Heidelberg Catechism Devotional Q27

Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.

Providence could be simply defined as the protective care of God, or stated another way, God’s rule throughout history.  There are some who believe that God is like an architect of a ship.  He designed the ship and saw it through construction, but the day it was finished and set into the sea, he withdrew and had no further interactions with the vessel.  Rather it was handed over to the captain to rule and govern as he saw fit.  But this is not so because God is concerned about his world.  Furthermore, he is so powerful that nothing came to exist without his word, and therefore nothing can continue to exist without his word.  he must preserve his creation, or it will cease to exist.  Read Hebrews 1:3.

God’s care and rule affect everything.  Without God, life would cease to exist, all plant life, all animal, all human life, in fact anything that we would call “alive” would not exist if God were not continuing to sustain it and give it life.  He numbers our days, and he determines when death shall come to us.  The same it true of the animal and plant kingdoms as well.  Read Acts 17:24-25 and Matthew 10:29-30 and then consider all the living things that would cease to exist if God forgot about them for even a moment.

But God’s rule also extends to governments.  God determines where people and nations live and who will rule them.  He sets their borders and determines the extent of their influence.  Consider the story of Nebuchadnezzar.  Read Jeremiah 27:3-7.  All the lands were given to Nebuchadnezzar and his government was extended but a time came when God took it all from him for 7 years because of his pride, only to have it restored again when he repented of his sin.  Read Daniel 4:28-37.  It is for this reason that Paul urges us to pray for our leaders, they are appointed by God to rule (Romans 13:1-5).

God’s rule also extends to individual people and the circumstances that affect their lives.  Consider the life of Joseph.  He was sold by his brothers into slavery, unjustly accused by his master’s wife, imprisoned for many years, all so that he would be available to Pharaoh during a time of great national need.  Subsequently he was exalted as the second in command of all Egypt and was able to rescue his own family from starving to death.  Many of us would look at the circumstances of Joseph’s life and say that many unfortunate evils had befallen him but he had triumphed; but that is not how Joseph considered the reality of his life.  Read Genesis 50:20.  As you look back on your life, how has God been weaving each piece together in order to accomplish his good?

God rules the natural forces of our world as well.  He commands the rains and the sun, he determines the time and place of hail, tornado and earthquake.  He calls forth the stars into the night sky and sends them to rest at the break of day.  God determines which seeds sprout and which never germinate.  He is in complete control of all the natural and physical forces of the universe.  Read Jeremiah 5:24, Job 28:24-28.  There are many stories from the Scriptures that prove this.  Consider the plagues sent on Egypt in the book of Exodus or the stopping of the Sun in Joshua 10:13.  And it will continue to the end of time, for in the book of Revelation we are again faced with a story where God sends the forces of nature to do his bidding and bring his judgment.  Read Revelation 16:21.

Read Job 1.  Job’s story is a sobering reminder of God’s providence.  God allowed death and destruction to come upon one of his servants.  God knew about it and allowed Satan to test his servant.  Why?  We don’t know, but even these hard things were allowed by God and under his control, for God set the boundaries upon Satan each time and God was able to give back everything that Job lost when the trial was complete.  That may not be very encouraging for some people, but for me it is extremely encouraging, for nothing happens that God is unaware of and nothing slips by God which he hasn’t approved.  That means I am never beyond the face of my God, and neither are you.  We can always be assured that no circumstance is too big or too small for our Lord and that each and every one of them can and will be used in God’s plans for the redemption of the world, just as Joseph’s trials were, just as Job’s trials were.  In fact verse 21 seems like an apt way to close this weeks devotion: “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, may the name of the Lord be praised.”

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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