Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 24, PAGE 2,7b,8b

Divine Providence (II.)

Gordon Wilson

We have previously considered the first question in our study of divine providence: Is there a God above men? We are now ready to take up some of the things which are revealed in the Bible about the workings of God, as we study the second question: Does God presently manifest any interest in men and in the world of men. Of course we understand that if God has ever shown any concern for human affairs since the creation, then He continues to show the same concern, though He does not grant us direct revelations now. In other words, all we can know about how God deals with us today is derived from a study of how He has dealt with men in the past.

Subsequent to the creation of the heaven and the earth, a condition of apparent chaos existed. G o d brought order out of chaos, and turned a useless ball of clay into a fit habitation for living creatures. In Genesis 1:31, we read: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." This establishes the principle of God's intervention in the natural order and His concern for bringing good out of that which had been useless. Did He then stop all intervention in the natural order, or was not this just the beginning of such intervention?

In a general way God causes events which seem to be only evil to contribute to His plans. In Acts 4:28, it is expressly stated that even the conspiracy against Christ on the part of Herod, the Jews, Pilate, and the Gentiles, led to the accomplishing of God's previously determined will. From this we can learn that God will not permit anything to frustrate His designs, and that whatever evil may appear in the world will be used of God if He wishes.

The gifts and conditions which are necessary for sustaining life are given by God. "Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Psalm 145:16). "...Or who can stay the bottles of heaven, When the dust groweth into hardness, and the clods cleave fast together? 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 38:37-41). You will notice that God claims to be directly responsible for the provisions of His creatures, not merely the giver of an original law by which they can provide for themselves. Also Jesus taught that the gifts of sunshine and rain are often the direct expressions of the love of God for the unjust as well as the just: "...for he maketh his Sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). The import of all of these passages is not that God is always directly responsible for giving or withholding the necessities of life, but rather that He sometimes chooses to use His influence in determining the direction taken by the laws of nature.

Moreover, at times the phenomena of nature are God's way of sending judgment upon the earth: In Joel 2:25 an invasion of insects was called the army of God; and in Amos 1:2 an earthquake is said to be His voice. Again the lesson is not that every time such a phenomenon occurs God is punishing, or warning us, but rather that He does use these things under some circumstances.

Special Providence

In addition to the above facts concerning the general providence of God we should know that there is such a thing as special providence; that is, Jehovah sometimes shows an interest in individual persons. It seems from a careful reading of all the passages involved that this special providence is limited to those who please God because of their obedience and trust in Him. Even prayer, which is the Lord's appointed medium through which we are to invoke providential care, seems to be for the righteous only (John 9:31; James 5:16; I Peter 3:12).

We are taught to pray that we might be able to lead lives that are quiet and peaceable (I Timothy 2:2). Accordingly, God has promised that, "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Proverbs 16:7). I understand this to mean that when we mind our own business, trust God, and pray for His help, He will provide for us the opportunity to have relatively peaceful lives in this world.

Providence also takes care of the material needs of the children of God. We are taught to labor with our hands, and then to pray for daily bread; God will provide. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). In the preceding verses Jesus identifies "these things" as food, drink, and clothing. We may be sure that if we are really faithful to the Lord and put Him first in our lives at all times, He will see to our physical wants, regardless of what happens to the wicked. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart" (Psalms 37:3, 4). How comforting this assurance ought to be to the Christian!

One side of divine providence which should not be overlooked is that which deals with chastisement. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had our fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness" (Hebrews 12:6-10). The lesson the writer evidently meant for the readers to get is that their sufferings, though not directly inflicted by God, were to be understood as His way of correcting them and helping them to grow up in holiness. Of course we cannot always know when bad things happen to us whether or not God is permitting such for our correction at that time. The best rule is to always let our tribulations make us stronger and profit from them instead of letting them conquer us. In this way we can benefit from the chastening of the Lord.

We are also taught that the plan of salvation as foretold by the prophets and accomplished in Christ, is a matter of providence for the righteous. This is the meaning of Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose" The interplay of the events of history acted for the spiritual good of those who loved God, and we should believe that such is still the case. Whatever is happening in this old world is going to match up with other things and will work out for the good of the people of God.

Now, what part do the angels play in divine providence? The guardian angel theory has been popularly accepted. Frankly I do not know just what the angels do, nor when they do it; but they are active. The following passages may shed a little light on the matter: "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them" (Psalms 34:7). "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 18:10). "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shalt be heirs of salvation?" (Hebrews 1:14). While no clear statement is made to the effect that each one has a guardian angel, it is certainly clear that some of the angels of God exist for the purpose of protecting and helping His human children. Naturally we should not expect them to be visible, but we should believe that they are here.

Our conclusion is that God does watch over His creation and concerns Himself with its affairs. Many things which come about seemingly by accident or by luck are in reality manifestations of the intervention of God on our behalf. Many things which seem to be the mere working of natural laws are actually the works of God who is directly using and influencing the course of natural laws.

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