DOES GOD KNOW EVERY FUTURE EVENT BEFORE IT HAPPENS? 

Part Two

 

 

Does God Know Every Detail Of The Future?

 

Can God Regret What He Already Knows Ahead Of Time?

 

 

 

 

Genesis 6:5-6

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  NAS

 


In the epic record of the Great Flood and God’s response to the wickedness of mankind, we find what is, in all likelihood, the most poignant and irrefutable example of the Creator’s nature.  Approximately one thousand years following the creation of the earth and mankind, the LORD was “sorry” He had made man on the earth.

 

·         Genesis 6:1-13 Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  And the LORD said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them."  But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.  These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.  And Noah became the father of three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth.  Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.   (NAS)

 

What could mankind possibly have done that was so evil and heinous, so vile, so debauched and wicked that scripture says, “And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart?”  Part of the answer to this question can be found in the definition of the Hebrew word “naham” translated as “sorry” in the New American Standard Bible and translated as “repenteth” in the King James Version. 

 

Old Testament Terms -- The Hebrew word naham, is an onomatopoetic term which implies difficulty in breathing, hence, "to pant," "to sigh," "to groan."  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives further insight into this Hebrew word:

 

Repent, "to Pant," "to Sigh": Naturally it came to signify "to lament" or "to grieve," and when the emotion was produced by the desire of good for others, it merged into compassion and sympathy, and when incited by a consideration of one's own character and deeds it means "to rue," "to repent."  To adapt language to our understanding, God is represented as repenting when delayed penalties are at last to be inflicted, or when threatened evils have been averted by genuine reformation <Genesis 6:6; Jonah 3:10>. This word is translated "repent" about 40 times in the Old Testament, and in nearly all cases it refers to God.  The principal idea is not personal relation to sin, either in its experience of grief or in turning from an evil course. Yet the results of sin are manifest in its use.  God's heart is grieved at man's iniquity, and in love He bestows His grace, or in justice He terminates His mercy. It indicates the aroused emotions of God, which prompt Him to a different course of dealing with the people.  Similarly when used with reference to man; only in this case the consciousness of personal transgression is evident.  This distinction in the application of the word is intended by such declarations as God "is not a man, that he should repent" <1 Samuel 15:29; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 8:6>.

 

God the Creator is seen lamenting and grieving at the corruption of mankind.  From the beginning of creation, when He made man in His image and likeness, He was obviously unaware that human beings would turn out to be so depraved and violent.  The God who is love now felt the pain that only a parent understands.  He saw His children turn apostate, and great tears of sorrow fell from His compassionate face as He gazed upon their willful and blatant iniquity.  His own offspring had rejected His mercy, love and His righteous requirement for obedience.  As the Hebrew word for “sorry” (naham) infers, God “groaned” and He “sighed” as His “heart is grieved at man's iniquity” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia {aka ISBE}, Electronic Database Copyright (C) 1996 by Biblesoft)..(Emphasis added)

 

God waited patiently for man to change direction, forsake sin, and repent.  His longsuffering continued for one thousand years; this time period is about five times longer than the United States of America has existed as a nation.  To put this into perspective, consider how God feels as America and its citizens daily engage in some of the following activities:

 

1.      Planned Parenthood, the National Organization for Women (NOW) and other radical secular humanists promote abortion as “a woman’s right to choice,” resulting in murder through torture and the mutilation and dissection of millions of innocent babies.  The blood of these unblemished and helpless victims cries out to the LORD of heaven and earth for justice and retribution.

 

2.      Sinister men produce and propagate pedophilia and other forms of pornography on the Internet by depicting women and children as worthless pieces of discarded garbage.  Peep shows and video shops provide the demented fuel that keeps the raging forest fire of sexual addiction burning.  Men are sexually stimulated by reprehensible acts such as the abduction, rape and mutilation of innocent young boys and girls.  Defense attorneys who represent such men, and advocate on their behalf, do so only for greed and fame, often bypassing earthly justice when they seek to obtain the release of these dangerous predators into society, who will rape and murder again and again.

 

3.      The National Education Association (NEA), school officials, judges and legislators, and other antichrist organizations lobby Congress to eliminate any reference to God in society.  All the while, the American Civil Liberties Union (aka ACLU), covertly funded with millions of dollars from Trust funds, defends the “rights” of anarchists, atheists, homosexuals, pedophiles, and anyone or any cause contrary to God.

 

4.      An entire nation repulses faith in God by replacing it with materialism, adrenaline, alcohol, drugs, entertainment, and sexual promiscuity, including adultery, fornication, bestiality, homosexuality. We have become a nation obsessively devoted to work and career, sports and sporting events, computer games and the Internet, malls and shopping, and on and on and on… 

 

5.      The so-called ‘Christians’ in America are not much better than unbelievers, as there is little statistical difference between the behaviors of the two groups. Immorality, coarse jesting, and profane speech are rampant. Little time is given to Bible reading and prayer…yet hours are spent in front of the television and reading newspapers. Arguments abound about whose doctrine is right…rather than spending time caring for one another that the world may know they are disciples of Jesus. Justification is given for everything from consuming alcohol to watching movies filled with language mocking the Lord Jesus Christ. These Christians pay more in interest on debt that supports their self-centered lifestyle than they do in sharing the Gospel. They cheat on everything from their taxes to their spouses, giving the world justification for mocking the Savior and calling these followers hypocrites. Rather than acknowledge that their behavior has been hypocritical and repenting, they justify it. For example, those with a strong affection for Hollywood rationalize the money and time spent to watch smut saying, “It was a great movie, and it only had a few nudity and sexual scenes, and we screen out the foul language in our minds.”  Yeah right, that really makes you holy!

 

These illustrations are but a fraction of thousands defining the wickedness and sin rampant in America today.  The examples above help us understand why God was “sorry” He had ever created mankind in the days of Noah. 

 

When we look all around us and witness the unspeakable increase of evil in our country, our minds and hearts turn toward heaven and say, “How long O Lord; how long will You allow the heathen to rage?  How long will You bear with a nation that spits in Your holy face and tramples of the blood of Your son Jesus?  When will You recompense and when will Your righteous judgment be pronounced?”  Jesus said the last days we are living in would be “just as it happened in the days of Noah.”

 

·         Luke 17:26-32 "And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it shall be also in the days of the Son of Man: they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.  It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.  On that day, let not the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house go down to take them away; and likewise let not the one who is in the field turn back.  Remember Lot's wife.”  (NAS)

 

The iniquity all around us in these last days widens our understanding of the force and strength of the Hebrew word “naham” used to describe the emotions God felt as men lingered long in sin during the days of Noah. ISBE (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia) so aptly concludes, “It indicates the aroused emotions of God, which prompt Him to a different course of dealing with the people.”

 

Christians in America today have a difficult time wrestling with their own culpability before the Almighty.  They don’t WANT to accept the responsibility that comes with a moment-by-moment relationship with God through His son Jesus Christ. 

 

More often than not they reject ANY teaching that interferes with their apathy and lukewarm lifestyle.  They are like Lot’s wife, who could not resist looking back to savor the compromised lifestyle of Sodom one last time.  In the words of the Savior, “It was the same as happened in the days of Lot: they were eating, they were drinking, they were buying, they were selling, they were planting, they were building; but on the day that Lot went out from Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is revealed.”

 

When confronted with the teaching from scripture regarding the topic of God, and His knowledge of the future, most Christians REFUSE to listen to the voice of logic and reason.  The are the represented by the church of Laodicea:

 

·         Revelation 3:15-19 I know your deeds that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.  (NIV)

 

Again, quoting from ISBE, we affirm the love of God and keep it closely united with His justice, “God's heart is grieved at man's iniquity, and in love He bestows His grace, or in justice He terminates His mercy.”

 

Peter’s epistle recounts the patience of God prior to the Flood, and he cements in writing the character and nature of a just and loving Creator:

 

·         1 Peter 3:20 Who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.  (NAS)

 

If Christians will embrace the fact God does not know what their future decisions and actions will be, the weight of personal accountability shifts to them instead of relegating it to “the foreknowledge of God.” 

 

Taking responsibility for one’s own behavior, and accepting the consequences of both good and bad decisions eliminates one’s need to make a weak defense with traditional rhetoric like, “Well, God knows the future, and He has it all planned out.  He knows exactly what choices I will or won’t make, and I can rest in His grace to see me through.” 

 

Yes, God’s grace is sufficient, and He will see you through difficult times.  However, don’t bank your eternal future on this pitiful pretext.  Rather, embrace the truth, change your heart and ways, turn to the Lord for strength to carry out His will, and walk courageously into the path He directs you to follow.  He has a PLAN for your future, but until you fulfill that plan, He awaits the outcome of your faith. 

 

·         Romans 6:15 What then?  Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  May it never be!  (NAS)

 

God has a plan for each one of us, and He DOES know what HE will do in the future.  Specifically, His future plans include working together with us through His son Jesus as we exercise our faith in Him.  The “proof” of our faith can only be witnessed and discovered by God AS IT HAPPENS.  While He has a diagram for our lives, ultimately God does not know whether or not we will accept or reject His plan.

 

·         1 Peter 1:6-9 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.  (NAS)

 

Judgment begins FIRST with the house of God (i.e. the church).  God judges His people to purge them of sin, draw them to Himself, and make them into a light that shines in a dark world.  God’s desire is that no one perishes, but that everyone comes to repentance. 

 

·         2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  (NIV)

 

Does God know who will, or who will not repent?  Ultimately, the answer is “no.”  God’s word says, “it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved.”  Why would He make such a statement if He were already certain of the outcome?

 

·         1 Peter 4:15-19 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God.  For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?  And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?  Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.  (NAS)

 

The solution to this doctrinal dilemma is quite simple.  Decide that you want to be an integral part of the plan God has set in motion, and that you want to be a recipient of the inheritance foretold long ago. Quit rationalizing away your wrong decisions and stop making excuses for neglecting your personal responsibility to obey God’s commandments.  Be like all who have suffered for righteousness sake.  Make a decision be like all those who have walked the narrow path and who daily “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.”

 

Moses Convinces God To Change His Mind

 

Another familiar scripture passage that makes use of the Hebrew word “nacham” mentions how God “changed His mind.”  Changed His mind?  How can this be?  If God knows every detail of every future event, why would He change His mind about it?  This simply does not make any sense at all and diminishes the character of the One who is called a God of peace and not of confusion.

 

·         1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.  (NKJ)

 

How readily we forget that man was created in the image and likeness OF GOD.  This means that the way we think and feel is, in many ways, identical to God.  If this were not the case, how and why would God say He created us, both male and female, in His image and likeness? (See Genesis 5:1-2)

 

Since we are created in HIS image and through Christ made into His likeness, why would it seem unusual to us for God to change His mind?  We change our minds don’t we?  Doesn’t the Potter who made the clay have the prerogative to be do the same? 

 

To admit God does not know every single aspect of the future seems demeaning to most Christians.  In their mind it somehow diminishes God’s omniscience and therefore threatens their theological concept.  They think the very nature of God is at risk when the statement is made “God doesn’t know what you will do before you actually do it.”

 

After Yahweh delivered His people Israel from the hand of Pharaoh and brought them across the Red Sea, He called Moses to ascend His holy mountain to speak with Him.  While Moses spoke face-to-face with Yahweh on the mount, Israel committed a grievous sin by inciting Aaron to lead them in worship of the golden calf.

 

This iniquity angered the Lord (just like we get angry) and the people provoked Him to judgment.  The following is the narrative of God’s conversation with Moses:

 

·         Exodus 32:9-14 And the LORD said to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.  Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."  Then Moses entreated the LORD his God, and said, "O LORD, why doth Thine anger burn against Thy people whom Thou hast brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand?  Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, 'With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth'?  Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people.  Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants to whom Thou didst swear by Thyself, and didst say to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.'"  So the LORD changed His mind about the harm, which He said He would do to His people.  (NAS)

 

God could not possibly have known the future actions and decisions Israel would make.  He did not know they would erect a golden calf to worship when He delivered them from bondage in Egypt.  He did not know ahead of time He would be moved to anger and speak to Moses about their destruction.  He did not know Moses would intercede on behalf of Israel and avert His decision to destroy them.

 

What God DOES know about the future is this:  He promised to bless the spiritual descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and He swore judgment on His enemies and those who disobey Him.  Moses appeals to Yahweh on the basis of His promise, NOT on the basis of His foreknowledge!  Moses appeals to Yahweh’s reputation amongst the heathen, who would certainly mock Him if He led his people out of the wilderness just to destroy them.

 

Moses understood the heart of God because Moses was God’s friend.  Like Abraham, he knew that God could be persuaded to change His mind and that just because God had pronounced judgment, it didn’t mean human intervention and intercession would not affect His decision and alter His course of action. 

 

The future is not ‘set’ as some Christians suppose; we CAN affect and even CHANGE our future, just as Moses did when he prayed these words, “Turn from Thy burning anger and change Thy mind about doing harm to Thy people.” 

 

God Is Not A Man That He Should Change His Mind

 

There is an incongruity in the scripture regarding the use of the word ‘nacham.’  Previous passages represent God as one who can and who does change His mind, and who can and does experience feelings of regret.  However, there is an inscrutable verse that seemingly contradicts verses that say God changes His mind; it is found in Numbers 23:19:

 

·         Numbers 23:19 God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?  (NIV)

 

This verse, isolated from its context, appears to be in conflict with Exodus 32:14 which reads, “So the LORD changed His mind about the harm, which He said He would do to His people.” 

 

The difference between the account in Numbers and the account in Exodus is substantial.  In Exodus 32:9, God had announced His intention to destroy Israel for erecting an altar to the golden calf, saying to Moses, "I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.  Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them, and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation."  Moses interceded on behalf of Israel, and the LORD “changed His mind” and decided to spare the people from certain destruction.

 

In sharp contrast, the account in Numbers 23:19 is a matter of Divine honor; that is, Yahweh had made a promise to Abraham and his descendents.  God’s promise to Abraham’s lineage was conditional; He would bless whenever they walked in obedience to His voice and to His commandments.  During the period of time when Israel had sojourned and settled near the Moabites, the people were keeping covenant with Yahweh.  In view of the fact that Israel obeyed His commandments, God blessed them and their population increased greatly and was too numerous to count.

 

Because of their size and because Israel had recently defeated the Amorites in battle, Balak, king of Moab, was fearful that they might rise up and conquer the Moabites as well.  Balak summoned a prophet of God named Balaam, who lived in the region and who was renowned for speaking only the words that Yahweh gave him to speak.  Balak offered Balaam great sums of money if only he would pronounce a “curse” upon Israel, so that he and his army could defeat the Israelites.

 

·         Numbers 22:1-8 Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.  Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people.  Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites.  The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, "This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field."  So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River, in his native land. Balak said: "A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me.  Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me.  Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country.  For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed."  The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination.  When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said.  “Spend the night here," Balaam said to them, "and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me."  So the Moabite princes stayed with him.  (NIV)

 

Balaam consulted with Yahweh, and the LORD sent him back to Balak and his princes, and told him to speak only the words He gave him.  Each time Balaam delivered a message to Balak from Yahweh, it was another blessing upon Israel.  God would not allow Balaam to put a curse upon His people Israel.

 

Dissatisfied with Balaam’s blessings upon Israel, Balak coaxed and flattered Baalam, even offering him greater wealth, but each time Balaam responded, in essence, with the same message, saying, “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God.” (Numbers 22:18)

 

There is a very good reason Balaam refused to use divination to curse Israel.  When Balak first summoned him and the LORD told Balaam to confer with the king of Moab, the angel of Yahweh withstood him.  Balaam’s donkey, though beaten three times by Balaam for refusing to go any further, spoke to his master and warned him of God’s angel.  Had Balaam proceeded further, with any intent to betray Yahweh and try to curse Israel, the angel told him that he would have died and the donkey would have been spared! (See Numbers 22:19-36).  It is certain that having a jackass speak to him on behalf of Yahweh was sufficient to shake Balaam to the core of his being.

 

Thus Balaam never did curse Israel, but spoke only the words Yahweh gave him to speak.  It is in this context that we find Numbers 23:19, and the statement, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?” 

 

Balaam repeated the same scenario over and over by giving Balak, king of Moab, news of Yahweh’s blessing upon Israel.  Balak did all that was in his power to persuade Balaam to curse God’s chosen people, but Yahweh had promised to bless Israel when they honored Him and He is not a man that He should lie or change His mind concerning a promise made.

 

This shows us a wonderful quality of God’s character…He does not lie and He does not violate His pledge.  If Israel had broken their covenant with Yahweh, perhaps Balaam’s role would have been much different and he may have placed a curse on Israel.

 

There is no conflict in the nature of God.  In Numbers 23:19 we see an illustration of what the entire canon of scriptures confirms…God is just and true.  If He makes a promise and if He enters into a covenant with His people, He will ALWAYS keep His end of the bargain.  He does not say, “I will bless you, under these conditions,” and then renege on His offer.

 

·         Number 23:18-21 Then he took up his discourse and said, "Arise, O Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor!  God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it?  Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?  Behold, I have received a command to bless; when He has blessed, then I cannot revoke it.  He has not observed misfortune in Jacob; nor has He seen trouble in Israel; the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.  (NAS)

 

One last comment will conclude this section: Balaam, though a prophet, could not change God’s mind nor alter the promise made to Israel.  This is perhaps the main point of the texts in Numbers chapter twenty-three.  God will not break His word and man is unable to make Him do so.

 

On the other hand, God can and will change His mind about divine judgment through destruction.  Such was the case when Moses interceded on behalf of sinful Israel when they erected the golden calf to worship.  The wages of sin is death and this is a promise of God too.  The only way that God’s punishment for our sin can be averted is through repentance.  Repentance with prayer and supplication will oftentimes cause the Almighty to alter His course of action, changing His mind from implementing wrath.

 

·         2 Chronicles 7:12-14 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon at night and said to him, "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice.  If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or IF I command the locust to devour the land, or IF I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  (NAS)

 

Jesus Said Peter Would Deny Him Three Times…

Is this divine foreknowledge of the future,
or an accurate assessment of human nature?

 

·         Luke 22:34 And He said, "I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me."

 

·         Matthew 26:34 Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times."

 

·         Mark 14: 30 And Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you, that you yourself this very night, before a cock crows twice, shall three times deny Me."

 

It is glaringly obvious that Jesus knew Peter would disavow and disassociate his relationship with him three times before the usual morning crow of the cock.  In view of God’s foreknowledge, it appears to be at least one instance when, perhaps, He revealed the future actions of Peter to His son Jesus.

 

While we must not be so dogmatic and deeply entrenched in one doctrine we cannot objectively read simple verses of the scripture, it is important to interpret God’s word in the entirety of each context.  In other words, we must not isolate individually numbered verses and build our theology around just one or two verses.

 

The scriptures were not written originally with a ‘chapter and verse’ numbering system.  Bible translators, for a point of reference, created this numerical categorization of scripture passages.  That is, by breaking the books of the Bible into chapter and verse, they made it much easier and more convenient for the reader to readily access the desired portions of the holy writ.

 

The purpose for establishing the importance of context is to help solve the mystery behind Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s three-time denial of him.  First, it must be taken into consideration that, perhaps, God does know the future, and consequently He transmitted that knowledge to His son Jesus, who in turn revealed it to Peter. And if this is true, in what way does God know the future. We know that God knows what His plan for the future is and we know that God understands human nature and how we tend to act in certain situations. We also know that Satan has his plans for the future and there are times when God gives Satan permission to carry out his evil deeds. We need to examine all of these items as we look for the clues that will help us to understand why Jesus was able to tell Peter that he would deny him three times that night.

 

Jesus lived, traveled, ate and drank, fellowshipped with and discipled Peter for 3 ½ years. This is approximately 1,268 days or 30,420 hours.  In other words, Jesus spent A LOT OF TIME with Peter and the other disciples.  During this period of time the Lord acquired intimate knowledge of Peter’s personality, strengths and weaknesses. 

 

Quite often it was only Peter, James and John with whom Jesus spoke as his close and cherished friends.  He knew, for example, that Peter had a tendency to be very impulsive, often making bold statements without giving consideration to the consequences of what he said or did.  On the other hand, Jesus knew that John had a personality that was more quiet and reserved and that John showed his love for the Lord with more affection and endearment.

 

In the account where Jesus warns Peter that he will deny him three times, this warning precedes another of Peter’s impetuous verbal claims to loyalty, “And he said to Him, "Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!" and again in another parallel account, “But Peter answered and said to Him, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away."

 

It is obvious Jesus knew that Peter’s intentions were sincere, but his faith and commitment was weak.  In the account found in Luke chapter twenty-two, Jesus exhorts Peter about his weak faith and how, when he has been converted, he will need to strengthen his brethren:

 

·         Luke 22:31-32 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again (turned around, moving in a resolute direction), strengthen your brothers."

 

Why did Jesus tell Peter that he had prayed for him and that he knew Satan had demanded permission to sift Peter like wheat? How did Jesus know this? And if Jesus knew that Satan had demanded to test Peter in some way, is it possible that Jesus also knew what that testing would entail? While we can’t answer these questions dogmatically, we can obtain insight from another portion of Scripture where Satan demanded to test one of God’s servants:

 

·         Job 1:6-12 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, " From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? " Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. " But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face." Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.  NASU

 

Having a glimpse “behind-the-scenes” as it were and knowing the nature of Satan as well as the parameters that God has put on his actions, we could reasonably predict what might happen to Job. Satan’s purpose is to steal, kill and destroy  (John 10:10). God has not yet given Satan permission to touch Job, but he has been given permission to destroy his possessions and the works of his hands. So we could reasonably predict that Job is about to lose everything he owns, but that Job himself would be unharmed.

 

If we still had access to the “behind-the-scenes” spiritual world at the time this drama was being played out on earth, we could predict that Job would soon have a horrible disease of some kind but he would not die from it:

 

·         Job 2:1-10 The LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." The LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause." Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. " However, put forth Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face." So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life." Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.  (NASU)

 

The Scriptures clearly show that Satan has access to God and demands to test God’s people. When we combine the information from the book of Job with what Jesus tells Peter (that Satan demanded permission to test him but that Jesus had prayed for him) it is not hard for us to have a plausible explanation for why Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times. God has not chosen to reveal to us the details of what Satan demanded, yet He obviously gave Jesus enough information to both pray for Peter and warn him of what is about to happen.

 

In addition to God knowing His future plan and what Satan plans, God also knows and understands human nature. So, too, we can “predict” things about others based on what we know of their nature, habits, and tendencies. Peter was known to be impulsive and to blurt things out.  One example of Peter’s impulsivity was when the Jewish temple tax collectors asked him if his master Jesus also paid taxes.  Without first consulting with Jesus, Peter blurted out “Yes.”

 

·         Matthew 17:24-27 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"  "Yes, he does," he replied.  When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked.  "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes--from their own sons or from others?"  "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him.  "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."  (NIV)

 

Peter enjoyed a special relationship with Jesus.  The Lord often confided in Peter and singled him out, revealing truths to this bold and impetuous disciple.  In the scenario with the temple tax collectors, Jesus taught Peter two valuable lessons.  The first lesson was, in essence, exhorting Peter to engage his brain before shifting his mouth into gear.

 

Peter should have known that Jesus, as the “son” of God, and as High Priest to the TRUE TEMPLE of God, was exempt from having to pay taxes to support a manmade religious temple institution.  After all, God the Father had revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ. 

 

·         Matthew 16:13-17 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"  They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  “But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"  Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. (NIV)

 

In spite of Jesus’ legitimate exemption from the temple tax, he taught Peter another lesson, which was to pay the tariff or do whatever was necessary to exemplify a godly life, giving no cause for offense to unbelievers. 

 

We don’t know all the reasons Peter was so impulsive; perhaps it was a part of his personality, and he may have also had ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), a medical condition affecting the frontal lobes of the brain, often resulting in rash behavior.  Regardless of the reasons for his spontaneous reactions, his boldness often accompanied his big mouth, enabling Peter to exhibit more faith than all of the other disciples.  After all, it was Peter who stepped out of the boat and onto the stormy waters of the sea when Jesus beckoned him to come:

 

·         Matthew 14:25-33 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."  And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."  And He said, "Come!"  And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"  And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"  And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"  (NAS)

 

Peter was included with the two other disciples James and John that witnessed the vision of Jesus’ glory on the Mount of transfiguration.

 

·         Matthew 17:1-9 And six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and brought them up to a high mountain by themselves.  And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.  And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.  And Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah."  While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!"  And when the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were much afraid.  And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid."  And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus Himself alone.  And as they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead."  (NAS)

 

Jesus had warned Peter that, in spite of his verbal commitment to stand by him, he would eventually deny him on three times. Just after this, the Lord took the disciples into the garden of Gethsemane to pray with him and singled out Peter, James and John to keep watch with him in intercession, knowing his hour of betrayal and arrest was imminent. After praying for one hour, Jesus returned to find Peter, James and John slumbering in sorrow:

 

·         Matthew 26:40 And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." 

 

Notice that, even though all the disciples were slumbering, it is PETER whom the Lord chastises for being weak in the flesh.  Jesus repeats this scenario of prayer a second and third time, and each time the disciples fail to keep their commitment to watch and pray with the Lord.

 

·         Matthew 26:42-45 He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."  And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.  And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.  Then He came to the disciples, and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners.  (NAS)

 

In view of Peter’s fleshly weakness, impetuous commitments, and his track record of failing to follow through with promises made, is it any wonder Jesus would be able to say to him, "I say to you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me?"  This is not some special divine foreknowledge of the future on the part of Jesus, but more likely an assessment of Peter’s behavior pattern; a pattern Jesus had been witness to for 3-1/2 years combined with what appears to be Satan’s plan—which God gave permission for—to test Peter and sift him like wheat.

 

The final evidence that Jesus was not predicting Peters’ future thrice denial of him (based on God’s foreknowledge of human actions) is what Peter experiences AFTER he denies the Lord the third time and then hears the cock crow:

 

·         Luke 22:60-62 But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed.  And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times."  And he went out and wept bitterly.  (NAS)

 

·         Matthew 26:74-75 Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a cock crowed.  And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, "Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times."  And he went out and wept bitterly. (NAS)

 

Peter’s reaction is not one of awe and surprise that Jesus had miraculously prophesied of his three-time denial.  Rather, Peter wept bitterly because once again, as he had done so many times before, he had failed to keep his promise. For more reading on the topic, refer to the accounts found in Matthew 26:31-46 & 26:69-75, Mark 14:27-46 and 14:66-72, Luke 22:31-62, John 13:37-38.

 

This concludes Part 2 of this series and hopefully gives more insight to you that God does not know every detail of what WE will do in the future, even though He knows for certain what HE will do with those who either obey His commands or those who reject Him.

SELAH

 

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