The Providence of God

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

- Ephesians 1:11

God’s use of wicked Babylon to judge the people of Judah, His calling Nebuchadnezzar His servant, His purpose to finally destroy the Babylonians, and the salvation of the remnant of Judah despite their having to suffer the pain of exile along with the wicked Judahites are all themes that we have seen in our study of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Such themes are all related to the Lord’s sovereign providence, the way in which He controls all things. In order to get a fuller biblical picture of this mysterious doctrine, we are going to pause our study of the prophets for three days and follow Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching on the subject in his series The Providence of God.

We are living in a day when the secular world takes it for granted that the universe is not subject to something or someone outside of itself. The lack of references to God’s control or purpose in science, history, and popular culture betrays a view that the universe is a closed system and that everything that occurs within it is reducible to impersonal, purposeless chain reactions within the system. A study of the past, however, reveals that this assumption of a closed system is relatively new for Western civilization. As we read the writings of scientists, historians, composers, philosophers, and other thinkers who lived long ago, we find repeated references to the Hand of divine providence. People once believed that someone outside the universe set things in motion and governs the world according to a purposeful plan. This was true even of Western authors who were not professing Christians.

Providence comes into the English language from the Latin terms pro and vide, which mean “see” and “before,” respectively. Thus, providence refers in the first instance to what the Lord sees in advance. Such seeing beforehand is not merely temporal. Indeed, God sees the end from the beginning, although this is not because He merely looks into the future but because He Himself Has ordained it, even down to the exact length of our lifetimes (Ps. 39:4; Isa. 46:8–10). But divine providence goes beyond the temporal to also encompass the spatial. Nothing in creation, no matter where it is, ever escapes God’s view (Ps. 139:7–12).

Believers should take great comfort in this truth. If even the sparrow is ever before the Lord, then certainly God is far more concerned with us, for we are more valuable than the sparrow (Matt. 10:28–31). Divine providence tells us that the Creator sees our sin, but more than that it tells us He also sees and cares about all of our joys, tears, aches, and fears.

Coram Deo

The thought that God sees everything about us is terrifying for unbelievers, so they deny God’s existence or His holiness because they want to escape His justice. We who know the Father through Christ Jesus our Lord, however, should be greatly comforted by divine providence. Because God sees us at all times, He can direct our lives to positive ends. Even when we do not understand how, the Lord’s providence means that He is working out all things for our good and His glory.

Passages for Further Study

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

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