Universal Providence


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God has many attributes and among those attributes is His absolute sovereignty.


This attribute of Almighty God is one that His people seem to be afraid to admit to with commitment. To admit that God is sovereign is to realize that we must be in complete obedience to His Will. It is to realize that He has the power of life and death over us just as the absolute monarchs of old had the power of life and death over their subjects.


This attribute is like an ocean that has neither bank nor bottom and one may not lightly launch out into it, no matter how strongly one feels, without a divine compass, and an anchor in Christ.


Following and in consequence of the first witness that: Our God has an absolute power and right of dominion over his creatures, to dispose and determine for them that which seems good to Him, is our second witness or landmark: Universal providence, or that which sustains His creation and by which all inferior causes are guided to their predestined conclusion, not withstanding all the possible accidents that could happen to obstruct or divert them. When we recognize that the creatures of His creation have from time to time deviated from those first rules that He established at the beginning does not in any way diminish the doctrine of the sovereignty of God but is rather an illustration of it. This deviation of His creatures shows that His creatures are still in His hand as the clay is in the hand of the potter. So it is that we find that their innate propensities are sometimes suspended and at other times they are acted on beyond those propensities, that is, beyond the laws of nature and these deviations are not for some private concern but rather to serve some special and divine end which God had predestined to be done.


Let us look at several instances of the above:


1. First let us think of those things in creation without life. Gen. 7:11 tells us that the windows of heaven opened and the fountains of the deep broke up in spite of the boundaries that had been set and all of this to drown the ungodly men of the time of Noah.


a. The Red Sea divided and stood up as a wall to make way for the Israelites to escape the onslaught of Pharaoh in Ex. 14:22, "And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon dry ground; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left."


b. The sun and moon (the earth) stood still until God's people were avenged on their enemies in Joshua 10:13, "And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies...."


c. In Judges 5:20 we read that the stars fought against Sisera, "They fought from heaven; the stars in their courses fought against Sisera."


d. And in 1 Kings 20:11 as a sign to King Hezekiah that God would keep his word about his healing the sun went backward on the dial of Ahaz, "And Isaiah, the prophet, cried unto the Lord; and he brought the shadow ten degrees backward, by which it had gone down in the dial of Ahaz."


e. We all know the story from childhood of the fiery furnace and how it was so hot that it destroyed those who came close to cast in the three Hebrew children but did not so much as touch a hair on their bodies and they came forth from the furnace without even the smell of fire in their clothing. We read this in Daniel 3:22,27, "Therefore, because the kings' commandment was urgent and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." "And the princes, governors and captains, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of the fire had passed on them."


f. Just consider the winds and the waves so mighty and so very fearful to mankind, so destructive when we think of the great storms and hurricanes that sweep in over the land, we might even think them lawless in their nature, these creations that are not even living creatures but they always fulfill His word, "Fire, hail; snow, vapours; stormy wind fulfilling his word:..." Psalm 148:8.


In the above we have only touched on those places in the Old Testament that show without doubt the great sovereignty of our God. Were we to look into the New Testament we should again find many instances just as great and wonderful.


One New Testament scripture that attests to the greatness and the sovereignty of God is Hebrews 1:1-3, "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged out sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."


In this passage we see that He has been appointed the heir of "all things" so we know He is equal to the Father, in the Jewish tradition the heir is equal to the Father but more than that we are told that the Son is the one who did the actual creating, "by whom he also created the world" the Son had to have all power in order to create. A true Creator, one who makes something from nothing, can not be limited in power. We know that He was not limited in power for in another place Matt. 28:18 we read, "And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying All power (or authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth."


Finally the Hebrews passage says "...and upholding all things by the word of his power." We are being told that what happens here in nature, among men, all those things He was given power over are still in His hands or rather in the power of His word. It was His Word that created and it is His Word that holds the atoms and the molecules together and it is His Word that holds the whole plan of the world and the universes together until the end that He has predetermined has come to pass.


2. Secondly, let us look at living creatures who do not have the power of reason and who acted in manners that were opposed to the ways of nature or the so called laws of nature.


a. Going once more to the flood that took place during Noah's time, see how willingly the animals came to where Noah had built the ark and not only came but entered into the ark without being forced, it was an ark constructed for them as well as it was for Noah.


Let us remember that God called these animals, of those that were considered clean they came by sevens and those that were not considered clean they came two by two. Let's look at Gen. 7:9, "There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female as God had commanded Noah." Noah had no need to go hunting. But this docility was not according to their nature. God chose them and sent them to the ark and saved them.


b. Again, consider the plagues upon the land of Egypt when Moses was trying to get Pharaoh to release God's people. There were frogs, lice, locusts, etc., all of these attacked the land and the people which was certainly outside the range of the bounds set by God so that even the magicians confessed that the finger of God was in the plagues. Ex. 8:19 reads, "then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, This is the finger of God: and Pharaoh's heart was hardened, and he harkened not unto them, as the Lord had said."


Also, notice in the same chapter how strangely these animals departed from their work when it was done, "And the Lord did according to the word of Moses; and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the villages, and out of the fields." (verse 13 of Exodus 8)


c. Consider that a dumb ass reproved a prophet who was pursuing his own destruction by trying to circumvent the Will of God. Look at 2 Peter 2:15-16, Peter is here talking of false teachers, "Who have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray following the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, But was rebuked for his iniquity; the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet."


d. It would take too much space here to quote the entire story that appears in 1 Kings 13 concerning the disobedient prophet that was sent by God out of Judah to Bethel to the altar of Jereboam but we do need to consider the very final part of this story. Because this prophet disobeyed God and listened to another man and was going home by a different route than that established by God, evil befell him. He was riding on an ass when he was attacked by a lion. The prophet was killed by the lion but not eaten, the ass was not killed. The lion did not run away but stayed and guarded the body and the ass until the man who had sent him the wrong way came and retrieved both the ass and the body and buried the prophet. Most unusual actions for a wild lion.


Now let's look at a couple of verses from that chapter in 1 Kings, chapter 13 verses 26 and 28, "And when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord; therefore, the Lord had delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke unto him." "And he went and found his carcass cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcass; the lion had not eaten the carcass nor torn the ass." Our God was in control.


e. Then there is the story of Elijah being fed by the ravens. There was Elijah by the brook Cherith and those carrion birds brought him his food from day to day, twice a day. "And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening, and he drank of the brook." 1 Kings 17:6


I can imagine ravens finding meat, but for Elijah it would have had to have been from a clean animal and one that had been killed for food not just any meat. God would not have caused his prophet to sin by eating something that was unclean. So it stands to reason that they had to be directed to that which was edible by a Jewish prophet. And how many ravens seek out bread for any reason at all, none that I know of. They had to be under the absolute direction of Almighty God. God sent Elijah there and God took care to furnish the food. His ravens acted out of character.


f. Then there is the most famous story of all, the story that all unbelievers and scientists love to attack. The story of Jonah and the whale. True the fish is not absolutely referred to as a whale but both the Hebrew and the Greek speaks of a giant fish. Strong's concordance does extend the Greek to mean a whale but all we can be sure of is that God prepared a great fish of whatever kind. Logically it could have been a whale for there are records of others being swallowed by whales.


The great fish not only swallowed Jonah but kept him down in its stomach for a specified length of time and then threw him up at a specific place at a specific time so that Jonah could pick up where he had left off in his disobedience to God. Now obedient.


Jonah 1:17 reads, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Note the specific length of time.


Jonah 2:10 reads, "And the Lord spoke unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land." Note in the following verses that we read that the city of Nineveh was just three (3) days journey perhaps no more distance than it had been when God first spoke to him.


Odd things for a fish of any size to do.


g. Then there is the one that the children love so much but which we fail to use to teach this great doctrine of the sovereignty of God, Daniel in the den of lions. I think the children love it because it shows Gods great love for his man who is in his place doing the job God has appointed him to do. Children are interested more in love than they are most anything else, if parents would only remember that. They want to know they are loved and in this story they see that Daniel is loved and loved by God for He protects him. They want to see their fathers in this picture, the one who loves and protects. There is so much to be taught from this story.


Let's look at a couple of verses that speaks to our subject, "My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions mouths, that they have not hurt me, forasmuch as before him innocence was found in me; and also before thee, 0 king, have I done no hurt." Dan. 6:22. And in the same chapter we read in the 24th verse these words, "And the king commanded, and they brought those men who had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had mastery of them, and broke all their bones in pieces before they came to the bottom of the den."


Again odd behavior for a lion just as we saw in the previous instance the lions obeyed the commands of God and dealt with people as God desired.


Who can deny that there is a sovereign power at work in this creation. For it would take sovereign intention to restrain and change the course of nature when He wills. Who would have the power to do such things except the One Who created that which He intended, restrained and changed, for none but He can understand the nature of nature. Man, busy trying through his science, can never quite retain even the most tenuous hold on the nature of the animals of God's creation.