Notice this remarkable statement from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:4:
Even as [in His love] He chose us [actually picked us out for Himself as His own] in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy (consecrated and set apart for Him) and blameless in His sight, even above reproach, before Him in love. (The Amplified Bible, Classic Edition)
For those called by God, this verse seems to say that God knew each of us and had determined before the foundation of the world to call each of us into His Family. Can this be true? Was each of us individually in God's blueprint from the beginning? In terms of accomplishing His purposes, what does the Bible reveal about how detailed and advanced His plans are?
We will begin in I Kings 13:1-3:
And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, "O altar, altar! Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you.'" And he gave a sign the same day, saying, "This is the sign which the LORD has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out."
In his commentary on verse 2, John Gill says about Josiah:
[W]ho was not born until three hundred years after this, according to the Jewish writers: but it is generally reckoned to be more, even three hundred and fifty or three hundred and sixty years; this is a clear proof of the prescience, predetermination, and providence of God with respect to future events, contingent ones, such as depend upon the will of men; for what more so than giving a name to a child?
Over three hundred years before he was born, God picked out Josiah by name for Himself as His instrument to accomplish a specific purpose. Over three hundred years later, Josiah completed that task as recorded in II Kings 23:15-20:
Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image. As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, "What gravestone is this that I see?" So the men of the city told him, "It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel." And he said, "Let him alone; let no one move his bones." So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. Now Josiah also took away all the shrines of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger; and he did to them according to all the deeds he had done in Bethel. He executed all the priests of the high places who were there, on the altars, and burned men's bones on them; and he returned to Jerusalem.
Is this the only example in which God had foreknowledge long before the birth of someone that He would call by name to accomplish His purpose? What about Cyrus? "Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid"'" (Isaiah 44:28).
In his 1685 commentary, Matthew Poole wrote about this verse:
Cyrus, whom God here designeth by his proper name two hundred years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the certainty and exactness of God's foreknowledge, and a convincing argument, and so most fit to conclude this dispute between God and idols.
In addition to mentioning how long before Cyrus' birth God uttered this prophecy, Poole notes it is evidence of the exactness of God's foreknowledge. God plans, and He made those plans before the foundation of the world with every part precisely placed. Not only is this prophecy's fulfillment reported in Ezra 1:1-3, but a secular source, Josephus, also confirms it:
This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which Isaiah left behind him of his prophecies; for this prophet said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision:—"My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by Isaiah one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written. . . . (Antiquities of the Jews, XI, 1.2)
There is also what God says about Jeremiah: "Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations—that's what I had in mind for you" (Jeremiah 1:5, The Message).
King David writes of himself: "Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began" (Psalm 139.16, Christian Standard Bible).
To add a New Testament example, Paul writes, "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace . . ." (Galatians 1:15, Revised Standard Version).
During the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:18, the apostle James says, "Known to God from eternity (from the beginning of the world, KJV) are all his works." This verse specifies that He has known "all his works," and it cannot be denied that we are among His works: "We are His work. He has made us to belong to Christ Jesus so we can work for Him. He planned that we should do this" (Ephesians 2:10, New Life Version).
So, did God know you before the foundation of the world? The Bible suggests it is not out of the realm of possibility.
- Pat Higgins
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