The providence of God is a beautiful doctrine. It can be overwhelming to study and at the same time a comfort to your soul in the midst of difficult circumstances. Have you paused to consider the way God interacts with creation? God is not the “clock maker” who creates and then stands back to gaze upon His work from afar. Instead, God is interested and involved with every minuscule aspect of His creation. What this means is that God is in the details of life and eternity.
On this day, April 3rd, in AD 33, Jesus of Nazareth was brutally murdered on a Roman cross under false charges. To be more specific, 1,982 years ago today, the Son of God was slain on a hill called Calvary. The charge was blasphemy, but His miracles proved otherwise. What greater miracle than the resurrection could prove the deity of Jesus? The virgin birth, the calming of the raging sea, and raising Lazarus from the dead were all mind blowing miracles, but the resurrection was the clincher. When the religious establishment wanted to silence Jesus, they killed Him. However, by killing Jesus, they became part of the validation process of Jesus’ deity because on Sunday morning Jesus rose from the dead.
The gloomy account of the crucifixion is an ignominious picture of human depravity. It hardly seems right to call this day, “Good Friday” seeing the darkness and depth of wickedness surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion. The Roman crucifixion was a horrible and painful way to die. The Romans had perfected the art of execution, and from the nails to the eventual suffocation under the bright sunlight, it was an utterly painful way to die. The religious establishment of Jesus’ day was angered with His preaching and their anger eventually culminated with Jesus’ death upon the cross. Although the movies often make it appear that Jesus’ death an unplanned and unfortunate set of circumstances, the Bible reveals quite the opposite. While wicked men crucified Jesus on the cross, it was the providence of God that directed human affairs to fulfill the will of God.
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology book explains the doctrine of providence in the following way:
God is continually involved with all created things in such a way that he (1) keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; (2) cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and (3) directs them to fulfill his purposes.
Behind the dark veil of the murder of Jesus of Nazareth, there was a divine purpose at work. This divine purpose was orchestrated by the providence of God as He directs the affairs of human history. In one sense, as these men were nailing Jesus to the cross, God the Father was nailing Jesus to the cross. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but consider the words of the prophecy of Isaiah in Isaiah 53:10 – “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief.” The act of Jesus’ crucifixion was simultaneously an act of lawless murder and divine salvation. Through the providence of God, which is at times mysterious to us, God was working out the evil intentions of the Jews through His own intent of the cross to save sinners through His Son – the lamb of God (John 1:29).
In a similar way we see this take place in the book of Genesis when the brothers of Joseph sold him off into slavery. Their actions were evil. However, we have two specific verses that point to God’s providence that was at work in the entire story of Joseph’s slavery. In Genesis 45:5, Joseph said, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Joseph places the focus upon God’s will as opposed to the evil sin of his brothers. Once again, in Genesis 50:20, Joseph said, “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.” In a way that cannot be overlooked, Joseph confirmed that his brothers had an evil intention, but God had an intention as well. While God’s intent was good, it was nevertheless an intent.
As we examine the first sermon of the Christian church, we see Peter saying the exact same thing about the crucifixion of Jesus. In Acts 2:22-23, we read:
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
We must note the powerful words of Peter. He called the death of Jesus the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” He went on to say that Jesus was crucified and killed by lawless men. At the exact same time that lawless men were killing Jesus, it was God’s decree and definite plan. God didn’t merely look through time to discover it. God planned the bloody cross in order to accomplish His saving mission for guilty sinners.
As we ponder the darkness of this day in human history, let us see the light of God’s divine providence shining to us from the cross. God had a plan! As the hymn writer William Cowper reminds us, God plants His footsteps in the sea and rides upon the storm. He is in complete control, and behind that frowning providence He often hides a smiling face. Let us see the light of God’s providence and remember that Sunday is coming! Only in the resurrection could this dark day be referred to as “Good Friday.”
William Cowper – God Moves in a Mysterious Way
- God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
- Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.
- Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.
- Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
- His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.
- Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.