Choice and Predestination



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. ‘This will be the sign to you, which will come concerning your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas: on the same day both of them will die.

I Samuel 4: 10  So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. 11And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

Of all the questions that have come in during this series on I Samuel, this is perhaps the hardest to answer.   It is challenging to balance choice and predestination in the biblical framework of God’s sovereignty.  This single question has been argued within the church now for 2,000 years.

In my early years as a believer I was nurtured in a denomination that emphasized man’s choice when applying God’s sovereignty.  Later, I spent years with churches and Christian organizations that focused on the doctrine of predestination when applying God’s sovereignty.   In retrospect, I believe that both persuasions affected God’s will as well as the other, and both defended their views adequately with a plethora of Scripture.  For the most part, my following views about the pre-ordained deaths of Hophni and Phenehas primarily come from my own personal study of God’s Word.

I can’t state definitely why God pre-ordained their deaths, other than through His omnipresence (all knowing) He was able to foresee the choices they would make, and thusly decided before hand to end their lives as He did and replace them with a Godly priest like Samuel.   I believe the “whys” of the preordained (predestined) acts of God are mainly reserved for heaven. In heaven, I will be free from all influence other than what is God’s.  The “why God does this or that”, for now, is knowledge I am convinced I will never truly attain while on earth.   My ever-present sin (Romans 7:11), the foolish wisdom of my fellow humans (I Corinthians. 1:25), and the constant opposition of evil limit greatly my understanding of all that He wants me to know (Ephesians 6:11-12).

Aside from these limitations, I believe Hophni and Phinehas were put to death because they were evil and an embarrassment to the priesthood. I can say this because I am looking back at what they did.   God, on the other hand, has the omniscience ability to foresee what they were going to do and preordain their demise accordingly.   But the question remains; why didn’t He intervene with them like He did with Paul, the great Apostle?      Paul was quite evil himself, before making Christ his Lord and Savior.    He persecuted the church and was responsible for killing many Christians.   Why did God not intervene with Hophni and Phinehas as He did with Paul (Acts 9:3)?   I don’t know, but I do know that God is perfectly just and fair in every decision He makes.

Since we cannot know definitely why God ordains some like Hophni and Phinehas for destruction and others like Paul for salvation, is there any Scripture that can partially help us understand the why behind His decisions?    I believe there are some Scriptures and have included a small sample of them below.   I have also included some of my own thoughts on these passages and suggest you do the same.

The way God works

Romans 8:28-30   28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

My thoughts-    Romans 8:28 teaches us that God causes everything to work together for good to those who love Him.   God can even take the bad of others and work it out for us.  Hophni and Phinehas were evil.  Contrastingly, Samuel loved God. The decisions these two spiritual jerks made ended up to be the catalyst to bring Samuel to the forefront as God intended.   What Hophni and Phinehas did was no surprise to God; He knew their hearts before they were born.   Their evil acts did not deter God’s will for one moment.

Predestination and free will in God’s sovereignty

Psalm 139:1,7-8,13,15-16    1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?  8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. 13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. 15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

2 Thessalonians 2: 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

Ephesians 1:9-11   9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him     10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose, who works all things after the counsel of His will,

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

I Timothy 2:1-4   1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,    2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4    who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth

Romans 10: 11,13-14    11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher.