Friday, February 26, 2010

Comfort and Repentance

I woke up several hours ago and watched a cheesy romantic comedy because I could not sleep.  It was one that I had never seen before.  In the movie, a bet was made between two guys (the male lead and the male lead's best friend turned rival) about a girl.  In typical fashion, the male lead was winning the bet by transforming the girl when the rival went and told the girl about the bet.  You knew it was coming because this is the standard formula for this type romantic comedy.  When the bet was first mentioned, I was a little disappointed because I knew what the outcome of the movie would be.  But then I was a little comforted by the idea as well.  Knowing that eventually everything would work out according to plan does bring solace to our lives.

Even more than a silly movie, knowing that God has a plan for each one of us is truly comforting.  He always has our best interest in mind - even when we cannot see or understand.  God's plan is executed 100% of the time as well.  Calvin writes, "[A godly man's] solace, I say, is to know that his Heavenly Father so holds all things in his power, so rules by his authority and will, so governs by his wisdom, that nothing can befall except he determine it."  Calvin quotes a number of Psalms which support this belief.  I personally find the Psalms comforting when trouble surrounds me because of the assurances that God does protect us against all evil.  Satan is constrained by the will of God and cannot step outside of the bounds that God has given him.  "But let them recall that the devil and the whole cohort of the wicked are completely restrained by God's hand as by a bridle, so that they are unable either to hatch any plot against us or, having hatched it, to make preparations or, if they have fully planned it, to stir a finger toward carrying it out, except so far as he has permitted, indeed commanded."

The next three sections are bundled together and I am still trying to totally wrap my head around them.  We read, especially in the Old Testament, about God's "repentance".  We know that God's plans are always carried out, but how can a change of heart by God be in agreement with that idea?  To simplify Calvin, God's plans are always executed.  God made threats against the people of Nineveh (Jonah), King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20), and more.  God did not repent in a human sense and have a change of heart, but he made these threats so the people would repent and they would have a change of heart.  God fully knew the outcome of each instance ahead of time.  Sometimes we only respond when we are faced with our own destruction and God used that knowledge to accomplish his will.

Calvin ends this chapter reminding us of the certainty of God's will and our limited knowledge of God's plans.  "For the Lord, when by warning of punishment he admonishes to repentance those whom he wills to spare, paves the way for his eternal ordinance, rather than varies anything of his will, or even of his Word, although he does not express syllable by syllable what is nevertheless easy to understand.  That saying of Isaiah must indeed remain true: 'The Lord of Hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?  His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?' [Isa. 14:27]"

Tomorrow's reading: 1.18.1-1.18.2

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