Proverbs 16:4—Does God make people to be doomed?
Problem: On the one hand, the Bible speaks of human beings as having free choice (Matt. 23:37; 2 Peter 3:9) and being responsible for their own destiny (cf. Ezek. 18:20; John 3:36). On the other hand, Solomon declares here that “the Lord made ... even the wicked for the day of doom.” Indeed, Paul speaks of some people being “vessels of wrath” (Rom. 9:22). How can we justify God making people in order to destroy them?
Solution: God does not create people in order to destroy them. God loves “the world” (John 3:16), and Christ died “for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Indeed, Christ’s blood “bought” even those who deny Him (2 Peter 2:1). And God “is not willing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9). There is a hell, but it was not prepared for human beings. Jesus said it was “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
How then can we explain the fact that God made the wicked for the day of doom? The word “made” (asah) has broad usage in Hebrew. It can mean “appoint” or “institute” or even “administer.” God is in sovereign control of the entire universe. Even when humans intend something for evil, God can mean it for good (Gen. 50:20). In this sense, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You” (Ps. 76:10). For “in all things God works for the good” (Rom. 8:28, niv). So even the “day of doom” is “for” God in the sense that He is in control of it and it will ultimately redound to His glory. For God’s love is magnified in heaven, and His justice is manifest in hell.
Of course, it is not God’s directive will that anyone be judged, but in His sovereign will He has appointed (“made”) that even judgment on sin will magnify Him. Nonetheless, God “desires all men come to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Even the “vessels of wrath” were only “prepared for destruction” (Rom. 9:22) because they refused to repent, since God patiently “endured [them] with much longsuffering,” waiting for them to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).
In brief, God’s prescriptive will is that all be saved. His permissive will is that some be lost (those who refuse to repent). And God’s providential will is that He will bring ultimate good, even out of evil. In this sense, all things are made for (i.e., appointed by) Him.
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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.