We run our website the way we wished the whole internet worked: we provide high quality original content with no ads. We are funded by your direct support for ReKnew and our vision. Please consider supporting this project.

What is the significance of Jeremiah 3:19–20?

“I thought how I would set you among my children…And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Instead, as a faithless wife…you have been faithless to me…”

If the future is eternally and exhaustively settled, and if God therefore knows it as such, he could not have really planned to bless Israel and have truly expected them to respond to his kindness with fidelity, only to be disappointed when they persisted in their rebellion. Only if the future is partly composed of possibilities, and not exclusively of certainties, can verses such as this have any clear meaning (see Isa. 5:1–5).

Does this mean that God was mistaken? If the future was settled one way and God thought it would go a different way, then we’d have to say God was mistaken. But if the future is by divine choice partly a realm of possibilities left open for free agents to decide, then we need not, and should not, conclude this. If this is how the future really is, there is no difficulty in understanding how an omniscient God could suspect that one thing would occur but then discover that a different thing occurred.

For example, if it is the case (in reality, not just in our limited speculations) that the chances of the Chicago Bulls winning the Championship are 9 to 1 in their favor, then anyone (viz. God) who had a perfectly accurate assessment of reality would expect the Bulls to win. Still, the unlikely sometimes happens: they could lose. But even if they did, this wouldn’t change the fact that before they lost it was most likely that they were going to win.

God was thus not mistaken in expecting that the Israelites would follow him even though it turned out they didn’t. For before they acted in this surprising manner, it was indeed more probable than not that they would follow him. This doesn’t mean that God was caught off guard, for the omniscient Lord knows all possibilities. But it does mean that what the omniscient God thought was most likely to occur did not occur.

The open view can thus make sense out of this verse without detracting from the omniscience of God. If the future is exhaustively settled in God’s mind, however, then no sense can be made out of this verse, for there are no real possibilities or probabilities to God. There are only certainties.

Category:
Tags: ,
Topics:
Verse:

Related Reading

What is the significance of 2 Samuel 24:12–16?

The Lord gives David three options of how Israel will be judged. “Three things I offer you; choose one of them, and I will do it to you.” This verse reveals how the Lord gives people genuine alternatives and responds to their choices. If God foreknew what David would choose, however, the purpose of the…

Topics:

How do you respond to Genesis 16:12?

The Lord describes Ishmael as “…a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” According to most Old Testament scholars the Lord is describing Ishmael’s descendants as much as he is describing Ishmael himself. The Lord foresaw that the nation which would descend from Ishmael (cf. 21:18) would…

Who Rules Governments? God or Satan? Part 1

Running throughout Scripture is the motif that depicts God as the ultimate ruler of the nations. On the other hand, the NT teaches that the ruler of nations is Satan. What do we do with these two apparently conflicting motifs? First, because OT authors tended to understand the creation along the lines of a king-centered…

Scientific Support for the Open View

If a position is true, every avenue of reflection ought to point in its direction. What follows are two more “pointers” to the view that the future is at least partly open (indefinite, composed of possibilities). I’ll first consider an argument from quantum physics, followed by a pragmatic argument regarding what we ordinarily assume to…

What is the significance of Jeremiah 36:1-6

The Lord has Jeremiah write his prophecy on a scroll, telling him, “Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, they will each turn from their wicked ways; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin” (Jer. 36:3). Jeremiah then tells his scribe to take the…

Topics:

Sermon: God Needs Prayer

In this sermon clip, Greg Boyd discusses some of the challenges we face when praying. The full sermon wrestles with questions like: If God is all-powerful, does he need our prayers to change this world? And is it even worth praying if we can’t see the results? Greg addresses these questions as he begins a…