Summary: Where should I live? Whom should I marry? How can I find out God's will in the matter? You can't. His will in those matters is hidden from us. However when we seek his revealed will, we can make decisions about our lives in faith rather than fear.
Kids, have you ever passed notes to your friends during class? I never did that of course because I was a very serious student, but my friends would do that and every now and then one of those notes would be intercepted by the teacher. How do you suppose the author of the note felt about that? Well no one likes it when others read notes not meant for them. You would complain if Mom or Dad should stand over your shoulder reading your texts as you punch them into your phone. Companies and governments pay big money to keep their emails from being hacked and read by outsiders.
As we continue our sermon series on the Lutheran/Biblical mind, we’re going to learn that God feels the same way about information he has not shared with us. He doesn’t want us prying into his hidden will. Instead he wants us to seek and to be content with his revealed will. Listen to our text from Isaiah 45.
As you’ll remember from our Bible study on Isaiah, that prophet lived about 700 years before the time of Christ. He had been sent to warn the Israelites of coming judgment. Because of their impenitence, God was going to send the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and its temple. This was meant to shake the superstitious confidence of the Israelites who thought that as long as they had the temple, nothing really bad could ever happen to them. But that would be like supposing that because we are baptized, God will bail us out of any trouble we get ourselves into. The Israelites found out, however, that there are consequences for sin. They ended up as captives in Babylon for 70 years, while we might end up losing friends or our health because we insist on living on our sinful terms rather than God’s.
Although God would send his people into exile far from their home for 70 years, he would bring them back, and he would use a Persian king named Cyrus to do it. But this puzzled the Israelites. If God was going to work a new exodus, why use a heathen foreigner instead of another Jewish “Moses”? God addressed that questioning attitude when he said in our text: “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’… 11 This is what the LORD says—the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: ‘Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands? 12 It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts. 13 I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or reward,’ says the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 45:9, 11-13).
Why did God use the Persian king Cyrus instead of raising up an Israelites like a descendent of King David to lead the Israelites back? I don’t know. God never gives a reason. Oh, we might guess. Perhaps it’s because he wanted to humble the Israelites to make it clear that their return wouldn’t be accomplished by their cunning. Or perhaps in this way God was reaching out to King Cyrus and calling him to faith. Those are plausible reasons, but we can’t say for certain one way or another.
Similarly we might question what God is doing in our lives. We might wonder: “Why did God lead me to choose the spouse that I did?” “Why did he give me the parents I have?” Or we might wonder about our future. “Where does God want me to go to school?” “What career path should I pursue?” “Should we buy a house or should we rent?” How can we find out what God’s will is in these matters? Many Christians would say by praying and then doing what God “puts in your heart.” But God has never promised to speak to us that way. That gut feeling you have urging you to buy that new car might really just be the previous night’s perogies. Listen to what our text states: “Truly you are a God who has been hiding himself, the God and Savior of Israel… [Then the Lord said:] ‘19 I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right’” (Isaiah 45:15, 19).
On one hand the prophet Isaiah describes God as one who hides himself. When it came to why he was going to use Cyrus to restore the Jews to their homeland, God’s will remained hidden, and it was none of the Israelites’ business to try to figure it out. On the other hand, God himself declared that he is not a God whose ways are unintelligible because what he wants us to know he has spoken clearly in his Word. The Lutheran/Biblical mind therefore seeks God’s revealed will and does not concern itself with God’s hidden will. Moses emphasized the same truth in this farewell speech: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law… 11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?’ 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it” (Deuteronomy 29:29; 30:11-14).