Blogging the Institutes | 1.16.6 | God’s Providence Over People

Since we know that God made the world primarily for humanity, we must also look view God’s providence through his care for humanity as well. The prophet Jeremiah says, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Solomon also says, “Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way?” (Proverbs 20:24). What will we say? Will we argue that God moves people according to the bent of their nature or that people move themselves in any direction that they please? If people could move themselves, they would have the ability to move themselves any way they pleased. Some may argue that people can do nothing without the power of God. But the Scriptures says that not only does God give people power but also ascribes to God election and decree.

In another place, Solomon elegantly rebukes the rashness of people in making their plans without God, as if they were not led by his hand, “The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:1). It is a strange infatuation that people attempt to act without reference to God. The Scriptures instead show that everything that happens is subject to God. What could be most attributed to change but a branch falling from a tree and killing a passing traveler? But the Lord sees things very differently and declares that he delivered him into the hand of the slayer (Exodus 21:13). In a similar manner, many people think that casting lots is relying on pure “luck.” Not so the Lord, who claims the decision for himself (Proverbs 16:33). He does not say that people cast the lot by his power. Instead, the result, the only thing which could be attributed to change, is from him too.

Solomon says the same thing, “The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The Lord gives light to the eyes of both” (Proverbs 29:13). For although the rich and mixed together in this world—their condition is divinely appointed—Solomon reminds us that God, who enlightens all, keeps his eye on all of them. To the poor, he exhorts them to patient endurance, seeing that those who discontent with their lot endeavor to shake off a burden which God has imposed upon them. Another prophet also criticizes the profane, who ascribe the status of people to their own ingenuity or some impersonal force, For not from the east, nor from the west, Nor from the desert comes exaltation; But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6-7). Because God cannot divest himself of the office of judge, the psalmist infers that it to God’s secret counsel that some are elevated while others remain without honor.

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  1. Pingback: Blogging the Institutes: List of Posts – Raising Lazarus

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