Monday, November 1, 2010

God's Active Providence

"The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations."
- Psalm 33:10-11

The economic crisis is still felt by many. Others are declaring bankruptcy because of financial crisis or mismanagement. Many college graduates, board passers and other hopefuls will be added to our increasing unemployment and underemployment rates.

I understand that these stories do not bring positive note. I am no news analyst and I don't understand much of our economy. But by observing and listening to some people, I can tell that many questions cross their mind. Questions like “What else can our government do to improve our economy?” and “How long will our financial crisis last?”

Some of you might be wondering as to the future of our nation and our world with the kind of politics or the kind of politicians we have. Our country just experienced the fury of Typhoon Juan. Others are asking, "What would be the next tragedy that's going to happen?"

These are some of the questions you may hear floating around. Some of you may even asking, albeit silently in your heart, “Where is God in all of these? Is He really in control?” Others may simply wonder, “Where can we find hope? Where should we turn for stability and security?”

Difficulties and crises such as these must drive us to God. And as we focus our attention to Him and His character our worries are being transformed into worship. Our cares are turned into courage as God confronts us with His glorious character.

I pray that God would grant us a heavenly perspective of the things that are happening in our world. We need to view the current situation from God's vantage point and not from our limited perspective. So we humbly ask God to open our eyes to behold the splendor of His being and the greatness of His doing in the world and in the lives of His people.

As we look at Psalm 33:1-11, we want to focus on God's divine providence, which is His almighty and ever present power that upholds His whole creation.

In Psalm 33 Israel comes before the presence of God in congregational singing. Her gathering in the temple, singing in one accord the glories of her God, is part of God’s design in worship which is a wonderful sight to see. Take note how the lyrics vividly express an exuberant note exalting the glories of the Lord, seen in His divine perfections and mighty works. I can imagine children eagerly singing with their parents before God's presence in the temple.

Verses 10-11 boast of the plans of the LORD which stands forever. Several verses before these, the psalmist has been rehearsing the glorious character of God and His mighty power in creation (vv.4-9). Now he turns to God’s sovereign rule over the affairs of peoples and nations.

This rule of God is what we call His providence. God’s providence is portrayed here as active. In His divine providence God foils, He brings to nothing, the plans of the nations. He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. Do you believe that God can bring the plans of the nations and the peoples to nothing?

From the very beginning, God has been governing and guiding all events and circumstances in history, including the very acts of men, to its appointed goal. Nothing happens in the world that is not under the providence of God. He's been doing this in order to complete His redemptive plan in and through His Son Jesus Christ as made known to us in various parts of the Bible, particularly in Ephesians 1. God’s ultimate purpose of course is “to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10).

Verse 11 says His plans 'stand firm forever' and 'the purposes of His heart [stand firm] through all generations'. Take note how the psalmist talks about the plans of God which stands forever in contrast with the plans of the nations which God brings to nothing. God’s purposes stand firm because His providence, His activity as the Sovereign Ruler and Sustainer of all things, prevails over creation and over history. So be assured dear believer that God's throne is not shaken by the instability of the economy or the collapse of many big companies.

Because God is in absolute control not only in the creation of the world but also in all the events of history, we know and we can confidently say that the recent events in our history are under His powerful providence. He is in complete control of the situation. The economy may fail, our government may not be able to protect and support our country, but nothing can hinder God’s purpose in establishing His rule on earth and in your life.

God’s overarching decree, which Psalm 2:7-9 also declares, right at the beginning of the book of the Psalter, is that His Son would reign in justice and righteousness over the nations of the earth. Or as the Lord’s Prayer puts it, God’s decree is that “His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

It is amazing how God uses the powerful yet wicked rulers, even the devil himself, to fulfill His sovereign purpose. Remember that when it appeared as if Satan and the rulers of the world had won the victory by having Christ crucified, when it seemed like this was sure to be the world’s and the devil’s greatest hour, the Son of Man wearing a crown of thorns, despised and rejected by men, forsaken by His own Father, has triumphed over His enemies, making His crucifixion the moment of God's greatest conquest.

For in the death of God's Son our salvation was accomplished. Christ's death has set us free from the power of sin and death. In Christ's resurrection death was forever vanquished, the devil was finally disarmed, and eternal life was definitely secured for you and me, people of God. As believers of Jesus Christ, we revel in this truth, we live in this truth and we proclaim this truth, don't we?

Now think about this: the God whom you serve can turn evil for the good of His people. Now if you have a contrary view of God, or even a lesser view of Him than this, you may not join the righteous believers in singing this psalm. For at the heart of praising God in His divine providence is the confession that says, “I believe in God who is in complete control not only in the affairs of the nations but also in the lives of every person in this world, including my life.”

So if your confession, if your lifestyle betrays the sovereign rule of Christ, you better be wise. You need to humble yourself before the Lord and admit your act of insubordination, or worse still, of worshiping another god. “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment” (Psalm 2:12).

So fear God reverently, just as all the earth ought to fear Him and stand in awe of Him (v.8). You don't need to be paralyzed by the seeming success and the remaining threat of evil in our society. God is still the Ruler of the universe. So we can praise Him with the hymn writer who says, "This is my Father’s world; O let me never forget, That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet. This is my Father’s world; Why should my heart be sad? The Lord is King, let the heavens ring! God reigns; let the earth be glad."

Therefore what verses 10-11 boldly declare is that, historical events are not decided in the halls of the nations’ capital or in the secret headquarters of wicked men but in the holy chambers of heaven where God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, has drawn out an eternal plan realized in history’s event.

This history will culminate in the final overthrow of God’s enemies. Today it seems that wickedness is gaining the upper-hand. And we need not be surprised if lawlessness will intensify as history progresses and life in this world becomes more difficult. Just don't forget that God's Word declares that the rulers of this world will not win no matter how great and horrifying pain and terror they will inflict upon the earth. God's eternal purpose will ultimately prevail.

Remember the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Thess.1:8-10 that those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus will suffer eternal destruction in the fullness of God's wrathful presence, away from the glory of His grace and might.

As your friends and neighbors ask your opinion about the current situation, tell them that even though you do not have all the answers as to why the economy is not getting better, you know that our Almighty God plans and orders things, even the crises and tragedies we face, for the good of those who trust Him (Rom. 8:28).

Remind yourself and others that when the Son of God comes again in glory, He will set up His eternal kingdom here on earth where you and I will live and enjoy the gracious reign and eternal communion of our great King Jesus Christ. But warn the unbelievers that those who disregard the law of God, those who do not submit to His authority will experience the most terrible punishment in the hands of the Almighty God. This is the purpose of the Lord that shall stand forever!

So we live with that confidence in God burning in our heart. We go back to our places of work or learning with the sense of trust in the providence of God. Remember that God’s plan aims for our good, for the reign of perfect peace and order in the world, where true “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). That time is yet to come.

I cannot emphasize enough that this truth really calls us to respond in praise to God, praise expressed not just in words but also in hopeful trust, especially in this time of distress and crisis.

Author Jerry Bridges says, “Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting His heart.” It is right therefore for us to praise God even in this time of national and global distress because God has chosen us in Christ and has purposed our good and that He will not be frustrated in fulfilling that purpose.

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