By William Jackson
“Free will” simply infers “that man is free to choose between certain courses of conduct…”1 We also understand that free will comes with consequences that can be punishing, or even rewarding, and in either case, the outcome is fundamental in providing us opportunity to grow. Nonetheless; in conjunction with free will, the question becomes “does God involve Himself in our free will?” There are those that believe that God is ambivalent, allowing us to govern ourselves without His involvement, this is called “Deism”. The rest of us believe in a caring God who desires an interactive relationship with His creation, this is called “Theism” In believing in the latter, we realize that our God is one who cares for His, so the idea that He intervenes in our lives makes sense. This intercession is called “Divine Intervention;” but although it comes in many forms, it only comes from two distinct directions; internal and external.
God’s external divine intervention:
We know the external influences of God. In Tanakh it came in forms like a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-10), angels (Genesis 16:7-11, 19:1-15, 22:11-15), strangers (Genesis 18:2-10, 37:14-7, Joshua 5:13) and a disobedient donkey (Numbers 22:21-31). God summons a multitude of external sources that give us guidance. These are akin to the Shepard’s staff guiding us onto the right path, (Psalm 23:4, 89:33, Proverbs 22:15, 26:3, 29:15, Lamentations 3:1). In our current lives we might experience the same triggers through a significant event, or even a bible passage that speaks out to us. Still God sometime uses more intrusive methods that come from within us, this is an “internal” divine intervention.
God’s internal negative divine intervention:
A Hardened Heart
As for the internal influences from God, this come from within and can be either positive or negative. A good example of God negatively affecting people was Pharaoh during the Jewish enslavement in Egypt around 1446 BCE. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened at least eleven times by God (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 13, 22, 9:12, 10:1, 20, 27, 11:10, 14:4, 8) thus advancing the Jewish Exodus. We need to remember “Hardening a Heart” is not unique to just this Pharaoh or event. God also inflected the Egyptians (Exodus 14:17), Sichon King of Heshbon (Deuteronomy 2:30) and the Northern Armies (Joshua 11:20) with this same technique. These events did not benefit the individuals being made callus by God. They were usually just methods that advanced God’s agenda (Exodus 9:14-16, 10:1-2, Deuteronomy 2:30 , Joshua 11:20).
A Spirit of Discord
Hardening of the heart was not God’s only method of dealing with the wicked. For example, in about 1129 BCE we had Abimelech, an Israelite King that used immoral methods in seizing his throne. Shechem was the Israelite city which supported Abimelech posting as King and also shared in the guilt of his crimes. These crimes took the lives of 70 men (Judges 9:5). God sent a spirit of discord between Abimelech and the men of Shechem (Judges 9:23 ). This resulted in the Battle of Shechem which cost the residence dearly and resulted in the death of King Abimelech (Judges 9:53-54). This is how God paid back both Abimelech and Shechem for their evil deeds (Judges 9:56-57). We also see this in 1003 BCE with the Jewish tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh because they worshipped other gods. Here God motivated King Pu of Assyria defeat them and put them into captivity (1 Chronicles 5:26).
Reasons for negatively influencing men.
As we study out each of these situations, we find that God did not inspire evil in these men. They were usually “eyebrow deep” in wickedness before God prompted them. God just accelerated their deprived spirit that would justly cost these villains and deliver His plan in the end.
God’s internal positive divine intervention:
God’s internal intervention is called the “ruach” which in the simplest of terms is God’s spirit and is placed on all His creations at He wills.
God inspired men with His Ruach (Spirit):
The best example we have of this is God’s Holy place of worship. In Exodus 31:1-11 God gave His ruach to Bezalel (B’tzal’el), Oholiab (Oholi’av) and other craftsmen to build the Tabernacle and its furnishings. Later, He told King David that his son Solomon to advance the tabernacle by making His Temple (1 Chronicles 28:6-10). Over 400 yers later, after the Babylonian captivity, God now inspires men to rebuild His temple (Haggai 1:14 and Ezra 1:5). Yes, these examples deal with the construction of God’s places of worship but the ruach inspired so much more. For example God’s spirit causes men to prophesy; 1 Samuel 10:10, 19:20, 19:23, Ezekiel 8:3, 11:24, 2 Chronicles 15:1, 24:19-20 and affect the nation of Israel. God ruach also was placed on heroes and heroines of the Tanakh to secure their success.
We even have evidence that Non-Jewish men actually witnessed God’s ruach on other men:
- Pharaoh saw the spirit of God on Joseph (Genesis 41:38).
- Balaam noticed the spirit of God on the Israelites (Numbers 24:1-3).
- King Nebuchadnezzar said about Daniel (Daniel 4:6, 15, 5:11, 14)
Nevertheless the ruach is not just limited to the history of Israel. We only highlight these events because they are captured in the pages of the Tanakh. Divine intervention in our day could be anything from huge events like Israel becoming a nation in 1948 to the apparently most mundane provided the intent is to advance the Kingdom of God.
Picture Perfect Example
A superior synopsis that shows God’s negative and positive divine intervention in one man’s life is the story of King Saul.
At first it was God who changed King Saul’s heart to be good (1 Samuel 10:9). Additionally God inspires Kings Saul to mount an Army and defeat the Ammonites (1 Samuel 11:6-7). Up to this point God’s ruach made Saul a great King but Saul became selfish. As we see 14 years later in 1 Samuel 15:3 God tells King Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely. Saul disobeys God by sparing some of the cattle and their King 1 Samuel 15:9. At this point God rejected Saul as Israel’s King 1 Samuel 15:10-11, 23, 26. In 1 Samuel 16:11-13 God chooses David to be King Saul’s successor and put his spirit now on David. Conversely God took His spirit from Saul in exchange for an evil spirit “that filled him with depression and fear”(1 Samuel 16:14). God, who created these opposing spirits in either man, used this diversity to bring them together, As He has King Saul’s evil spirit calmed by David’s lyre (1 Samuel 16:23). About 9 years after this symbiotic relationship was formed, King Saul turns on David. This is partially due to jealousy but mostly bolstered by a spirit put on King Saul by God (1 Samuel 18:10-11). In the end King Saul died of his transgressions against God (1 Chronicles 10:13-14). So why such a “roller coaster” of good and bad influences with King Saul? We need to look at the “Big Picture”, which was that Israel wanted a King but God did not them to have one. Regrettably God gave them what they wanted, a request that Israel would come to regret (1 Samuel 8:4-9). God’s divine intervention is not about us getting what we want, it’s about Him fulfilling His master plan.
Thus says God, Adonai, who created the heavens and spread them out, who stretched out the earth and all that grows from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it:
Teach me to do your will, because you are my God; Let your good Spirit guide me on ground that is level.
It is the Spirit of God that made me, the breath of Shaddai (God Almighty) that gives me life.