God’s Word for You
1 Peter 5:6-7 Providence
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 24, 2022
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (NIV)
Is this care that God has for us an extension of his love, of his grace, or his general providence (preservation) of his creation? The quick answer is that his care comes from God in all three ways: His love, his grace, and in his providence. Since God’s providence is probably less well understood by most readers, I will outline this doctrine as briefly as I can.
I, God provides for his creation; he did not merely make it, wind it up, and let it go like a clock (this was one of many doctrinal errors held by a large number of America’s founding fathers and their military opponents). God did not abandon his work. Jesus said, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17). And Job said: “The hand of the LORD has done this… In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:9-10).
II, Providence consists of three things: Foreknowledge, purpose, and determination. By foreknowledge, we recognize that God considers all things to be fixed, permanent, and unchanging, for he uses terms such as “now” and “am” (Genesis 9:3; Exodus 3:14). God knows all things, whether singular (a single hair falling, Matthew 10:30) or infinite (“his understanding has no limit,” Psalm 147:5).
III, The purpose of God’s providence (which is to say, the end purpose), is to provide for all things. “For to foresee,” Gerhard observes, “is not only to have knowledge but also includes the will to provide for all things” (On Providence, para. 47). Ephesians 1:11: “God works out everything in conformity with his will.”
As I was typing the above paragraph this afternoon, our church secretary came and asked for my help because she heard a bird peeping in the church basement. Sure enough, there was a Catbird chick, not developed enough yet to fly, running around on the carpet in the basement hallway, terrified and bumping into the walls. I had brought a box, and easily caught her. We set her free in the neighbor’s hedge with a prayer that God would look after her and help her to find food and shelter and perhaps her mother. For if God provides for the Christian and the wicked alike (Matthew 5:45), he surely also looks after the animals, the birds, and the fish as well.
IV, The third act of God’s providence is God’s determination or control. “In him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17). The pagans all reject this. The Persian writer Algazel quips, “The ‘first cause’ (God) does not know particular things except according to universal knowledge” (Metaphysics III,5). And Ovid scoffs about Jupiter (Zeus): “As he busies himself on high with gods, heaven, and all that entails, Jupiter has not the time to attend to details” (Tristia, 2:216-217).
Control itself can be divided further into preservation and governance. Created things do not exist of themselves or by their own power, but are all subject to the greater, and ultimately to God. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Also: “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:29-30).
So man is not merely urged to submit to God, but to enjoy true rest under the care of God. His mighty hands govern and move all things for our good; he knows how to preserve and care for us. Therefore our anxiety is a thing to be discarded: “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22).
Also, when we read in Deuteronomy 8:3 and Matthew 4:4 that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God,” we must learn two things, one minor and one major. First: It is a wickedly sinful habit of recent generations to recast this passage of the Bible by ending it with “by bread alone” and then supplying a joke. This is truly the work of Satan, who is desperate for us to forget the importance of the word of God. Anyone who doubts should ask a friend to finish the passage after quoting the first part. The vast majority of fallen mankind will go for the joke and not for the truth.
Second: We learn that even the matter of daily bread is not something that can be left up to nature, for nature loves to be turned into a desert. Once a desert, nature has nowhere else to go; no other form to take. The fallen world we live upon does not know how to become the Garden of Eden once again apart from God. Everything nature does progresses toward transforming the earth into something as barren as Mars.
No, the matter of our daily bread proceeds from the Word of God. Bread as a thing cannot nourish a person if the Word of God is removed. The same thing is true of medicine: A human being is not cured by herbs but by the Word of God and the will of God (yet humans must not shun bread, the thing through which God nourishes, nor medicine, the thing through which God heals). We don’t want to leave God out of the picture, as Asa did. “Even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12). Rather, he should have asked God to bless what the physicians did, the way we thank God and ask his blessing when we eat our bread.
The Lord God cares for you. Give him your anxieties and your worries, and know that you are in the best of hands when you trust in him. “The Lord is good, a refuge in a day of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).
Pastor Timothy Smith