Blogging the Institutes | 1.17.1 | Providence Summarized

People are very prone to indulge their minds with foolish thinking. It becomes almost impossible for people who do not believe in God’s providence to avoid entangling themselves in perplexing difficulties. Therefore, let’s begin to looking at the purpose of why Scripture teaches that all things are divinely ordained. We need to see that, first, God’s providence references both to the path and the future. Second, God’s providence rules over all things. Sometimes it works through the use of means. At other times, God works directly, without the use of means. And other times, it works against human affairs. Finally, the purpose of God’s providence is to show that he takes care of the whole human race but is also especially vigilant in governing the church.

God’s fatherly care as well as his justice is often on display through the whole course of human affairs. Yet, occasionally, the causes of events are concealed from us. When this happens, people can be prone to think that they are at the mercy of the blind impulse of fate. Or they may even feel like God is tossing them up and down like a ball. If people actually had quiet minds which were ready to learn God’s way, they would be able to discern what God is doing through whatever events befall them. They would be able to see his purposes. It could be that he is trying to train his people in patience or to correct their depraved desires to tame their out of control behavior or to encourage them toward self-denial or to awaken them from spiritual sleepiness. On the other hand, he may want to cast down the proud, to defeat the “wisdom” of the ungodly and frustrate all of their plans. While the direct cause of what happens may escape our notice, we can be assured that it is all part of God’s plan and exclaim along with David, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count” (Psalm 40:5).

While the trials we face ought to always remind us of our sins—and that difficulties should incline us to repentance—we must also see that Christ declares that there is something more going on in the secret will of his Father than merely to punish people as they deserve. Jesus speaks of the man born blind, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). In a situation like this, when some calamity happens to a person even before they are born, our fleshly sense complains as if God were unmerciful by afflicting someone with a trail who committed no wrong. But Christ declares that, provided we had eyes clear enough to see it, that we should perceive in this incident the glory of his Father display brightly.

We must be modest in relating to God. We must never think that we can compel God to give an account for his actions. But we must revere his hidden wisdom and credit his will with the best of all reasons. For example, consider when the sky is overcast and covered with thick clouds. When a violent storm arises and covers the earth with darkness and thunders rolls, we can become afraid and be thrown into confusion, yet the earth continues quiet and serene. In the same way, when human affairs become tumultuous and unfit for us to figure out, we should still hold that God, in the pure light of his justice and wisdom, keeps all these commotions under his control and moves them toward their proper goal. When everything seems out of control, God is still in control. And so many people display monstrous foolishness by presuming to be able to figure out the work of God. They attempt to know his secret will and pass judgment on what he is doing. What can be more preposterous than to treat other human beings modestly as our equals and give them the benefit of the doubt when they do something. Yet, we don’t afford God the same luxury. We can routinely blame God for all the bad things in the world and think we can figure him all.

2 thoughts on “Blogging the Institutes | 1.17.1 | Providence Summarized

  1. Pingback: Blogging the Institutes | 1.17.1 | Providence Summarized — Raising Lazarus | Talmidimblogging

  2. Pingback: Blogging the Institutes: List of Posts | Raising Lazarus

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