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DIVINE PROVIDENCE

 

Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.

 

THE WORD providence may be used in four different senses: (1) God; (2) God’s care for His

creatures; (3) an exceptional manifestation of God’s care; and (4) a grace of Christian character.

In this article, we will use it in the second sense – God’s watchcare for His creatures. Although

some deny, and others pervert the meaning of God’s care for His creatures, every consecrated

child of God knows from the Scriptures and from personal experience that he is a subject of

God’s providential care.

 

God’s providential care may be divided into two main categories: (1) His general care for the

world (Matthew 5: 45); and (2) His special care for His consecrated people (Psalm 37: 23)

(Psalm 91: 4 [feathers refers to God’s providences, and wings to the Old and New Testaments])

(Romans 8: 28). Let us consider the seven elements of God’s providential care for His creatures:

 

Arranges and Supplies their Needs

 

(1.) God arranges for the supply of, and actually supplies the needs of His creatures

(Psalm 145: 15, 16). For example, God made the Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve, and thus

supplied all their need for food and shelter; similarly, through the ark, He provided for Noah and

his family; He prepared Caanan for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Israel, and through it supplied

their need for food, clothing and shelter throughout the Jewish Age; and He did the same for

Jesus, the Apostles and the other brethren throughout the Gospel Age. God has continued to

supply the secular and religious needs of His people in our times, as all of them can testify.

 

Preserves them

 

(2.) God preserves His people. He does this, first, by shielding them from evils that are too

strong for them, thus He allows no calamities or temptations that are too strong for them to bear

to come to them (1 Corinthians 10: 13). The Bible illustrates this in the case of Joseph and his

experiences with his brothers, with Potiphar, the latter’s wife and his jailors; of Moses and Israel

being delivered from Egypt; of David in his wars; and of Jesus, the Apostle Paul and other

brethren throughout the Gospel Age.

 

Second, God providently delivers His people amid evils that they are able to bear, by

strengthening them to overcome amid them (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9). Bible examples of such

cases include the three Hebrew youths being delivered in the fiery furnace; Daniel being

delivered in the lion’s den; and Jesus’ victories in His temptations and calamities. Undoubtedly,

we can all recount God’s acts of preserving us amid calamities and temptations in helping our

weakness by His grace.

 

Directs their Course

 

(3.) God directs the course of His creatures. God does this in a general way with the world, by

setting various metes and bounds to its experiences so that they are kept within the sphere

marked out for them in His plan (Psalm 76: 10, second part). Accordingly, He does not allow

Satan or others’ plots and schemes to go beyond the limits of what that plan marks out for them.

Though Satan and various conquerors have sought to blot out certain peoples, God has

providentially prevented this from happening.

 

But God especially directs the course of His people, both collectively and individually

(Proverbs 3: 6). Though numerous examples could be given, we note the remarkable example of

Samuel Crowthers. Born a black early in the nineteenth century in an African tribe, he was

captured and made a slave on a ship. When his slave-ship was captured by a British man of war,

he was brought to England a free man. He became a Christian in the home of his adopted father,

was educated, and then trained for missionary work in Africa, where he was sent, and became

instrumental in converting many thousands of natives.

 

Overrules their Untoward Experiences for Good

 

(4.) God overrules the untoward experiences of the world and His people for their ultimate good.

He manipulates the world’s experience with evil for their good (Psalm 76: 10, first part). This

can also be seen in God’s working good to His people out of their untoward experiences

(Philippians 1: 12). Many examples from the Bible and history could be cited, from the greatest

to the least of His people. Their untoward experiences made them nobler characters and better

witnesses for the Truth, thus blessing themselves and others.

 

Restrains His People from Evil and Unprofitable Deeds

 

(5.) God restrains His people from evil and from unprofitable deeds by the circumstances that He

brings into their lives. For example, when the brethren selfishly clung to the pleasant

associations at Jerusalem, God removed various hindrances from their enemies which brought

about persecution, resulting in the brethren being scattered abroad where they found new and

fruitful fields of service (Acts 8: 1, 4-8); the Apostle Paul’s five years’ imprisonment, which

enabled him to write seven of his epistles; and the restraints imposed upon the Apostle Peter for

his denial of the Lord and acting with dissimulation at Antioch kept him humble. We see this

same principle in others, and doubtless all of us can testify to such providential restraints in our

lives.

 

Disciplines His People

 

(6.) God disciplines His people. The Apostle Paul describes God’s disciplinary acts to His people

(Hebrews 12: 1-12). It would have been better had the translators used the word discipline rather

than chastise or chastisement, for the latter gives the thought of punishment, whereas the proper

thought is training amid hard conditions. Jesus never did wrong, but He was disciplined, trained

amid hard circumstances (Hebrews 5: 8). But with the rest of God’s people, their disciplining

also includes rebukes and corrections for their faults (Psalm 119: 71).

 

Chastises for Wrong-doing

 

(7.) God chastises the world and His people for their sins. Under the natural law God

providentially punishes worldly sinners (Isaiah 59: 18). Many examples in Scripture and history

illustrate this principle. And under the law of their Covenant, He punishes the sins of His people

(Colossians 3: 25). Apart from our Lord, every one of God’s people have suffered some

punishment, for all of them have sinned more or less. Of course, the more willfulness in one’s

sin, the more punishment will be received.

 

Degrees of Divine Providence

 

There is a difference in the degree in which Divine providence acts toward the various classes of

God’s people – the higher the class, the more graciously they are treated. God also treats the

individuals of each class the more favorably as they are more loyal than the others; yet He does

the best that can be done for each individual.

 

God uses inanimate and animate beings as the agents of His providence. Sometimes they are

inanimate things; other times they are animate beings, such as lower animals; still other times He

uses human agents, some of whom at the time are unconscious of their use as such; and finally,

at times He uses spiritual agents who protect, lead, restrain, encourage and correct us by their

providential interpositions, sometimes known to us and sometimes unknown to us as so doing

(Hebrews 1: 14).

 

Purpose of Divine Providence

 

God’s purpose in connection with His providences is: (1) to manifest to us the glories of His

character as they are displayed in His acts; (2) to give us the benefits that flow from the seven

elements of His providential care, as explained above; (3) to give the witnesses of our

providential favors a greater appreciation of Him, encouragement and joy; and (4) to help the

world in the next Age, as they consider Him, to derive instruction, encouragement and

stimulation in good from His agents, and hope for similar favors in their interest.

 

Many have had difficulty in understanding God’s providences in permitting sin and evil. But the

Bible teaches that the experience with sin and evil on the part of mankind and fallen angels is

educational. They are learning by experience its terrible nature and effects, so when they

experience righteousness, its blessed nature and effects will educate them to love and cleave to

it.

 

But why are the righteous permitted to suffer? Again, the Bible teaches that their sorrow and

sufferings are educational. Their experiences are teaching them mercy toward fallen man and an

unbreakable faithfulness and obedience toward God, thus preparing them for their present and

future missions, and for their future inheritance.

 

God’s relation to good and evil has providentially been that of a Giver, Spreader and Upholder of

truth, righteousness and holiness, and that of an Abhorrer and Opponent of sin and error.

 

Fruits of Divine Providence

 

The fruits of Divine providence are manifold. It has brought every feature of God’s plan up to

the present to a successful completion, and we may be confident that Divine providence will

bring to a successful completion the future features of His plan. May we praise and thank God

for His marvelous providences!

 

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