Old Testament Examples
First, consider with me the personal and unique will of God for Adam in the garden. Genesis 2:16-22 tells the early events in the garden, as God placed Adam in it, gave him responsibility in it, and gave him a wife. This passage allows us to see all three aspects of God’s will interacting within the same story. First, we observe God’s moral will. God commanded Adam to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This command applied to Adam and then to his wife Eve. If Adam and his wife had not disobeyed God’s command, then their children in the garden would have been under the same mandate. This was God’s moral will for them. We know that though it was God’s will for them to obey Him explicitly, they disobeyed. The second aspect of God’s will in this passage, is God’s sovereign will. This was totally dependent upon God. The creation of the universe, its governing laws, and its residence (human and animal) were all the result of God’s sovereign will. God placing Adam in the garden was also part of God’s sovereign will, and God’s creation of Adam’s wife Eve and God’s creation of marriage were all aspects of God’s sovereign will. These events were totally dependent upon God, and not man. Lastly, we see the personal, universal will of God. God gave Adam the unique responsibility to care for the garden, and then to name what God had created. These responsibilities were totally unique to Adam. Please notice what God did, and what He did not do. God gave Adam a simple command. This was His will. From that point on, Adam used all the tools that God had uniquely given him to do the work. Adam’s mental faculties and physical strength were the unique gifts of God, and they were the tools he used to accomplish God’s will. We have no evidence that God micromanaged the process. We do not hear Adam saying, “God what do I name this one?” Adam simply did what God wanted him to do. He took the unique gifts of God, and used them to God’s glory as he accomplished these tasks daily. God’s unique personal will was accomplished in a co-operative way. Adam would have done nothing without the prompting of God. Adam could have done nothing without the enabling of God. God’s prompting and gifting was only displayed to God’s glory when Adam made choices to uses these gifts and tools within the boundaries God had given. The Bible does not tell us that Adam chose the “right” name for every animal, nor does it say that he did not. All we know is that Adam did what God wanted him to do, and that these actions brought glory to God.
Secondly, consider the life of Nehemiah. Nehemiah 1-2 gives us the record of God’s work to send Nehemiah back to Israel to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. There are several key elements in this passage. God had a unique desire at that time in human history. This desire was intimately connected to His sovereign will, to restore Israel to the Promised Land, and have the walls of Jerusalem rebuilt. God desired to use Nehemiah in these events. How was this accomplished? First, God providentially placed Nehemiah in the palace. God stirred the heart of Nehemiah through exposure to people who knew the horrible condition of Jerusalem. God stirred the heart of a pagan king to send Nehemiah back to the land. God stirred the heart of the king to provide materially. God stirred the heart of the king to send protection and authorization. God uniquely placed and gifted Nehemiah for the task, and stirred his heart when the time was right to go. Nehemiah exercised humility and dependence upon God throughout the entire process, and Nehemiah used God given wisdom to make wise, godly decisions throughout this process. We can once again see the co-operative nature of God’s work to accomplish this aspect of His will.
Notice how many times in Scripture, God works behind the scenes stirring up the hearts of people to accomplish His individual desires for these people. Exodus 35:21 says that, “they came, every one whose heart stirred him up, and every one whom his spirit made willing, and they brought the LORD’S offering to the work of the tabernacle of the congregation, and for all his service, and for the holy garments.” Exodus 35:26 says, “And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.” Exodus 36:2 says, “And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the LORD had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it:” All three passages give examples of people who God had uniquely gifted to play a role in building the tabernacle. In each situation, God stirred their hearts to accomplish unique aspects of His desire to build the tabernacle. I Kings 11:14 says that, “the LORD stirred up an adversary unto Solomon…” I Kings 11:23 says that, “God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon…” I Chronicles 5:26 says that, “God stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tilgathpilneser king of Assyria, and he carried them away, even the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh…” II Chronicles 21:16 says that “The LORD stirred up against Jehoram the spirit of the Philistines, and of the Arabians…” These passages give examples of God stirring up the hearts of pagans to chasten His disobedient children. II Chronicles 36:22 says that, “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.” Again, God stirred the heart of a pagan king, this time not to chasten Israel, but to restore them to the land, and to rebuild the temple. Lastly, Haggai 1:14 says, “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.” In each passage, we read that God uniquely stirs the hearts of both the saved and the lost to accomplish His unique desires thought different seasons of human history.