“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, May 18, 2009

Providence Part II

In the last post on this subject, I developed a working definition of God’s providence; in this post I would like to examine why we can be confidant in His providential care.

What does the Bible say about God’s providential care of all creation? Listen to Elihu describe God’s providence in Job 37:1 – 13 - "At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place. Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth. Under the whole heaven he lets it go, and his lightning to the corners of the earth. After it his voice roars; he thunders with his majestic voice, and he does not restrain the lightnings when his voice is heard. God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says, 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen…”

Listen to the Psalmist as he speaks of God’s providential care in Psalm 104 -- Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, you are very great! You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent. He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters; he makes the clouds his chariot; he rides on the wings of the wind; he makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire. He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth. You make springs gush forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they sing among the branches. From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart. The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. In them the birds build their nests; the stork has her home in the fir trees. The high mountains are for the wild goats; the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers. He made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God. When the sun rises, they steal away and lie down in their dens. Man goes out to his work and to his labor until the evening. O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it. These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!

Remember the description of God’s providence; He is actively involved in sustaining and governing all of creation. Now, what about His children specifically; what of the redeemed? This same God whose providential care upholds the very universe itself, has promised His children that they would never be forsaken [Deuteronomy 31:6,8]; that He will be with them till the end of the age [Matthew 28:20] that their names are written on His palms [Isaiah 49:16]. This same God promised us salvation through His work poured out graciously on us, not through our own efforts and works [Isaiah 59:16; Ephesians 2:1 – 9]; Salvation through the life, death, and resurrection of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. This same God promised us that He was preparing a place for us in John 14. This same God has promised that He will return to bring His children with Him that where He is, we may be also.

This same God who has promised us salvation is the same one described in Colossians 1:15 – 17 -- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

We do not simply rest in God’s promises, but we actually rest in God himself. His promises are true and trustworthy because of who He is! Our comfort is not primarily found in the idea of a predetermined path, but trust in a loving Lord. We trust the one who is trustworthy, and carries out His purposes in a most holy, wise and powerful way. Even though we cannot always understand all the things that befall us, we can CONFIDENTLY say that we know that our God watches over His children, and nothing can separate them from His love! Which is not based upon our worthiness, but based upon His Son.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

First, imagine if we were at the whim of ‘fate’ – what type of comfort can we take in knowing that nothing more than impersonal, unfeeling fate has directed our path? We have no comfort in that, do we? Now, contrast that with knowing that a loving, caring Father is watching over our every breath, our very hairs are numbered by Him! That brings comfort in a fallen world that is ofttimes chaotic and confusing.

It is also important because we know at the end of the day that nothing will separate us from the love of God. When we get a diagnosis that tells us all is lost, we know that all is not lost – that our loving Savior, in His providential care, will watch over and guide us – whether or not He heals us in this life does not change our eternity!

We also know that, because we are His, God will guide us in our decisions. Even when these decisions turn out in a way that seems counter intuitive to our plan, we can rest in the fact that our great Shepherd leads and guides us, even when the path grows exceedingly dark and narrow. If we are truly the sheep of His flock we can trust, even when things seem to be going badly, that He is watching over us.

We know that because of God’s providential care, we may undergo trials and testing, but it is for His glory and purpose. We can look at trials as James does in James 1:2 – 4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Or as Peter says in 1st Peter – that the trials we go through test our faith, refining it like hold, to the praise, glory and honor of Jesus Christ.

It is important when we face tragedy in life. We all will, at some point, be faced with tragedy. But, if we can say with confidence that God is in control, we can trust that somehow, some way, His perfect, holy plan is being executed. As I wrote in the last post, the life of Joseph was marked with what seemed to him, I am sure, like tragedy; yet he ended up saving the lives of not only the people of Egypt, but his own family – the very people who had sold him into slavery.

And there are other examples found within Scripture; what of the tragedy of Lazarus’ death [John 11]? Through his death, God’s plan was executed in that, through his being raised from the dead, many people believed, and God was given glory.

And what of the most horrific tragedy in history? The death of Jesus Christ; what did this make possible? Well, only the salvation of an entire people for all eternity. All of this was according to the purposes of our glorious triune God!

When we live our lives in light of the providence of God, with a full confidence in that providential care, we will encounter the same trials, testing and tragedies that all others face. The difference is that we will not mourn as those who have no hope. Instead, we, like Job will say, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!” – Job 19:25 – 27 –

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