Over the past two weeks, we have looked at two aspects of God’s sevenfold will – His Directive and Cooperative will. As we continue with our study, let us consider His Preceptive and Permissive Will:
3. Preceptive Will
The preceptive will of God refers to the exercise of His will according to His precepts or law. Divine revelation is progressive as God makes Himself and His will known to His people. In patriarchal times, this was done through oracles and visions. But with time, “God’s Word was put down in parchment and ink, and now by the printed page. First, by Moses in the giving of the Law then by the writing prophets, and finally by the apostles. These writings total 66 books, to make up our Bible” (The Clock of the Sevenfold Will of God – Timothy Tow).
o The Ten Commandments
God’s preceptive will is revealed through the Decalogue or Ten Commandments (including the relevant statues and judgments) which were given through the hand of Moses.
The first five commandments enumerate our duty towards God while the second five teach us our duty towards our fellowmen. Each of the Ten Commandments starts with a strong prohibition – “Thou shalt not”. But in the New Testament, our Lord Jesus Christ summarised the Ten Commandments under two major principles of love – loving God “with all thy heart” and loving “thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22: 37, 39).
o Exhortation to heed God’s Word
God’s people were exhorted to keep His law diligently, “lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (Deut. 4: 9). The Lord promised Joshua, Moses successor, that if he would consistently heed and obey His precepts, all would be well with him – “for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1: 8).
This counsel to heed God’s Word is relevant to us, even today. God desires that we, His children, walk by the light of His preceptive will which is revealed in His Word. When we obey His Word, the Lord promises to bless and guide us. May God’s Word be a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path” always (Ps. 119: 105).
4. Permissive Will
An excellent example of God’s permissive will is found in the sufferings of Job. Satan was granted divine permission to afflict Job – “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand” (Job 1: 12). He swiftly and relentlessly wreaked havoc on the patriarch’s family and possessions. God allowed one disaster after another to befall His servant. Within a short space of time, Job lost his oxen, asses, camels, sheep and servants to “the Sabeans”, “the fire of God” and “the Chaldeans” (vv 14-17).
The final blow came when he received the sudden news of his children’s tragic death: “And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead” (v 19). Though deeply grieved, the patriarch uttered not a word against God. Instead, he “fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (vv 20-21).
When Satan grievously afflicted Job “with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown”, his wife taunted him to “curse God, and die” (2: 9). But Job remained steadfast: “In all this did not Job sin with his lips” (2: 10).
One may ask, “Did not God foresee all the calamities that would befall Job when He allowed Satan to test His servant?” Yes, He did – for He is the sovereign God. God even knew that Job would pass the test with flying colours. In the midst of his greatest trials, the patriarch could confidently affirm his unwavering faith in the Lord: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him” (13: 15). God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, had allowed Job to be severely tested but it worked out for his good in the end. We are told that “the LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning” (v 12a). He rewarded the faithful patriarch with another family of seven sons and three daughters, and twice as much cattle (vv 12b–13).
Another example of God’s permissive will is seen in the life of Joseph, the younger son of Jacob. When he was but a youth, his jealous brothers sold him as a slave in Egypt. Despite the many years of separation from his family and his painful ordeal in a strange land, Joseph acknowledged the hand of God in his sufferings.
God had sent Joseph to Egypt for a purpose: “And God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt …” (Gen. 45: 7-8). Trusting in God’s sovereignty and permissive will, Joseph comforted his brethren, stating that God had allowed evil against him for a good purpose – “to save much people alive”: “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50: 19-20).
Brethren, are we struggling with life’s problems? Are we perplexed or troubled in any way? Our sovereign God is in control of every event in our lives. He has a purpose for all things that He has allowed to happen to us, whether good or evil. Like the two faithful patriarchs, let us trust in our Lord to bring good, even out of evil. May we rest in the precious promise of God “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8: 28). (… to be continued)