Sunday, February 21, 2010

Special Providence

Some people believe that God set the world into motion, but things that happen in everyday life are still just results of that initial movement.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Calvin pulls from Scripture proofs that God was the cause of times of feast and famine.  He caused both fruitful crops and devastation depending on whether he was granting special favor or exacting his divine vengeance.  Calvin specifically pulls illustrations from the Old Testament which show God watering the earth with dews and rain, shriveling up of crops because of a drought, and even destroying fields through hail and storms.  Calvin writes, "If we accept these things, it is certain that not one drop of rain falls without God's sure command."  Christ reminds us of God's providence when in Matthew 10:29 he is quoted as saying, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father."

His special providence also applies directly to men.  Jeremiah writes, "I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps" (Jer 10:23 NIV).  Solomon says in Proverbs 16:9 (NIV), "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps."  It is God's will which directs our lives.  He is the one who ordains everything that happens, including that which we do.

God is in control of natural occurrences as well.  God showed this power in Exodus when he caused a south wind in the desert to bring his people an abundance of birds in the desert.  He also was the cause of the wind that Jonah and his traveling partners experienced on the way to Tarshish.  Some would say that God broke from his normal silence to intervene in these situations, but Calvin says, "Yet from it I infer that no wind ever arises or increases except by God's express command."  Not only does God affect things like weather patterns, he also is the cause of procreation.  Calvin writes, "So too, although the power to procreate is naturally implanted in men, yet God would have it accounted to his special favor that he leaves some in barrenness, but graces others with offspring; 'for the fruit of the womb is his gift' (Psalm 127)."

Every week in worship we recite the Lord's prayer.  We ask God to "give us this day our daily bread," but then we race to Piccadilly without giving this any more thought.  Calvin writes in response, "And indeed, that earnest prayer for daily bread could be understood only in the sense that God furnishes us with food by his fatherly hand."  We should remember that it is God who "gives food to every creature" (Psalm 136:25), not our own doing.

Tomorrow's reading: 1.16.8-1.16.9

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