By Hoyt H. Houchen
Question: In what way and to what extent does the providence of God operate on behalf of His children today?
Reply: Providence is defined as: “divine guidance or care: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 948).
We believe the Bible teaches that God rules in the affairs of men. He did so in the Old Testament, as is seen in several examples. One of the outstanding ones is Joseph. In the story of the exemplary young man, we see that Jehovah was with him and prospered him even after his brothers sold him and he was later cast into prison in Egypt. “But Jehovah was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (Gen. 39:21). Then we read in verse 23, “The keeper of the prison looked not to anything that was under his hand, because Jehovah was with him; and that which he did, Jehovah made it to prosper.” Joseph was mindful that God had a purpose in all that had befallen him because of his brethren. Joseph addressed his brethren years later after the death of their father Jacob, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20).
The name of God does not appear in the book of Esther; nevertheless, we are made mindful of His activity throughout the book. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, said to her, “And who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:4) God’s providence ruled in the day of this queen, enabling the Jews to be delivered from the hands of their enemies.
In the Old Testament, God even. used enemy nations of Israel to accomplish His purpose. He sent Assyria to punish Israel (Isa. 10:1-14); Babylon was used to bring about the downfall of Assyria (Jer. 50:17,18), and the Medes and Persians were raised up to take vengeance upon the Babylonians (Jer. 51:11,12). God said of Cyrus, king of Persia, “He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure. . .” (Isa. 44:28). Again, we read in Isaiah 45:1, “Thus saith Jehovah to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him. . . . ” Should it be argued that God’s intervention in nations was in the Old Testament and does not take place today, we should consider that it is said of Jesus Christ in Revelation 1:5, “who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”
We are to pray for our civil rulers. “I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, thanksgivings, be made for all men; for kings and all that are in high place; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity” (1 Tim. 2:1,2). If God does not rule or guide in the affairs of men, then why are we to pray for our rulers? We do not know how God intervenes, but our inability to understand it does not nullify the fact that He does. We cannot accept the position of the Deist who believes that God set the universe in order and then stepped aside for it to run by itself as a wound clock. God continues to operate, thus caring for mankind. Some cannot accept this because they equate providence with miracles. In contrast to providence, however, miracles are supernatural; they are signs and wonders (Acts 2:22) which supercede natural law. Providence works within God’s laws of nature. Notwithstanding the fact that God could perform miracles as He did in the past if- He chooses to do so., He works within His own laws. It is reasonable that God, who created the world, continues to direct it.
That God does have a hand in civil government is evident, in that He has ordained civil government (Rom. 13:1) and it is “a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil” (v.4).
God provides for His children which is providence (see definition above). Jesus said, “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33). “These things” include food, shelter and clothing (v.25). Such provisions are not obtained without effort upon our part; for Paul wrote, “If any will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). But we can be assured that God will provide for our needs if we faithfully serve Him and do our part.
We cannot always determine the method and the extent of God’s providence, but we can be assured that His hand is actively engaged in the affairs of men. He works in our behalf, and we have the assurance that “if God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 19, p. 581
October 3, 1985