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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Does God Know Everything?

Don Stewart :: Did the Lord Think Israel Would Never Turn Away?

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Did the Lord Think Israel Would Never Turn Away? (Jeremiah 3:19-20)

Does God Know Everything? – Question 18

There is a passage in the Book of Jeremiah where the Lord said that Israel would never turn away from Him. Scripture records Him saying the following.

I thought: How I long to make you My sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of all the nations. I thought: You will call Me, my Father, and never turn away from Me. However, as a woman may betray her lover, so you have betrayed Me, house of Israel. This is the LORD’s declaration. (Jeremiah 3:19-20 HCSB)

The Lord gave Israel a desirable land. Therefore, He believed they would recognize His goodness, call Him Father, and never turn away from Him. Yet they betrayed Him. They did turn away from Him. Does this mean that the Lord did not expect this behavior? Was He truly surprised that the nation did not embrace Him for the goodness He showed them? Should we thus assume that the Lord was mistaken?

Option 1: The Behavior Was Unexpected to God

There is the interpretation which says God was actually surprised by the behavior of the people of Israel. Indeed, open theists use this verse as a proof text of God’s limited and sometimes incorrect, knowledge of the future. The Lord assumed these people would never turn away from Him, yet they did. This is one of many mistaken assumptions which He made in the past. These mistakes reveal His limited knowledge.

Option 2: God Was Not Actually Taken by Surprise

Again, we should not assume that this verse is trying to teach us that the knowledge of God is somehow limited or incomplete. The idea that God assumed that the people would naturally follow Him because of His gracious gifts to them is not the way to interpret these verses. We do not have to literally believe that the Lord understood that this alone would be sufficient for the people to follow Him.

In fact, there are a number of passages which teach just the opposite. The Lord clearly recognized that the people would not always be obedient to Him. This being the case then we should not assume that their turning away from Him took Him by surprise. It did not.

Summary – Question 18
Did the Lord Think Israel Would Never Turn Away? (Jeremiah 3:19-20)

In the Book of Jeremiah there is a statement which says that God thought that the people of Israel would never turn away from Him. The Lord said that He assumed that His gracious treatment of them would cause the nation to remain faithful to Him. However, they did not. They turned away from this loving God. Was the Lord in error in His assumption?

Open theists point to this passage as an example of God’s lack of knowledge of what will occur in the future. They take for granted that these verses support the idea that God has created a world where the future is unknown to Him. Therefore, He cannot accurately predict details about future events.

Yet, understanding this passage as literal does not appreciate the immediate context or the way in which the Lord often speaks of Himself. Since He has clearly revealed that He knows all things and is in control of all things, He certainly could not be guilty of thinking one thing would happen when the opposite occurred. Therefore, we must not assume that the Lord is telling us that He thought the wrong things.

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Was God Unaware That the People Would Build High Places? Next Section →
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