"[I]n this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28, ESV).
Dear ICB family,
Do we see events as these early believers in Acts saw them? Having just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, would we be capable of uttering such a prayer? Really? Herod and Pontius Pilate and the Romans soldiers and the Sanhedrin only did "whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place"?
There could be no more heinous sin than what was committed against the Son of God. The righteous, innocent, pure, infinitely valuable, beautiful, blameless, and spotless Lamb had his throat slit by a group of cowardly, base, self-righteous, corrupt, and demon-possessed fopdoodles not worthy to lick the bottom of his sandal, yet alone to stoop down and untie it. And that, the most horrendous sin that mankind has ever committed (I say mankind because we all have blood on our hands here) only happened according to what God's hand and plan had purposefully and intentionally predestined to take place.
I'm not even entering into the question of man's free will versus God's sovereignty here. There is room for a whole lot of mystery on that front. I'm simply restating what the text clearly asserts, and the plain fact of the matter is that God planned the unjust arrest, the self-protecting flight of the disciples, the unplumbed depths of loneliness, the shady trial, the bogus allegations, the humiliating taunts, the uncalled for beating, the excruciating flogging, the crown of thorns, the cold nails, the wooden cross, the heart-wrenching shame, and the unwarranted death of the Son of God that he might take away the sins of the world.
Herod? Pilate? The Roman soldiers? The religious elite and the crowds of Israelites? They played their parts. They'll answer for their deeds. But they only got as far as they did because that was part of God's unassailable plan to save your soul and mine.
We often quote Romans 8:28 ("And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good") and paraphrase the verse to mean that God takes whatever happens and somehow manages to bring good out of it. Now, I don't think it's wrong to paraphrase the verse that way. However, if Acts 4:27 is true, then we can also say that God not only turns bad situations into good ones; he also plans bad situations—even the worst, like the crucifixion of the Son of God—in order to bring about good. And that is a slightly different perspective, isn't it?
I can feel myself recoil at the thought. God plans my pain? And then the Spirit whispers Romans 9:20 to my indignant, fearful heart: "[W]ho are you, O man, to answer back to God?" Followed by Job 2:10: "Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" And by the time he whispers Hebrews 12:5-11—"'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.' It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons.... [H]e disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it"—I feel my heartrate slow, my shoulders relax, and my racing mind calm, and finally I'm able to surrender to the good, high, and holy will of my loving Father who owes me no explanations but simply asks me to trust that he's got this in his hands, too.
Yes, he's planned even the pain, but just like a good coach pushes his athletes to their breaking points and even beyond, God trains us through suffering so that we'll share in his holiness, the very thing that satisfies the soul like no other. This, God's holiness wrought in us, is the "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" that "this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us" (2 Corinthians 4:17). May confidence in such glory cause you to "lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees" (Hebrews 12:12). He's planned this, meaning it has a purpose—your holiness!—and his purposes for you, beloved son or daughter of God, are better than any purposes you might be able to think up for yourself.
Praying for grace to be able to pray in tune with the believers in Acts 4:27,