June 29, 1997; No. 2842
Today I speak to you on the truth of Providence.
Providence is the biblical doctrine of God's care for the world He made, and God's directing the world and everything that is in it after His eternal plan to attain the end that He determined.
Providence is God's actual bringing about in the world what He has willed.
We read in Ephesians 1:9ff., "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times. " Let me stop just for a moment. The word "dispensation" there refers to a select moment. The idea is this: at the select moment, which is the fullness of time or the end of the world. " He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him." That verse, now, is teaching that, from eternity, God has an eternal purpose in Himself. That purpose is that at the appointed moment, at the end of the world, He brings together all things in Christ. So God's goal is Christ, the glory of Christ.
Then we read in verse 11, "In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated (that means pre-determined) according to the purpose of him (now, note the words!) who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." God works everything after the plan, after the expression, of His own eternal will. That is the Bible.
The truth of Providence is this: God actually brings about all things that He has willed, directing them to the glory of Jesus Christ revealed in the last day. That is the truth of Providence.
You can see that Evolution is not only an attack upon Creation and the question of how the world began. But Evolution is a denial of the truth of how the world runs right now. Evolution, says the world, is run by blind fate, by chance, by the roll of the dice, by natural selection. The Bible says God runs the world. The Bible says that the world was made by God's hands. And the world is held together by His hands. In fact, the Bible says that it is in the palm of His hands. The world, and all things in it, are moved and guided by God and led to the end that God has determined. As Christians we do not serve the idols of man, chance; we do not look up to the stars; we do not sing simply "what shall be, shall be - it is written somewhere in the stars." No, we have perfect knowledge of who controls and holds the world together. We know where the world is going. We have a perfect and only comfort. We serve the living God - the God of Providence.
The Bible, in numerous places, uses a figure of speech to refer to this truth of Providence. That figure of speech is "the hand of God." In passages which are too numerous now for me to list, the Scriptures speak of the hand of God holding the world in its being and directing the world according to God's own will and purpose. The saints of God confessed this in the Bible when they received good things and evil things; when they were in prosperous ways or ways of adversity; when they were chastened or were in ways of ease. They said: The hand of God is upon us.
In Ruth 1:13, when Naomi is returning from the land of Moab and trying to persuade her daughters-in-law to go back to the land of Moab, Naomi, who has lost in the land of Moab a husband and two sons, says, "The hand of the Lord is gone out against me." She was right in attributing everything that had happened to the hand of God. She was wrong in interpreting that hand. She interpreted it as we often interpret it, altogether wrong, as being against her, when, in reality, God in love was chastening her.
We read in Job 19:21 (chapter 19 in many ways is the very heart of that entire book) where Job says to his three friends: "Have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me." You see, the Old Testament saints and the believers never confessed that they were ruled by fate, that things just simply happened by accident. They believed in the hand of God who held all things and directed them.
In the Bible God speaks of His hand. He says, "My hand hath done these things." Speaking to nations like Assyria, in the Old Testament, a people who were swelled in pride over their military success and power, God says, "Shall any deliver out of My hand? Who shall stay or hold back My hand?"
We confess that our life, as children of God, and everything in that life, is not driven by fate. It is not simply the result of a train of events. We are in the hands of our God, from whose hands nothing can sever us, whose hands work all things together for good. We say with the psalmist in Psalm 139:10 that even if we should be removed to the most distant part of this earth, isolated in sorrow and trouble, "even there shall thy hand lead me and thy right hand shall hold me." Then we have peace. Otherwise everything is terrifying and frightening. We need today, and we need always, to confess by faith the hand of God.
What holds the world together? Why do things happen the way they do? Is there a rhyme or reason for things? We believe the Providence of God.
Now how others who do not bow before the Scriptures would answer those questions is astonishing. There are many who think they are complimenting God when they think in terms of foresight. They say that God is able to see beforehand what will happen. He is the great clairvoyant. He makes His plans to react to what He sees is coming and He tries to steer around the rough spots.
That is not the Bible. God determines and brings to pass all things. He says in Isaiah 43:13, "Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?" Isaiah 46:11, "Yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it."
There are others who speak in terms of a "higher power." Buddha, the will of Allah, fate, it is in the cards, Lady Luck, lotto, chance. The Bible calls that idolatry, foolish superstition. In Acts 17 the apostle Paul was speaking to the philosophers in Athens who had erected an altar to the unknown god. There were a group of men around that altar who said that they wanted to unravel the secrets of the universe. They want to answer the big question: Is there a reason for the senseless stream of life? And Paul preaches to them. He begins to preach and to declare God the Creator. Then he declares God the God of Providence. He says, "In God we live and move and have our being." You are in the hand of God, men.
There are many who are practical atheists. They say there is not rhyme or reason, there is nothing but yourself. You have to trust in yourself, in your wisdom, in your skill, to see what is coming down the road. And you have to be able to brace yourself for any eventuality of tomorrow. They refuse to take God into account. The Bible says in Psalm 50:22 that God speaks these words to such: "Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver." Providence is the almighty hand of God. It is my Father's hand. It is the hand of infinite strength. It is the hand of infinite tenderness. It is the hand in which He cares for me as His child. It is the hand which preserves and holds me. Psalm 73:23, "Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand."
God's hand means our utter dependency. That He upholds us with His hand means that we cannot stand on our own two legs, we cannot draw a breath, our heart does not beat, we cannot eat apart from a will of God. God does all these things. It means that it is God's gracious care which protects us. He will never let us fall from His hand. It means it is His mighty power to hold and rule the world.
God has a mighty hand which upholds the world in its being and leads the world according to His own purpose.
You see, the creation is not something that can help itself and run on its own. Yes, there are cycles in the creation because God is very regular and He is a God of order. But God holds the world in His hands. There are wise people who think they know better. They say, "I will do this I will do that. Business and success is in my hand to attain. The world," they say, "goes according to these wonderful cycles. Oh, somehow, they got into place." The Bible says in Psalm 104 that all creatures wait on God for their food. "Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good thou takest away their breath, they die." Not natural law, not a food cycle; God's hand. Who but the almighty God can see to it that the stars and the galaxies remain in their courses? Who but God brings forth the seasons? Who but God controls the heartbeat, the blood flow, the chemicals of your brain? Without the power of God all would collapse. Each breath, each step, is in the every-present hand of God. The mightiest planet, the planet Jupiter with all of its weight, and a little worm digging its way through the ground, your steps, your life - all in the hand of God.
You see, everything really is a miracle. Men can become enamored with miracles. But everything is a miracle. Even after unbelief through science has investigated God's creation and God's hand as thoroughly as it can, it cannot answer the question, Why? Why does it do that? Unbelief does not know. The answer is: the hand of God. Men often marvel at God's miracles: His drying up of the Red Sea, His causing the sun to stand still in the days of Joshua. But God gives the believer to see the miraculous in everything! The bloom of a flower, the budding of a tree. We read the Bible and we become astonished when we read that Elijah, at the brook, was fed by ravens. They brought him bread from their wings. We are astonished when we read that Israel was fed by manna. But why are we not astonished to see the hand of God in giving us bread upon our table? Where did that loaf of bread come from? You say, the store? You say, from wheat? I'll tell you where it came from: God, by His own hand, forced bread out of the soil.
God not only maintains the world by His hand but He rules the world by His hand. Nothing escapes His hand. Psalm 31:15, "My times are in thy hand (my life is in thy hand)." In Psalm 17:14 the psalmist says, deliver me "from men which are thy hand." That is, the wicked are in the hand of God to do God's will.
God's hand directs everything to attain His eternal purpose. And that eternal purpose, as we saw, is His glory in Jesus Christ. The world is not run by fate or by chance, but by God. God rules over all things. I believe in my Father's hand in which are all things, so controlled that they cannot so much as move without His will.
But, you see, we have to feel that hand of God and see it. If, by God's grace, you confess these biblical truths with me (and that is what they are: biblical truths and therefore truth), that does not necessarily mean that we are yet living in the light of those truths, living in joy and peace under the hand of God. If you are indifferent to this truth, if you are rebellious to the hand of God, if you live as a beast kicking against God, if pride reigns in your heart, then you have not bowed yourself before the mighty hand of God. I Peter, chapter 5: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time." Do you see the hand of God in your life? It takes the exercise of faith to see it. Unbelief never sees it.
Sometimes we say that we see the hand of God in shocking things: floods and thunder. But do you see it in ordinary things: in grass and in rain? In our daily conversations are we cognizant of the hand of God? "How are you?" we ask. "How's the wife and the kids?" "How are things?" "How is your job?" Do you remember the hand of God? Or, only on the 25th anniversary do you feel constrained to say something about God's hand over your life? Do you see His hand? Or do we kick and scream and say, "It upset my plans. It ruined my day. It complicated everything. It makes it difficult." It it? Or do you see God's hand?
God's hand gives you children. And God's hand withholds children from you. God's hand gave you your wife. And God's hand has withheld from you a wife. God's hand gives you health. And God's hand, perhaps tomorrow, will take it away. God's hand caused the stocks in the last months and years to soar. And He sends a recession. God's hand gives you children to confess Jesus Christ and to be with you in the church. And God's hand rules when they do not but they go away. God's hand makes you successful, beautiful. And God puts you under financial stress, and makes you exactly the way you are. This is God's hand.
You must not cry out and cuss against the boss, against the government. You must not say, "My problem is my wife, the kids, the economy." God's hand hath done all these things. Do you see the hand of God? Do you feel the hand, the mighty hand, of God in the ups and in the downs? You know, it does not cost us much to speak of the hand of God when light is strewn upon our pathway. But when shadows come: cancer, problems, worries - then to feel the warmth of our Father's hand and to hear Him say, "My child, I do not forget you. Accept this as My gift." God's hand is upon you. It is upon you when He gives the blessings of sunshine, health, and good times. And it is upon you when father and mother forsake you, when each morning appears to be too much, when you cannot see out. Your Father holds you in His hands.
Do not rob God of His hands. Do you remember when the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant into the temple of Dagon and the next morning Dagon had fallen over? Do you remember what was broken from him? His hands. He was an idol with stumps. He had no hands. Do you try to do that to God?
By His hand He takes away a loved one, in order that you might grow up and give yourself totally unto Him. He takes things away from you in order that He may give you Himself. He touches you with the hand of adversity to drive your faith deeper into Him. And His hand consoles and gives you peace. A father will stroke the head of his sobbing little girl who has bruised her knee, who is sobbing so hard she can hardly get her breath. He will whisper, "All is well," while stroking her head with his hand. And the child is comforted by the hands of her father. Let it be enough that He holds you in His hand.
There is nothing that can sever you from them. That is a Christian's composure. That is our peace. The Lord my Shepherd holds me within His tender care. And with His flock he folds me; no want shall find me there.
Do you feel the hand of God? Blessed are they who can confess this truth.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that Thou wilt give us that grace in our hearts to search the Scriptures, to bow before the Scriptures, and to rejoice in the truths of the Scriptures of Thy mighty hand from which nothing can part us. Amen.