The Eternal and Sovereign Providence of God

For it is God who Purposes, Ordains,
and Brings All Things to Fruition

By Curt Wildy

We have before us the worst ecological disaster in American history – yet God is in control. We have protracted wars on two fronts, both with no end in sight, both with seemingly little progress being made (if there ever was progress to be made) – yet God is in control. We have threats of new wars on the horizon (namely, Iran and North Korea, a very serious recession, significant unemployment, an increasingly devalued dollar, and States of the Union facing insolvency over border-related and other issues. We also have astonishing levels of moral degradation, perversion, crime, cruelty, corruption, indifference, and we are seeing an overall retardation of the maturation of our populace — yet in all of these things, and in much, much more, God is still in control. In fact, God is in control of all things, for He has purposed and ordained all things; He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11). This is the first precept that I would like to consider in this message. 

Whether it be 9/11, the BP oil spill, the Indonesian Tsunami, or any other natural or man-made calamity (great or small), truly it can be said, God has purposed it, ordained it, created it, and brought it to pass.  God clearly proclaims that He forms the light, and creates darkness: He makes peace, and creates evil: For the LORD do all these [things] (Isaiah 45:7). In Jeremiah 18, God states “7 [At what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy [it]; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9 And [at what] instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant [it]; 10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.”

We see in Jeremiah 18 that the rise and fall of a nation (and by inference all points in between) is in the almighty, omnipotent, hand of God. Yet some, in their rebellion, will read Jeremiah 18:7-10 and come to the mistaken conclusion that whether a nation repents from their evil, or continues therein, is solely up to the free will of the populace — but this is not so. There is no free will, unless by free will you mean the freedom of mankind to manifest their sin in all that they say and do in accordance with the inclinations of their natural, corrupt hearts. Yet even this definition is checked by the ordaining hand of God. No man, no demon, no Adversary (even the prince of them, Satan – the Devil) can do anything that God does not expressly grant them leave to do; they can do nothing that is not expressly within the framework of God’s predetermined and infallible plan for them.  Devils cannot even enter into a herd of swine unless God specifically authorises them to do so (Matthew 8:31-32); and even their desire to do so and their doing so, was ordained of God from before the foundation of the earth — though the wickedness behind their intent is solely their own.

“If that nation…  turn from their evil,” as we read in Jeremiah 18, it is only because there were those within that nation who were granted repentance as a gift of God (Acts 11:18), being led by the goodness of God to repent from their evil (Romans 2:4). God’s people, specifically the regenerate children of God, know the following words to be true; these are their words, the very cry of their hearts. Jeremiah declares “turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou [art] the LORD my God (Jeremiah 31:18).” Asaph likewise understood this principle; consider his three-fold cry in Psalm 80 “8 Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved… 7 Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved… 19 Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.” Asaph and Jeremiah, as with all of God’s quickened saints, weren’t foolish enough to think that he had the strength, power, or even the will or desire to make a decision and turn themselves to God; they knew to whom they needed to turn, and by whose strength they would be able to turn unto Him.

God’s people are turned only when the LORD their God turns them — and not a moment sooner.  They know that it is God which worketh in them both to will and to do of [His] good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). It is God who makes them both willing to repent (that is, wanting to repent, desiring to repent, thirsting after repentance) and able to repent (working out that repentance, that good work that He has foreordained that they should walk in – Ephesians 2:10).

Likewise, if that nation does evil in the sight of God, though it be their sin and their responsibility, and though they are completely willing to commit that sin (in that it is in complete conformity with their fallen nature), nonetheless that evil is brought about only because God has ordained, purposed it, and used it for the good of His own. Proverbs 16:4 declares “The LORD hath made all [things] for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” The wicked, all of the wicked, are created by Jehovah God for His eternal purpose (both in time and in their everlasting destruction as His wrath is revealed upon them – as we read in Romans 9, particularly verses 21-23); they, in accordance with their own lusts, will fail to repent (being without strength or desire to do so) and will continue to do evil in the sight of God for the precise cause of bringing about the divine objectives of God. They are not victims, they are committing exactly that which they love to commit – sin. It’s what we all love to commit by nature; thank God for the grace and mercy that God bestows upon His own, His elect, as He leads them to repentance and life.

Concerning the use of the ordained sin of man to suit God’s purpose, we see this clearly illustrated with Pharaoh (Pharaoh being a type of all of the reprobate; that is, all of the enemies of God). As the scripture saith unto him “even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath He mercy on whom He will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth (Romans 9:17-18).” In Exodus 14:17-18 God declared “And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I [am] the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.” God is honoured in the destruction of the wicked, again temporally and eternally. He is honoured when his enemies are vanquished.  

 Yet it isn’t just the wicked, the reprobate, whose sins are ordained to suit God’s purpose. We see it with the brothers of Joseph; though they cast him into a pit and sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:23-28), Joseph said unto them “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is] this day, to save much people alive (Genesis 50:20).”

We also see it with the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ; in Acts chapter two we read “23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it… 36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. ” We know that amongst some of the Roman Centurions, amongst some of the Jews who consented to the Lord’s death, were some of God’s (yet unregenerate) elect.

Consider even King David; his sin with Bathsheba was a grievous one. Nonetheless, through that ordained sin, David and Bathsheba were united and they (together) brought forth Solomon and Nathan (I Chronicles 3:5). Through Solomon came Joseph (Matthew 1:6-16), Mary’s husband; through Nathan came Mary herself (and through Mary, our Lord in His incarnation, in His humanity – Luke 3:23-31).

These truths are not limited to the specific examples in the Bible that affirm it. We can rightly declare that every thought, word, action, and inaction of every being, whether we deem them to be hero, or villain, or somewhere in between, is ordered, ordained, and brought to fruition by God. Whether it be the head of British Petroleum, the President of the United States, the leaders of Venezuela, Israel, Iran, (or Russian and China for that matter), “The king‘s heart is in the hand of the LORD, [as] the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1).”

Lest anyone argue that God’s eternal and absolute providence is limited to kings and other rulers (and does not reach to the extent of the “common man”), consider the blanket declaration of God, wherein He states “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps (Proverbs 16:9).” This truism is reinforced by the text found a few verses back wherein we read (in verse one) “The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, [is] from the LORD (Proverbs 16:1).” We also see these truths proclaimed in both Proverbs 20:24 – “Man’s goings [are] of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way) and in Jeremiah 10:23 – “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.”

The second precept I would like to discuss is directly related to the first and inseparable from it. It is the equally comforting maxim (comforting, that is, for the true child of God) that through the purpose and ordination of the LORD, all things work together for good to them that love Him, to them who are the called according to [His] purpose (Romans 8:28). This good, this perfect good, pertains to the personal, individual good of each and every one of His people, as well as to the overall good of His elect as a whole. 

Knowing that nothing comes about unplanned or haphazardly, and knowing that God does not react to events, He purposes them, and brings them about in accordance with His own sovereign plan and design, we need to take it further and maintain that His plan and design always succeeds in its purpose; that purpose being the furtherance of His glory. Intertwined and forever yoked to that purpose, the exaltation of the glory of God, is the working  of all things together for the good of His own. God’s purpose is to magnify His holy name, show forth his glory (whether in wrath or mercy), and to demonstrate His perfect love for those that are His, by bringing about that which is perfectly good for them.

Sometimes it’s easier to think about, to focus upon, the things that are out there. Naturally, it is easier to think about God being in control of war, pestilence, destruction, or peace, health, and prosperity — it’s easier to think upon those things, than it is to think about God being in control of all aspects of our lives. We can see God being in control of certain aspects of our lives: where we live, where we work, who our friends are, who our enemies are… but do we see God as being in control of the very thoughts of our mind, the very words that come forth from our lips. Do we see Him as not just being aware of our struggles and temptations, not just empathizing with us concerning them, but ruling over them, ordering them, bringing them into fruition for our ultimate good. Can we see that? Can we really see that? Praise God for the eyes that can see these things; for the hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them (Proverbs 20:12.)

We read in James 1:13 “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.” This is as true a statement as any in God’s word — and they’re all perfectly true. But the Tempter (whether Satan, mankind, or indwelling sin) can do nothing that God does not ordain for it to do (Job 2:3-6 / I Corinthians 10:13). 

Have you ever had hateful thoughts, dreadful and abominable thoughts; thoughts that cause you, by God’s grace, to disdain sinful self and sin; thoughts that cause you to cry out to God for deliverance from such depravity? Maybe even thoughts that cause you to doubt your interest in God, thinking “can one such as me, one who thinks such things as I do, can such a one really be a child of God?” God is in control dear reader, God is in control. When words come out of our mouths that we utterly regret and despise; when our attitudes are so sickeningly poor (especially in light of all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon us); when we do that which we ought not and abstain from doing that which we ought; when the fiery darts of temptation fly forth and seem to strike us dead in the heart… God is always and completely in control; and He is showing us what we are by nature. He is doing it for our own good; He is doing it so that we abhor this body of death, this proneness to wander, and this idolatrous craving for so many of the foolish, temporal things of this world. More importantly, He is doing it so that we will cry to Him, hunger and thirst after Him, flee to Him, and find Rest in Him.

This does not mean that we ought to indulge our iniquity, or make peace with it — we want to war against sin, not become comfortable and complacent in it. But when the floods overflow, God is the rock for His people. He is their Lighthouse. He is their Anchor. He is their impervious Ark. He is their Safe Haven and Refuge.  He is their Everything – their absolute Everything. 

In Romans 8 we read “28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God [be] for us, who [can be] against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? [It is] God that justifieth. 34 Who [is] he that condemneth? [It is] Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36   As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

This passage covers everything… It covers internal and external distresses, tribulations, and persecutions. I find that very few things distress me more than me (that is, sin in me); I suffer very few tribulations that did not stem from, or that were not made worse by, the motions of sin within me. Few things persecute me more than the doubts, fears, dejections, and other troublings of mind that sin brings about. That old man is usually more of an enemy to me than any living person could be — Nonetheless, God is in control for that old man is a defeated man, utterly crucified with Christ, and from eternity past, the Lord Jesus Christ has long since had it covered.

But what about famine and drought? What about when we feel parched and starved, often due to our own neglect of the means and ordinances that God uses to nourish His people – means like prayer, Bible reading, psalm-singing, and so forth. Even when we feel that we will be utterly deprived of our daily (spiritual) bread and that cup of cold (Gospel) water, even when we walk for a season as one indifferent, lifeless, seemingly without any true religion… God is in control, your welfare is always in the forefront of His mind, and He has you covered.  

What of nakedness, the sword, and peril?   Adam saw his sin and he knew he was naked. Yet the saints of God are never naked; they are covered with the white robes of the righteousness of Christ. As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). The saved sinner can say with Isaiah “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul [delivered it] from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back (Isaiah 38:17).” Yet in our experience, we may from time to time feel to be naked, cold, and ashamed. The sword of God’s law strikes us — not ultimately, not in reality (for we are dead to the law), but subjectively it seems as such.

As a result, many of God’s people experimentally feel the peril of (supposed) desertion, silence, doubts and fears, asking “am I deceived, have I been deceiving myself, do I really love the Lord Jesus Christ, do I really have an interest in Him…” we know we do, but sometimes we focus on the dark clouds of inward corruption — rather than waiting for, and trusting in the Sun of our Righteousness to rise in our hearts, shining, bringing with Him that gentle wind of the Spirit to clear the tempest and darkness away. In all these things, God has us covered. “Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast covered all their sin” says the Psalmist in Psalm 85:2. Isaiah declares (in Isaiah 61:10) “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh [himself] with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth [herself] with her jewels.”

Though we ofttimes feel like beggars in filthy rags, God has covered His people; He has clothed us in the purest of clothes, righteous clothes, royal and priestly clothes, beautiful, stainless, and of a quality beyond our ability to conceive. These clothes can never rent nor tear, nor can they shrink — they are fitted for us perfectly by our Lord and Saviour and they will endure forever because His Holy Spirit sustains them. Our God is a good God; a mighty God. He is victorious, and loving, and kind. He loves His people with an everlasting love and He is loved of them.  

May it be that the reader can join in, and give a hefty Amen to these things (in Spirit and in Truth). To God alone be the glory,

Amen.

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