Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 10 September 2018

Providence Time and chance


God from eternity, decrees or permits all things that come to pass, and continuously upholds, directs and governs all creatures and all events; yet so as not in any manner is the Deity the author of sin nor does he destroy the free will and responsibility of intelligent creatures. Hebrews 1:3; Daniel 4:34-35; Psalms 135:6; Proverbs 15:3 Matthew 10:29-31; Acts 17:25-28; Romans 1:24,26,28; James 1:13,14,17

It is common to speak of “providence,” but the common way of speaking of it shows it is not common to understand the subject. So many things are ascribed to “providence” that the reflecting mind, acting apart from the enlightenment of the Scriptures, would be liable either to doubt whether there is such a thing as providence at all, or to conclude that all things are “providence,” which would practically be the same thing, for in that case, the central idea of providence, as a special discrimination and influence in the shaping of circumstances in particular cases, would be lost.

First, God’s ability to foreknow and foreordain is clearly stated in the Bible. Jehovah himself sets forth as proof of his Godship this ability to foreknow and foreordain events of salvation and deliverance, as well as acts of judgment and punishment, and then to bring such events to fulfillment. His chosen people are witnesses of these facts. (Isa 44:6-9; 48:3-8) Such divine foreknowledge and foreordination form the basis for all true prophecy. (Isa 42:9; Jer 50:45; Am 3:7, 8) God challenges the nations opposing his people to furnish proof of the godship they claim for their mighty ones and their idol-gods, calling on them to do so by foretelling similar acts of salvation or judgment and then bringing them to pass. Their impotence in this respect demonstrates their idols to be ‘mere wind and unreality.’—Isa 41:1-10, 21-29; 43:9-15; 45:20, 21.

A second factor to be considered is the free moral agency of God’s intelligent creatures. The Scriptures show that God extends to such creatures the privilege and responsibility of free choice, of exercising free moral agency (De 30:19, 20; Jos 24:15), thereby making them accountable for their acts. (Ge 2:16, 17; 3:11-19; Ro 14:10-12; Heb 4:13) They are thus not mere automatons, or robots. Man could not truly have been created in “God’s image” if he were not a free moral agent. (Ge 1:26, 27; see FREEDOM.) Logically, there should be no conflict between God’s foreknowledge (as well as his foreordaining) and the free moral agency of his intelligent creatures.

Like Ruth the Book of Esther is an illustration. It records a slice of life out of the Exile period that illustrates a great revelation. While the Book of Ruth illustrates God's redemption, that of Esther illustrates God's providence.

Providence means foresight. Our word comes from Latin and means to see the affairs of life before they happen. The acquired meaning of providence, what it has come to mean through usage, is activity resulting from foresight. We can see at once that people can never exercise providence as God can. We have very limited powers of foresight. We do not know what a day will bring forth. God, on the other hand, foresees all things and can act because of that foreknowledge.

The doctrine of providence is that God both possesses and exercises absolute power over all the works of His hands. The Book of Esther illustrates God's providence. The writer did not speak of God directly, but God's acting as a result of His foresight is obvious in what he wrote. Even though God hid Himself in the Book as a whole, he was at work in the life of Esther.

Esther reveals three things about divine providence.

First, it reveals the method of providence.

It shows that even though people do not acknowledge God's presence He is always at work. His control becomes especially clear at the end of the book (Est 10:3). Events had turned around completely from the way they were at the beginning of the book. Instead of being in peril, the Jews were now at peace. God not only rules over the major issues in life, but He also uses the trivialities of life to accomplish His purposes. Some of these trivialities were:

the king's decision to summon Vashti after he got drunk,
Vashti's refusal,
Haman's hatred for Mordecai,
the king's insomnia, and
the passage his servant read to him.

God's providence is all-inclusive. That is part of its method. No person or detail of life escapes God's control: "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" (Rom 8:28). "All things" includes all individuals and all events -- whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Second, Esther reveals the principles of providence.

God proceeds on the basis of perfect knowledge: intimate, accurate, absolute knowledge (Psa 11:4).

Another principle of His providence is His undeviating righteousness. God's providence works in harmony with man's freedom. It never coerces people. The king made his own decisions; God did not compel him to act as he did. Haman plotted his own intrigues, made his own arrangements, built his own gallows. The same was true of Mordecai and Esther. Yet the sphere in which they made their decisions was God's sovereignty (Acts 17:28: "In Him we live and move..."). Haman built his gallows for Mordecai, but God hanged Haman on it!

A third principle of God's providence is that of absolute power. God is great enough to give people genuine freedom and yet cause things to turn out the way He wants them to. God causes human freedom to contribute to His divine purpose.

Third, Esther reveals the results of providence.

On the human level there are two results:

Those who recognize divine providence receive great confidence and courage.
However, those who do not recognize it receive panic and punishment.

We can see these results most clearly in the characters of (1) Esther and Mordecai, and (2) Haman.

On the divine level the result of providence is that God progresses toward His ultimate goal: he is, of course, Yahweh -- The One who "will be", the One who is constantly "becoming"! Throughout all of Scripture we see this identical mighty movement toward the absolute fulfillment of His purpose.

The message of this book is that God exists, and God acts through history to accomplish His purposes regardless of whether humans acknowledge Him or not.

There are many arguments for the existence of God: the argument from providence is one of these. The fact that human events are harmonizing with God's ultimate purposes as He has revealed these in Scripture testifies to God's existence. When people forget God, He still molds history and governs life in harmony with His purposes. We cannot escape God's hand; we only change our destiny. We become His friends or His foes by our attitude toward Him (Dan 5:22,23).

How do we apply the message of this book? By taking God into account. Trust Him and cooperate with Him, or you will suffer destruction. God's providence may seem very impersonal and austere. However, William Cowper has reminded us that, "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face." Rom 8:28 is perhaps the most concise word on the providence of God that the Scriptures contain. God will complete His plans. We determine our own destiny as we cooperate with His will or oppose it.

Our choice affects our destiny, but it does not frustrate His plan. Consequently it is very important that we know God's plans and make them known to others. He has revealed His plans in His promises in Scripture. Therefore we should pay very careful attention to the promises of God. The covenants of promise are His comprehensive formal undertakings. Even though many people in the world today ignore God, His plans will become reality eventually. This fact should make us confident and optimistic in the present.
Time and chance
11 I returned to see under the sun that the swift do not have the race, nor the mighty ones the battle, nor do the wise also have the food, nor do the understanding ones also have the riches, nor do even those having knowledge have the favor; because time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all

There is such a thing as chance, as distinct from what God does. The Bible declares this (Eccles. 9:11) and the experience of every day teaches it. Every moment teems with the incidents of chance. God has control of all chance; but all chance is not controlled. It is controlled when His purpose requires it.

It is impossible that time and chance in the sense of events in our lives should happen by random to believers, without any control of God. Do "all things work together for good" to us, or only some things?

- "Time and chance" is probably a Hebraism for death- whether wise (spiritually) or strong or swift, the same thing, "time and chance", happens to all; i. e. death. Ecc. 9:12 backs this up: "For man also knoweth not his time (i. e. of death). . as the birds that are caught in the snare (i. e. killed); so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them". The context back in v. 4,5 is clearly talking about the universality of death.

- "Chance" does not mean 'random' or uncontrolled events. The Hebrew root by contrast implies something specifically ordained- often by God.

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