Sunday, May 19, 2013

More on God's Providence

This past Thursday, I wrote a bit about the providence of God. I am still studying this great doctrine. I love it when the Holy Spirit grabs me by the heart and keeps me wrestling with a topic for a little while. Not that anyone can ever exhaust the great riches of studying the Providence of God...but I enjoy both kinds of study- minutely examining one verse for a while, and also studying the entire biblical expanse of a topic. It's good to study doctrines as well as verses, and I hope you think so too.

Like the word "Trinity", the word "Providence" is not in the bible. As it is clear that the LORD our God is one God in three persons (Trinity), it is also true that His Providence also extends throughout the universe, throughout creation, and throughout the affairs of men, even if the word itself is not explicitly stated.

After I studied the bible for passages that exhibit the fact of His of providence, I studied several books which demonstrate it. Providence cannot really be completely demonstrated in one verse, like God's love is (1 John 4:16), or Jesus's compassion, (John 11:35). We know that God is holy, (Isaiah 6:3), and He is eternal, (Psalm 90:2, Deuteronomy 32:40). God's Providence is expansive, for example, providence is shown as what God did throughout the entirety of Joseph's life.

Did you ever stop to think of how He sustains His divine will throughout each and every event that occurs on earth at each and every moment? For example, Mary was chosen as the biological vessel to conceive, carry, and birth the savior. She was a virgin, and God kept her so. Not that she would have sinned in that way, but she wasn't waylaid by bandits and raped either. And He brought her mother and father together, they of the exact lineage He wanted, and kept them alive and betrothed them and saw them married and the father not died in war and the mother not dead in childbirth before Mary could be born. And Mary's grandparents, born of the right tribe, and lived to bring their children into the world not having died of infection from a cut or food poisoning or falling down a cliff or eaten by a bear or lion, and so on back and back all the way to Adam and Eve. God ordered those circumstances so that His chosen vessel would emerge on the world stage at exactly the time and place He ordained. And so He does this for each person on earth.

However, one cannot read one verse and see His providence, because it is not one event. Providence is a series of events which you may not understand at the time but in looking back it all connects together. As I said in the other blog essay, it takes time to see His providence emerge. "Looking forward what we have is trust, and looking back we can see the results of that trust- His divine will accomplished providentially."

 The books that demonstrate His providence that come to mind are Esther, Ruth, and of course Joseph. Each of those books are examples of how God manages all affairs, large and small, to perform His divine will. Charles Spurgeon says, "Just look at the case of Joseph. God has it in his mind that Joseph shall be governor over all the land of Egypt: how is that to be done? The first thing to be done is that Joseph's brethren must hate him. O, say you, that is a step backward. Next, Joseph's brethren must put him in the pit. That is another step backward, say you. No, it is not: wait a little. Joseph's brethren must sell him; that is another step backward, is it not? Providence is one, and you must not look at its separate parts. He is sold; he becomes a favorite: so far, so good. That is a step onward. Anon, he is put in a dungeon. Wait and see the end; all the different parts of the machinery are one. They appear to clash; but they never do. Put them all together. If Joseph had not been put in the pit, he never would have been the servant of Potiphar: if he never had been put in the round-house, he never would have interpreted the jailer's dream; and if the king had never dreamed, he would not have been sent for. There were a thousand chances, as the world has it, working together to produce the exaltation of Joseph. Providence is one: it never clashes."

I was reading Ecclesiastes the other day, the entire book, and it occurred to me that Ecclesiastes is also a book which speaks of God's Providence without using the word. In Ecclesiastes 3:10, Solomon says, "I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with." Barnes Notes explains,
"To bring ourselves to our state in life, is our duty and wisdom in this world. God's whole plan for the government of the world will be found altogether wise, just, and good. Then let us seize the favourable opportunity for every good purpose and work."
Every good purpose and work is God's providence because it brings about His will, which of course, is good!

Charles Spurgeon preached on the doctrine of Providence in a most interesting way. He begins his sermon practically enough,
"While reading the scriptures, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to "take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself." Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked. Having shown you from our Lord's own words the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence, I thought I would endeavor to explain that doctrine more fully this morning. I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God's great wonder-working processes which we call Providence."
Spurgeon then goes on brilliantly to propose his interpretation of Ezekiel's wheels within wheels (Ezekiel 1:15-19) as a visual representation of God's providence. Wow!
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose.
He makes his outline of points this way and then goes on to explain each one.
  • Providence is Here Compared To A "Wheel."
  • The Providence Of God is in some Mysterious Way Connected With Angels.
  • Providence is Universal.
  • Providence is Uniform.
  • Providence is Compared to the Sea.
  • God's Providence is Intricate.
  • Providence is Always Correct.
  • Providence is Amazing.
  • Providence is Full Of Wisdom.
I recommend reading the entire sermon, it's great. Whether you agree or disagree with all his points, Spurgeon certainly was excited about the doctrine of God's Providence!!


If you want some further concrete examples of God's providence in the bible, look up in context:
--Genesis 45:8, He shows that all was done by God’s providence.
--Exodus 1:12, The providence of God toward the Jews in captivity under Pharaoh
--Psalm 8:1
--Psalm 33:1 urges the righteous to praise Him because of His providence
--Psalm 40:1-3, David sings of His providence

It is good to think on these things. In Psalm 107, David sings of the amazing things the LORD has done all over the earth. He concludes in verse 43, saying:

"Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

You might also be interested in:

Providence Is the Hand of God, Dr. J. Vernon McGee

Wayne Grudem preaches providence as demonstrated in the Book of Ruth

The providence of God, the first essay I wrote on the topic.

3 comments:

  1. My favorite name: Jehovah Jireh

    The LORD will provide.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In light of the Providence of God, it amazes me that some people think that election and predestination are unfair. Can't have one without the other. God is either sovreign and in control of all things or He is not.
    In this crazy world, I find great comfort in knowing that His will doesn't depend on mine.

    Pam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly! Well said! It is precisely that He IS sovereign that I find the most comfort. Thank you for your comment, I was enlightened by it :)

      Delete

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