The Death of Christ
The most compelling example of God’s willing for sin to come to pass while at the same time disapproving the sin is his willing the death of his perfect, divine Son.
The betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act inspired immediately by Satan (Luke 22:3). Yet in Acts 2:23 Luke says, “This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan (boule) and foreknowledge of God.”
The betrayal was sin, and it involved the instrumentality of Satan; but it was part of God’s ordained plan.
That is, there is a sense in which God willed the delivering up of his Son, even though the act was sin.
Moreover Herod’s contempt for Jesus (Luke 23:11) and Pilate’s spineless expediency (Luke 23:24) and the Jews’ “Crucify! Crucify him!” (Luke 23:21) and the Gentile soldiers’ mockery (Luke 23:36) were also sinful attitudes and deeds. Yet in Acts 4:27-28 Luke expresses his understanding of the sovereignty of God in these acts by recording the prayer of the Jerusalem saints:
Truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel to do whatever thy hand and thy plan (boule) had predestined to take place.
Herod, Pilate, the soldiers and Jewish crowds lifted their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion was unwitting (sinful) service in the inscrutable designs of God.
The appalling death of Christ was the will and work of God the Father. Isaiah wrote, “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God . . . It was the will of the LORD to bruise him; he has put him to grief” (Isaiah 53:4,10)
To Will and to willeth not
Therefore we know that God in some sense wills what he does not will in another sense. Howard Marshall’s statement is confirmed by the death of Jesus: “We must certainly distinguish between what God would like to see happen and what he actually does will to happen.”
God’s active involvement in fulfilling prophecies
Waging war against the Lamb is sin and sin is contrary to the will of God. Nevertheless the angel says (literally), “God gave into their [the ten kings’] hearts to do his will, and to perform one will, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled” (v. 17). Therefore God willed (in one sense) to influence the hearts of the ten kings so that they would do what is against his will (in another sense).
It implies that (at least in John’s view) God’s prophecies are not mere predictions which God knows will happen, but rather are divine intentions which he makes sure will happen.
God blinding the hearts
Jesus expressed this same truth when he explained that one of the purposes of speaking in parables to the Jews of his day was to bring about this judicial blinding or stupor.
In Mark 4:11-12 he said to his disciples, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables; so that they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand; lest they should turn again, and be forgiven.” Here again God wills that a condition prevail which he regards as blameworthy. His will is that they turn and be forgiven (Mark 1:15), but he acts in a way to restrict the fulfillment of that will.
Hardening of Israel
In Romans 11:25-26 he says to his Gentile readers, “Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved.”
God holds out his hands to a rebellious people (Romans 10:21), but ordains a hardening that consigns them for a time to disobedience.
The point of Romans 11:31 therefore is that God’s hardening of Israel is not an end in itself, but is part of a saving purpose that will embrace all the nations
God holding back sin of secular rulers
Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hands of the Lord; he turns it wherever he wishes.
And God says (in verse 6), “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her.”
What is apparent here is that God has the right and the power to restrain the sins of secular rulers. When he does, it is his will to do it. And when he does not, it is his will not to. Which is to say that sometimes God wills that their sins be restrained and sometimes he wills that they increase more than if he restrained them.
Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? – Ezekiel 33:11
Moreover the word for “desired” in the clause, “the Lord desired to put them to death,” is the same Hebrew word (haphez) used in Ezekiel 18:23,32 and 33:11 where God asserts that he does not desire the death of the wicked.
God desired to put the sons of Eli to death, but he does not desire the death of the wicked.
This is a strong warning to us not to take one assertion, like Ezekiel 18:23 and assume we know the precise meaning without letting other scripture like 1 Samuel 2:25 have a say.
The upshot of putting the two together is that in one sense God may desire the death of the wicked and in another sense he may not.
Rather his will in this case was to punish, and part of God’s punishment on evil is sometimes willing that evil increase.