THY WILL be DONE?
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
AUGUST 27, 2014
“He will reign…and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 1:33 NRSV
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:9-10)
It almost seems like some think that the reason Jesus taught His disciples to pray for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven, is because we have a part to play in making that come to pass. This way of thinking dates back to the garden when the serpent challenged Adam and Eve, “Oh go on. Take a bite of that fruit. It won’t kill you. It will cause you to be like god.” Man has continued to operate on that lie for all this time, until the consuming fire, God Himself, burns up the wood, hay, and stubble of man’s works, thoughts, delusions, and hubris.
In our on-line discussion recently, the subject of man’s will versus God’s will came up again, as it does periodically among Christians of all stripes and flavors, specifically, regarding the question of whether God needs us to say, “Yes,” before He calls us to Himself. About that, our dear friend John Gavazzoni wrote, “To date, to my recollection, I’ve never read anyone within the institutional church who doesn’t insist upon the necessity of, “(our) yes,” in order for God to go forward in whatever endeavor He may undertake. It’s the last refuge of what Harry Robert Fox calls the bilateral covenant as opposed to the unilateral covenant. That is, in the former, there is something required of man to contribute to the action of the Word of God being existentially effective, whereas in the latter, the matter is agreed upon, settled, and carried to fulfillment with the Godness.” End Quote.
John is recalling our mutual friend Harry Fox pointing out that God made two covenants with Abraham. The first one was a unilateral covenant made by only one party: God, “and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Gen.12:3) Abraham was living in Ur of the Chaldees at the time, probably worshipping the moon, the local religion, when God appeared, tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Come with me to a land I will show you.” There was no debate, no discussion, and no formal document recording the agreement. Instead, Abraham packed up his asses and camels, took his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot, and moved on out.
The second covenant was a bilateral (two party) agreement in which each participant had a part to play (Gen. 15: 7-15). Later, there was a Document, written on tablets of Stone, which set forth the terms of the agreement. “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one; but God is one.” (Gal. 3:19-20) Paul explained the difference between that agreement given to Moses for the children of Israel, and the New Covenant ratified by Jesus’ blood. Christ was the fulfillment of the promise made by God to Abraham, that in his seed, would all nations be blessed. (Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:8) The Law, given to Moses, was a bilateral (two party) agreement, in force until Christ came to fulfill and nail it to the cross. God’s Promise is the foundation of God’s reconciliation of all.
The Hebrew writer makes crystal clear the validity of God’s one party agreement with Abraham, “For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself.” (Heb. 6:13) Many Christians do not understand the difference between the two covenants, and this, I personally believe, is the reason they get so upset about God’s reconciliation of all. How can people who sinned and died unrepentant, EVER hope to get to glory? The reason, as these scriptures show unequivocally, is because our hope of glory does not rest on ourselves or upon our works, but only in Christ Himself who is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (Gal. 3:16), our “hope of Glory.”
OK, so back to the original question about why we are to pray, “Thy will be done.” It seems to me that the purpose of that request is NOT for God’s benefit, but for ours. God does not need us to give Him permission for His will to be done. Paul declared that He “works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will.” (Eph. 1:11) That being the case, all we can do is cooperate with Him.
Saul of Tarsus, with all the good intentions and zeal a human could muster was busily ravaging the church, when God knocked him off his horse, and struck him blind, asking “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4) What an introduction. Jesus did not seek Saul’s permission, or obtain a “Yes,” from this passionate Pharisee, in order to turn his life upside down and inside out. The Bible is full of accounts where God showed up on someone’s doorstep without invitation, and set about to change the recipient’s opinion, persuasion, and lifestyle without hesitation, discussion, or signature on the dotted line. For that matter, Adam was actually the first person whose life God ordered and then, reordered.
Noah was minding his own business when God told him to build an ark; likewise, Abraham did not have the greatest gift a man could look forward to, until God approached him and told him that in his seed would all nations be blessed. Moses was a most reluctant participant in God’s plan to deliver His people from Pharaoh. Add to that list David, Elijah, Nebuchadnezzar, Zachariah (John the Baptist’s father), and Mary, the mother of Jesus. She willingly accepted what the angel Gabriel said to her, which when you consider that sexual promiscuity was punishable under the law by stoning, was a VERY brave response indeed. I’m sure you can think of others, like Pharaoh, who were pressed into service to bring God glory, without being asked.
We give lip service to “Thy will be done,” and sometimes, it’s all we can do to say the words. When Lenny lay near death in the ICU, I would pray, “Thy will be done,” but my heart was heavy doing it, because I knew that things might not turn out the way I hoped they would. Lenny himself always said he would never die, which gave me courage to say the words. And that brings me to my last writing, “Eternal Truth,” in which I said that sometimes the truth is situational. Lenny believed he would not die so strongly that many of us believed it with him. The truth is that HE did not die, but his body did.
It has been a very difficult transition for me, but since I know intellectually, and increasingly on a cellular level as well, that God’s will is always done, I rely on Him day by day to work out His will in my life. What am I still doing here in Missouri by myself? What did God mean when He told me I would not reach my “full potential” until my mother passed? No answers to any of these questions and many more have been revealed to me, but He who does work all things after the counsel of His own will, will show me in His time. Of that I am confident.
I’m still plowing through the Old Testament, book by book. Chronicles is list after mind numbing list of folks long dead, whose names I can’t remember two seconds after I’ve read them, but occasionally, a gem pops up which stirs my soul and buoys up my spirit. II Chronicles 20:15-17 is one of those.
King Jehoshaphat of Judah was up against a multitude of enemies, the very ones, in fact, which had refused Israel passage through their land when they fled from Egypt, pursued by Pharaoh’s army. God put His word in the mouth of a Levite named Jahaziel, who spoke these words which inspire me today, “Hearken, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s. …“You will not need to fight in this battle; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. Fear not, and be not dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.’” (II Chronicles 20:15, 17)
Father, truly You are without equal for might and power and glory, and to think You help us through our daily struggles, no matter how trivial, is both humbling, and awe inspiring. Fill us continuously with Your Spirit that we may testify to Your glory and honor and power to those who do not know you, until Your glory is declared in all the earth. In Christ, we ask it. “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.” Amen.