Sovereignty and Responsibility
1 Kings 19:15 records the fact that God had commissioned Elijah to anoint a man named Hazael as the king of Syria. God intended Hazael to be the means of judgment upon the rebellious and idolatrous nation of Israel. It appears that Elijah never got around to anointing Hazael as king. We find in our passage today that Elisha told Hazael that he would be the king and would mete out God’s judgment on Israel.
In our passage, we see that God shows his prophet what will happen in the future. Hazael will be the king of Syria and will do some terrible things to the Israelites; he will be the instrument of God’s judgment on his rebellious people.
Beyond that, this passage deals with a very deep and difficult topic: the relationship between God’s sovereign control and human responsibility. God knows what is going to happen in the future, but humans play a part in bringing that future into reality.
So today I want to consider how God’s sovereignty and human responsibility interact. This is one of the most difficult topics in all of theology. As you might assume, there are many opinions on this issue.
We must admit that this is a great mystery. We are looking into rather deep theology, I don’t pretend to know how God can be sovereign and man can be responsible at the same time. But we know that these two ideas are compatible, not contradictory. God controls human events, yet humans make legitimate decisions for which they are accountable.
In this text, God reveals the future, but that future depends on human actions. So there’s a delicate balance between God’s control of all things and people acting to bring about the result that God intends. So we have to tread rather carefully through this issue.