Most people are atheists. A small portion are theoretical atheists, but a great number are practical atheists. Practical atheism is knowing the truth of what God requires but acting as if God was not there. We imagine God is ignorant of our ungodly behavior.
Financial fears cause some to be faithless. Their sin is not obeying God’s Word, which tells us of His gracious provision, in the midst of His providence. As people of God, we must remedy our atheism, with knowledge of truth found in God’s Word. What does the Bible teach us about financial provision in relationship to God’s providence? How is this instruction affirmed by past experience?
God’s providence is the outworking of His eternal decree. As the Alpha and the Omega (Rev 1:8; 22:13), He has declared all things from beginning to end (Is 46:10), so we can obviously speak of God’s foreknowledge (Acts 2:23; 1 Pet 1:2). God has a predetermined plan for everything (Acts 2:23); and He works everything in accordance to His will and purpose, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it (Is 46:9–11).” These are remarkably comforting words, which will never pass away.
God’s providence is seen in the life and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8). Speaking of the death of Christ, the Apostles Peter and John prayed at Jerusalem, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur (Acts 4:27–28).” Jesus’ fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy confirms God has a plan and a purpose, and the Apostle Paul calls this God’s eternal purpose (Eph 3:11). God is working His perfect plan, perfectly.
God is good to His people. In working all things after the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11), He works all things for good for those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). As the Psalmist says, “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me (Ps 138a);” and “I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me (PS 57:2).” The Apostle Paul wrote the same sentiments to the Christians in northern Greece, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Phil 2:12b-13).”
David, who was predestined according to God’s purpose (Eph 1:11), served the purpose of God in his generation (Acts 13:36). God’s purpose for the Apostle Paul had a past reality and a future promise, too (Acts 26:16). Christians are given God’s purpose as ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:5), and their purposeful work is to preach the purposes of God to others (Acts 20:27), which He has made known to us, through the revelation of the mystery of His will (Eph 1:9).
God saves His people and calls us according to His own eternal purpose in Christ (2 Tim 1:9). God shows His people the unchangeableness of His purpose (Heb 6:17), and His purpose for us in Christ is to follow in His steps (1 Pet 2:21), which leads us to suffer (1 Pet 4:1) and to inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:9).
God is purposeful in the employment of the unrighteous, too, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil (Prv 16:4).” From God’s perspective, the wicked and the righteous are separated even before they are born (Rom 9:11). This fulfills God’s purpose in election.
Vessels of wrath prepared for destruction will consolidate power according to God’s purpose for evil (Rom 9:22; Rev 17:13). Global political intrigue is orchestrated according to God’s purpose for potent resistance to His kingdom, “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose, by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled (Rev 17:17).” All of this is reminiscent of the Exodus deliverance of Israel, from Egypt, by Yahweh.
Pharaoh was raised up for God’s purpose, in bringing oppression to the children of Israel (Rom 9:17). God used this evil man and his evil deeds, to bring about His will for sanctification in His people (1 Thess 4:3), to which God’s people are called for His purposes of purity (1 Thess 4:7) and godliness (1 Tim 4:7). In other words, God’s providence, in directing the bad, is employed by Him to bring about His good providence for His people (Rom 8:28).
If God is at work on both global and individual scales, and if we see His purposeful plans working just as His Word reveals, through principles and examples, then we must trust His provisional providence for, today, and for the future. This is personal and it is universal.
Throughout the history of God’s people, He has provided for them. Joseph was sold into slavery to Arab traders (Gen 37:28), but what His brothers meant for evil, God turned for good (Gen 50:20). Bad providence brought famine to the land, but provision for his father and brothers and their families was accomplished by God, in His sovereign grace, and through His providential plan for their good.
Elijah, the man of God, also lived through times of famine. It was bread and water for the prophets persecuted by the state (1 Kgs 18:4, 13). God brought Elijah food using ravens (1 Kgs 17:6), a poor woman and her starving son (1 Kgs 17:13), and later through angels (1 Kgs 19:6). Even as these provisional providences are recorded for us, we need to keep our own personal record of God’s provisional providence. Remembering God’s Word and God’s works in our own experience are important and helpful tasks in facing an uncertain future demanding faith.
When times get lean, people get irritable. Israel observed the miracle of Moses drawing fresh water from a rock (Ex 17:6). They had seen God’s provision for their needs. They rejoiced; but when the water dried up, and thirst later returned, they became rebellious. Moses became angry. When God ordained the miracle to be repeated, Moses disobeyed the command to speak to the rock. Instead, He struck the rock (Num 20:10–11).
Our attitude regarding providence is very important. God knows what is best for us, and He has promised to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:19). Fear will cause us to act irrationally and irreverently, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 and all ate the same spiritual food; 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:1–5).”
God has promised to never leave us nor forsake us in an economic sense (Heb 13:5), which demands our being content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, abounding or being abased (Phil 4:11). We must remember we have a good heritage passed down to us (Ps 16:6). Can God provide for His people? Of course, He can provide, but how quickly we forget His works (Ps 106:13). He has promised, and we need to believe, “The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, as the God of Israel I will not forsake them (Is 41:17).
Worry is not an option, but everything must be dealt with in prayer (Phil 4:6). The birds perched on my telephone wire have the promise of provisional providence from Jesus (Mt 6:26; Lk 12:24). The disciples of Jesus were repeatedly taught not to fear. God’s provisional providence, brought graciously by God’s attentive care, would liberate them from greed, covetousness, hoarding, and all economic worries. Our Father knows we have physical needs (Lk 12:30), and He delights in our thanksgiving and praise, afforded to Him for supplying everything needed. Prayer must never have designs for lust, but our supplications are simply stated, “give us this day our daily bread“ and “give me neither poverty nor riches (Prv 30:8).”
God has promised to carry us and deliver us (Is 46:3–4), and we must never forget His faithful promises (Dt 6:12), established by oath and covenant (Ps 111:5). We must hear the testimonies of those who have gone before us in the faith, “He (Jacob) blessed Joseph, and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day… (Gen 48:15),” has made His mercies toward us new every morning (Lam 3:23). Is not Jesus our Good Shepherd (Jn 10)? Are we not the sheep of His pasture? Will He not lead us beside still waters (Ps 23)? The poor man has cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all His troubles (Ps 34:6), and he who has sought the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing (Ps 34:10b).
In summary, we have remembered the providence of God. Everything has been ordered by eternal decree, and it has come to pass through God’s infinite wisdom and almighty power. The future, like the past, is predetermined in God’s plan and purpose to fulfill His will. God’s people are truly blessed, by all providence working for their good. Our spiritual pandiculation brings glory to God. Just as Israel and Jesus and all people of faith struggled and suffered in their sojourn here on earth, so we must endure like pilgrimage. We have seen His faithful promises and heard the testimony of His people from His Word. Lessons in provisional providence are abundant on the pages of the Bible, and they are abundant in our lives, if we would simply take note.
In conclusion, we must take up our cross daily and follow Jesus Christ. His teachings and His life demonstrate God’s provisional providence for you and for me as His people. God is for us, and there is nothing in Creation operational against us in Christ, who always leads us through the valley of the shadow of death, in His triumph. God will accomplish what concerns us, and we will bless the Lord at all times. Let each of us declare, “My mouth will boast in the Lord, who has always been good to me. Praise His holy name, for I have sought Him, and He has delivered me from all my fears.”
David E. Norczyk
January 10, 2021