When it comes to the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility, historically Christians of all stripes have differed and often very passionately. The issue of how these two biblical truths interact can be very puzzling. Generally one aspect of the issue is emphasized over the other (i.e., divine sovereignty vs. human free choice) and when this occurs, biblical passages usually end up contradicting the position(s) held.
This issue is particularly vexing for the thinking person who wants to faithfully make sense out of scriptural texts and get to know God more intimately. Consider the life of Israel’s King Ahab which says:
“Surely there was none like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD…acted abominably in following idols according to all the Amonites had done…” (vv.25-26)
Nevertheless, he experienced a measure of Gods’ grace because he decided to humble himself before the LORD (vv.27-29). God promised to eradicate Ahab’s name from the earth because he made Israel sin (21:19-22) and provoked the LORD through his idolatry. The point is that Ahab put on sackcloth and ashes (a mark of repentance and humility) before the LORD. God’s response to this:
“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has…I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” (21:29)
Even this wicked king received mercy from the LORD because of his choice to humble himself. His decision was significant indeed and God responded to this image bearer with kindness.
While our choices matter, God is nonetheless absolutely sovereign and in the wise council of the Trinity there’s always much more happening than we can immediately recognize. Much like a play where the focus is on the main character, it’s usually the less obvious character(s) which gives the lead role a nuanced landscape of color, depth, breadth, length and height in order to make the story come alive. So it is with the story of Ahab and even in our own. The choices we make effect and affect not just the main character but a string of individuals in the grand scheme of things. Of this I am often not aware.