The Power and Providence of God: Genesis 45: 1 - 15 & Acts 27 : 13 -- 22
By Roger Salter
Special to VIRTUEONLINE
November 11, 2016
From Holy Scripture we may posit the extensive, infallible providence of God and his sovereign reign over all things visible and invisible. The government of God is powerful, wise, holy, ingenious, detailed, intricate, and universal. Not through any merit of their own it favours the people of God entirely through the merits of his Son Jesus Christ. The trail of the redeemed on earth is gilded on the heavenly control panel and traced through history with the utmost care.
The providence of God is moral. It has to do with the the mentality and motivation of mankind. Divine control is effected through the minds and actions of human beings. Their intent is guided, influenced, permitted by him. He originates the good and orchestrates evil toward the good.
The providence of God is material. His will is wrought through the features and forces of creation: the physical and phenomenal realities of nature.
The dominion of the Lord is total. God is indisputably in command.
His rule is incomprehensible in its exercise. It remains a mystery until it is explained by revelation and results: by as much as he chooses to disclose. His purpose in its appearance and outworking is often baffling and painful. It does not contribute to our constant yearning for cosiness. It decrees comfort and calamities, calm and conflict. God's judgments are for the correction of his people and the condemnation of those who oppose him.
We pass through the phases of his providence in faith in his good purpose. We judge neither by sight nor sense, and not on a short-term basis. We will never see the ending of any story until its meaning is unfolded to us in heaven. There divine wisdom will be fully vindicated.
The Faith of Abraham.
We must think of the faith of Abraham and how it persisted even in the face of an unlikely order to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22), or as to how the patriarch's trust in God was implied in his question, "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" [Genesis 18:25]
The case of Joseph reveals how the Lord works through the evil devices of men. Joseph's brothers plot to kill him until prevented by Reuben and then they rid themselves of this annoying dreamer by selling him off to eventual slavery in Egypt [Genesis 37]. But their evil contrivance turns our for good in which God receives the credit [Genesis 45: 5-8].
The brothers are guilty of evil intent and action. God turns their foul play to the profit of his people - the family of Jacob. He overrules the course of evil and displays his ingenuity in producing good from the wicked performance of sinful men.
His sovereignty and righteousness are to be perceived in everything; the petty things as we rate them, the important things as we deem them; but more amazingly and importantly in the principal event in history - the saving accomplishment of Christ.
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited to you by miracles, wonders, and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him"[Acts 2: 22-24].
Paul in the Storm.
Paul's ordeal en route to trial in Rome illustrates the divine control over and intervention in all events, circumstances, and conditions. Paul and his companions become caught up in the violent forces of nature - a powerful storm - an angry sea - and a dangerous shipwreck.
Everything contributed to the loss of human hope and imminent destruction of every life on board the frail vessel. But Paul receives a divine guarantee that cancels all possible hurt and harm. The Lord makes a definite pledge as to the outcome of the tragic event [Acts 27: 23 -26]. Every single life will be spared and each individual will make it safely, though shaken, to shore.
This is a decree corresponding to election to eternal salvation. But this purpose of God is achieved through the use of means indicated by God. They are clearly described and our responsibility is to heed and attend to them. The word of God points to preservation and life that follows divine protection. We are to follow the Lord's revealed will toward the fulfilment of his decretive will secret from us. His fixed purpose fixes everything necessary to its completion.
The apostle has to enforce the divine command against mistaken human intention (the sailors, the centurion, and the soldiers). Paul exemplifies the power of divine persuasion and enabling (the effective word).
God governs and guides his good purpose and perfect plan through involvement in all that occurs, intervention in countering evil, and instruction as to his wise commands. His influences moral and material achieve his designs - even through the desires and designs of men. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases" [Proverbs 21:1].
The perplexities that we register are due to at least two things. a) God's declaration that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways" declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts".\
b) We are residing in a world that is under judgment for man's revolt against the Lord. Judgment and mercy are exercised simultaneously and constantly. We lack the capacity to read God's ways with accuracy. We cannot imagine that our thoughts run parallel to his.
Within our flawed reason and mental limitations God's chosen ones live in the light of his gracious pledge. "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 "[Romans 8:28]. God's concern for his people may be concealed at times but his commitment to us is unvarying and our sure consolation. We never trust our own speculation or rely on our own unaided wisdom: "Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment" [Isaiah 50: 10b - 11]. Worldly philosophy fails [Ecclesiastes 8: 16-17].
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