You asked about 2 Kings 20:1-6. King Hezekiah was ill, and God said to him by Isaiah: “Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover” (2 Kings 20:1). There was no “if” or “but” or “unless.” It was a definite prophecy. God said that he would not recover from the sickness, but that he would die. Instead of saying, “Let the will of God be done,” Hezekiah prayed and told God to remember the man’s faithfulness. Although God already said, “You will not recover,” he told Isaiah to march right back into the room and announce, “I will heal you. I will add fifteen years to your life.”
This should not puzzle us, even though we believe that God’s sovereignty is absolute and exhaustive. What Isaiah said was accurate. Hezekiah would have died from his sickness, but then he interacted with God’s established principles and prayed, and he received healing. The case is rather simple. God announced what would happen relative to Hezekiah condition. Then Hezekiah interacted with God’s revealed precept, and God announced what would happen relative to Hezekiah new condition. If we approach this from the perspective of metaphysics from start to finish, removing all relative considerations, then we must add some nuance, but we are not talking about metaphysics. Most of the time, the Bible speaks about how we interact with God and how our faith relates to our outcome. There is no problem and no mystery here.
As Jeremiah 18 says, “Then the word of the LORD came to me: ‘O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds”” (v. 5-11).
I want us to notice three things. First, the passage is a declaration of God’s sovereignty, not man’s freedom (v. 6). Paul takes up the metaphor of the potter and applies it to God’s sovereignty in converting and hardening people (Romans 9:10-24). His sovereignty includes direct control over the hearts and decisions of men. Second, God’s sovereignty does not destroy his interaction with men, but becomes the basis for such interaction (v. 7-10). He is sovereign, therefore he can do whatever he wants — so that if he declares judgment, but the men repent, he is sovereign to “relent of the disaster,” and if he declares blessing, but the men backslide, then he is sovereign to “relent of the good.” If our theology stumbles over this, it is because we have made false assumptions based on the first point. This is what has happened in standard Calvinism that claims to affirm the doctrine of divine sovereignty as well as much of Evangelicalism that denies an absolute version of divine sovereignty. Their appeal to “the will of God” is grossly defective.
Third, our preaching should reflect the reality of this interaction between God and men, this interplay between our faith and our outcome. In other words, your situation should provoke a response from you, and this response would influence the outcome. Just as verse 6 is consistent with verse 11, God’s sovereignty is entirely consistent with preaching to the people: “Repent, and you will be saved. Have faith, and you will be healed.” In fact, if we do not preach this way, it can only mean that we have perverted the doctrine of the sovereignty of God (v. 6), so that we have overturned the doctrine of our interaction with God (v. 7-10). Again, if we preach, “Have faith, and then God’s promises will happen to you — if it is the will of God,” then we have perverted verse 6, and totally ignored verses 7-10. Rather, based on 2 Kings and Jeremiah 18, we must preach, “God is sovereign, therefore, even if he tells you right to your face that you will die from your sickness, if you will lay hold on his promises of healing by faith, then he will heal you instead.” This is what happened with Hezekiah. This is what was said through Jeremiah. Since this is God’s own application of the doctrine of divine sovereignty, if one does not preach this way, he does not believe in the biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty.
God does not sovereignly break his own promises. However, the standard Calvinist or Evangelical applies the doctrine of divine sovereignty in precisely this way — he makes God into a sovereign liar, so that regardless of what God has promised, it would happen only “if it is the will of God.” His doctrine is that God will sovereignly keep his written promises only when he decides to do it in each instance. Then this fellow dares to accuse the “charismatic” for undermining the written word of God! Hypocrite! The standard Calvinist or Evangelical in fact knows very little about God’s sovereignty. And then he adds a mountain of his own theories and perversions on top of what little he knows. He has learned very little, very narrowly, and then he runs away from the rest of the Bible thinking he knows what he needs to know, and he uses what he thinks he knows to attack others. He ends up attacking God’s promises, while imagining that he is affirming God’s nature and honor. If we apply the doctrine of divine sovereignty the way God himself does it, then we will say, “God is sovereign, therefore even if he has announced that you will die from your sickness, if you will pray in faith, he will sovereignly honor his word and heal you.” If you have faith, why would you receive healing even if the circumstance appears unchangeably determined, and even if God himself declares “You will die” and “You will not recover” by a special revelation on a level that could take a permanent place in Scripture? How could such a thing happen just because you have faith? Because God is sovereign. And my doctrine of divine sovereignty is just that strong. I will believe it as strong as he teaches it.
The Bible is God’s middle finger to the standard Calvinist or Evangelical, or the cessationist with his “will of God” excuse. God himself wants us to know that even if he says to your face, by super-prophet Isaiah no less, “Pack it up! You are gonna die!” — you can STILL pray and receive your healing or miracle. Imagine what Calvin would have done if an angel had said to him, “Let me go”? Would he have obeyed the “will of God”? But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Imagine what Spurgeon would have done if God had declared, “I will kill them!” Would he have cowered and cried, “Oh, let your will be done!” But Moses said, “No! If you do this, what would people think of you?” What would your favorite theologian have done if Jesus had said to him, “I am not sent to you” and “It is not right to give what belongs to the children to a dog like you”? But a Gentile woman without a covenant said, “But even the dogs can have the crumbs,” and still received her miracle of healing. What? Did Jacob and Moses defy the sovereignty of God? But is God someone who can be defied like this? Did the woman harass Jesus and overturned his decision? But was Jesus someone who could be bullied? Or, perhaps this has been the way of faith all along, and those who consider themselves most educated in the things of God are those who are least familiar with the way of faith? If you claim that your teachers would have acted the same way, then I rejoice. Perhaps they would have, although I doubt it. But either you admit that your teachers never knew the way of faith, in which case you ought to adjust your opinion of them accordingly, or you must start acting the same way — in the way of faith — and receive from God no matter what. Which is it? Ah, you will take the third way — argue and defer, protest and delay, accuse and excuse.
What would I have done? Well, what have I done numerous times? My contract with God says that healing belongs to me, so healing belongs to me. This is the final word. And there are many other things in the contract. Even if I have no contract with God, as the Gentile woman who entreated Jesus for her daughter, I will still get it by faith, since God has made a standing contract with faith. This aspect of God is what Calvinists, Evangelicals, and the cessationists have never known, and that they would persecute in others, even though it is the gospel. Didn’t people like Jacob and Moses believe in God’s sovereignty? Of course they did. Don’t I? Of course I do. The problem is that the Calvinists, Evangelicals, and cessationists hold on to one thing about the word of God, twist it and adopt it as their own, and then interpret all of God’s word by it, even if it must overturn everything else in God’s word in the process. But this is the same thing that Arminians do, and the same thing that Open Theists do, only that they take hold of other things that they think they see in the word of God as the controlling principles.
They claim to regard Scripture as the very word of God, and accuse “charismatics” for seeking extra revelations, even though the charismatics seek the very things promised in Scripture. In any case, they claim to regard Scripture as the word of God, but then they accept circumstance and outcome as the will of God. Rather than holding to what God has commanded and promised as the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God (Romans 12:2), they take whatever happens as the will of God. If they pray according to a promise from God and receive a different outcome, they take that as the will of God, when they ought to insist on getting what God has already said. Thus regardless of what they claim about themselves, in practice they are those who show the least respect for Scripture out of all the schools of religious thought, even less respect than some heathens who are without a covenant. They look even worse in light of the fact that they were surpassed by Hezekiah, who was very ill, who had his death announced to him by someone no less than Isaiah, who had access to a fraction of the sacred writings available to us, who lived before the time of Christ, and who could not wield the name of Jesus or the power of the Spirit. This Hezekiah still received his healing. These Christians receive nothing, and persecute those who even try. It is a total, complete, flat-out failure of faith.
There is an application for prophecy that I will not take time to discuss. It is the fact that what appears to be a failed prophecy is not always a false prophecy. As in Isaiah’s case, a prophecy could be true at the time and in the context that it is given, but then something changes, sometimes in response to the prophecy, so that the prophecy no longer applies. Prophecy must be judged, and we must not excuse a false prophecy. However, if someone is ignorant of the basic principles of prophecy and how God interacts with men, how is he qualified to judge prophecy, or to say anything, or criticize anyone? Does he expect us to impose accountability on those who prophesy, but impose no accountability on him who judges prophecy, or even who dismisses the entire practice of prophecy? He wants to play the expert, but he is so far behind in spiritual things that he cannot even see the starting line from where he is. He wants to teach people, correct people, and refute the fanatics. But he knows nothing about God’s sovereignty, and he knows nothing about healing, and he knows nothing about prophecy. He is just a spiritual clown to us. He is just a dunce, dancing stupidly, making funny noises.
Let us conclude with a crucial point. The Bible uses God’s sovereignty to explain why some people cannot believe the gospel, and therefore cannot receive the promise of God (John 6:44, 65, 10:26, Romans 9:18). They are doomed, and will not be saved. The Bible never uses God’s sovereignty to assert that some people could believe the promise and still cannot receive because of the will of God. Therefore, the more someone claims that he does not receive the promise of God because of the will of God, the more he insists that he is reprobate, made for damnation, and reserved for everlasting torture in the fires of hell. His doctrine is not the voice of Christ, but the screech of Satan.