I think it's both, but read on to see why.
Psalm 135:6-7 The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Acts 17:28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
Colossians 1:17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
These verses from Scripture give us a sense of the manner in which the world functions.Everything that is, everything around us, everything we do — is a result of God’s involvement. We sometimes — most of the time (sadly) — forget that God is constantly involved in our lives. From the moment you and I woke up this morning, God has been at work: from upholding the atoms that compose your house — to — the cells of your body consistently interacting together to maintain the “you-ness” (facial structure, personality, mannerism, etc.) — to — a plethora of events that happened around the universe (the earth spinning in orbit around the sun in a direction for crops to grow in Asia, while the dew of the earth soaks the crops in North America overnight). God indeed has been at work — and is always involved in every little and big detail of life.
Yet, we so easily forget his involvement. We say (confess) that we believe he exists, and is present, yet often can functionally live as if he is a million miles away, as if our lives were a wind up toy that he wound-up and started and just left to unwind. Yet, that is not at all how God interacts in our lives.
I do not pretend to look pass the reality that it is hard to grasp how God is in involved in everything that happens in life, yet, we humans have a whole lot of sway on how things play out. Our free-will nature is undeniable. We constantly make choices, and have made many choices already today.
Even throughout the Bible, it is hard to deny that human choice plays a role in the narrative that is told. Genesis reveals the free-will choice of Adam and Eve to eat any of the fruit, but the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, or not to eat it. Genesis also reveals the free-will choice of Abraham to follow the promise of God, or not to follow him. Exodus-Joshua reveals the free-will choice of the nation of Israel to adhere to the covenant that God makes with them, or not to adhere to it. Samuel, Kings, and the prophets reveal the choices of the leaders of Israel to obey God’s commands, or not to obey them. The gospel reveal Jesus’ choice to be faithful to his heavenly Father, or not to be faithful to him. The gospels also reveal our choice to follow Jesus’ way, or not or not to follow it.
Life is filled with choices, but choices are not the totality of life. This is what I understand the Scriptures, and ultimately, Jesus to reveal to us.
Yes, we are not robots or puppets, but our choices are also not the final say on the destination of life. If they were, then that would put us on the same level as God. But, we are not God. We are creation, and he is the creator. We are dependent on him, even though he has extended us the privilege and ability to have our choices affect the flow of life and history.
The life of Jeroboam, king of Israel, highlights the tension that exists between our free-will choices and God’s sovereign control of all things. The Lord said Jeroboam, through the prophet Ahijah, “‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.” (1 Kgs. 14:5-16)
The background of this situation is multi-faceted. The house of David (the southern nation, Judah) had turned away from God — a choice.
And, because of that choice, God let them fall into the hands of another ruler. The ruler that God used was Jeroboam, the king of the northern nation, Israel. Even though God allowed Jeroboam to rule over Judah, Jeroboam still had the same opportunity as the rest of us, to choose to be faithful to God, or not. He choose not to be faithful. And, a result of his choice, God allowed his rule to be ended by another.
This entire scenario paints a picture of what it looks like for human free-will to interact with the sovereign Lord of all. As much as these kings made choices, which impacted the flow of life, they still did not deter how God was ultimately directing the flow of life and history toward the fulfillment of his promises to bless the world through his chosen people and to redeem the world from sin through the coming prophet and king, Jesus.
As the narrative of the Bible continues to unfold in our reading, as much as the messed-up choices of the characters in the Bible bring such disaster and turmoil, I encourage you to remember that they ultimately are not match for the power of God to rule and direct the outcome of life. I know, each of our lives is filled with similar disasters and turmoil, maybe not the same extent, but still just as devastating to our lives — whether, from our own choices or from the choices of others. But, the encouragement that we have in the midst of those disasters and turmoil is the confidence and hope of knowing that God’s good intentions for life — and our lives, if we have secured our lives to his — are what will ultimately prove to be the direction of the choices that are made in this life. As hard as that is to see from where we sit now, that is what is to come. And, we can see that outcome, especially in the life of Jesus. Who, although, others made choices against him, his heavenly Father’s will is what ultimately paved the direction of life.
Take heart. Though people don’t always make the best choices, ultimately, God’s good and perfect will is what will come to pass in the end.