Limits on Our Free Will

Yael Eckstein  |  October 28, 2022

Yael sitting with elderly woman

Many seek an audience with a ruler,
    but it is from the LORD that one gets justice.
— Proverbs 29:26

We continue with devotional thoughts from the Book of Proverbs every Friday. One of the 11 books in the Torah known as the Ketuvim, Hebrew for “writings,” Proverbs is part of the “wisdom tradition,” which also includes Job and Ecclesiastes.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me a question that caught me off guard. I had just finished speaking about how the state of Israel today is a direct fulfilment of biblical prophecy. I ended my remarks by saying that the Jewish people are now back in Israel, our ancient homeland, and we will never be in exile again.

As I stepped down from the podium and began greeting those present, one woman came up to me. She asked, “How do you know you’re here forever? What if there is a war that is so damaging to Israel that it ceases to continue as a Jewish state? God gave people free will. How can you be so sure that human decisions won’t reverse all of this?”

The truth is, that this is a great question. On one hand, there are prophecies that tell us what will happen in the future. On the other hand, human beings have free will. God does not stand in the way of our choices. Can human free will undo God’s plan for the future of Israel?

Limits on Our Free Will

Proverbs addresses this question. We read, “Many seek an audience with a ruler, but it is from the LORD that one gets justice.”

The Hebrew for “justice” here is mishpat, which is also means “ruling” or “decision.” In other words, although we look to those with political power to make decisions, we must always remember that God is in full control. So, what about free will?

The Jewish sages, going back thousands of years, have taught us that we each have free will to choose good or evil, virtue or sin. We can freely choose whether or not to align ourselves with God’s plan. But we don’t have the free will to change God’s plan.

Therefore, the rabbis teach us there are limits on our free will. When it comes to decisions by people in power, decisions that could affect the course of history, God limits free will. These “rulers” may think they are deciding on their own, but God prevents them from successfully choosing anything that contradicts what God has ordained.

As we approach a time of choosing leaders, both in the U.S. and Israel, we must remember that no matter what happens in the short term, God and only God is on the throne. Both before and after election day.

Your Turn:

As we choose our leaders, let us also pray to God, acknowledging His dominion over all.