Comfort In The Midst Of Great Difficulty
“Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain…”
“For my sighing cometh before I eat, and my roarings are poured out like the waters.
For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.
I was not in safety, neither had I rest, neither was I quiet; yet trouble came.”
The greatest evil on Earth was used to bring about the greatest good. God the Word made flesh, never ceasing to be perfect God, was taken, mocked, scourged, and slain in an exceedingly agonizing manner — all by vile, wicked, sinners. Yes, the Lord went willingly; yes, it was so that He could atone for, be the propitiation for, His people; yes, it was to put away their sin forever, ushering in a perfect righteousness for them (guaranteeing every aspect of their salvation); all these blessed things are true but consider the actual historic moment. Consider just how savage it all was, how vicious and barbaric the abuse was. We read in Isaiah 52:14 that ‘…many were astonied at [Him]; His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.’ The Lord was so brutalized that Pontius Pilate could hardly believe it; we read in John 19:5 “Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And [Pilate] saith unto them, Behold the man!” — as if to say, “isn’t this enough? Look at him, look at his miserable physical condition.”
Christ, through the Messianic Psalms, also reveals to us His thoughts regarding His tormentors:
Psalm 22:12-16 “Many bulls have compassed me: strong [bulls] of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me [with] their mouths, [as] a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.”
And yet it was God the Father, Christ’s own Father, who ordained that His Son be taken, crucified, and slain in such manner. Think deeply on that. God specifically purposed this for the good of not only the elect, but for the good of The Elect. We read in Isaiah 42:1 “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; MINE ELECT, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.” The Lord Jesus is the Servant Son, He is The Elect of God, and God’s people are elect IN Christ. He is the Perfect One, the One without spot or blemish, the One who did no wrong, the One in Whom the Father delights. And yet, God the Father “…made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we [the elect] might be made the righteousness of God in Him,” that is, IN Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:21), through His (excruciating) substitutionary work of redemption at Calvary. Again, God did this not only for our good but for Christ’s good as well for “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose” (Romans 8:28). Christ loves the Father (and Holy Ghost) perfectly and He is the First and Foremost Called One of God (being called from eternity unto the eternal purpose of His Father in the redemption of men). See,
John 14:31 “But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.”
Isaiah 42:1-7 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. 2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. 4 He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. 5 Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein: 6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; 7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, [and] them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.”
Let us consider carefully the wording at issue in Acts 2:23: “…being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God…”
First, we see being delivered. Ekdotos means to be given over; Christ was given over to the wicked by God the Father; God literally delivered Him up to them. However, this was not done on a whim; no… there was eternal, there was everlasting purpose to this. God says “…being delivered by the determinate…” That word in the Greek is horizō, the source of our English word horizon, and the second half of that popular Koine Greek word proorizō (to predestinate). It is in the perfect participle (verb) form meaning that it is used like an adjective to describe something that was completed in the past, once and for all, not needing to be performed again, but with the results/effect continuing into the present and/or beyond. In modern English, it would be translated in this instance as determinating, or determining, or ordaining. The idea is that God the Father marked out the scope, boundary, limit, and thus the entirety of Christ’s ordeal in light of whatever the word determinate is modifying. God precisely decreed every aspect of this delivering over of the Lord Jesus. He appointed it in such an exact manner, that no aspect of it could have fallen short of fruition, and no facet could have gone beyond the scope and boundaries He thoroughly set.
The question we must ask now is what is determinate modifying? What word is in view here, that is governed by such divine precision? We see that determinate is modifying the word counsel (boulē). Though the word does mean counsel, it directly relates to will, or volition. It is basically indicative of one’s will and purpose as part of an overall plan. Boulē is the noun form of the verb boulomai which means to will deliberately, to have a purpose, to be minded. So God is telling us that the giving over or delivering up of the Lord Jesus, was a once and for all, one time act, with everlasting consequences. It was a perfectly and precisely designed act (laid out with scope, intent, and limits) brought about by His sovereign will (volition) as it relates to His overall divine purpose. This was precision work. God the Father knew every aspect of every detail of every moment the Lord would endure. Everything that happened to Christ, every single thing, was under the complete control and ordaining (providential) will of God.
Yet, the Holy Spirit drives this home even further. He doesn’t just stop with determinant counsel but goes on to speak of (determinant) foreknowledge as well. God didn’t just know precisely what He was doing around the time He was doing it; God has always intimately and perfectly known what He would do. This is a foreknowledge that has always been from eternity; it is part of God’s everlasting purpose and eternal plan. The word foreknowledge (prognōsis; the source of our English words prognosis and prognosticate), means knowledge beforehand, prearrangement, forethought. It is a noun deriving from the verb proginōskō, which means to have (deep, intimate) knowledge of beforehand; to foreknow. Perhaps the most common use of proginōskō is found in Romans 8:29 “For whom He did foreknow [proginōskō/G4267], He also did predestinate [proorizō/G4039 mentioned above] [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Note that this knowledge (the root being ginōskō) is indeed that same type of intimate knowledge spoken of in the following passages:
Matthew 1:24-25 “Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew [ginōskō/G1097] her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.”
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?And then will I profess unto them, I never knew [ginōskō/G1097] you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
1 Corinthians 8:3 “But if any man love God, the same is known [ginōskō/G1097] of him.
So again we see that everything that happened to the Lord Jesus Christ during his Passion was in total accordance with the preexisting plan (or course) of action that God the Father meticulously laid out, and brought to pass, in accordance with His sovereign will and purpose, which He foreknow from before the world was. And how do we know that God designed it all, and purposed it all, and foreknew it all before man was even made, and before this world had either form or existence? God makes it clear to us as follows:
Revelation 13:8 “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.“
Ephesians 1:3-9 “Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly [places] in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated [proorizō/G4039] us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself…“
Titus 1:1-2 “Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness; 2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began….”
1 Peter 1:17-20 “And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning [here] in fear: 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, [as] silver and gold, from your vain conversation [received] by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…”
Ephesians 3:9-11 “And to make all [men] see what [is] the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly [places] might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:“
Remember that I stated “God the Father, Christ’s own Father, ordained that His Son would be taken, crucified, and slain by the wicked. God specifically purposed this for the good of not only the elect, but for the good of The Elect.” God the Father ordained all of these things primarily for the good of the Lord Jesus Christ, and not (first and foremost) for the good of those in Christ, though it clearly is for the good of those who are IN Christ Jesus. Through the Passion, through the harsh betrayal and the grotesque brutality, mockings, and blasphemies that God not only foreknew and foreordained, but manifested providentially by way of the wickedness within man, good came to Christ. The evil hour was followed by a blessed one. The Father led the Son through the Fire so as to bring Him out of it manifestly more blessed, and more glorified, than before (seeing that the Body was cleansed, and the Bride was made whole).
In light of all of this child of God, consider your own adversities, aren’t they for –your– perfect good, and for -your- blessing, delivered to you (providentially) by your Father’s sovereign hand? Consider your own sorrows, miseries, sins, failures, agonies, frustrations, and so on. Think of your fear, despair, anxiety, and depression. Think of the betrayals you’ve endured, the loneliness, the letdowns, the abandonment. Think of the injustices, the cruelties, the ridicule, the slander you’ve experienced. Think of every single aspect, of every single negative experience you’ve lived through, and ask yourself…
DID GOD HAVE ANY LESS OF A HAND IN IT?
WAS ANY PART OF IT OUTSIDE OF HIS ETERNAL PURPOSE AND DECREE
(FOR YOU SPECIFICALLY AND FOR HIS KINGDOM AS A WHOLE)?
If The Father led His Beloved Son, His only-begotten, Eternal Son, through so many anguishes, pains, and afflictions (so much so that one of the titles for the Lord is A MAN OF SORROWS), do you expect not to be given hardships of your own? Have you forgotten that “unto you it is GIVEN [as a gift, even a gift from The Father Himself], in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake?” Philippians 1:29. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” per Luke 6:40. We see similar language in:
Matthew 10:24-26 “The disciple is not above [his] master, nor the servant above his lord. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more [shall they call] them of his household? 26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.”
John 15:18-21 “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before [it hated] you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me..
Think on the woman who had an issue of blood for twelve long years (Matthew 9:20); think of the Samaritan woman who had five husbands and was (at first) despised by her community (John 4:7); what of the woman with the spirit of infirmity, for eighteen years, who was bowed together, and could in no way lift herself up (Luke 13:11); think on Mary Magdalene (and the other now godly women), out of whom, the Lord Jesus cast out devils (Luke 8:2); think on the numerous sins mentioned in the Bible, committed by God’s regenerated people, by God’s true believers (Lot, Samson, Abraham, David, Solomon, Peter, etc.); think on the many sorrows God’s people endured (the barren wombs of some of the Patriarchal wives; the wars, invasions, slaughters, and captivity; the family of the many children two and under slaughtered by the decree of Herod); and think on those mentioned in Hebrews 11 who were tortured, not accepting deliverance (that they might obtain a better resurrection), and those who had trials of [cruel] mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment, and those who were stoned, and those who were sawn asunder, and those who were tempted, and those who were slain with the sword: and those who wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented (Of whom the world was not worthy)…
Remember all of these things when you are down, afflicted, and conflicted. Moreover, reread Romans 8 and see the outcome wherein we read in verse 37 “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” Everyone in Christ already has the victory, the warfare is both done and won, and our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). When we have this perspective, when our thinking is aright (i.e. when our thoughts are on Christ and His promises), and when we are looking not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen (for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal), we are glorifying God. In addition to glorifying God, by His grace, we are also benefiting ourselves, helping ourselves, seeing that peace soon follows such a mindset. God promises in Isaiah 26:3 “Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace, [whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.” The mind focused on Christ, His Gospel, His Word, His Kingdom, and the Triune Godhead (of Whom He is the fulness bodily) is the ultimate fulfilment of:
Philippians 4:6-9 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, THINK ON THESE THINGS 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”
The battle is indeed for our minds; they should be conformed to Christ’s image, being transformed by His word. Don’t focus on your losses, sorrows, fears, anxieties, past failures, the past failures of others, etc. focus instead… on Him. Pray that God will give you such focus (even if your mind is far from it now and your heart feels no powerful desire for it). Seek Him now, seek Him now whilst He can still be found. God Promises as follows (albeit in His time, and in His manner, which is often not how we desire it but it is for our good) “…I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9). So do just that, praying for grace… upon grace… upon grace … to seek Him all the more.
To God be the Glory! Amen