History is not a haphazard and meaningless series of events.
God, not blind chance, has authored the course and destiny of the universe.
Indeed, he is active in his creation to ensure that his eternal plan will be
accomplished to the letter. God ‘works all things according to the purpose of
his own will’ (Eph 1:11).
God’s plan, sometimes referred to as the Decrees of God, is
eternally fixed; it does not depend on the choices we make. Scripture calls it
‘the eternal plan’ (Eph 3:11) – therefore it cannot change; otherwise it would
not be eternal. Scripture insists that God’s purpose does not fluctuate: ‘The
counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations’
(Ps 33:11) ‘But He is unique, and who can make Him change? And whatever His soul
desires, that He does’ (Job 23:13).
Human history is the story God wrote from eternity past. ‘He
has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the
earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their
dwellings’ (Acts 17:26). David acknowledged: ‘in Your book they all were
written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them’ (Ps
139:16). Even man’s rebellion, including the worst sin, does not surprise God:
‘what has been determined shall be done’ (Dan 11:36).
Christ’s death took place according to ‘the determined
purpose and foreknowledge of God’ and even the actions of those who condemned
and crucified him were ‘to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined
before to be done’ (Acts 2:23; 4:28).
The redeemed freely confess that God ‘chose us in Him before
the foundation of the world.’ Even our good works ‘God prepared beforehand that
we should walk in them’ (Eph 1:4; 2:10). People who remain obstinate in
unbelief, ‘they stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were
appointed.’ Lost people are ‘the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction’
because ‘the LORD has made all for Himself, yes, even the wicked for the day of
doom.’ On the other hand, the redeemed ‘He had prepared beforehand for glory’ (1
Pet 2:8; Rom 9:22; Prov 16:4; Rom 9:23).
God begun to fulfill his eternal plan by creating the
universe. Further than that, he has been and is still bringing his plan to
fruition by his work called ‘providence’. The work of creating the universe has
long been finished; in providence, God continues to work in his creation. ‘Thus
the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the
seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh
day from all His work which He had done’ This same God, as the Lord Jesus
informs us, ‘has been working until now’ (Gen 2:1, 2; John 5:6, 17).
Providence is God’s work by which he preserves all creation;
he is active in all that happens in the universe, and directs all things to
their predetermined end. Though his hands are not seen, God exercises absolute
control over all. ‘For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom
be glory forever. Amen’ (Rom 11:36).
God preserves his creation. The universe, while having a real
and distinct existence from God, does not exist by its own power. The universe
depends completely and continually on God. He upholds and maintains all things
by his omnipotence. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being.’ ‘In Him all
things consist.’ The Lord ‘upholds all things by the word of His power’ (Acts
17:28; Col 1:17; Heb 1:3.
God is operative in all things that take place in the
universe; nothing is excluded from his rule and government. He controls the
physical world (Job 37:6-13), the animals (Ps 104:21-27), human events (Isa
10:12-15), and the individual’s circumstances (Prov 16:9; 1 Sam 2:6-8). He even
controls what to us seem to be accidental happenings. ‘The lot is cast into the
lap, but its every decision is from the LORD’ (Prov 16:33). God also controls
the free actions of men (Ex 12:36; Ps 33:14, 15; Prov 21:1; 19:21), whether they
be morally good (Phil 2:13; 4:13; 2 Cor 12:9, 10; Eph 2:10; Ps 119:36; Gal
5:22-25), or sinful actions (Ps 76:10; Acts 4:27, 28; 2 Sam 16:10; Amos 3:6).
A tough question immediately arises in our minds. What does
God, righteous and holy as he is, have to do with wickedness? What is the exact
relationship between providence and sin?
Man is a created moral being; he makes decisions and choices
according to his will. Man’s actions are really his actions and therefore he is
also responsible before God for his good and evil. Man is always and in every
case held accountable. Nevertheless God is in a certain sense involved in
the same human decisions and actions.
An illustration is in order. Joseph’s jealous brothers were
guilty for selling him to the Ishmaelites; no wonder they were terrified when
then met him many years later in Egypt. But Joseph reassured them: ‘But as for
you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it
about as it is this day, to save many people alive’ (Gen 50:20). Joseph
recognized the hidden hand of providence. ‘I am Joseph your brother, whom you
sold into Egypt’ he accused them, but he continued, ‘But now, do not therefore
be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me
before you to preserve life’ (Gen 45:4, 5; Ps 105:17). God sent him! The
brothers were definitely guilty; God overruled their wickedness and through it
wrought a great deliverance.
Similarly, the Jews were not compelled against their will to
crucify the Messiah; no, rather, they wanted to kill Jesus. Their 'lawless
hands' were guilty of that heinous crime. However the crucifixion of our Lord
had been determined by God. 'Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put
Him to grief’ (Isa 53:10). It could not have happened any other way. Herod,
Pontius Pilate, the Romans and the people of Israel gathered together against
Jesus to do whatever God's hand and his purpose determined before to be done
(see Acts 2:23; 4:27, 28).
God, the ‘first cause’ of all things, has ordained whatever
comes to pass, including sin, and governs his creation to fulfill his eternal
plan. Yet God is not the blameworthy cause of evil because his plan and
providence do not violate the will of his creatures. God is never guilty of any
evil; on the contrary, he always condemns sin. Man sins voluntarily, not by
compulsion; therefore man, not God, is the culpable cause of sin.
In God’s Hands
God plans and directs all things towards their determined
end. This sublime truth brings great solace to his children because it assures
us that our life, with all its uncertainties, is safe in the hands of our
heavenly Father, the all-powerful and sovereign God. We are painfully aware of
our own weaknesses and failures, the opposition from the outside, and the guile
of Satan and his demons. Yet nothing and nobody can annul God’s good purpose
towards us. ‘We know that all things work together for good to those who love
God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew,
He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son ... If God is for
us, who can be against us?’ (Rom 8:28-39).