The Bible never bothers explaining any theological problems raised by its descriptions of this divine desire or by its expectation of true responsiveness between divine and human wills that make this desire genuine. Some forms of theology actually reduce the freedom of human choice—and God’s interaction with it—to an illusion. God’s Word, they reason, reports these mutually free dealings as authentic only to accommodate our limited understanding of His omniscience and sovereignty.
Such theological reasoning about God is human-unfriendly. The Bible, on the other hand, is not. In fact, Scripture often depicts God legitimately interested in how we respond to His directives, to His Presence, to His Person. If the biblical revelation is accurate, then God has sovereignly chosen to let human decisions inform His omniscience, and human actions in time move His will in eternity. Otherwise, biblical narratives of God’s activity seem as fictitious as fables or as illusory as the maya of Hinduism.
For instance, was God merely play-acting when, after having “formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky,” He “brought them to the man to see what he would name them”? Genesis 2:19 says that “whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” God made but did not name any creatures. He let man name them. This verse literally shows God desiring to learn those names. Later, not only does He use them Himself whenever talking about animals, but He also adopted at least two for His own incarnate identity: “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). Man invented those names. God responded to their invention in time by incorporating them into His own eternal vocabulary and by later naming Himself with a couple of them. That thought is something to chew on.
There’s an even greater biblical example of God identifying Himself with a human response to Him. Coming to Jacob in a dream, God announced, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me.” (Genesis 31:13a). He was referring back to the time when Jacob did those things in response to His self-revelation (Genesis 28:10-22). Jacob renamed the location where it happened from “Luz” to “Bethel,” he performed a ritual anointing to consecrate a stone, and he made a solemn vow to the Lord. God told him to do none of these things. They were all Jacob’s own ideas. Yet God adopted Jacob’s creative responses to Him, making them into part of His own identity. The Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, will forever be “the God of Bethel.” He sovereignly chose it as one of His titles for eternity, because of his interaction with human faith in time. He may have done exactly the same thing with many of your own faith encounters with Him. How human-friendly that is!
Another report of God’s reaction to our response to Him is given in Malachi 3:16 (ESV), “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” This verse is amazing! It shows that an eternally omniscient God is listening in on our conversations in time, because He’s concerned about what we have to say to each other about Him. He’s so excited about our discussion that he makes sure it gets it eternally recorded!
God certainly needs no notebook to jot down our devotional conversations to jog His memory. They probably were not written to remind Him, but to educate us. Some of us have a stubborn theology that undermines the authenticity of His open-ended interactions with humans. He wants it known in eternity that He did not determine our responses—He danced with them. His earthly interactions with us were all real, not just contrived accommodations for the frailty of our fallen and depraved human minds.
During His heavenly review of our lives and of the many unworthy trusts we held sacred, God may have to point out to many this human-unfriendly belief adamantly held and taught about His dealings with humans. This “book of remembrance” mentioned by Malachi will forever condemn the shame of such a theological allegiance.
When we live in a world where its Creator treats our decisions and actions with as much integrity as He expects us to treat His own, we live in a human-friendly world. In the midst of the trials and troubles brought about by human sin, faith in such a God makes the journey not just tolerable but joyous.