God does, indeed, know us, “He knows the secrets of the heart.” Pas. 44:21. God also says He declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done…”Isa. 46:10 Yet, we still have a free will.
God’s living creation has the gift of choice. When you place your shoe in front of a lowly ant, an ant may choose to turn left, right, or climb over your foot. Similarly, a dog displays free will when he responds to his owner’s call. Man not only possesses a free will but he has free moral agency. We have judgment and can weigh the moral results of choices. We plan strategies to reach desired goals. We make choices based on love and forgiveness. Our free moral agency permits us to make decisions based on wisdom, justice, and love. We are made in God’s own image. (Gen. 1:26, 27)
Does God ever force people to obey His will? There are no Biblical accounts or stories where God used His mighty power to exert mind-control over His intelligent creation. At the same time, the Lord will sometimes permit men whose behavior for unrighteousness is predictable to be given free reign – that is, they exercise their free-moral agency for ill, even though they could also do right. An example of this is Pharaoh (Romans 9:17).
For example, Satan and the fallen angels have acted in direct opposition to God’s will, but God doesn’t make them obey. (They will eventually be destroyed when Christ reigns Revelation 20:10.) Mankind has also been given this same freedom to decide which path they will take. Presently, God has invited men to reason with Him, “Come let us reason together, saith the Lord…” Isaiah 1:18 Our gracious God is willing to guide us in knowledge and understanding.
The account of Abraham obeying God’s direction to sacrifice Isaac is a story of great faith. Hebrews 11:19 tells us Abraham was willing to offer up his only son Isaac because he believed God would raise Isaac from the dead. Abraham knew the promise, “in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed…” (Gen. 12:3) Consequently, God would need to raise Isaac, the promised heir, in order to bless all mankind.
It must have been very difficult for Abraham to take that journey to sacrifice his son. His heart was sad and perhaps he struggled in his grief. Yet, he acted on his faith. When he raised his arm with the knife, his determination to obey God was revealed. This act defined his character in reverence and obedience to God. Then God saw that Abraham of his own free moral agency chose to revere God over anyone or anything else.