A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the doctrine of divine concurrence. How should we understand the relationship between the actions of a sovereign God and earthly causes? This falls under the bigger theological heading of divine providence, or the fact that God is overseeing everything that happens in this world as well as everybody and everything in it. And providence falls under the larger heading of sovereignty.
To summarize, providence is what God’s sovereignty normally looks like when things happen naturally in this world (like somebody being born or somebody dying). In other words, it is the opposite of a miracle, which is a supernatural intervention by God in this world when he suspends natural laws (like the virgin birth or the resurrection of Jesus).
Our catechism question for this month deals with this issue. Here it is:
Question: What are God’s works of providence?
Answer: God’s works of providence are the holy, wise, and powerful acts by which he preserves and governs all his creatures, and all their actions.
I think it would be important for you parents to help children work through this doctrine. It is very important, and if you can get them to think biblically ahead of time, it will come in handy at the right time. Take some time to read the remainder of this blog post to your children and help them understand the works of God!
The first three chapters of Jonah are all about God performing miracles. God sovereignly appointed a storm and calmed it immediately. God sovereignly appointed a great fish and kept Jonah alive inside of it. God sovereignly spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. God sovereignly spoke through Jonah and hundreds of thousands of people were regenerated to a saving knowledge of God (probably the greatest miracle of the whole book!).
When we get to Jonah chapter 4, we see God working providentially through normal events: a plant, a hot wind, and a worm. These are normal occurrences; they happen all the time, every day. Plants spring up, hot desert winds blow, and worms eat plants. But even though these are natural events, the Scriptures show very clearly that God is just as much at work in them as he was in the miraculous events of the first three chapters.
It is important to know that God is in control whether or not big things or little things happen. It’s important to remember that God is in control whether amazing things happen or normal things happen. Whether it is a miracle or a providence, God is sovereignly working to accomplish his purposes in this world.
Try and determine which of the following events is providential or miraculous:
1 – The creation of the sun in Genesis 1:16
2 – This morning’s sunrise
3 – God causing the sun to stand still in Joshua 10
4 – The sun setting over the mountains with an amazing blue and orange sky
In all of these events, even though the sun is an actor in all of them, and even though some are providential, and some are miraculous, God is working in each and every one of them, no more or no less in one than he is in another.
This is why God can and does make sure that everything works together in the lives of his children for good. It’s because he is involved in everything that happens. And he uses both providence and miracle together. When your mom or your dad read the Bible to you and share verses of Scripture about sin and salvation, that is natural. When God opens your heart to love Jesus and to receive him as your Savior, well, that’s miraculous. God used them both.
Jonah forgot that. It made him happy when God miraculously delivered him in the belly of the fish in ch.2. It made Jonah mad when God providentially oversaw a hot east wind in ch.4. Most things that happen in our lives are providential, but they are very important, and we must appreciate them because God uses those things to provide a context for miraculous things to take place.
So, spend some time today thanking God for both his miraculous and providential works in your life. Thank him for creating the sun out of nothing and thank him for the beautiful sunset this evening. Both are the works of the hands of a good and loving God.