Friday, February 04, 2011

A meditation on sovereignty and providence

A world under Providence

Sometimes in the course of human events, specifically in the course of a human life, it is hard to trace the loving, divine Hand. It is all so jumbled, so confused, so many chapters where evil seems to have the upper hand: Things not fair and apparently not just; broken promises and failed relations; people we trust not living up to their potential; communities and nations abiding by backroom deals and dirty politics… the list is endless. It is so hard to see divine care in it all, not to mention the Love of a heavenly Abba.

In times like this it is good to be reminded of bedrock principles that run far deeper than any stream of human experience; yea, running deep to the bedrock of the origins of life itself, principles that will outlast a nation and outlast a world… principles so true that they reach beneath every human life and then apply specifically to each individual.

Such is the principle of Providence; and, the related principle of Sovereignty.

When we say that God is sovereign, it is a grand, mysterious confession that He is in control, and is working out a good purpose, even from the deeds of darkness. When we speak of His providence, it is a personal confession that God is lovingly at work in the life of a nation or person. This is the principle touched on in Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

This is also revealed in Genesis 50:20, where Joseph says to the brothers who sold him into slavery, “Brothers, do not fear, I do not hate you and I do not seek your lives. Yes, you sold me into slavery and would have sold my very life, but I see more clearly now than ever that God meant it for good.” This verse is worth memorizing and bringing to bear on every human ill: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, for the saving of many souls alive.”

Such is the principle of Sovereignty, God's ultimate control of the universe, and the pointed confession of Providence, God's loving power at work in the course of human events.

This is true, it is mysterious and remarkable… and all but covered up by today’s society. Consider how hard it is for an electronically saturated world of instant response, where minds are a million miles wide and about a quarter-inch deep, to conceive and enter even the first course of Sovereignty! Providence is a working out of the wisdom of the ages – never rushing, never panicking, never forcing, but silently, inexorably flowing forth the good of divine will. It flows in subterranean streams of human spirit, here bursting forth into a vast river of delight, there pooling into a stunning lake of clearest water, where humans can slake their burning thirst if only they will drink. How hard, though, for a Facebook driven, Twitter laden, Instant Message saturated, Text addicted mind to receive this Sovereignty! A Sovereignty not superficial but more real than the world – how hard for a consumer culture to receive it!

For those with eyes to see, for those who desire to seek, it will be found. Not easily. Not in the next Twitter, or even in the next quadrillion Tweets, but somewhere in the deep recesses of the Spirit it can be found… and bursting forth in newness of life. It changes everything.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn lived a life somewhat like Joseph’s, rife with betrayal, false imprisonment, slavery, and pain. While in Stalin’s prison camps of death, he despaired of faith and life. But through that prison, God became real. He later wrote: “Bless you prison for having been in my life... God of the Universe! I believe again! Though I renounced You, You were with me!”
And now with measuring cup returned to me
Scooping up the living water
God of the Universe! I believe again!
Though I renounced you, you were with me!

A better confession of Providence cannot be written – complete with personal response.

One whole providence of God

George MacDonald goes so far as to say that life in its whole, in its completeness, is one providence of God. In other words, God is acting, not just in isolated events [such as we call good things or serendipitous occurrence, etc.] but in everything, for our good.

People talk about special providences. I believe in the providences, but not in the specialty. I do not believe that God lets the thread of my affairs go for six days, and on the seventh evening takes it up for a moment. The so-called special providences are no exception to the rule--they are common to all men at all moments. But it is a fact that God's care is more evident in some instances of it than in others to the dim and often bewildered vision of humanity. Upon such instances men seize and call them providences. It is well that they can; but it would be gloriously better if they could believe that the whole matter is one grand providence.

“Life is no series of chances with a few providences sprinkled between to keep up a justly failing belief, but one providence of God.”

Friends, consider this, and live!


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