Providence Defined

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (v. 2).

- 1 Peter 1:1-2

Throughout the Old Testament Poetical Books, also known as the Wisdom Literature, we find repeated references to the rule and reign of our great God. Proverbs 16:1, for example, talks about the Lord’s sovereignty over our speech. Psalm 113 emphasizes God as the highly exalted Sovereign over creation. Moreover, if we consider the entire Bible, we find that the Lord’s sovereign reign is apparent on every page of Scripture. The doctrine of providence unfolds the nature of God’s control of all things as the King of kings, and we will now take a break from our study of the Wisdom Literature to look at the biblical teaching on providence with the help of The Providence of God, a teaching series by Dr. R.C. Sproul.

Since the Enlightenment (seventeenth–eighteenth centuries), much of Western thought has been dominated by naturalistic assumptions that say the universe is all that there is. With the rise of the so-called New Atheism over the past decade or so, we have seen how aggressively these assumptions are held, as the movement’s proponents belittle anyone who believes that there is something that exists outside the physical order. However, this belief goes against the majority belief of people throughout history, who often spoke of something beyond the universe that guides creation. They have assumed the existence of a being or beings who influence and control creation.

The English term providence is derived from two Latin words: pro, which means “before,” and vide, which means “see.” With respect to divine providence, a key aspect of its meaning is that it refers to God’s foresight in a temporal sense. God sees and knows the future, having declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:8–10). Yet this is not passive knowledge. The Lord does not look at the future as if it were on a movie screen and learn what will happen; rather, His knowledge of the future comes from His foreordination of whatsoever comes to pass. He works out all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11), which means His will establishes all that ever happens. Our Creator also “sees before” in a spatial sense. Being omnipresent, He cannot ever overlook or miss anything in creation (Ps. 139:7–12).

God’s providence is one of the most comforting truths revealed in Scripture. It reminds the believer that the loving Father revealed in the Bible knows all about our every need and fear even better than we do. And because He is the Lord, He can meet all our needs and assuage all our fears (Phil. 4:19).

Coram Deo

Our Lord and Savior tells us that His people are of more value than the sparrows who never escape His sight (Matt. 10:29–31). His providence, therefore, should comfort us greatly because He puts great value on us and treats us as His special possession. We need not fear that our problems and trials escape His notice, and we can be confident that because He is God, He is working out all things for our good (Rom. 8:28). Such is the nature of His caring reign.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 94:18–19
Jeremiah 23:23–24
Zechariah 10:1–3
Luke 12:22–34

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