What is Divine providence? Is it some sort of mystical, magical force that
causes us to act, even against our will like the fatalistic Calvinist teaches?
Is it God intervening directly in humankind so as to personally engineer their
course of life? Or, is it as the hardcore evolutionist would say, there is no
providence; everything is merely chance?
While no one can say exactly how God’s providence works - the secret things belong to God (Deut 29:29) - the fact that He does work is evident throughout the pages of the Bible. Sometimes He worked directly as He did during the plagues of Egypt and sometimes He worked more indirectly, even through the agency of sinful men such as Pharaoh during the exodus. In whatever way God chose to work, He did so because He had a reason to - a purpose - and did all things in order to accomplish that purpose. In reading the Bible, it becomes clearer by the page that God desires relationship and intimacy from His earthly creation. So, He established natural laws concerning the earth we live on so that it would continue to sustain us. He created us with minds and ability so we can improve our lives with technology and medical support. He allows us to work for our common good, to live with and love each other in a familial way, to seek Him according to His word which He lovingly preserved for our greatest good. All of these speak of God’s providential care toward His creation.
Hence, the purpose of providence should be easy to see. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states *“The final cause and end, the purpose and motive, of divine providence, then, are not the temporal, material and earthly happiness of men, but the highest ultimate moral good of free beings whose highest happiness is secured through their highest holiness--which means first, their obedience to the holy will of God as their Father, and secondly, loving and self-sacrificing service to their fellow-men.”* (ISBE, Vol IV, pg 2482)
To that end, he has given us specific instructions concerning our relationship with Him and one another:* “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”* (Matt 22:37-39) The entirety of the New Testament contains God’s instruction concerning how to fulfill these purposes.
But some will pervert providence. The atheist, evolutionist, and materialist are at one end of the extreme denying any purpose in life by attributing our entire existence - past, present and future - to mere chance with no external guidance from any supernatural being. Deism acknowledges a Creator God but cuts us off from Him by absenting Him from us, leaving us to fend for ourselves. The fatalist and Calvinist attributes everything to God’s direct intervention leaving man with no opportunity to exercise the free will given him by his creator. All of these either ignore God’s guidance or man’s free will or both. So how do we live providentially?
Just as the Ten Commandments were divided into areas concerning man’s relationship with God and man’s relationship with man, so the New covenant also tells us of our responsibility to God and man. Whether we are acting individually or congregationally, God’s word is providentially and sufficiently adequate to equip us for true pleasing service to Him as we deepen our relationship with Him. In His word, we also have a guide for dealing with one another in whatever relationship we are in - friend, family, spiritual family, even stranger to stranger. All of these instructions are provided by God to help us to live this life in preparation for the life to come which will ultimately fulfill His purpose for man - eternal life with Him in harmonious existence.
So you see, providence is not some mysterious enigma that defies reason and logic. It is simply acknowledging that a loving Creator has worked to promote His benevolent purpose, giving man the opportunity to exercise his free will in apprehending God’s purpose by living according to His plan. Are YOU living providentially?
By Zeke Flores
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