Divine Providence

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed” (vv. 1–2a).

- Psalm 46

One of the most difficult tasks for Christians is to maintain faith when providence seems to run contrary to God’s promises. God has promised that He will strengthen and deliver His people. Yet there are times when we think our strength will fail at any moment, when God’s deliverances seem far off. The Israelites felt this way more than once, but the faithful always held fast to God’s promises, trusting in His sovereignty. The English Puritan Thomas Watson once wrote, “God promised David to give him the crown, to make him king; but providence turned contrary to His promise; David was pursued by Saul, was in danger of his life; but all this while it was David’s duty to trust God. The Lord oftentimes, by cross providence, brings to pass His promise.” Psalm 46 shows how the people of Israel trusted in God even amid trials, for they knew that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”

This psalm focuses on God’s providence to remind the people that God is in control, that He will bring about His promises in His own way, and that His people are to “be still” and know that He is God. By elevating God’s providence in the minds of the people, the psalmist extols the power of God. Unlike the impotent gods of foreign nations, the God of Israel lives and acts, able to accomplish His will and bring about His purposes. Therefore, “the faithful have no reason to be afraid, since God is always ready to deliver them … and is also armed with invincible power,” Calvin wrote. “He shows in this that the true and proper proof of our hope consists in this, that, when things are so confused, that the heavens seem as it were to fall with great violence … and the mountains to be torn up from their very foundations, we nevertheless continue to preserve and maintain calmness and tranquility of heart.”

The word providence has all but disappeared from Christian vocabulary. In times past, believers often spoke of Divine Providence directing their lives. They faithfully beheld the “works of the Lord, Who has made desolations in the earth” (46:8). Too often we attribute to chance what rightly belongs to God. Let us, then, bring back into the church a right understanding of the providence of God, praising Him for His preservation.

Coram Deo

Read Matthew 6:25–32. What does this passage say about God’s providence? Think of times you attributed events under the canopy of God’s providence to chance. Why is it more comforting to think of providence instead? Notice God’s providential governing of your life and the world around you today and thank Him.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 33:26–29
Isaiah 25; 41:8–10

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