Providence

There are benefits to reading through the Bible in a year.   You get a sense of continuity, of theme and of purpose.  One thing that stood out to me this year was the emphasis on remembering past events in light of God’s Providence.  The Psalms especially use remembered events to invoke repentance, praise, hope, and worship.  All through the Old Testament there are numerous admonitions to rehearse and relate times of God’s intervention, to “tell your children and their children.” Sometimes monuments were built to ensure an event would not be forgotten.

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12 Stones of the 12 Tribes

Biblical remembering is active, it requires attention and it demands a response.  Over time, when I read remembrance passages I stopped to consider my own history in the same way.  I’ve been helped in this by  The Mystery of Providence, a book written by the Puritan, John Flavel.  After recounting the evidence of Providence, Flavel explains why he is convinced it is the Christian’s duty to meditate on God’s Providence:

Without due observation of the works of Providence no praise can be rendered God for any of them.  Praise and thanksgiving for mercies depend upon this act of observation of them and cannot be performed without it.  Psalm 107 is spent in narrating God’s providential care of men: to His people in difficulties 94-6); to prisoners in their bonds (10-12); to men that lie languishing on beds of sickness (17-19); to seamen on the stormy ocean (23); to men in times of famine (33-40).  Yea, His providence is displayed in all those changes that occur in the world, debasing the high, and exalting the low (40-41) and at every paragraph men are called upon to praise God for each of these providences.  Verse 43 shows you what a necessary ingredient to that duty observation is: ‘Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.’ So that of necessity, God must be defrauded of His praise if this duty is neglected.

The remainder of the book  is very practical, and includes a section titled  How to Meditate on the Providence of God.  Subtitles from this section:

  • In all your observations of Providence have special respect to that Word of God which is fulfilled and made good to you by them.
  • In all your reviews and observations of Providence, be sure that you eye God as the author or orderer of them all (Prov. 3:6)
  • Lastly, work up your hearts to those frames, and exercise those affections which the particular providences of God that concern you call for (Eccles. 7:14).
  • If Providence delays the performance of any mercy that you have long waited and prayed for, yet see that you do not despond, nor grow weary of waiting upon God for that reason.
  • Do not pry too curiously into the secrets of Providence, nor allow your shallow reason arrogantly to judge and censure its designs.

The book is available here.

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