There are times when God accomplishes His purposes with direct, miraculous intervention (e.g., The Red Sea, Feeding the 5,000, etc.). More often, though, He accomplishes His purposes by His Providence. Providence is a word that tells how God works His plan through normal and natural processes. Providence is an aspect of God’s sovereignty, but it involves natural means and processes (cf. Gen. 45:1-8; 50:20).
In the last several blogs we have been talking about God’s work with the nation of Israel, especially by seeing what Isaiah says about their exile to Babylon and eventual restoration. In the big picture, chapters 40-66 tell how God is one day going to restore Israel from its exile into the world of the Gentiles, and establish the Kingdom of God on this earth. The truth is that the exile to Babylon (beginning in 605 B.C.) started a very long time of diaspora (exile and dispersion) for the people of Israel that will not come to an end until Jesus Christ returns (i.e., they never have experienced the promised restoration). The question I would like to deal with in this discussion is this: How is God going to set Israel free from Babylon?
The answer to this question is that He was going to use an agent . . . and that agent’s name was King Cyrus of Persia. God got the job done of setting Israel free from Babylon by using a very natural means: He raised up another nation (Persia) who overthrew the Babylonians and gave Israel its freedom to go back home. Isaiah introduces the idea of God raising up Cyrus in 40:2 where we read, “Who has aroused one from the east Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet? He delivers up nations before him and subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.” Cyrus is going to lead the Persian armies to utterly crush all opposition, but Isaiah tells us that all of it is actually a fulfilling of God’s plan and purposes. This work of God gets repeated over and over again (44:28ff. [Cyrus was named by name even though he would not come on the scene for another 150 years]; 45:1ff.; 46:8-11). Here is the point for us to observe and apply: The circumstances looked “ordinary” (one nation rising up in war against another), but in reality it was all part of the eternal plan of God (just like Acts 2:23 and 4:27 tell us about the crucifixion).
What about the events that are happening in our lives today? Are these events somehow outside the eternal plan of God? No, they certainly are part of God’s plan and purpose. Now, we may not like the things that are happening, but the fact is they ARE happening, and if they are happening that means that they are part of God’s eternal plan. Just because we don’t like the circumstances or know how they fit into God’s plan does not mean they are not part of His plan. The Bible tells us that God, “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11), even the things we don’t like. Therefore, we do well to keep our hearts calm and keep trusting in the Lord no matter what life might bring. He knows what He is doing and does not need us to tell Him how to run His creation (Isa. 40:13-14). Keep your eyes on the Lord.
Love, Pastor Tim