The theme of our sermon series through Ruth and Esther is God’s providence. Our series title comes from Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
This and numerous other passages in God’s word help us understand the nature of God’s relationship to his world and the events therein. Some do so in story form, like the books we are in, and some do so in clear statements, such as Lamentations 3:37, “Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it?”, or Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
During our first sermon, I recommended as a companion read for those interested in studying this topic more John Piper’s recent book, Providence. This is a large book (700+ pages), but not a particularly heavy read. One reason it is so long is that it contains so much Scripture. In fact, the first part of the book goes from Genesis to Revelation considering what the grand story of Scripture has to say about God’s providence.
Because not all of you will get around to reading this book (but perhaps to whet you appetite a bit!), I wanted to share some quotes from it. I will probably do a few of these posts, as these are just from the first 70 pages or so.
This first one is from the first page of the book, and is worth reading several times slowly, and considering how God’s providence has such effects:
“God has revealed his purposeful sovereignty over good and evil in order to humble human pride, intensify human worship, shatter human hopelessness, and put ballast in the battered boat of human faith, steel in the spine of human courage, gladness in the groans of affliction, and love in the heart that sees no way forward.” (13)
“Nothing can stop him from succeeding exactly when and how he aims to succeed.
“I am God, and there is no other;
I am God there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times things not yet done,
Saying, ‘my counsel shall stand,
And I will accomplish all my purpose.’ (Isa. 46:9-10)” (23)
“…God does not simply see as a passive bystander. As God, he is never merely an observer. He is not a passive observer of the world—and not a passive predictor of the future. Wherever God is looking God is acting. In other words, there is a profound theological reason why God’s providence does not merely mean his seeing, but rather his seeing to. When God sees something, he sees to it.” (31)
“It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations. Israel’s history is not an abortive attempt to achieve his saving purposes through Israel alone, which God abandoned and replaced with Jesus and the history of the Christianity. From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.” (73)