Providence and Eternal Purpose — Michael Grooms

God, in His infinite power and foreknowledge, has had a plan to bring about the redemption of mankind and to fulfill His will since the beginning of creation. When Adam and Eve sinned by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, they experienced the shame of sin for the first time and hid from God in their shame (Gen. 3:8). At this time, God foretold of the One who would bruise the head of Satan in defeat and bring redemption from sin (Gen. 3:15). Thus began God’s Scheme of Redemption, culminating in Jesus bringing salvation to humanity and establishing His church (Matt. 16:18). John writes that it was for this purpose that Jesus was manifested, to destroy the works of the Devil (1 John 3:8). Paul writes of this as God’s “eternal purpose,” which was hidden through the ages as a mystery but was accomplished in Christ Jesus so that the manifold wisdom of God would be declared by His church (Eph. 3:9-11).

The word “providence” is found only once in the King James Version of the Bible, and that is a reference to the governor, Felix, by Paul’s accuser, Tertullus (Acts 24:2). The root of the word “providence” is “provide,” and it portrays the idea of provision made in forethought. The term is not used in the Bible concerning God, but the concept of God’s providence permeates the Scriptures and is seen as His redemptive plan unfolds throughout the Old Testament. The ultimate manifestation of God’s providence is seen in the Son of God as he came to this earth in the form of a baby, lived His life as an example to us, and ultimately became our sacrifice as an atonement for our sin.

The providence of God is dependent upon the foreknowledge of God. God knows what is yet to come, and He works His will to accomplish His purpose. He undeniably declares this fact in the Scriptures:

“Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed, I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Is. 46:9–11, NKJV).

One is mistaken to believe that God’s providence is solely and primarily for the good of any man.  God’s providence is according to His purpose and is ultimately for His glory.  Note in the passage above that God states, “I will do all my pleasure” and “I have purposed it.”  It is God’s pleasure, not man’s, that must be satisfied.  It is God’s purpose, not man’s, that must be fulfilled.  In Isaiah 63:11-14, a remembrance is made of God’s providential care that brought the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and delivered them from Pharaoh’s army by leading them through the divided waters of the Red Sea.  While it is true that God was providentially caring for His people to deliver them, Isaiah twice emphasizes that ultimately this was done to God’s glory.  Notice first that the text says God was “dividing the water before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,” and then, “So You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name.” God’s providence is according to His purpose and in keeping with His desire. When the child of God is seeking to glorify God, then God’s purpose and the care of His children align so that the providential care of a Christian is according to God’s purpose.

This is seen in the writing of Paul found in Romans 8:28, which states: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” People often misconstrue this verse to state that God will always work things out to best benefit the Christian. In fact, the verse states that all things work together (indicating a cumulative result) for good (indicating a right conclusion) according to His purpose (indicating the end glorifies God). For the faithful child of God, this is the best result possible. God is glorified! If one must suffer, let their suffering glorify God! If one must be tempted, let them prevail to God’s glory! If all things work together to God’s glory, then good has been accomplished.

Does this mean that God does not care for the well-being of His children? Nothing could be farther from the truth! Peter reminds us that because God cares for us, we can cast all our cares on Him as we humble ourselves under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6-7). In Matthew 6:25-34, our Lord assures us that if we humble ourselves to God in seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, He will care for us. Jesus pointed to God’s care of the birds and the lilies to remind us that God is in control and He values us far more than any other aspect of His creation. God knows what you need before you know to ask! He desires that His children lean on Him for guidance and care. 

An excellent example of God’s providence working for the good of His purpose is found in the example of Joseph. He was hated by his brothers, who sold him into slavery (Gen. 37). He then found himself falsely accused and imprisoned (Gen. 39). Later, God would use Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, which foretold of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine (Gen. 41). Joseph was exalted to Egypt’s second highest position to prepare for the seven years of famine (Gen. 41). When Joseph’s brothers, who had sold him into slavery, came to him for food, he was able to provide for them and his father (Gen. 42). When Joseph revealed himself to his brothers, he said, “God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So now it was not you who sent me here, but God…” (Gen. 45:7-8). From the salvation of this family came the nation of Israel, through which Jesus Christ came to bring salvation. Joseph understood that God’s purpose was more significant than his welfare and that God had ultimately worked things out for good, according to His purpose.

Let us, like Joseph, trust God’s plan and submit to His will, placing ourselves under His providential care. He cares for you!

Michael serves on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger and is the pulpit minister for the Boiling Springs congregation in Boiling Springs, SC.

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