Providence message #2
The events of the last several weeks have made the doctrine of Divine Providence extra special for us. We spoke of how providence worked in Abraham's life the first time he went into Egypt. Providence worked then to show us that Abraham was a weak man, maybe even a weaker man than the average man. God tried his faith. Out of fear for his own life, Abraham denied his wife, placing her in a terrible situation, out of which the Lord delivered her.
As we look at God's unseen hand working in the Old Testament, we are reminded of:
1 Corinthians 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Let us look as some more events of Divine Providence, and how God controls history for his own purpose and Glory, and for our good.
Acts 4:28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel
determined before to be done.
Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
The work of God in governing this world is unknowable to the wisdom of this world, for he governs through his physical laws. God works to govern this world through Providence just as sure as he worked through Divine creation.
Without the proper view of Providence, we have no hope in the face of today's prevailing errors in the Church. The prosperity of evil will leave us hopeless without a proper view of God's hand in history.
A Biblical view of Providence will deliver us from viewing success as a mark of God's blessings. Scripture shows us that often times God has granted great success to his enemies. Thus, the truth is revealed, and they are hardened in their rebellion. Success is no proof of truth, nor is the lack of success a proof of error.
Though God has given the world over to the dominion of the enemy, God has not excluded himself from the government of the world.
The wrath of Satan, as well as the wrath of man and any device man can imagine against the Gospel Kingdom must praise God. He will not allow any works of evil to progress beyond what will praise him.
Ps 76:10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Here we have recorded Abraham's victory over Chedorlaomer
Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
The Wise Man, the son of David tells us that the race is not to the swift, nor the victory to the strong. Rather, it is God who gives the victory. For Divine Providence directs events according to his sovereign pleasure.
Psalms 135:6 Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.
Even without miraculous intervention, small armies have often defeated the most powerful of enemies.
Here we see that the small group of armed men from Abraham's own household easily defeat a large powerful army made up of four king's armies that had just defeated the armies of five kings.
Though it is clear that God gave the victory, we cannot imply from this event that we are not to strengthen ourselves, and use every effort to gain a purpose. Abraham had trained his servants in warfare; he armed them and went to war.
He took every precaution as though he was totally dependent only upon his own wisdom and might, he divided his band, attacked the enemy by night. He successfully fought, but God gave the victory.
Proverbs 21:31 The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
With a superficial reading of this event, it appeared that it was Abraham's superior wisdom and might in battle that overcame the greatly superior force. However, the truth is told in v. 20, And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
God gave the victory to Abraham's small army just as surely as he gave the victory to Joshua at Gibeon when God cast great stones from heaven upon Israel's enemies. More died with hailstones that were slain by Israel's army. Joshua 10:22.
In all things, God's people must learn to trust the Lord with the greatest of confidence, yet they must aggressively use the means God has put in our power. Abraham prepared and worked as though it all depended upon him, yet he depended upon the hand of God to give the victory.
We are prone to separate what God has joined together. That is, we either depend completely upon the means or neglect the means with a fatale faith depend totally upon the Lord.
Here we see that Divine Providence brought his people into danger, again that he might try their faith, teach them patience and show himself as their only hope and deliverer, and we would have no record.
The rebellion in v. 4, and Chedorlaomer's victory over the other kings were all necessary to show that God alone is the author of victory. He shows this through his servant Abraham. Providence worked so that Abraham's nephew was taken captive, which motivated Abraham to get involved. Otherwise, he would have let the pagan kings fight among themselves.
First, victory is of the Lord. But that victory cannot presumed without proper work and preparation on our part.
Second, we should not expose ourselves to danger unless necessary. Note here that if we are not part of the problem nor part of the solution, remain out of the situation. It was Lot who drew Abraham into this situation. Otherwise, there would have been no record of the pagan kings fighting among themselves.
Third, family is important. We know that Lot was a very worldly man, for he chose to live in Sodom for his dwelling place, and became part of the population. We are shown the influence of Sodom on him in later events as he resisted departing from the sodomites, though he knew judgment was at hand against their sin.
Fourth, when Providence brings danger around us, we must prepare, but not fear. Providence can keep us out of the fray, or Providence can deliver through the fray:
1 Samuel 14:6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armor, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.
He will either save us from ruin, or glorify himself in our suffering.
1 Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Providence fulfills prophecy
God predetermined that Abraham's posterity would have to go to Egypt, become servants of the Egyptians, be greatly afflicted by the Egyptians, and come out of Egypt with great wealth. The time in Egypt was predetermined to be 400 years.
The only time the obvious hand of God would be seen would be in the deliverance from Egypt by the means of the supernatural plagues. Everything else would be the unseen hand of Providence bringing the events to pass. Each event would seem that simple chance was causing the events to flow toward a common goal, but those evens were taking place at God's dirrection.
The history of Joseph and the hatred of his brothers was a primary chapter in the Providential fulfillment of this prophecy.
First, tyranny produces leaders.
Second, it is proof of ignorance and wickedness to attempt to grasp and understand the plans and workings of the God of Creation. Man foolishly attempts to make himself God as he tries to understand the workings of God. Only by faith can we understand.
Third, Providential misery and even tyranny works to produce the character the Lord desires to produce in his people.
At the proper time for Abraham's posterity to go into Egypt, Providence brought about a famine to force them into the future land of their salvation. Providence prepared Egypt for them by providing Egypt with great wealth. Egypt's wealth would be delivered to Abraham's posterity when the time was right.
Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
Providence brought Abraham's posterity to the verge of starvation in order to move them to where they needed to be. (How many people died in this critical, history changing famine?) God had prepared their substance in Egypt, where he would turn Israel from a small group of shepherds into a mighty army for the Lord. They came into Egypt as a band of shepherds but came out a mighty army with the various skills needed to build a nation in the land promised to Abraham.
Genesis 46:32 And the men are shepherds, for their trade hath been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.
Exodus 6:26 These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom the LORD said, Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies.
It was Providence who removed Israel from his exalted position in Egypt to the most lowly position in Egypt, servants. It was Providence who exalted a king who knew not Joseph. Exo 1:8-14.
Notice that the affliction against God's people caused them to multiply and grow. The more bitter the bondage, the more growth. One of the most devastating things to happen to the early church was Constantine's 311 AC edict of toleration. I certainly do not want to go back to what it was before Constantine, but the church was the strongest then.
Question: Why did not the new king who knew not Joseph send Israel out of the land? They had caused no trouble, and were loyal subjects. Why did he not treat them as loyal subjects?
The king of Egypt had sent Abraham out with great wealth, though Abraham had deceived him concerning his wife. Isaac also deceived the Philistines concerning his wife. King Abimelech only mildly rebuked Isaac, and simply sent him away in peace. Then when understood Isaac's strength and perceived a danger from him, he sent Isaac away in peace. He even made a covenant later with him, for he saw the Lord was with Isaac.
Both Pharaoh and Abimelech saw danger in Abraham's posterity, yet they responded in vastly different ways. God had a purpose in moving the new Pharaoh to treat Israel harshly, but had no purpose for Abimelech to treat Isaac harshly.
The same Providence that brought Israel into great misery in slavery, is the same Providence who produced a deliverer, Moses. Providence permitted Moses to be weaned in his own Hebrew household, then educated in Pharaoh's household in all the wisdom that the world of his day had to offer. He was trained as the grandson of the very king who was causing all the misery for his native people.
Obviously, Providence prevented Pharaoh from realizing the danger Moses, a Hebrew man, presented to the establishment, or he certainly would not have allowed Moses to live in his own household. But Providence intervened, and produced a man most fitted to be the deliverer and lawgiver for Israel.
Of course, Providence is the One who caused Moses to see the evil being done by the Egyptian master to the Israelite servant, which excited Moses to kill him.
First, tyranny produces leaders. Moses was produced during a period of forced abortions.
Second, Providential misery and even tyranny makes live at times unbearable. "What did I do to deserve all this misery?" At the time, the miseries and turmoil in our lives seem totally out of hand. Yet we see throughout Scripture that those things are Providence at work to conform his people to the image of his dear Son. He teaches us things we would not learn otherwise.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
Do miseries abound? Look at Israel. Providence brought them to the place where a murder decree was issued against all male babies. Yet out of that misery, Providence raised up a deliverer, who delivered Israel from his misery, and fulfilled the promise to their fathers.
Providence brings miseries upon us, so he can form in us what pleases him. God pronounces his woe against those who strive against his work through Providence.
Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
Philippians 4:11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Third, how many "Moseses" has Providence placed in the palaces of the wicked today who, when the time comes, will take their stand for the people of God? Moses shows us that God has prepared his deliverers ready to be moved for his purpose when the time is right.
And again, we must close this illustration the same:
It is the height of ignorance and wickedness to attempt to grasp and understand the plans and workings of the God of Creation. Man foolishly attempts to make himself God as he tries to understand the workings of God. Only by faith can we understand.
Again, we close with Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!