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God’s providence

6 March 2016

God’s providence

GodGod’s providence is a manifestation of His omnipotence, unsearchable wisdom and infinite goodness. Here is a very brief exposition of the Biblical teaching on the providence of God.

God is called the Creator of all things for He “created all things” (Ephesians 3:9). He is the One “who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein”; (Revelation 10:6); by His will “they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11 – NIV). He created the heavens, the earth, the sea and all the things which are in them in six days, as God Himself said to the Israelites: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). God not only created the world but He also designed and fixed the laws of nature. However, after God created the universe and fixed these laws, He did not withdraw, leaving the world to its fortune and the out-working of these laws. In other words, after God made the universe and equipped it with natural laws, He did not let it go like a machine. For God sustains all things by His powerful word, and all things perform the word of His power and fulfil His Sovereign pleasure, as it is written in the book of Psalms: “They stand this day according to Your ordinances, for all things are Your servants” (Psalm 119:91 – NASB), and again: “The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths” (Psalm 135:6 – NIV).

God governs the inanimate creation through the laws of nature (that is, His ordinances). Here are a few examples taken from the Scripture which show that God governs the inanimate creation. The sun rises at God’s command, for Jesus said that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Matthew 5:45 – NKJV). The rain falls on the earth at God’s command, for it is written that He “giveth rain upon the earth, and sendeth waters upon the fields” (Job 5:10) and Jesus said that God “sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 – NKJV). The clouds go where God wants them to go, as it is written: “He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them. At his direction they swirl around over the face of the whole earth to do whatever he commands them. He brings the clouds to punish men, or to water his earth and show his love” (Job. 37:11-13 – NIV). Ice is produced by God, as it is written: “The breath of God produces ice, and the broad waters become frozen” (Job 37:10 – NIV). The snow falls on the earth because God commands it to fall: “For He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth” (Job 37:6 – NKJV). The wind is created by God, as it is written that God “creates the wind” (Amos 4:13 – NKJV) and that He “brings the wind out of His treasuries” (Jeremiah 10:13 – NKJV). It is God who makes the grass and the plants grow, as it is written: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth” (Psalm 104:14). Of course, He who fixed the laws of nature can suspend or modify them at pleasure, and He can command the sun, the wind, the stars, the planets, the rain and the snow, etc. to do whatever pleases Him. According to the Scripture, in the days of the prophet Elijah God did not send rain on the earth for three years and six months (James 5:17); in the days of Amos He made it rain on one city and withheld rain from another city (Amos 4:7); in the days of king Hezekiah God made the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz (Isaiah 38:7-8); and before Jesus comes God will give power to the sun to scorch people with fire (Revelation 16:8). These few examples taken from the Bible clearly show that the natural laws established by God are subject to His control and He can suspend their operation according to His pleasure.

God governs the whole animal creation, too, through His ordinances. Not only does He preserve all animals, by providing food for the beast of the earth, as well as for the birds of the air and the fish of the sea, – for God said to Job: “Wilt thou hunt the prey for the lion? or fill the appetite of the young lions, When they couch in their dens, and abide in the covert to lie in wait? Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat” (Job 38:39-41); Jesus said to His disciples: “Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26); and the Psalmist says: “This great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great …. These all wait for You, that you may give them their food in due season. What You give them they gather in …” (Psalm 104:25, 27-28 – NKJV) – but He also directs and disposes them to the end for which He designed them, and sometimes He commands some animals to perform some peculiar things in accordance with His will and they obey Him. Here are a few examples taken from the Bible which show how even animals are at God’s beck and call: God caused a dumb donkey to speak with a man’s voice in order to rebuke the prophet Balaam for his iniquity (2 Peter 2:16); He commanded a great fish to swallow the prophet Jonah and to vomit him onto dry land (Jonah 1:17; 2:10); and He commanded the ravens to feed the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17:1-6).

God governs the affairs of nations. The Holy Scripture teaches that God has determined the times set for the nations and the exact places where they should live, as it is written: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26); and it teaches that He increases the nations and destroys them, as it is written: “He increaseth the nations, and destroyeth them: he enlargeth the nations, and straiteneth them again” (Job 12:23). I will give you a few examples taken from the Bible to confirm these words. As for the exact places where the nations should live, God gave the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, that is, the Israelites (Genesis 12:7); He gave Mount Seir to the descendants of Esau (Deuteronomy 2:5); and He gave Ar to the descendants of Moab as a possession (Deuteronomy 2:9). However, God can modify at pleasure the boundaries of a nation; for example, God determined the boundaries of Israel (Genesis 15:17-21), but in the days of Jehu king of Israel He reduced the size of Israel and in the days of Jeroboam king of Israel He restored its boundaries (2 Kings 10:32; 14:25). As for the times set for the nations which were determined by God, we learn from the book of Daniel that the kingdom of Babylon, as well as the kingdom of Persia, and the kingdom of Greece and the Roman Empire, arose at God’s appointed time and were destroyed at God’s appointed time (Daniel chapter 2, 7 and 8). Furthermore, the Scripture teaches that God sets over the kingdoms of men anyone He wishes (Daniel 5:21), and He uses the governing authorities to perform His purposes. For example, He set Nebuchadnezzar over the kingdom of Babylon (Daniel 5:18), and He used him to inflict punishment on Jerusalem (Jeremiah 32:28-29; 2 Chronicles 36:17-20); and He set Cyrus over the kingdom of Persia (Isaiah 45:13) and He used him to make the Israelites return to their own country and to rebuild Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-11). As Solomon stated: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” (Proverbs 21:1 – NKJV). So whatever the nations do is under God’s control, nothing happens apart from His will. God reigns over all the nations!

God governs the life of men. The birth of each man, the length of his life, and all the events of his life, are regulated and superintended by God, as it is written: “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23), and again: “A man’s heart plans his way: but the LORD directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 – NKJV) and also: “A man’s steps are of the LORD; how then can a man understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24 – NKJV). In Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28); He has decreed the number of our months and has set limits we cannot exceed (Job 14:5). The very hairs of our head are all numbered (Matthew 10:30). Since a man’s steps are directed by God, his salvation does not depend on his desire but it depends on the will of God. The apostle Paul clearly states that it does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy (Romans 9:16), for He has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy (Romans 9:18). Thus, God determines who will believe in Christ (Acts 13:48). Whoever believes in the Lord Jesus was not only foreknown by God but also foreordained o predestined by God to believe (Acts 13:48: Romans 8:29-30).

In conclusion, I want to say this. It is evident that since God controls the universe and He has decreed all things that come to pass, even evil deeds are decreed (or included in God’s decree). Is it not written in the book of Lamentations: “Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good?” (Lamentations 3:37-38)? And doesn’t God state in the book of Isaiah: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil [adversity]: I the LORD do all these things” (Isaiah 45:7)? As you can see, God ordains bad things, too, to occur. However, that does not mean that those who sin are not responsible for their sinful deeds, for the Scripture clearly teaches that God holds persons responsible for their sinful deeds. I give you a few examples taken from the Bible: even though the Jews, by putting to death Jesus Christ, did what the hand of God and His purpose determined before to be done (Acts 4:28), God held them responsible for the crime they committed, and He punished them by sending against them the roman army, which killed thousands of Jews, destroyed the city of Jerusalem and led many Jews away captive into all nations (Luke 21:20-24); even though Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go, for God had hardened his heart (Exodus 4:21), he was held responsible for his refusal and God punished him for it (Exodus 8:1-6) by striking Egypt with ten terrible plagues; even though Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God (Acts 1:16, 20), God held him responsible for his sin, for Jesus said: “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born” (Matthew 26:24 – NKJV); even though the Chaldeans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and led away many Jews captive in obedience to God’s command (Jeremiah 32:28-29; 2 Chronicles 36:17-20), God held the Chaldeans responsible for all the evil they did in Jerusalem and at the appointed time He punished them (Jeremiah 51:24); even though God incited David to number Israel (2 Samuel 24:1), after David took the census God held David responsible for that sin (1 Chronicles 21:7) and thus He struck Israel. Nor does it mean that God takes pleasure in sin or is the doer of the evil deeds, for God is absolutely pure and sinless. The prophet Habakkuk stated that His eyes are too pure to look on evil, and He cannot tolerate wrong (Habakkuk 1:13). Know this, then, that even though God uses wicked people to accomplish His purposes or He uses evil in the accomplishment of His plan, He remains blameless, no one can charge Him with wrongdoing, He cannot be blamed for evil. To His Name be the glory now and forevermore. Amen.

From: The New Way

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