27. Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?
A. God’s providence is
his almighty and ever present power,1
whereby, as with his hand, he still upholds
heaven and earth and all creatures,2
and so governs them that
leaf and blade,
rain and drought,
fruitful and barren years,
food and drink,
health and SICKNESS,
riches and poverty,3
indeed, all things,
come to us not by chance4
but by his fatherly hand.5
1 Jer 23:23, 24; Acts 17:24-28.
2 Heb 1:3.
3 Jer 5:24; Acts 14:15-17; Jn 9:3; Prov 22:2.
4 Prov 16:33.
5 Mt 10:29.
28. Q. What does it benefit us to know
that God has created all things
and still upholds them by his providence?
A. We can be patient in adversity,1
thankful in prosperity,2
and with a view to the future
we can have a firm confidence
in our faithful God and Father
that no creature shall separate us
from his love;3
for all creatures are so completely in his hand
that without his will
they cannot so much as move.4
1 Job 1:21, 22; Ps 39:10; Jas 1:3.
2 Deut 8:10; 1 Thess 5:18.
3 Ps 55:22; Rom 5:3-5; 8:38, 39.
4 Job 1:12; 2:6; Prov 21:1; Acts 17:24-28
The catechism reminds us that nothing comes to us by chance. The ancients believed in the causality power of both fate and chance. Not having a personal extra-mundane God all that was left to have the power to cause things to happen was the fates and chance. The Greeks and later the Romans personified both fate and chance in their pantheon.
These were two opposite ideas that worked as limiting concepts in order to explain how the world operated. The irony is seen in the reality that if fate exists then chance can’t and if chance (inexplicable randomness) exists than fate cannot. And yet the ancients tied these two together like tying the tails of two cats together and hung them over a clothesline.
Moderns are a little more sophisticated but they largely operate the same way. Call it fate, call it destiny, or call chance or luck Moderns still parlay slam together the ideas of fate plus chance. A. W. Pink reminds us that modern man still wants to lock God out of His universe.
“Alas, we are living in an age of terrible skepticism, when most of what happens is attributed to natural causes, while God is more and more banished from the world in the consideration of His creatures.”
However Pink goes on to say,
“Nothing is more strengthening to faith, stabalising to the mind, and tranquilizing to the heart of a Christian, than for him to be enabled to discern the Father’s hand guiding, shaping, controlling all that enters his life; and not only so, but that He is also governing this world , and all persons and events in it.”
~Arthur Walkington Pink,
Pink just got this from Scripture which insists that nothing comes to us by chance as the catechism brings forward.
Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.
Indeed, as we have noted before “chance” has no causative power. It is merely something that records odds or permutations. Chance is always observational and never
And even though the catechism doesn’t mention that nothing happens by an impersonal fate we have Scripture’s testimony that a personal God determines the end from the beginning,
Isaiah 14:24 – The LORD of Hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so will it be; as I have purposed, so will it stand.
Isaiah 41:10 I distinguish the end from the beginning, and ancient times from what is still to come, saying: ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’
We see here that the difference between fate and providence is that fate is personal – there is a personal God directing all things to a predetermined end directed by a personal consciousness.
Spurgeon gave a full throat-ed defense of Providence and defended this high and glorious doctrine of God’s providence as alone being causative of all things,
“I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes – that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit, as well as the sun in the heavens – that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphid over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence – the fall of . . . leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche.
When Spurgeon was challenged that this is nothing but fatalism and stoicism, he replied,
What is fate? Fate is this – Whatever is, must be. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, Whatever God ordains, must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some great end. Fate does not say that. . . . There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man.”
So, we see that nothing happens according to what we call fate, chance, luck, destiny or any number of circumlocutions that people use to avoid God’s agency in all things.
Well, how else might we avoid the God structured world that is orchestrated by God’s providence? Well, some might, along with Aleister Crowley, Alice Bailey, Anton LeVey and countless others look to an unseen realm that locked God out of the universe. Some might look to these forces to explain causative power in the Universe, thus denying God’s providence.
St. Augustine considered that and dismissed it long ago. Augustine quoted from Isaiah
“It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. Isaiah 8:13
And then offered this insight,
“And even if the demons have any power in these matters (events of history), they have only that power which the secret decree of the Almighty allots to them, in order that we may not, set too great store by earthly prosperity, seeing it is oftentimes vouchsafed even to wicked men like Marius; and that we may not, on the other hand, regard it as evil, since we see that many good and pious worshipers of the one true God are, in spite of the demons, pre-eminently successful; and, finally, that we may not suppose that these unclean spirits are either to be propitiated or feared for the sake of earthly blessings or calamities; for as wicked men on earth cannot do all they would, so neither can these demons, but only in so far as they are permitted by the decree of Him whose judgments are fully comprehensible, and justly reprehensible by none.”
The City Of God — pg. 66
In Seminary I was taught that the Devil was God’s devil on a leash. This is exactly what Augustine is articulating here. We have no need to fear that which either wicked men or wicked spirits can do to us, who are God’s people, for whatever comes to us needs come to us through the hands of our loving benevolent Father whose every action towards us is one of Fatherly compassion and tender mercy.
Wicked men and the beings of the dark realm who animate them may indeed concoct and put into action any number of beastly and foul things but they are not sovereign as Augustine notes. We who are red-pilled and have our eyes wide open need to remember that leagues of anti-Christ conspirators are not free agents operating independent of God’s authority.
So, evil men may plot to spread Wuhan across the globe for who knows what purpose, yet the impact of this is not beyond God’s authority and providence.
Second, Augustine reminds us that we should not be consumed with concern regarding demonic beings he obviously holds to exist. It is somewhat refreshing to read of Augustine’s conviction that Demons exist. The Church in the West today is so caught up in the Scientific nature of Modernity that we forget that their is a very real spiritual realm that doesn’t answer to the cold scientific calculations of Modernity.
Still, despite his conviction that Demons exist, Augustine reminds us that Demons are not to be propitiated (appeased) or feared. Men ought to only fear God. If men will fear God and move in terms of His Law-Word, resting in His promised favor, and trusting in His knowledgeable providence what need is there to be consumed by either evil men or evil spirits as somehow being causative of all that happens?
So, we have dismissed Fate, Chance, and the nether realm as being causative underscoring what the Scripture teaches and what the catechism echoes that all things come to us by way of God’s providence. We have also established, by way of implication, that whatever role demons and men have to play they are merely the chess pieces moved by God’s overarching providence.
Matthew Henry reminds us on this score about these secondary agents God’s uses to advance His providence
Divine providence serves its own purposes by the stupidity of men at sometimes.
This confidence in God’s providence, despite the wicked intent of malevolent men or despite the abject stupidity of dumb men has always given courage to God’s people. Listen to how just one saint was steeled because of belief in God’s providence.
Martin Luther when the bubonic plague came to his town of Wittenberg:
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.
If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me, and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however, I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely.”
This is confidence in God’s providence. Because of our belief in God’s providence we are not those who are not stampeded by rumors. We are not those who fear illness or even death. And there is only one reason for that,
Psalm 23:Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
The Catechism reminds us that sickness and health come to us by God’s providence.
It was providence that sustained and comforted Job as we see in his commentary with his wife,
10“You speak as a foolish woman speaks… Should we accept from God only good and not adversity?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
and providence that sustained and comforted Joseph in the wickedness that he received from His brother’s hands,
20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Providence sustained and comforted the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord
Christ trusted in His Father’s providence to grant Him clarity to see
and trust the resurrection beyond the Cross. Jesus could also say to
His Jewish killers, “You intended it for evil but God intended
it for God to save many people alive.”
Because of this teaching of God’s providence God’s people know that God is with them and if God be for us who can be against us?
Thus this understanding of God’s providence steadies us…. calms us… steels us.
A firm grip on Providence reminds God’s people that,
This is my father’s world
Oh, let me never forget
That though Wuhan seems oft so strong
God is the ruler yet
This is my father’s world
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is king, let the heavens ring
God reigns, let the earth be glad
So, because of this certainty in God’s providence the saints through the ages have refused to bow down before Tyrants despite knowing what this civil resistance might mean, saints have walked into the houses of plague and tended to the sick and dying confident of God’s presence. Saints have been able to receive news about cancer, or about tragedy and have been able to go on, even if only feebly at times.
At this point there are those who will say that this kind of belief in God’s providence will make men passive. They will not engage because they will think, “well, God has it under control so there is no need to exert. This is to misunderstand providence and turn it into what we have already dismissed … Fate.
A robust belief in divine providence does not make a Biblical Christian passive. The Biblical Christian does not develop a “que sera sera” attitude but rather becomes emboldened and aggressive in this championing the crown rights of King Christ. This is so because the Biblical Christian who has a deep sense of God’s providence combines that with the same deep sense that he is responsible to move in terms of God’s precepts. He understands God’s providence and then says, “Well, as God rules over all then all the is left for me is move in terms of what He has instructed me to do.” Far from faith in God’s providence making him a fatalist, the Biblical Christian says, “God alone determines and knows the beginning from the end. That is not my concern. My concern is to hoist the banner and raise the sword for His revealed will.” So, affirming God’s providence, quite the opposite of making a Christian passive, works in a Christian to make them aggressive for the cause of their King regardless of the possible presence of a frowning providence.
The Puritans long recognized that belief in God’s providence did not make them passive but taught that belief in God’s providence required them to be activists. Listen to Obadiah Sedgewick,
Since God works through means, we must not stand idle, waiting for God to act, but ‘apply ourselves to the way of providence’ (cmp. Gen. 42:1-2) ‘If we desire to enjoy the good providence, we must use the means provided.’ God has joined together the means to the end; wee must not try to separate them. If a man wants to reap a harvest, he must sow seed. If he wants to find mercy, he must repent and believe in Christ.
A Puritan Theology — pg. 170
So, confidence in God’s providence does not allow us to be stampeded but it also teaches us to take the necessary steps to use the means provided, which means we are like the ant who makes provision for coming trouble if needs be.
What how else does a firm grip on God’s providence affect us?
A firm grip on God’s providence makes one both realistic and optimistic. Knowledge of God’s providence reminds us that in God’s providence God will judge sin. This makes us realists. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. God disciplines those He loves. We are realists. But we are also optimists because knowledge of God’s providence reminds us that God will never ever abandon His people. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us always even unto the end of the age. This makes us optimists. So, because of an intimate familiarity with God’s providence we are the people who can face tragedy straight up and so are realists and we are also the people who can say that both in and on the other side of tragedy God will deliver us from the enemy and so we are optimists.
Providence allows us to say with the 13th century mystic Julian of Norwich
‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.’ Julian of Norwich