God's Will
Wednesday of Pentecost 15
20 September 2017
God's will is done on earth as it is in heaven. God's good and gracious will is done even when we do not pray for it. Our prayer is that we would desire and recognize the will of God among us. God, while He hears our petitions, does not conform Himself to our will when He answers our prayers but, He sends His Holy Spirit that we might conform ourselves to His good and gracious will. Our Lord Jesus certainly did this when confronted with the cup of suffering. He prayed for the cup to pass from Him, but finally prayed, "not My will, but Yours be done" (Lk 22:42). His heavenly Father certainly shared the desire that His Son not suffer, but God's will was that the righteous should suffer for the wicked (Rm 4:5). The Son only sought in prayer to conform Himself to that good and gracious will of God.
Perhaps this gives us a clue what it means when we say that God's will does not change. Change occurs in us creatures, so that what we once neither understood nor desired, because of our weakness and sinfulness now becomes clear to us. This occurs through God's revelation of Himself in Christ, which the Holy Spirit uses to call, gather, and enlighten us into the church here on earth. We sinners presume that God's will toward us is that we should undergo His wrath and rejection. However, God's will toward us is that none should be lost, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth (1Ti 2:4). God's will has not changed at all, but the Holy Spirit changes our will so that we now know what God's good and gracious will toward us is. The Holy Spirit sets before our eyes the cross of God's Son, who conforming Himself to that divine will offered Himself up for us all (Eph 5:25). What joy this gives us to know God's will that we are set free from our sin by Christ.
Augustine of Hippo, when considering the issue of the will of God, offers only the contrary example of God's bringing punishment into our lives. He speaks of our seeing the working of God in our lives differently, so that we suffer a kind of partial blindness, and thus see His work only as bringing trouble and chastisement. Yet, the Bible also speaks of God's working in both law and gospel, as both His alien (Is 28:21) and proper work. The law which brings punishment is not proper to God's working but remains only a way to bring us to the recognition of our desperate need for the gospel. God speaks in both law and gospel. But how do we make sense of these two ways of speech? How do we know what God's will is? Certainly not by pulling down the veil of God's hidden will. All we can go on is the actually revealed will of God. That is why we dedicate ourselves to the Scripture as the revealed will of God. There is a kind of good blindness that simply listens to the speech of God to us, and ignores every other interpretation of life. It is not fatalism that says with Job, "Though he slay me, I will hope in him" (Job 13:15), but confidence that believes that the God who kills also makes alive (Heb 11:19). God has promised. That is His good and gracious will.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Augustine of Hippo

"It is true that wicked men do many things contrary to God's will. However, His wisdom and power are so great that all things which seem opposed to His purpose do still tend toward those just and good ends and issues which He Himself has foreknown. And consequently, when God is said to change His will, as when He becomes angry with those to whom He was gentle, it is rather they than He who are changed, and they find Him changed in so far as their experience of suffering at His hand is new, as the sun is changed to injured eyes, and becomes as it were fierce from being mild, and hurtful from being delightful, though in itself it remains the same as it was. That also is called the will of God which He does in the hearts of those who obey His commandments. Of this the apostle says, 'For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure' (Phil 2:13). As God's 'righteousness' is used not only of the righteousness with which He Himself is righteous, but also of that which He produces in the man whom He justifies, so also that is called His law, which, though given by God, is rather the law of men. For certainly they were men to whom Jesus said, 'It is written in your law' (Jn 8:17), though in another place we read, 'The law of his God is in his heart' (Ps 37:31).
"According to this will which God works in men, He is said also to will what He Himself does not will, but causes His people to will. He is said to know what He has caused those to know who were ignorant of it. For when the apostle says, 'But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God' (Gal 4:9) we cannot suppose that God there for the first time knew those who were foreknown by Him before the foundation of the world. But He is said to have known them then, because then He caused them to know. According to this will, then, by which we say that God wills what He causes to be willed by others, from whom the future is hidden, He wills many things which He does not perform.
"Thus His saints, inspired by His holy will, desire many things which never happen. They pray for certain individuals, they pray in a pious and holy manner, but what they request He does not perform, though He Himself by His own Holy Spirit has wrought in them this will to pray. And consequently, when the saints, in conformity with God's mind, will and pray that all men be saved, we can use this mode of expression: God wills and does not perform, meaning that He who causes them to will these things Himself wills them. But if we speak of that will of His which is eternal as His foreknowledge, certainly He has already done all things in heaven and on earth that He has willed, not only past and present things, but even things still future. But before the arrival of that time in which He has willed the occurrence of what He foreknew and arranged before all time, we say, 'It will happen when God wills.' But if we are ignorant not only of the time in which it is to be, but even whether it shall be at all, we say, 'It will happen if God wills,' not because God will then have a new will which He had not before, but because that event, which from eternity has been prepared in His unchangeable will, shall then come to pass."

Augustine, The City of God, 22.2
Luke 22:37-53

I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors.' For what is written about me has its fulfillment." And they said, "Look, Lord, here are two swords." And he said to them, "It is enough."
And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. And when he came to the place, he said to them, "Pray that you may not enter into temptation." And he withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, and he said to them, "Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."
While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?" And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, "No more of this!" And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." 
Lord God, not my will but Yours be done on earth as it is in heaven. Cover my eyes with Your Word that I might hear only what it says to poor sinners like me, who need to know of Your abundant mercy in Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
For Matthew Heise, Executive Director of the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, that God our Father would grant him strength and bless his labors for the kingdom of Christ
For the board of elders of Memorial Lutheran Church, that they might be strengthened in their good offices
For the suffering of those who have had their homes flooded, that the Lord who sits enthroned over the flood would grant them strength and comfort in the midst of their burdens and trials
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2017
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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