“I know that everything that God does is eternal and there is nothing that can be added and nothing taken from it. God has done it that those before him should fear. That which is has already existed and that which is to be has already existed. God continually seeks that which is pursued.”
In contrast to man and his labors which fade, God’s labors and plans are eternal. We have mentioned Isaiah 40:8 already…that the grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God lasts forever…so do his works. What we do and plan is only ever for a season; God’s design is eternal and infinitely more worthy of praise. And thus, we would say of the completed word of God…nothing can be added or taken away from it.
Verse 15 provides a little more of a challenge to translate as it is a little more poetically phrased. What is being spoken of here? There are really two ways in which we might put these words together. The first, and perhaps simpler way, is that these are a reflection of Solomon’s earlier words that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). This can then stand as a reminder to us that yes, events come and go but they have been done before by others.
Yet, the heart of this passage is on the sovereignty of God. What has come to pass has taken place because God has so ordained it to happen — the end from the beginning (Ephesians 1:4,11; Isaiah 46:10). Thus, it can be said that those things that exist today have always existed in a sense — that sense being in the mind of God as part of his ordained plan. And even those things that are yet to happen have their surety in the fact that this too is ordained by an almighty God. That which is already existed. That which is to be, this too has already existed in the mind of God.
Does that make us robots and automatons, fated to a given end without any choices? No, we do make choices, yet the choices we freely make are consistent with God’s eternal design and plan and so, in freely choosing, God’s will comes to pass. Does this give us the right to just sin all the more — could we not just say that this is the sin that God has ordained for me? Perhaps the unbeliever might say this, yet they are nevertheless choosing a path of rebellion against God. But, for the believer, we must never say such things because we have been born again to newness of life. And thus, with a new nature, our affections toward our old sins ought necessarily to have changed and our choices ought to reflect the new nature and not the old. And still, God’s plan still comes to pass.
Sometimes people struggle with this notion. Since the so-called “Enlightenment” especially, people have become accustomed to speak in terms of autonomous human “free-will.” Yet, if a human’s will is free in the absolute sense, God is not sovereign in that same sense. Further, if the human will is utterly free, then we can have no assurances of the promises of God. No, there is great comfort in the Biblical doctrine of divine sovereignty. Every promise that is offered and assured in Christ can be spoken of as real and sure in our lives and though we do not yet have a full experience of such things, we can be assured of their reality in the promise of an unchanging and absolutely sovereign God.