I. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD DEFINED
One of the most profound and wondrous doctrines taught in Holy Writ is the Providence of God. It is a theological doctrine that is clearly taught on every page of the Bible, yet it is a teaching that is rejected by many church members, along with the multitudes outside of the church. We constantly hear people in the market place talking about “luck,” “coincidence,” “fate,” or things happening “by chance.” It is not uncommon to hear that sort of speech by those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Amazingly, this is the same thing that John Calvin decried in the 16th century when he wrote the following words:
That this difference may better appear, we must know that God’s providence, as it is taught in Scripture, is opposed to fortune and fortuitous happenings. Now it has been commonly accepted in all ages, and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance. What we ought to believe concerning providence is by this depraved opinion most certainly not only beclouded, but almost buried. Suppose a man falls among thieves, or wild beasts; is shipwrecked at sea by a sudden gale; is killed by a falling house or tree. Suppose another man wandering through the desert finds help in his straits; having been tossed by the waves, reaches harbor; miraculously escapes death by a finger’s breadth. Carnal reason ascribes all such happenings, whether prosperous or adverse, to fortune. But anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered (Matt. 10:30) will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan.
As demonstrated by Calvin, “fate,” “fortune,” “luck,” and “chance,” are words that are foreign to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, and also of the historic confessions of all Reformed Churches.
The word “providence” is not an accurate term to express what it’s meant to denote. The word literally means “foresight, a looking to, or a preparation for the future.” The term denotes a seeing and knowing the things that are to happen and a preparing for them in advance; the prudent sees the evil and hides himself (Prov. 22:3). But this is certainly not the teaching of the Word of God concerning the providence of God, nor is this the way that the Church has understood the term. God does not see something beforehand and then prepare Himself to deal with it, but rather He brings all things to pass. He knows them not by a certain prescience, but eternally from His counsel. As it is written: Known to God from eternity are all His works (Acts 15:18). ‘God’, says John Calvin, ‘is keeper of the keys and therefore governs all events.’ For that reason God does not prepare for the things that happen, but rather all things flow from His will and counsel. The word providence is only used once in Scripture, but even then it has reference to the foresight of man (Acts 24:2). Therefore, we would do well to keep in mind that the term providence is a theological, not a biblical term. Nevertheless, the concept is biblical and is found everywhere in Scripture. The providence of God is also referred to as God’s way, God’s ordinance, God’s hand, God’s upholding, God’s working, God’s government, God’s care, and God’s deeds. (Ps. 77:13; Lev. 18:4; Ps. 20:6; Heb. 1:3; Eph. 1:1; Ps. 93:1; 1 Peter 5:7; Ps. 105:1) In these many names it is evident that the providence of God is a work of God distinct from His decree, and yet providence is the execution of His decree in history since God works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).
One of the best definitions of the biblical doctrine of the providence of God is found in the Heidelberg Catechism. It reads as follows:
#27. What do you understand by the providence of God? The almighty, everywhere-present power of God, whereby, as it were by His hand, He still upholds heaven and earth with all creatures, and so governs them that herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed, all things come not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.
The general idea of God’s providence, as defined in the Heidelberg Catechism, is that of the omnipresence of almighty God. It is a doctrine which clearly teaches that God is both immanently present with His creation, but at the same time He is transcendently above it. And it is important that both aspects be maintained in order to properly understand what is meant by the idea of God’s providence. That God is “transcendent” means He is essentially different from, and infinitely greater than all His creation. And when we say that God is “immanently present” with His creation we mean that with His infinite and transcendent being He is in all creation, and in every creature. However, we must not think of the immanence and transcendence of God in reference to space and time since God is essentially above all of creation (1 Kings 2:27), and He is likewise transcendent above all time (2 Peter 3:8). The creature exists in time and space; it is constantly changing and ever moving forward into the future, and at the same time it dwells in and occupies space, which implies extent and limitation. God, on the other hand, is the eternal One who is transcendent above all time and all that exists in time. Likewise, there is no space for God, nor does He exist in space essentially, since heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him (2 Chron. 2:6), although no point of space excludes Him. As it is written: Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (Ps. 139:7-10). Simply stated, God as the immanent One is transcendent. As the transcendent One, He is immanent in all His creation, for in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). God, as Heidelberg Catechism #27 declares, is everywhere present in the created realm, and is upholding and governing heaven, earth, and all creatures therein.
The biblical doctrine of God’s providence clearly and absolutely refutes the Deist notion that God is not present in the created world, while at the same time it stops the mouth of the Pantheist who believes God to be everything and everything to be God. Clearly, Scripture teaches that God is present in all creation (Ps. 139:7) and in every creature as the living, almighty, ever active, sovereign Lord. God is so present that there is a continuous action of God upon the creature, whereby the creature continues to exist (Rev. 4:11). God is the uncreated One who upholds and governs heaven and earth with all that in them dwells. He is and remains forever the sovereign Lord of the universe, and not for one moment does anything have existence without this act of God’s almighty power (Job 12:9-10). It is only by God’s continued activity in and upon the creation that all things exist and continue to be what they are. If God does not uphold all things constantly they would sink back into nihil. Simply stated, if God would not uphold the creature by His act of providence it could not possibly exist for one moment. By the Word of God all things were called into being, and by that same Word they are caused to continue in existence, for God is upholding all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3).
II. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD DEFENDED
It is in God’s works of providence that we see something of the glory and majesty of God — those holy, wise, and powerful works by which He preserves and governs all His creatures and all their actions. As it is written, With Him are wisdom and strength, He has counsel and understanding (Job 12:13). This is the premise upon which the doctrine of divine providence squarely rests. God knows everything and He has all power and majesty with which to accomplish His will. By His omnipotent power, God irresistibly executes whatsoever He wills, and no one can prevent Him from doing so. As it is written: For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back? (Isa. 14:27) And again: Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa. 46:10). This power of God does not merely manifest itself generally in all things. Neither does it affect the initial secondary causes, which in turn further initiate motion and activity in all other secondary causes. This omnipotent power of God penetrates the existence of every creature in an immediate sense and through all secondary causes, thus affecting the ultimate outcome of all things. ‘Behind all secondary causes’, Dr. Bavinck writes, ‘there lurks and works the almighty will of an almighty God and a faithful Father.’ The power of God is therefore in all things and manifests itself in all that exists and moves in the created realm as Scripture declares: But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? (Job 12:7-10) All this activity of God’s power, which is displayed in His providence, is clearly manifest to all men leaving them without excuse for their willful ignorance (Rom. 1:20-21; 2 Peter 3:5).
Notice how inanimate objects maintain their motion in such a precise and orderly fashion without either understanding this or its purpose. How precisely do the sun, moon, and stars know their courses and the time to rise and set? He appointed the moon for seasons; the sun knows its going down (Ps. 104:19). How precise is the time schedule of low and high tides? The birds know instinctively when to arrive and when to depart; every flower knows when it must sprout; every species remains consistent both in its being and in its manner of procreation, so that from the creation of the world until now not one species is missing. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing (Isa. 40:26). The doctrine of God’s providence teaches us that God controls and directs all these movements and actions of the creature. As the Heidelberg Catechism states: He ‘governs heaven and earth and all creatures,’ and that ‘as it were by His hand’ (#27).
When referring to the providence of God, Reformed theologians usually distinguish between three aspects: preservation, cooperation, and government. “But while we distinguish three elements in providence,” as Professor Louis Berkhof pointed out, “we should remember that these three are never separated in the work of God.”
Preservation may be defined as ‘that continuous work of God by which He maintains the things which He created, together with the properties and powers with which He endowed them.’ No creature exists of itself, nor can exist by itself. Without the continuous preservation of God, the creation would sink away. As it is written: You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath, they die and return to their dust (Ps. 104:29). God has ordained that living creatures be preserved by food and drink, and it is God Himself who provides this for them; O LORD, You preserve man and beast (Ps. 36:6). And again: He gives to the beast its food, and to the young ravens that cry (Ps. 147:9). God does not merely preserve living creatures by providing them with food and water (Ps. 104:27), but He also gives each creature the needed energy to preserve its existence, since by Him all things consist (Col 1:16) because He upholds all things by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:3). The destruction or extermination of creatures is also the work of God’s providence, and does not conflict with preservation, since God in His eternal counsel has determined the times and seasons of their existence (Dan. 2:21).
We also see from the Scriptures that God preserves His creatures both mediately and immediately. God ordinarily uses means, but occasionally He acts in an extraordinary manner to demonstrate His majesty and sovereignty. Notice that Moses was preserved on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights by an immediate act of God (Ex. 24:18). Likewise, God preserved Elijah and Christ for forty days and forty nights without food or drink by an immediate act of preservation (1 Kings 19:8; Matt. 4:2). We also think of Daniel in the lion’s den, of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the fiery furnace, and of the children of Israel who walked through the midst of the Red Sea on dry ground (Daniel 6:22; Daniel 3:25; Ex. 14:21-22).
But, ordinarily, God preserves His creatures in a mediate fashion through the use of means. Sometimes it pleases God to give His people means of preservation in a special manner. We think of how the Lord cared for the children of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness. Indeed, forty years Thou didst provide for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell (Neh. 9:21). Thou didst provide bread from heaven for them for their hunger, Thou didst bring forth water from a rock for them for their thirst (Neh. 9:15). The Lord provided for Elijah, the widow of Zarephath, and her son for a long time by means of a small measure of flour and oil, and He also commanded the ravens to bring bread and meat to Elijah by the brook Cherith, both morning and evening. (1 Kings 17:6, 14-15) As Scripture reveals, God does not need to use means, but neither can the means actually preserve the creature without God’s preserving influence. Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain (Ps. 127:1; Heidelberg Catechism #125). Thus the Word of God admonishes us not to place our trust in creatures, although God will use them as means. Our trust is to be placed in Him alone. Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD (Jer. 17:5). Many other examples could be cited to demonstrate the preserving work of God, but they would be too numerous to list here.
Closely associated with God’s preservation is His cooperation or what is often called concurrence. The cooperation of God does not mean the energizing power of God which preserves our existence and abilities, but then God stops working and leaves further activity and government to us. By cooperation we confess that God so acts in and through all His creatures, according to the law of their being which He himself has created and maintains, that He both causes them to act and to act precisely as they do. Dr. Herman Bavinck explains what is meant by God’s cooperation in the following manner:
‘By this term theologians mean to do justice to the fact that God is the first cause of all that happens, but that under Him and through Him the creatures are active as secondary causes, cooperating with the first… All the same, there is a distinction to be made between the first and secondary cause, between God and man. Just as in doing good, it is God who according to His good pleasure works and fulfills the will to do it. Nevertheless, man also himself wills and acts. So, and to an even greater extent, it is in the doing of evil. God grants the life and energy for this also but it is nevertheless man, and man alone, who does the sinning and is guilty of it.’
As Dr. Bavinck points outs, God’s initiative precedes the creature’s motion. God then proceeds to further involve Himself in the creature and its motion, thus accomplishing what He has purposed. We see a distinction between the creature’s being and motion very clearly in the following Scripture: For in Him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28). As the Scripture indicates, every creature both moves in God and has its being in God. As the axe, saw, and rod as described by Isaiah cannot raise themselves up to motion, but must be set in motion by someone, so it is for every creature and man (Isa. 10:15). God sets them in motion in harmony with their nature by means of His cooperative influence. Many who seek to maintain human freedom deny this doctrine of concurrence at all cost, and claim that it makes God the author of sin. But we must readily declare that the doctrine is plainly taught in Scripture, and is also maintained by all Reformed Creeds. As Professor Berkhof states:
Reformed theologians are well aware of the difficulty that presents itself here, but do not feel free to circumvent it by denying God’s absolute control over the free actions of His moral creatures, since it is clearly taught in Scripture. They feel constrained to teach: (a) that sinful acts are under divine control and occur according to God’s pre-determination and purpose, but only by divine permission, so that He does not efficiently cause men to sin, (b) that God often restrains the sinful works of the sinner, (c) that God in behalf of His own purpose overrules evil for good.
The following examples from Scripture will establish the point. To Israel, who was commanded to work diligently for livelihood, God commanded through Moses: And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18). So pervasive is the doctrine of concurrence that Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, could pen the following words: The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes (Prov. 21:1). Its extent also reaches the lives of devils and sinful men as seen from the Word of God: Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you (1 Kings 22:23). And again: And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (2 Thess. 2:11).
The third aspect of God’s providence is His government over all creation. The divine government of God may be defined as that continued activity of God whereby He rules all things teleologically so as to secure the accomplishment of the divine purpose. “This government”, as Professor Berkhof points out, “is not simply a part of divine providence but, just as preservation and concurrence, the whole of it, but now considered from the point of view of the end to which God is guiding all things in creation, namely, to the glory of His name.” The government of God comprehends all things, great and small, good and evil. The Lord works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). Nothing is excluded from the government of God, not even the least thing. As it is written: For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36; see also Hebrews 1:3; Proverbs 16:9, 33). The government of God even extends over the inanimate creation: Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word (Ps. 148:8). His government decides about irrational creatures as well as about rational creatures. Neither is sin excluded from the government of God. Sin is committed in virtue of God’s decree of the fall of angels and men, and all actions of the devils and of the wicked lie under His government. God reigns over the devil, and He also directs what the evil man does. Under God’s governing, Joseph was despised by his brothers and sold as a slave to Egypt, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and Ahab was persuaded to go into battle by a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets (Gen. 37; Ex. 4:21, 9:12; 1 Kings 20:20-23). But God, as pointed out earlier, is neither the author of sin, nor does He himself do any sin. On the contrary, He hates sin, limits it, and punishes it, but He also uses it to perform His perfect will and counsel. Judas’ wicked act of betraying Christ was used of the Lord to secure the salvation of a multitude. The selling of Joseph into Egypt by his brothers was an evil and wicked act on their part, which was under God’s governing, nevertheless, as Joseph declared to his brothers, But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Gen. 50:20). A similar situation can be seen when the Lord used Satan as an instrument in His hand when he moved David to number the people (1 Chron. 21:1). The Lord allowed Satan to do so and used David’s sinful inclinations so that the numbering was possible. The whole matter was in God’s hand and under His government, and therefore we read in Scripture: Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah (2 Sam. 24:1). God’s anger was kindled against Israel and He punished them by allowing them to be counted. The same kind of situation can be seen in the life of Samson. As it is written: Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.” But his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD; that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel (Judges 14:4-5).
Thus nothing happens by chance, that is, outside God’s government. One need only remember the arrow that was shot by a certain man who drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor (1 Kings 22:34). In the minds of unregenerate men who look not through the eyes of faith, all these events are just chance happenings. But those who have been given eyes of faith and who view all things through the lens of Scripture readily confess that God “did not forsake them (all things) or give them up to fortune or chance, but that He rules and governs them according to His holy will, so that nothing happens in this world without His appointment” (Belgic Confession, Article 13). “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?” (Lam. 3:37-38) God does nothing in vain; unsearchable wisdom may be discerned in every work of God, and every one of them has a wonderful and useful purpose in His eternal plan and counsel.
III. THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD APPLIED
The doctrine of the providence of God is of great significance for the life of God’s people and an invaluable comfort. Notice how the Heidelberg Catechism speaks of a threefold fruit of faith which is derived from trusting God’s providence:
Q28: What does it profit us to know that God created and by His providence upholds all things?
A28: That we may be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.
By trusting in the providence of God through faith, the believer is enabled by the Holy Spirit to be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and to have good confidence that he will be provided for in the future, both in body and soul, by his faithful God and Father. None of these qualities are the fruit of man’s labor, for it is by a true and living faith that we trust in the God of Scripture, who alone providentially controls all things. And this faith is a gift of God, and acquires its exercises only with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8-10; Phil. 2:13). It is just as impossible to exercise true thankfulness in times of prosperity, as it is to exercise patience in the season of adversity. Joy, peace, and patience during times of adversity, as well as thankfulness in times of prosperity, are listed in Galatians chapter five as fruit that is produced by the Holy Spirit of God in the life of the believer (Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:15). The Spirit teaches us how small, how insignificant, and how sinful we truly are, and He opens our eyes to see and our mouths to confess that we have forfeited even the least of God’s blessings. As it is written: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant (Gen. 32:10). He makes us to see that everything we receive from God was bought with the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is only by the work of the Holy Spirit that true humiliation will be born out in the life of the Christian, wherein he is enabled in times of adversity to put his hand over his mouth and patiently bear the chastening of the Lord. He will be strengthened during the dark nights of adversity in the inner man to sing praises to his God as was the Apostle Paul and Silas. As it is written: Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them (Acts 16:24-25). “In short,” Calvin writes, “not to tarry any longer over this, if you pay attention, you will easily perceive that ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.” Faith in God’s providence is of utmost blessing to the child of God. It directs the Christian in times of great turmoil to look to the God of Scripture, who is governing all things, with praise on his lips, no matter what may be his lot. Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls; Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3:17-18).
On the other hand, as Calvin states, “ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries.” When the Christian loses sight of God’s overarching providence he will murmur, as did Jacob: All these things are against me (Gen. 42:36). We even see the great prophet Elijah in the midst of despair when he looks to his circumstances and not to the God who controls all circumstances. ‘Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:2-4) So often the believer looks at his situation and fears the arm of flesh rather than finding comfort in the words of Christ: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Matt. 10:28). The Christian must continually say with the psalmist: In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Ps. 56:11) And again: The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me? (Ps. 118:16) The words of John Calvin continue to ring true, “ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.”
Thankfulness in prosperity is another fruit that stems from trust in the providence of God. When we consciously recognize, as the Scriptures teach, that God controls all we possess, we will be thankful to Him in times of prosperity. When we understand that the breath we breathe and the food we eat all come from the hand of God and He gives them to whomever He wills, then we will be able, by God’s grace, to say with the Apostle Paul: Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:11-13). And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content (1 Tim. 6:8). God is the One who dispenses riches, and God is the One who dispenses poverty. The saints of old knew this full well. We remember the words of Job: The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21). And again: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him (Job 13:15). Abraham told the king of Sodom, I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, the Possessor of heaven and earth, that I will take nothing, from a thread to a sandal strap, and that I will not take anything that is yours, lest you should say, I have made Abram rich (Gen. 14:22-23). He knew full well, as did Melchizedek, that God is the One who gave him riches and victory. He also knew that God was the only One who could grant him and Sarah a child in their old age. It is said of Abraham, who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, ‘So shall your descendants be’ (Rom. 4:18). The Apostle Paul also made clear that all things come to us from the hand of God and it is He who gives severally as He wills when he wrote the following inspired words: For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? (1 Cor. 4:7) Our Lord Jesus Christ, when speaking to Pilate on the matter of authority, said, You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above (John 19:11). And lastly we read the words of John the Baptizer who is also speaking concerning the matter of authority: A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven (John 3:27). The authority one possesses, the color of one’s eyes, the number of coins in one’s pocket—this is all governed, controlled, and directed by the providence of God.
The last fruit of trusting God’s providence mentioned in the Heidelberg Catechism is good confidence that we will be provided for in the future, both in body and soul, by our faithful God and Father. Unbelief says, “So far it has gone fairly well, but now your troubles shall increase; you are becoming old; your income is decreasing, and your expenses are increasing; you will be without employment and without income; you will either become a beggar or land in the poor house.” That is the voice of unbelief that surrounds us on all sides.
Faith, on the other hand, rests in the promises of God. In the words of that great hymn, faith says, “It is well, it is well, with my soul.” Faith says: God has cared so well for me in the past! How many mountains hasn’t God removed, or rivers has He not dried up? Well then, He will continue to do so in the future. Not because I deserve it, but rather because of His faithfulness. Faith, therefore, rests upon the faithfulness of God. As it is written: He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it (1 Thess. 5:24). And again: Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved (Ps. 55:22).
Faith also trusts in the omnipotent power of almighty God. It reasons from the Scriptures and says, “Cannot He who brought forth heaven and earth out of nothing, provide you with a morsel of bread and with the clothing you need? Can He not also keep your foot from being moved, and your enemies at bay?” We read of angry Laban pursuing his son-in-law Jacob. Truly, he could not harm Jacob because God said unto him: Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad (Gen. 31:24). And what about the prophet Balaam, who Balak, the king of Moab, sent to curse the children of Israel? God said to Balaam, You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed (Num. 22:11). Moreover, we read of the hand of God hedging in Job on all sides, of Abraham’s wife, Sarah, being protected from the Pharaoh and also from Abimelech, and of Peter being spared from the sword of Herod (Gen. 12:17, 20:3; Acts 12:6-7). As the Heidelberg Catechism declares, ‘Whatever evil He sends upon me in this troubled life, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father’ (#26). According to the sure testimony of Scripture, the Christian can confidently trust in the providence of God, and with believing Abraham declare: THE LORD WILL PROVIDE; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of The LORD it shall be provided’ (Genesis 22:14).
I conclude with the words of Professor P.Y. De Jong:
The Christian has a vital message for today’s world. His faith that God rules all things wisely and well, even though we cannot fathom his purposes or understand His ways, gives peace and courage to those who take the Word of the Lord seriously. Faced with an existence too complicated for our minds to unravel, the Christian lifts his heart to God and exclaims with Paul, Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?” “Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Rev. Scott Henry
Box 1. We constantly hear people in the market place talking about “luck,” “coincidence,” “fate,” or things happening “by chance.” It is not uncommon to hear that sort of speech by those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. [INSERT near this box or on same page, if possible, 140409067 iStock.]
Box 2. God does not see something beforehand and then prepare Himself to deal with it, but rather He brings all things to pass.
Box 3. The words of John Calvin continue to ring true, “ignorance of providence is the ultimate of all miseries; the highest blessedness lies in the knowledge of it.”