by Jason Moore
There are some words that are full of comfort just in the saying of them. Providence is such a word. Subtract the suffix and you have provide. The confidence of those who believe in the providence of God is that God will provide.
That was the assurance that the Almighty intended the Israelites to gain from Moses’ declaration that the I AM had sent a deliverer. He that AM, WILL BE for them was the point. The I AM will provide. The Bible is chock-full of stories — better yet, histories because they’re true — of God’s providence.
One of the great histories of providence is told in Genesis 50 when the patriarch Jacob died. His ten eldest sons feared that with the death of their father, Joseph who had brought the family to Egypt might seek retribution for their crime against him in their youth.
When Joseph received word of their distress he wept and spoke to his brothers, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (vv 19-20). In the tangled web of their evil schemes Joseph recognized the hand of God weaving their intentions into the tapestry of His own purpose. Note that Joseph saw that God provided not just for him but for all of Jacob’s seed.
There was another man of God, a Benjaminite, who had a keen eye for seeing God’s deliverance at work. His name was Mordecai, the elder cousin of the Jewish Queen Esther, wife of Xerxes the King of the Persians. It was Mordecai who had raised his orphaned cousin in captivity as his own daughter until the time that she was chosen to be the wife of Xerxes.
When the lives of the Jewish peoples inhabiting the provinces of Persia were threatened by the edict authored by the wicked Haman, Mordecai approached is cousin in power. He urged Esther to intercede before the king with these words, “If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). God will provide was his confidence with or without Esther.
Our New Testament contains a beautiful story of God’s providence in the context of Paul’s epistle to Philemon. Onesimus, a former servant in the house of Philemon, had apparently wronged his master and fled as fugitive from their home in Colossae. Somehow, Onesimus’ flight took him to Rome where he became acquainted with the apostle Paul who was there imprisoned.
The acquaintance with Paul resulted in Onesimus’ conversion. For his repentance to be complete, his crime against his master needed correction. So he returned uncertain of the fat that awaited him. But he returned with this missive in hand from Paul, “For perhaps he was for this reason parted from you for a while, that you should have him back forever, no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” (vv 15-16). Paul saw God’s hand again at work charting the courses and affairs of men, even for this penitent fugitive.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me to tell of all the various occasions in which God’s providence is seen at work in the annals of His people. But an observation or two is in order.
Note that when we speak of providence, even in the inspired record, we often use worlds like “who knows” (in the case of Mordecai) or “perhaps” (in the case of Paul). Providence is seen then with the eyes of faith. It is not miraculous. In the case of a miracle, the evidence that God has intervened is indisputable. It is supernatural because the natural order is suspended. In providence God sort of slips in without rippling the natural order of things. We call it providence. An unbeliever will likely call it coincidence.
Consider the majesty of God’s sovereign power in providence. God’s providence never overrides the free will of men. Men are free to make their own choices and to direct their lives but the Lord weaves the choices of men whether they be good or evil into His plan. God used the evil designs of Joseph’s kindred, the faithful choices of Esther, the wicked deeds of Onesimus, the treachery of Judas Iscariot, the jealousy of the Sanhedrin Council to bring about His purpose. He is the King of kings, Lord of lords.
The great danger is that men interpret God’s providence as approval for their conduct. God’s preservation of Joseph’s brethren in no wise meant that He advocated their sin. It was intended that they see His patience and consequently feel the guilt for their crime. And they did. Let us not suppose that because we are a blessed nation or individual that God necessarily approves of our condition. It may be an opportunity for change.
Is God’s providence limited to Bible times? If it is then why do you pray? Do you not believe that He will answer? And how so if He is not at work? “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28).
via Southside Reminder, August 23, 1995, Southside Church of Christ, Pasadena, TX