The Agora
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Est, providence in

Like Ruth the Book of Esther is an illustration. It records a slice of life out of the Exile period that illustrates a great revelation. While the Book of Ruth illustrates God's redemption, that of Esther illustrates God's providence.

Providence means foresight. Our word comes from Latin and means to see the affairs of life before they happen. The acquired meaning of providence, what it has come to mean through usage, is activity resulting from foresight. We can see at once that people can never exercise providence as God can. We have very limited powers of foresight. We do not know what a day will bring forth. God, on the other hand, foresees all things and can act because of that foreknowledge.

The doctrine of providence is that God both possesses and exercises absolute power over all the works of His hands. The Book of Esther illustrates God's providence. The writer did not speak of God directly, but God's acting as a result of His foresight is obvious in what he wrote. Even though God hid Himself in the Book as a whole, he was at work in the life of Esther.

Esther reveals three things about divine providence.

First, it reveals the method of providence.

It shows that even though people do not acknowledge God's presence He is always at work. His control becomes especially clear at the end of the book (Est 10:3). Events had turned around completely from the way they were at the beginning of the book. Instead of being in peril, the Jews were now at peace. God not only rules over the major issues in life, but He also uses the trivialities of life to accomplish His purposes. Some of these trivialities were:

  1. the king's decision to summon Vashti after he got drunk,
  2. Vashti's refusal,
  3. Haman's hatred for Mordecai,
  4. the king's insomnia, and
  5. the passage his servant read to him.
God's providence is all-inclusive. That is part of its method. No person or detail of life escapes God's control: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28). "All things" includes all individuals and all events -- whether pleasant or unpleasant.

Second, Esther reveals the principles of providence.

God proceeds on the basis of perfect knowledge: intimate, accurate, absolute knowledge (Psa 11:4).

Another principle of His providence is His undeviating righteousness. God's providence works in harmony with man's freedom. It never coerces people. The king made his own decisions; God did not compel him to act as he did. Haman plotted his own intrigues, made his own arrangements, built his own gallows. The same was true of Mordecai and Esther. Yet the sphere in which they made their decisions was God's sovereignty (Acts 17:28: "In Him we live and move..."). Haman built his gallows for Mordecai, but God hanged Haman on it!

A third principle of God's providence is that of absolute power. God is great enough to give people genuine freedom and yet cause things to turn out the way He wants them to. God causes human freedom to contribute to His divine purpose.

Third, Esther reveals the results of providence.

On the human level there are two results:

  1. Those who recognize divine providence receive great confidence and courage.
  2. However, those who do not recognize it receive panic and punishment.
We can see these results most clearly in the characters of (1)         Esther and Mordecai, and (2)         Haman.

On the divine level the result of providence is that God progresses toward His ultimate goal: he is, of course, Yahweh -- The One who "will be", the One who is constantly "becoming"! Throughout all of Scripture we see this identical mighty movement toward the absolute fulfillment of His purpose.

The message of this book is that God exists, and God acts through history to accomplish His purposes regardless of whether humans acknowledge Him or not.

There are many arguments for the existence of God: the argument from providence is one of these. The fact that human events are harmonizing with God's ultimate purposes as He has revealed these in Scripture testifies to God's existence. When people forget God, He still molds history and governs life in harmony with His purposes. We cannot escape God's hand; we only change our destiny. We become His friends or His foes by our attitude toward Him (Dan 5:22,23).

How do we apply the message of this book? By taking God into account. Trust Him and cooperate with Him, or you will suffer destruction. God's providence may seem very impersonal and austere. However, William Cowper has reminded us that, "Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face." Rom 8:28 is perhaps the most concise word on the providence of God that the Scriptures contain. God will complete His plans. We determine our own destiny as we cooperate with His will or oppose it.

Our choice affects our destiny, but it does not frustrate His plan. Consequently it is very important that we know God's plans and make them known to others. He has revealed His plans in His promises in Scripture. Therefore we should pay very careful attention to the promises of God. The covenants of promise are His comprehensive formal undertakings. Even though many people in the world today ignore God, His plans will become reality eventually. This fact should make us confident and optimistic in the present.

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