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What are God's works of providence? (Part 1)

It has been a while since we have looked at the Baptist Catechism, but we are going to pick up where we left off: Question 14. The Catechism follows a logical order of thought, as we can see in the posts already written, and as we will see, Lord willing, in the future.

Our next question concerns God's works. In Question 11, we ask, "How doth God execute His decrees?" Those decrees, by the way, are God's purposes (you can reread it here). We have already examined creation, now it is time to look at God's works of providence.

The Catechism offers this reply: "God's works of providence are His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all His creatures, and all their actions." The Scripture support for these items is Psalm 145:17, Psalm 104:24; Isaiah 28:29; Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 103:19, and Matthew 10:29-31.

Because of the volume of Scriptural support, we will split our time between two posts. In this first post, we will consider the wording of this answer.


God and His Decrees

The Catechism is jam-packed with references to God's holiness. This is understandable, as the Catechism is simply the distillation of God's Word. God is holy, but He is also wise. Imagine how terrifying God would be if He were unholy and unwise? (You can learn more about this by reading the London Confession of Faith chapter 3, here)

God is holy and wise. This God who accomplishes all of His purposes is holy and wise.


God is Holy

God is holy, most Christians know this. But what does it mean? Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley offer this concise definition, "God's holiness means that he is set apart by his glory, for his glory." (Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, vol. 1: Revelation and God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 569)

We read this in Psalm 145:17, "The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works." He is righteous in all His ways. In other words, there is nothing that God does that is not right, or, to put it another way, holy.

There are many important aspects to consider. God is in complete control, and He is holy, therefore we can trust Him in all experiences. Is this not what Paul teaches in Romans 8:28-29?

It also teaches us that nothing that comes from God will be tainted with any evil. All of his ways are righteous, remember? While we may not understand how it is righteous, we can trust that it is because He has told us this truth in His Word.

This is cause for us to bow before God and worship Him! He is holy, praise be to God!


God is Wise

God is holy, that is true. God is also wise. The Catechism supplies two citations from Scripture in support of this: Psalm 104:24 and Isaiah 28:29. We read in Psalm 104:24, "O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures."

That the universe is a finally-tuned display of wisdom is axiomatic. The earth is uniquely made to provide for life. It is astounding! Every atom in our universe is a testament to God's wisdom.

The other Scripture cited is Isaiah 28:29. Isaiah writes, "This also comes from the LORD of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom." God is excellent in His wisdom. Beeke and Smalley describe it like this, "We may distinguish God's wisdom as one aspect of his knowledge. Biblical wisdom is knowing how to use knowledge God's perfect knowledge is shown by the perfect wisdom displayed in all his works." (Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, vol. 1: Revelation and God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2019), 731)

What implications are there for us? God knows how to accomplish His purposes in the way in which He will receive the most glory and you if you follow Jesus Christ, will be molded into His (Christ's) image. This means that God will things, or people, or events, that you and I cannot even imagine accomplishing His will.

I think Joseph serves as an excellent example of this. In Genesis 37, Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. For some time, Joseph served his new master, obeying the Lord and serving faithfully. Even facing temptation, Joseph followed the Lord and received an unjust punishment: imprisonment (see Genesis 39). For two years (Gen. 41:1), Joseph trusted the Lord and faithfully served him. Eventually, through God's decrees, Joseph rises to power in Egypt (see Gen. 41). It was not until many years later that Joseph began seeing the Lord's guiding and wise hand. He tells his brothers, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today" (Gen. 50:19-20).

Joseph believed God was wise and trusted His holy purposes. The wonderful truth for us today is that God is the "same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8).


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