Simply stated, providence is God’s intervention in His creation. The theological concept of providence incorporates the foreseeing care and guidance of God. In fact, the Latin root of the English word has the sense of knowledge of the future.
So, because God knows the future, He controls the present.
Providence is probably the main point in which a biblical worldview comes into conflict with contemporary worldviews. Certainly, the Old Testament worldview was more respective of God’s providence than is the modern, scientific view that asks “Why” and “How” about every occurrence in life and nature.
The Old Testament writers seem to have a rich understanding of God’s providence. To the Old Testament writer, it’s all providential!
The two major events from the life of Jacob described in Genesis 30 illustrate the Old Testament perspective of providence.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT).
As I was praying one morning and yet again reciting to the Lord all my shortcomings and should-have-done’s, it occurred to me that though I profess to be a follower of Christ, am I really following Christ?
Just because I’m a follower of Christ doesn’t necessarily mean I’m following Christ!
I follow a lot of people on social media. But, just because I follow them on Twitter doesn’t mean I always read their tweets. Just because I like them on Facebook doesn’t mean I want to be like them.
But, it’s different with following Jesus. He says you can’t just be a follower, you have to follow. And, following requires you to do something–or not do something–depending on how you look at it.
“So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies, I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service. Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.” (Romans 12:1-2, CEB).
This meditation is a hands-on lesson in how God works in our lives. Give it a try.
- Take a blank sheet of paper and in the middle of the sheet of paper write in large letters:
- Then in the top left-hand corner write in smaller letters:
- Fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
- Then fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
- Again, fold the paper in half folding the bottom half behind and to the top so that the words are still showing.
- And, again fold the paper in half folding the right half behind and to the left so that the words are still showing.
- You should now have a small square of paper in your hands that is 1/16th of the original paper size with the words printed on it: GOD’S PLAN FOR MY LIFE. These words probably fill or almost fill the small square of paper in your hand.
Here’s the point of this exercise:
We like to think of God’s will as something that is being revealed a little at a time. It’s like something we discover as if it is unfolding before us.
Actually, finding God’s will is more like folding than unfolding. It’s more like the displacement of our own will in favor of God’s will. It’s a place God leads us, not a place we discover.
“I will put contempt between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers. They will strike your head, but you will strike at their heels.”” (Genesis 3:15, CEB).
Evil in the Old Testament is not personified as it is in the New Testament. Depending on your interpretation of the Hebrew word for Satan, meaning adversary, the term is more often a designation than a proper name in the Old Testament.
The Apostle Paul associates the serpent in Genesis 3 with a personified devil: “But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3, CEB).
The Apostle John clearly delineates the Tempter in the Garden of Eden as Satan or the devil: “So the great dragon was thrown down. The old snake, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was thrown down to the earth; and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:9, CEB). The word “old” here refers to the fact that Satan’s appearance on Earth was at an early stage of the world’s history and has long been occupied with the task of deceiving and opposing God’s elect.
“Some time later, Cain presented an offering to the Lord from the land’s crops while Abel presented his flock’s oldest offspring with their fat. The Lord looked favorably on Abel and his sacrifice but didn’t look favorably on Cain and his sacrifice. Cain became very angry and looked resentful. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry, and why do you look so resentful? If you do the right thing, won’t you be accepted? But if you don’t do the right thing, sin will be waiting at the door ready to strike! It will entice you, but you must rule over it’” (Genesis 4:3-7, CEB).
Evil is a corruption of good and seems to be a necessary condition of God’s love and plan for redemption (see Part 1). There can’t be a love relationship with God if there’s not a choice to love Him, or not!
God has given people the choice to do good or not do good.
Then, maybe evil isn’t all bad?
In the Old Testament evil is sometimes directly attributed to God. For example, “Then an evil spirit from the Lord came over Saul” (1 Samuel 19:9, CEB).
From the perspective of the Old Testament writers, all actions and events in heaven and on the earth emanate from God. In other words, God’s “will” rules over His creation.
“The Lord saw that humanity had become thoroughly evil on the earth and that every idea their minds thought up was always completely evil. The Lord regretted making human beings on the earth, and he was heartbroken. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe off of the land the human race that I’ve created: from human beings to livestock to the crawling things to the birds in the skies, because I regret I ever made them’” (Genesis 6:5-7, CEB).
It didn’t take long after the Creation for people to become so evil that God was sorry He created them. Evil must have spread among human beings at an exponential rate.
Evil seems to have grown simultaneously with the human race because God wanted to destroy the whole human race. Apparently everyone, or almost everyone, was evil!
Did God make a big mistake when He created human beings? If the humanity that God created had become thoroughly evil, then did God create evil?
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”(Genesis 3:15, NIV).
In the Creation Story in Genesis 1 God created a good and perfect world populated by vegetation, animals, and human beings. Genesis 2 is perhaps a continuation of the Creation Story–possibly the next chapter in God’s already created order–describing the first people God chose to work His redemptive plans and purposes for all of humanity.
Genesis 3 is a creation story of sorts as it describes the formation of a different kind of world from God’s good and perfect creation–a new world order contrived by human beings. Genesis 3 describes the beginning of evil among humanity and it prognosticates the cosmic conflict between good and evil played out on the stage of this world.
In fact, this cosmic conflict may be the main point of the Creation Story in Genesis 1-3.