2 Chronicles 16:9 states: “The eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” The puritan, Stephen Charnock, develops the theme of God’s providence beginning with this truth declared in Chronicles.
Yet, because of our fallen nature, we are fearful and forget that the Lord’s eyes are on us. Fear drives us to ignore the Lord’s instructions and to follow our own ways, but we must remember that the Lord’s providence and grace are limitless and constant. He gives strong support to his people. He knows what we need, and he will never fail to provide it at exactly the right time and in exactly the right way.
To aid us that we might rest in the strength of his divine providence, we come to the concluding chapter of Genesis, and in particular, the account of Joseph, upon Jacob’s death. Here we find Joseph marshalling the truth of God’s providence. As you prepare to hear this glorious truth unpacked, it might be beneficial for you to consider several truths to navigate this comforting doctrine (Derek Thomas notes these truths in a forward to a new edition of Charnock’s study on providence.)
First, “God’s providence is designed to do good for his people. God takes meticulous care to ensure our ultimate blessing. His scrupulous care in the unfolding of providence, despite any appearance to the contrary, is calculated to achieve the redemption of his people.” All things work together for their good (Rom. 8:28) – good things and evil things.
Second, as Creator, “God has both the power and the moral right to order events and circumstances as he pleases. Nothing and no one can hinder his ultimate plan for his people. However difficult the providence may seem to our finite understanding, God knows the end from the beginning. His decree is always effective.” In the darkest hour, God is still in perfect control. His ultimate purpose for us cannot be hindered.
Third, Charnock, “like the authors of the Westminster Confession, understood providence through the lens of first and second causes.” Thomas continues, “What God, the first Cause, wills to occur happens through agents (second causes). God wills and man wills. We see only the human agent and often draw wrong conclusions.” But, in the words of William Cowper’s hymn, “behind a frowning providence there hides a smiling face.” In the midst of a terrible storm, we may lift our heads and see that his hand is on the tiller.
Finally, Thomas notes, “To ensure a robust view of providence and maintain that God is not the author of sin, Charnock introduces a fourth premise: God brings about his will in two ways – he sometimes initiates something directly and sometimes permits events to occur that he has not directly initiated.” For example, he allows Satan to do his evil work (as we see in the book of Job), without being complicit in the evil itself. Even if we cannot understand it completely, we are better off for having experienced an evil (and the grace that sustains us) than we would be if the evil had never occurred.
With these thoughts in mind, I urge you to join us this coming Lord’s Day as Chad unpacks for us these truths in the life of Joseph as he responds to his brothers’ fears:
“’Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them” (Gen. 50:19-21).
Michelle and I will miss you this weekend but are grateful for the opportunity to attend the Ligonier National Conference in Orlando. May the Lord’s blessings be with you.