Through the Bible in One Year

Day 71

Psalm 55

Listen to my prayer, O God,

do not ignore my plea;

hear me and answer me.

My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught

because of what my enemy is saying,

because of the threats of the wicked;

for they bring down suffering on me

and assail me in their anger.

My heart is in anguish within me;

the terrors of death have fallen on me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

horror has overwhelmed me.

I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

and stay in the desert;

I would hurry to my place of shelter,

far from the tempest and storm. ”

Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,

for I see violence and strife in the city.

Day and night they prowl about on its walls;

malice and abuse are within it.

Destructive forces are at work in the city;

threats and lies never leave its streets.

If an enemy were insulting me,

I could endure it;

if a foe were rising against me,

I could hide.

But it is you, a man like myself,

my companion, my close friend,

with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship

at the house of God,

as we walked about

among the worshipers.

Let death take my enemies by surprise;

let them go down alive to the realm of the dead,

for evil finds lodging among them.

As for me, I call to God,

and the LORD saves me.

Evening, morning and noon

I cry out in distress,

and he hears my voice.

He rescues me unharmed

from the battle waged against me,

even though many oppose me.

God, who is enthroned from of old,

who does not change—

he will hear them and humble them,

because they have no fear of God.

My companion attacks his friends;

he violates his covenant.

His talk is smooth as butter,

yet war is in his heart;

his words are more soothing than oil,

yet they are drawn swords.

Cast your cares on the LORD

and he will sustain you;

he will never let

the righteous be shaken.

But you, God, will bring down the wicked

into the pit of decay;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful

will not live out half their days.

But as for me, I trust in you.

Today’s psalm my have been written by David after his own son, Absalom, betrayed him by attempting to steal his kingdom.  Abaslom’s rebellion was one of the many consequences that David suffered because of his adultery with Bathsheba.  However, it is David’s response to this consequence of forgiven sin that we need are going to be spending the rest of our time together talking about.

For you see David’s initial thoughts about how he should react were expressed when we wrote these words: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm” (vv.6-8).  Often times when we are discouraged or overwhelmed by fear we responded in the same way by trying to run away.  However, like David, in most cases we cannot escape, because the real solution is found by seeking refuge in God.  And we do that by doing as David did—calling on God constantly and giving him our concerns and by trusting that he will take care of everything in his own time and way.  Which leads us into the verse that we are really going to be zeroing on for today, and that verse is verse 22.

David wrote in verse 22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”  When we our difficulties that are too much for us to handle, like David, God invites us to put the weight of our concerns on him.  He will carry them and walk alongside us through every situation.  The Holy Spirit as continued to offer this invitation to God’s people throughout history.  Jesus gave this invitation when he spoke these words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yours souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  Jesus’ disciple, Peter, told Christ’s followers to humble themselves toward God and “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).  And Paul challenged us to bring all our anxieties to God in prayer, promising that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds against anxiety and discouragement.

The concept that I am talking about here is trusting in the providence of God.  But what is God’s providence?  The simple definition of providence is divine guidance or care.  So when we say trusting in God’s providence we are in simple terms saying that we are trusting in his divine guidance and care.  But the providence of God goes so much further than that, and that is what we are going to spend the rest of today dealing with.

The Providence of God

We all are so what familiar with the story of Joseph as told in the last chapters of the book Genesis.  But at the very end of Joseph’s story, as told in the book of Genesis, Joseph tells his brothers these words: “Do not be distressed and do not by angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Genesis 45:5).  For you see both David and Joseph and come to trust in God’s providence, because they both knew that after God had created the heavens and the earth, he did not abandon or take away his care from his creation, allowing it to survive on its own.  Rather God continues to be involved in people’s lives and in caring for his creation.  Because you see God is not live a master clockmaker or mechanical engineer.  God did not simply design the world, do what was necessary to get it to start working and is now letting it slowly run down until it stops working.  Instead, God is the loving Father who cares for what he has created.  And God’s continual care for his creation and his people is called his providence.  And some of the most important things that this term implies is God’s provision, oversight and personal involvement.  But the most assuring part of God’s providential care is intervention into the history of humankind to change or influence the course of events.

What Is Providence?

There are at least three aspects to God’s providence.  And those three aspects are: preservation, provision and government.

  1. Preservation—By his power, God preserves, or maintains, the world he created.  David’s confession is clear: “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep.  O LORD, you preserve both man and beast” (Psalm 36:6).  The Bible says that God’s preserving power is accomplished through his Son, Jesus Christ, who “is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).  Christ’s power holds together even the smallest particles of life.
  2. Provision—Not only does God preserve the world that he created, but he also provides for the needs of the creatures upon the world.  When God created the world, he created the seasons (Genesis 1:14) and gave food for humans and animals (Genesis 1:29-30).  After the flood had destroyed the earth, God renewed this promise to provide with these words: “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22).  Several of the psalms testify to God’s goodness in providing for all of his creatures, Psalms 104 and 145 for example.  God himself revealed his creative and caring power to Job (Job 38-41), and Jesus made it clear that God provides for even the birds and flowers (Matthew 6:26-30; 10:29).  His care for humankind covers not only their physical needs, but also their spiritual needs.  The Bible reveals that God shows a special love and care for his own people—those who have chosen to follow him.  God values each of them individually.  The apostle Paul writes to believers in Philippi, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  According to one of Jesus’ original disciples, John, God wants his people to “enjoy good health” and desires that things go well with them physically and spiritually (3 John 1:2).
  3. Government—In addition to preserving and providing for his creation, God also rule the world.  Since God is sovereign, meaning he is in complete control and authority, the events of history happen only as he allows.  At times, he directly intervenes to accomplish his purposes and to reveal himself to people.  But until God finishes and fulfills history, he has limited his own supreme power and rule in this world.  Scripture states that Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and exercise considerable control while evil is still rampant in the world.  That is, the world is currently in rebellion against God and, as a result, it has become the slave of Satan (Romans 6:16).  But keep in mind that this limitation that God has put upon himself is only temporary.  He has already determined the time when he will destroy Satan and all the forces of evil (Revelation 19-20).
Why is there Suffering?

This is the question that I am sure that we are all asking, because I am sure many of you have doubts about God’s ability to preserve, to provide and to rule especially given the events we have seen happen throughout the world over the last fews and even the last few mouths.  And thankfully for us the Bible reveals that God’s providence is not simply an abstract concept but one that affects our everyday lives in a sinful world that has defied God and gone its own way.  We must remember that everyone experiences suffering at times in his or her own life and inevitably asks the question, “Why?”  Such experiences raise questions about the reality of evil and its effect on God’s plan.

God allows humans to experience the consequences of the sin that entered the world when Adam and Eve first chose to disobey God and go their own way.  Joseph, for example, suffered because of his brothers’ jealousy when they cruelly sold him into Egyptian slavery.  While continuing to honor God in Egypt, Joseph was unjustly charged with immorality, thrown into prison and kept there for over two years.  God may allow suffering because of other people’s evil actions, even though he can override the effects of sin as he works out his plans.  Joseph even acknowledged that God was working through his brothers’ sins in order to preserve Joseph’s life and accomplish God’s purposes.

Not only do we suffer as a result of others’ sins, but we also experience the consequences of our own sinful actions.  God wants us always to remember that consequences are the certain results that come because of our own sinful choices.  For example, the sins of immorality and adultery often tear apart marriages, families and other important relationships.  The sin of unrestrained anger toward another person can lead to serious injury or even death.  The sin of greed may result in a prison sentence for someone who has stolen or embezzled.

Suffering also occurs in the world because Satan is permitted to do his work by blinding people’s minds, deceiving them and controlling their lives.  The New Testament is filled with examples of people who suffered because demons tormented their minds and caused much harm to their bodies.

The fact that God allows suffering does not mean that he causes the evil that happens to us in this world or that he is personally and directly responsible for all of life’s tragedies.  God never acts to bring about or cause evil or ungodliness to happen.  But he sometimes permits it, directs it and overrules it in order to carry out his plans, test people’s loyalty to him and bring people to a point of recognizing or turning to him.  Whatever happens, God will still work everything out for the good of those who are faithful to him.

How Does God’s Providence Affect Us?

To some extent, God’s general providence and care over creation affect both the righteous and the unrighteous, with the righteous being those who do what God desires and the unrighteous being those who rebel against God.  However, in order for us to experience God’s special care and direction in our lives, the Bible reveals that we have certain responsibilities.

God’s specific providence extends to those who obey God and fulfill his desires and purposes.  For example, God honored and guided Joseph because it was clear that Joseph honored and obeyed God.  Jesus himself experienced God’s protective care, when his parents obeyed God and fled to Egypt to save Jesus from being murdered by Herod’s men, as many infants were.  Those who honor God and trust him to direct their lives completely have the promise that God will guide them in the right way.

In his providence, God directs his church and the individuals who serve as part of it.  But those who follow God must stay aware of how he wants to use and direct them as they reach out to others with his life-giving message.

God works in all things for the good of those who love, trust and submit to him by faith in Christ.  God, also, responds to and cares for us.  And in difficult and troubling times, our sincere prayers and persistent faith keep looking to God, who will bring his constant help.  Through prayer and dependence on God, we experience his peace, we gain his strength and we receive his mercy, grace and help in times of need, which means we can pray in faith for ourselves and for others.

The question now is have you put your faith in God’s providence or have you have put your faith in the so called “guidance and care” of the world?  Because in order to react like David and Joseph to the problems the world throws at you, you must answer that question truthfully.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

Numbers 19-20, Luke 1:1-25, Psalm 56:1-13 and Proverbs 11:8

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