Providence

<<divine foresight and intervention>>

God’s sovereignty refers to who He is, the supreme authority over all, who is in complete control of all things while divine providence is the outworking of His plan for all of creation, what He does by directing, with wisdom and love, everything in the universe. God knew before He even created the world that the issue of sin (rebellion against Him) would need addressing and began implementing His plan of redemption whereby people from all races and nationalities will share His grace (Gal 3:26-28; Eph 1:3-5, 3:6-11; Rev 13:8).

What He has planned will happen and no one can prevent it, with all those who fight against God and His kingdom being overthrown (Job 23:13, 42:2; Hab 2:3; Rev 20:10, 21:8). God works out everything in agreement to His plans which remain firm forever (Ps 33:11; Eph 1:11). This doctrine of divine providence by which God accomplishes His will stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governerd by chance or fate.

Chance or luck denies the controlling power of God’s benevolence reducing this to rationalistic fate.

God ordains everything that will happen, yet he is not the author of sin, nor does He excuse mankind’s responsibility. He works through human choice and the laws of nature, (sometimes with a miracle which for a short period circumvents the natural order of things), to accomplish His will – He is sovereign over everything. God rules all natural forces and has the power to give or take away life, by doing whatever pleases Him (1 Sam 1:27, 2:6; Job 1:21; Ps 104:29, 135:6, 148:8; Act 4:28). 

How does this relate to us personally?

God rules the hearts and actions of all humans to outwork His purposes and many times He works behind the scene in our lives, guiding by arranging things that ‘just happen’, without any specific involvement from us, and we are not even aware of, as He directs our steps (Ex 7:13,14; 1 Chr 16:31; Ezra 6: 22; Prov 3:6, 16:9, 21:1).  This understanding,

  God graciously works for us                                 behind the scenes

that God determines the circumstances of our lives, helps faithful Christians to not despair, but patiently and humbly wait on Him for deliverance. It provides encouragement and hope besides inspiring prayers for help as well as praise for the good already received (Ps 37:1-40, 42:1-43:5, 62:1-8; Jas 5:10,11; 1 Pet 5:6-11). God’s providence ensured Joseph was in a position to save multitudes of people, including the Israelites, from starvation. Joseph explained to his brothers that God had a much higher plan and purpose in the events than their un-brotherly actions (Gen 45:5-8, 50:15-21). We might make plans but it is the Lord’s will that prevails (Prov 16:9, 19:21; Jas 4:13-15). While at the present we may not comprehend the reason for some events the Bible declares, “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28).

The NT teaches suffering, ill treatment and adverse circumstances are one aspect of fellowship with Christ – part of the Christian’s progress towards maturity (Jn 15:18-25, 16:33; Act 9:16; Phil 3:10,11; 1 Pet 4:12-19). Throughout we can rely on the comfort and strength of Christ, knowing that suffering and discipline produce in us qualities attainable no other way, and that adversity can’t separate us from Him (Rom 5:3-5, 8:35-39; 2 Cor 1:3, 12:9,10; Heb 12:5-11; Jas 1:2-4; 1 Pet 5:7). “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thes 5:18). God does not initiate or approve of sin, rather He limits or overrules it so we can praise Him for the good He can bring out of it. We have a great inheritance in heaven that is only gained through experiencing trials which prove the reality of our faith (Act 14:22; 1 Pet 1:3-9).

Although the wicked may prosper and even victimise the just, it’s only a temporary condition during which God is being patient, giving the ungodly opportunities to repent (Rom 2:4-11; 2 Pet 3:9).  Even though Christians are not exempt from disasters, they consider the fellowship enjoyed with God is of much greater importance than temporary freedom from outward problems and know they will be vindicated when the wicked are judged (Ps 73:1-28; Hab 3:17,18; Mal 3:13-4:3). Suffering is a God-given discipline and when faithfully endured glorifies God and leads to blessing in the end (Job 1:6-2:10, 42:10-17; Ps 119:67,71; Prov 3:11,12).

In the account of finding a wife for Isaac, the Bible records several specific pointers to providence, including God’s involvement together with human action, praying for divine guidance and overruling with an acknowledgement of His intervention. “He will send His angel to guide you [faith]...help me to accomplish [prayer]…we have room for you to spend the night [provision]...the Lord has led me [praise]…He will make your mission successful [confidence]...He led me on the right path [guidance]...obviously God is in this [recognition]…Yes, I will go” [confirmation] (Gen 24:7,12,27,40,48,50,58). The servant was actively doing what seemed best and was led in the right path. If you are not sure of a particular path, commit your way to the Lord, then with a clear conscience do what you consider is the most appropriate, and most God-honouring.

Ruth was another who was just doing what was at her hand to do, and through the Lord’s intervention in her affairs she became an ancestor of David and Jesus (Eccl 9:10; Ruth 1:16ff). According to His good pleasure (or providence), God is also working in us (Eph 3:20; Phil 1:6, 2:13; 2 Tim 1:9).

Obedience to His known will makes us                             recipients of His providence

He honours His word, and will pour out blessing when we walk obediently and acknowledge His hand on our life (Ps 37:3-5, 103:17,18; Prov 3:5,6). At numerous times the whole nation of Israel were told they would prosper if they were obedient to God while disaster would be their lot if they disobeyed (Lev 26:1-45; Deut 28:1-68).

God’s control is absolute in that mankind only does what He has permitted they do, yet they are free agents in that the decisions are their own and thus they are responsible for them.  God allows sinners to practise evil, for which they must bear the consequences, but also prompts His people to do His will and obey His commands (Ps 81:12; Prov 20:24; Rom 1:24-28). God allowed Judas Iscariot the freedom to perform a series of wicked acts and finally betray the Lord Jesus into the hands of His enemies and then be sacrificed by the Romans (Lk 22:22). Judas's evil scheme led to a greater good: the salvation of mankind. The Jews and ruling authorities did to Jesus only what God’s power and will had decided beforehand should happen (Act 4:28, 13:27). Divine providence does not destroy our freedom of freewill, rather it takes it into account and, in the infinite wisdom of God, sets a course to fulfill God's will.

See also: chance, choice, election, foreknowledge, free will, God’s will, guidance (divine), luck, predestination, sovereignty of God, suffering, trials.

 


Copyright © 2022 Bible Dictionary. All rights reserved. Website design by fuel.