Q11: What are God’s works of providence?
A: God’s works of providence are, his most holy (Ps. 145:17), wise (Isa. 28:29), and powerful preserving (Heb. 1:3), and governing (Ps. 103:19; Matt. 10:29) all his creatures, and all their actions.
I. God executes His decrees, not only in creation, but also in the works of providence.
A. Providence comes from the Latin word providere, meaning “to foresee.”
1. Foresight implies not only seeing in advance, but also anticipation, so that steps are taken to reach a planned result.
B. Providence is God’s preserving, and governing all things towards His predetermined goal (2 Ki. 19:25).
II. God’s works of providence are holy and wise; He preserves and governs everything.
A. Holy: nothing in the ends or means is inconsistent with God’s holiness (morality): all of His providential activity is consistent with His nature (Ps. 145:17).
1. An example of an “end” is God’s purpose to redeem His people, and an example of a “means” unto that end is the suffering and cross of Christ.
B. Wise: not only the end and means reveal God’s infinite wisdom, but so does the manner in which He employs the means, adapting them to His subject (Ps. 104; Isa. 28:29).
C. Preserving: all things are dependent upon God.
1. God “preserves” heaven, earth, and sea (Neh. 9:6).
2. In “Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
3. In Christ all things consist (Col. 1:17).
4. Christ “upholds” (bears up) all things by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:3).
D. Governing: “[A]ll creatures, actions, and things from the greatest to the least” (WCF 5.1), are governed towards God’s predetermined goal.
1. God completely controls and sustains nature.
a. God brings rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).
(1). The animals depend on God (Matt. 6:26; cf. Ps. 145:15-16).
b. God causes to grow and feeds (Ps. 104:10-30)
(1). All for His own glory (v. 31).
(2). God withholds rain (Amos 4:7; cf. Deut. 11:17; 28:23-24; Lev. 26:18-19).
2. God completely controls the nations of men, though they often seem out of control.
a. God raises up kings and brings them down (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25, 34-36).
b. God has predetermined the times and boundaries of nations (Acts 17:26).
3. God exercises control over every individual.
a. God kills and makes alive (1 Sam. 2:6-8).
b. God hardens and makes to stray from His way (Isa. 63:17; cf. Ps. 81:12).
(1). God is sovereign over evil, though not the author of it (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6).
(a). God uses evil to punish (Ps. 81;11-12); to test (Deut. 8:2; Matt. 4:1-11).
(2). God turns one over to the hardness of his heart, removing divine restraints (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).
4. God exercises control over the free acts of men.
a. God stirs, moves, and turns the spirits and hearts of men to fulfill His purpose (Ezra 1:1, 5; 6:22; 7:6).
(1). Fulfilling His Word (Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10).
(a). Jeremiah prophesied the return of Israel from captivity in Babylon; Ezra records its fulfillment.
b. Man’s wrath serves God’s glory (Ps. 76:10).
(1). The “remainder” of wrath God “girds” as an ornament, like a conqueror does with his enemy’s spoils.
(2). Or He shall “restrain,” i.e., prevent and frustrate.
c. Man plans but God directs (Prov. 16:1, 9, 33).
d. Man works out his salvation because God works in him (Phil. 2:12-13).
(1). No contradiction between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
III. God overrules suffering and employs it as His means unto good ends.
A. Discipline and mortification (Ps. 119:67; Heb. 12:4-14).
B. To a greater final blessing (Ps. 66:10-12).
C. Suffering, as the consequences of sin, the very weapon to make atonement for sin (Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:14ff).
D. Suffering, the Christian’s calling to emulate Christ (Phil. 3:10; 1 Pet. 2:13-23).
1. Under the fatherly providences of God, all suffering is a blessing.
A. Use, of knowledge.
1. God is in perfect control of “all things,” even evil. We must learn submission to His will as Job did (1:21; cf. Acts 21:14).
B. Use, of testing.
1. Beware of: excusing sin upon the providence of God, for it is most holy; complaining, for nothing happens except that which has come from a most wise and holy providence; fretting (Matt. 6:31); letting the fear of man deter you from your duty (10:28-29).
C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.
1. Sinners. Consider how joyous the people of God are, to whom all things work for good, and who have an ever faithful Lord (Heb. 13:5). Flee the house of Satan and by faith be adopted into God’s family.
2. Saints. Utilize all means since God works by them, though don’t trust in them, for without God they are nothing (Matt. 4:4). Don’t be discouraged if there are no means, for God can work without them (Hos. 1:7), or above seemingly insufficient ones (Rom. 4:19). “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face” (William Cowper).