The Providence of God

Jeffrey Khoo

God is in control … because He is still on the throne.

What is Providence? Providence is all about God and His Creation. The Westminster Confession of Faith (5.1), states, “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.”

In other words, providence is God’s care of His creation and control over the affairs of man in high and low places, in small things and big things, so that whatever happens on earth and in history will ultimately fulfill His predetermined plan and glorify His Holy Name.

Providence simply tells us that God is in control because He is still on the throne. God is Cosmic Overseer and Supervisor. Nothing escapes Him, nothing happens by chance. There is no such thing as luck. Do not thank your “lucky stars”!

Where do we see God’s providential hand at work? We see it in His providential (1) maintenance of His Creation, (2) protection of His people, and (3) preservation of His words.

God’s Providential Maintenance of His Creation

We are not frozen nor fried

Deism teaches that God, after He created the universe, got so tired that He took a long nap and never woke up. Such a concept of God is indeed laughable; yes, even heretical! The Bible teaches an omnipotent God who is still very much alive and awake, and very much in control. The Psalmist wrote, “Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Ps 148:5–6); “Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry” (Ps 147:8–9). The God who made the heavens and the earth continues to sustain His creation and His creatures.

Consider the fact that planet earth is hanging on nothing, suspended in thin air, and moving around the sun. Why does it not drop off the sky, or stray off course from its orbit? Is it not amazing that the earth rotates on its axis every 24 hours at a speed of 1,000 miles an hour, revolves around the sun once a year at a speed of 66,660 miles per hour, and yet stays on course? The earth is not like an uncontrolled spinning top. God is in control. He not only causes the earth to spin, but also controls its movement. The earth would either freeze or fry if it were just a fraction off course in relation to its distance from the sun.

We echo the words of Isaac Watts:

Jesus shall reign where e’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run,
His kingdom spread from shore to shore
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.

Is not God’s providential maintenance of His creation perfect?

God’s Providential Protection of His People

We are not starving nor unclothed

As Christians we are the most happy people on earth. This is so because we have a Father in heaven who takes meticulous care of all our needs. “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him … Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:8, 25–33).

God assures His people “that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God knows the future. God knows what is good for us. Even when evil (illness, accidents, bereavement, retrenchment, failure, etc.) befall us, He knows how to work things out for us. He only asks that we love and trust Him 100%.

Only trust Him, only trust Him, only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you, He will save you now.

Nothing at all can separate us from the love God has for us. So, why worry!

Do we doubt that God’s providential protection of His people can be less than perfect?

God’s Providential Preservation of His Words

We not only have all of His doctrines but also all of His words

Jesus quoting Deut 8:3 said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt 4:4). Every word of Holy Writ is vital for godly living. As such, God makes sure that every single one of His words is preserved “by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages” as stated in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1.8). This is in keeping with God’s promise to preserve His words even to the jot and tittle, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in the furnace of earth, purified seven times. Thou shalt keep them, O LORD, thou shalt preserve them from this generation for ever” (Ps 12:6–7). “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt 5:18). “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33).

God’s providential hand in the preservation of His Word and words is seen in the canonisation and transmission of Scripture. All the inspired NT books were completed by the end of the first century when the Apostle John wrote the last book of Revelation, and God warned against adding to or subtracting from His Word in Rev 22:18–19. However, we know that in the first few centuries, there were uninspired men who penned spurious writings and passed them off as Scripture. Some of these were the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Epistle of Barnabas, etc. Nevertheless, none of the inspired books of Scripture have been lost or obscured in the canonical process. By the providential guidance of the Holy Spirit, God’s people were led to identify the 27 books to become our NT Canon, no more, no less. There was a terminus to the canonisation of Scripture at the Council of Carthage in AD 397.

In like manner, the Lord allowed copyist errors to enter into the transmission process through the pen of fallible scribes. Nevertheless, His providential hand kept His inspired words of Scripture from being lost. In light of God’s providence that nothing happens by chance and that history is under His sovereign control, in the fulness of time—in the most opportune time of the Reformation—when the true church separated from the false, when the study of the original languages was emphasised, and the printing press invented (which meant that no longer would there be any need to hand-copy the Scriptures thereby ensuring a uniform text)—God restored from out of a pure stream of preserved Hebrew and Greek manuscripts, the purest of all Hebrew and Greek texts—the texts that underlie our King James Bible—that accurately reflect the original autographs.

The same powerful God who inspired His words to the jot and tittle, is He not powerful enough to preserve His inspired words in like manner? If God’s providential keeping of His creation and His people is nothing short of perfect, how then can the providential preservation of His very own words be anything but perfect? “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom 3:4). As God is immutable, so is His Word. “The Law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (Ps 19:7).

The Bible stands like a rock undaunted
’Midst the ranging storms of time;
Its pages burn with the truth eternal,
And they glow with a light sublime.

The Bible stands though the hills may tumble,
It will firmly stand when the earth shall crumble;
I will plant my feet on its firm foundation,
For the Bible stands.

What a powerful and wonderful God we have! He is in control! He is still on the throne! Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever! Glory to His Name!

Dr Jeffrey Khoo is academic dean of the Far Eastern Bible College.