealed, by faith. Hezekiah chose not to follow the model of his father, but rather a godly course as his manner of life. By heritage his appointed role was king of Judah. By the exercise of responsibility he chose to live and rule in a godly manner.

You may have grown up in a divorced or otherwise dysfunctional family. But you are not therefore determined to have a bad marriage or a divorce. You and your mate can choose to embrace the Gospel which is not only the good news unto salvation of your soul for eternity, but also the good news of the power to choose salvation from the negative influences of your environment. Because you, as a believer, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit you can not only choose to live and relate to one another in a godly manner, but you can provide a model for your children to give them “a leg up” in life.
This brief passage from Psalm 118:5-7 summarizes this reality. “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? The Lord is on my side as my helper; I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.”

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