Submitting to God’s Permissive Will

If I’m honest with myself, I’m prone to “kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). Not like Paul who persecuted followers of the risen Christ despite all the evidence he was aware of which testified of a risen Christ. Instead, I recognize a part of me which instead of acting like a submissive sheep being lead by his Shepherd, too often acts more like a stubborn mule resisting the pointed prodding of God’s will. Like one who, despite the reality of reality, wants to operate under a different reality.

Now, I’m not talking so much about the stuff prescribed explicitly according to His inspired word. Nor am I thinking about the stuff that is received in answer to our needful prayers. Instead, sometimes it’s the stuff which God simply allows to happen that I struggle with. More than once I’ve found myself in a tug-of-war with God’s permissive will. That, despite believing God is sovereign and thus all things are according to His providential will, it’s somehow less the will of God than His prescribed will and so it’s okay for me to try and resist it.

This morning David (or it could have been the Spirit) was both my convicter and my comforter.

Context? Absalom has won the hearts of the people and declared himself king — and Jerusalem ain’t big enough for two kings, so David’s effectively run out of town (2Sam. 15). As he flees with his entourage “a man belonging to the family of the house of Saul”, Shimei, comes out and from the sidelines derides and curses David as he passes by. He purports to speak for the Lord declaring the coup was deserved by David for taking Saul’s throne (not true, by the way). Eventually, after yelling curses and throwing stones at David & Co., one of David’s soldiers has had it and is read to take action. But it’s David’s response which takes action on my heart.

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and remove his head!”

The king replied, “Sons of Zeruiah, do we agree on anything? He curses me this way because the Lord told him, ‘Curse David!’ Therefore, who can say, ‘Why did you do that?'” Then David said to Abishai and all his servants, “Look, my own son, my own flesh and blood, intends to take my life ​— ​how much more now this Benjaminite! Leave him alone and let him curse me; the Lord has told him to.

(2Samuel 16:9-11 CSB)

If God is sovereign, and He is; if God is overall and nothing happens on earth without it first passing through His fingers in heaven, and it doesn’t; then, while God would never curse the one He had hand-picked and anointed to be king over Israel, and while He would not capriciously determine that David should somehow be made to pay for sins which God had already determined to put away as far as the east is from the west, because God had permitted Shimei to curse David, David knows that God might as well have actually told Shimei to curse him. Not justifying Shimei’s sin, not validating his unrighteous behavior (Shimei would suffer the consequences later); yet, though not God’s will by precept or command (Ex. 22:28), David regarded Shimei’s slander as God’s will nevertheless. And so, even if it was but God’s will because God had permitted it, David would purpose not to kick against the goads.

Instead, David would submit to God’s permissive will. In disgrace he would flee. And in humility he would look to God alone for mercy and justice.

“Perhaps the Lord will see my affliction and restore goodness to me instead of Shimei’s curses today.”

(2Samuel 16:9-12 CSB)

God’s permissive will is still God’s will. Mine isn’t to resist it, but with a heart submitted to God to navigate it. Mine isn’t to whine about what seems unjust, but to walk in a way that honors the One who will bring all things to light in His time in order to fulfill His purposes. Mine is to trust in God. To trust not only in His will as prescribed through His inspired word, but to trust also in His will as permitted by His sovereign hand.

Only by His grace. Always for His glory.

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