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Does God's providence work in human events to accomplish His purposes? Does He provide for us by miracles or natural law? Does He guide us by signs? Do we have free will and power to choose?

Providence of God: Does God Work in Human Affairs?

The Providence of God
Does God Work in Human Affairs?

Does God's providence work in human events to accomplish His purposes? Does He provide for us by miracles or natural law? Does He guide us by signs? Do we have free will and power to choose?

Does the Bible teach that God's providence works in human events to care for His people and accomplish His purposes? Does God provide for us by miracles or natural law? How does God reveal His will for us? Should we  expect Him to use events around us as signs to guide us? Does man have free will, free moral agency, and power to choose what we will do, or does the providence of God compel us to do God's will regardless of our choice?

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Introduction:

Note: These principles about providence are based on the story of Esther, especially. Esther 4:13,14

Providence is "that preservation, care and government which God exercises over all things that He has created, in order that they may accomplish the ends for which they were created" -- ISBE, p. 2476. It is God's activities by which he "provides" for His will to be accomplished. His will is for men to be saved and have eternal life. So providence is the means He uses to provide for His people to be forgiven and be blessed in their particular needs so they can be faithful and enter eternal life.

[The noun "providence" is not used in reference to God in Bible, but the verb "provide" is: Gen. 22:8; 1 Sam. 16:1; Heb. 11:40; Job 38:41; Psa. 65:9; 78:20; 132:15.]


A. God Does Work in Human Affairs for the Good of His People and for the Ultimate Accomplishment of His Will.


God provided for his people by using Esther to preserve them from death.

God had promised a blessing on all nations and a ruler of God's people (Jesus) as a descendant of Abraham and of David, of the tribe of Judah. This couldn't have happened if Haman had destroyed all the Jews.

Esther 4:14 -- Mordecai clearly states the essence of providence: deliverance will arise for the Jews (God's people). God's purpose will not fail.

The result: in spite of his great power, Haman failed so miserably that, while not one single Jew died, Haman was slain in the very way he wanted to kill Mordecai.

The Bible contains many other examples in which God provided for His will to be accomplished.

Wicked people were destroyed by flood, yet Noah saved.

Joseph, deserted as a lad in a foreign land, became governor to save Abraham's descendants.

Moses led Israel from Egyptian slavery to Canaan.

Likewise, God promises to provide for our needs today so we can do His will.

Like Mordecai and Esther, we may face much hindrance and opposition. God has not promised to remove all our problems. He has promised to provide everything we need to be faithful and receive eternal life, IF we are determined to serve Him faithfully at all costs.

* Do you face hardship, temptation, and discouragement? Are you tempted to go back to the world and give up serving God? God will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).

* Do you sorrow because of poor health, the death of a loved one, or mistreatment by others? God does not promise to remove the problem, but He promises peace and strength to endure (Phil. 4:6,7).

* Are you burdened by the guilt of sin and fear of eternal torment? God is able to save to the uttermost and give the hope of eternal life (Heb. 7:25).


B. God Is Able to Accomplish His Will Through Natural Law Without Miracles.


Bible miracles are events impossible by natural law: walking on water, calming storm, raising dead, etc. Some people think all God's influences on earth are miraculous.

The Book of Esther reveals that God's purpose was accomplished with no miracles at all.

There is not one miracle in the book. Each event, viewed at the time it occurred, was a reasonable, natural occurrence. But God directed and combined them so as to produce an amazing accomplishment of His will. Consider several events:

* Vashti was deposed for disobeying the king. This is not impossible naturally.
* Esther was chosen to take her place. This seems natural.
* Mordecai reported the plot against the king. This was just doing his duty.
* Esther spoke to the king on behalf of the people. This was difficult but not impossible.
* The king could not sleep on the night before her request, so had chronicles read.

Today also, God is accomplishing His purposes through natural law.

The purpose of miracles was to confirm that the gospel message was inspired by God (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3,4).

Miracles were essential while the message was being delivered. Now that it is completely delivered, recorded, and confirmed, we read the Bible to learn truth and produce faith (2 Tim. 3:16,17; John 20:30f). Supernatural gifts by which men revealed truth and confirmed it by miracles are no longer needed so they have ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-10; Jude 3; Acts 1:20f).

Some people think every special blessing they receive from God is a "miracle."

If a man is pronounced terminally ill but gets better, people say that's a "miracle." When we deny it, they say, "You don't believe God heals the sick, answers prayer, and exercises His power today?" They see only two choices, but there is a third one.

Did God bless His people and demonstrate His power in the story of Esther? Yes. Did He do miracles? No, He did it through natural law. Likewise today He answers prayer, heals the sick, and blesses people through natural law.

God has designed His universe in such a way that He can control the laws of nature to do amazing things. The book of Esther is amazing. But these events were not impossible by natural law, therefore they were not miracles.

For more information about miracles and direct revelation for today, please go to our Bible Instruction web site at www.gospelway.com/instruct/  and study there our detailed information about that subject.


C. Human Beings Often Do Not and Cannot Understand How God's Providence Works or What God Is Doing or Why He Is Doing It.


Some people think, if they can't understand a thing, it must not be true!

They deny God exists and works in the world because they don't understand how. But there are many things in life we believe are true though we don't understand: What is life? How does your brain function?

The story of Esther clearly shows God does work for His people, but it clearly shows we do not understand how, what, or why He does what He does.

4:14 -- "WHO KNOWETH whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" When Esther became queen, no human could have predicted the service she would render. Even Mordecai was not sure God would use THIS means to deliver the people -- maybe it would be this way, maybe another way -- WHO KNOWS?

4:16 -- Esther agreed to speak to the king, but concluded, "If I perish. I perish." She had no way of knowing what would happen. Maybe the king would grant her request, maybe he would ignore her, maybe he would KILL her for it. God's people often have been martyred for speaking out for God's will.

(Deut. 29:29) --"The secret things belong unto Jehovah our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us." How providence works is a "secret thing."

[Note other examples in 2 Sam. 12:22; Heb. 11:17-19; Gen. 45:4-11; 50:15-21]

So we often don't know how God is working, why He does what He does, or what the outcome will be.

But we must believe it will work out for our eternal salvation according to His will, IF we are determined to remain faithful.

* We face sickness or death in the family. What will the outcome be? "Who knows?"

* We are persecuted and opposed like the Jews were -- things look bleak. Maybe we are imprisoned, sentenced to death. How will God work that out? "Who knows?"

* We are trying to convert someone. Will they obey? "Who knows?"

* You are considering moving to take a new job in another city. What job and what city would be the best to choose to do God's will? "Who knows?"

* We have conflict in the church or in our family. What will the outcome be? "Who knows?"

* We face trying financial problems. How will it work out in the end? "Who knoweth?"

We don't know HOW God will resolve these problems, WHO He will use, or WHAT events will occur. These are not revealed in the Bible. What we can know for sure is that God will work for our ultimate salvation, and He can help us be faithful in every circumstance IF we are willing to be.

"All things work together for good for them that love God. .." -- Romans 8:28.

Therefore, we must not try to interpret the events of life as a message God is using to tell us what He does or does not want us to do.

Some people try to "read between the lines" of everyday events to find a message from God.

They look at these events as signs God communicates to them by.

* Some event happens and people say, "I knew the Spirit was leading me to..." or "God must be trying to tell you something."

* Dr. James Dobson, in his books Preparing for Adolescence and Life on the Edge, says we can know God's will for our lives by looking for open or closed doors of opportunity. Hindrances to our purposes are seen as God telling us He doesn't want us to do a thing. But if barriers are removed, that means He wants us to do it.

Example: A man wanted to run for public office so he suggested he should try it and see if things worked well. If so, God must have wanted him to do that.

This uses providence as an avenue by which God reveals His will to us.

There are two problems: First, we don't understand what God is doing, so how can anything be revealed by it? Second, the DEVIL is working in our lives too. When we interpret events, how do we know whether God is doing them or Satan is? Examples:

* Mordecai faced serious problems because he refused to bow to Haman. Did this prove God wanted him to bow?

* Esther saw many barriers hindering her from talking to the king. She might even have died. Should she have concluded God wanted her to keep quiet?

* Joseph was sold as a slave and then imprisoned. Did this mean his course of action was wrong? No, he later understood this was all to accomplish God's will.

* Job faced all kinds of hindrances. Should he have interpreted this as a sign God wanted him to live differently? No, it was a temptation from Devil! But Job did not know this. He faced the problems because his conduct was RIGHT, not because it was WRONG.

The idea that you can look for signs in your life to tell you what God wants you to do is nothing but superstition. It is looking for omens like heathen folks do. Providence is not revelation!

When people begin to interpret events in their lives as signs from God, the proper response is that of Mordecai: "WHO KNOWETH?"

The way to learn what God does or does not want you to do is, not by looking for signs in your life, but by searching the Scriptures and obeying them (2 Tim. 3:16,17). When God's word does not reveal a thing to be acceptable or unacceptable, then we must use our best judgment and trust God to bless our lives to work out for good in His service.


D. God's Providence Uses People to Accomplish His Purposes, Yet It Respects Man's Free Will.


Some people think that, if God has determined to work things out according to His will, this means people don't have a choice in what they will do.

The story of Esther shows people have a choice to do good or evil. The decision they make determines whether God will reward of punish them.

Esther had a choice -- 4:8,14

Mordecai urged her to defend the Jews. She did and God rewarded her.

Mordecai realized Esther could also refuse to help. If she did, she would perish, but God would still accomplish His promises.

Haman had a choice.

God did not force Haman to be evil. God tempts no man (Jas. 1:13). Haman was evil because he gave in to his own sinful pride (1 John 2:15-17; Jas. 1:14,15). As a result of his choice to sin, he was punished.

But despite Haman's sin, God accomplished His purpose. He could have chosen to be righteous, and God would still have accomplished His purpose.

Likewise, we today are free to do good or evil. Either way God will accomplish his purposes. But whether we are rewarded or punished depends on our choice.

Joshua 24:15 -- Joshua challenged the people to choose whether or not to serve God.

Revelation 22:17 -- WHOSOEVER WILL may take of the water of life freely.

Mark 16:15,16 -- The gospel should be preached to all. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned.

Like Esther and Haman, we have the power to choose to obey God or not. If we obey, He can use us for good in accomplishing His will, just as He used Esther. And we will be eternally rewarded. If we disobey, He will still accomplish His purposes in spite of us, just as He did regarding Haman. But we will be punished eternally.

This means each of us has a choice to make. Will you choose to obey God so He can use His providence to bless your life and strengthen you to receive eternal life?

Note: If you would like to study further about God's character and power, we have a number of other study materials on our web site that should interest you. Please see the links listed below.

(C) Copyright 1989, David E. Pratte
Local churches and individuals may, within limits, distribute this Bible study guide for free, but not for sale.  Web sites may link to this page but not reproduce it. For details click here for our copyright guidelines.

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Topics for further Bible study

Bible Teaching about the Holy Spirit
Is the Holy Spirit a Being in the Godhead?
Number of Individuals in God
Bible Inspiration: Infallible, Inerrant, Verbal
Direct Revelation, Miracles, & Tongues
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

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