The tension between the sovereignty of God and man’s response in obedience is expressed initially before the Fall when God verbalizes His purpose for man, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing” (Gen. 1:28). The following instruction given to Adam regarding the prohibited fruit reveals man’s responsibility for obedience, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (2:16-17). Sadly, the first couple fail to act in faith.
This tension between the two continues after the Fall when God promises redemption (3:15). That promise obligates both God and man. God will do what He promises and man must believe God’s promise and teach the following generations. The Creation Era tracks this tension through the offerings of Cain and Abel, the faith and building of Noah’s ark, and the destruction Babel’s tower. It continues through the promise given to Abram and Abram’s faith in God. God will do what He promises and the man who dares to believe and obey receives the good that God intends.
God’s sovereignty and human responsibility “hang in the balance” throughout the story of the Bible and are expressly highlighted in the Conquest Era.
More than 500 years have passed since the LORD spoke to Abram regarding a son, a people, and a land. Now his descendants, this great people Israel, enter the land of promise. Their experience is a prophecy realized, but their well-being in this promised land depends upon their obedience to God’s revealed will.
God promises Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7). God then links Bible literacy (knowing God’s story and good character) and obedience to the prosperous way and good success in the following verse, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (1:8). Blessings depend upon obedience; real obedience is predicated on confidence (faith) that God is able to fulfill and will fulfill every promise that He has ever made.
Joshua knew that God fulfills the promises that He makes; therefore, Joshua believes God and acts accordingly. He leads Israel to circumcise all of the men, march around Jericho, and keep the Passover.
Two stories in Joshua highlight this truth:
- Rahab, an unlikely candidate, believes the truth that she hears about God and acts in faith. She is therefore rescued when all of Jericho is destroyed.
- Achan, a man of Judah, does not believe God regarding the prohibited Jericho treasure, makes a decision to take and to hide the garment and money, causes the death of thirty-six man, and dies with all of his family.
Rahab highlights the blessing for obedience and Achan highlights the cursing of disobedience found in Deuteronomy chapter 28.
God’s sovereignty is best revealed through man’s responsibility to choose obedience. God will do what He promises (God’s sovereignty) and man will reap the reward of obedience and disobedience. Both are true!