Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes
We think of providence as wholly positive. Yet, there is a sense in which it may accomplish something we perceive as “negative” (or “dark”). Lexico provides this secondary definition for providence: “Timely preparation for future eventualities.” (“Providence”) We relish the thought of God preparing events to work things together for our advantage. We know God promises to do so for the church (Romans 8.28). But what must God do if He must punish or chastise us? Does that not also require preparations?
Habakkuk deals with the difficulty of the titular prophet accepting God’s prescribed punishment for Judah. Habakkuk could not understand God’s selection of a particular people to carry out His sentence. Yes, God was empowering Babylon to punish Judah for her sins. To empower Babylon, however, required God to remove Assyria from preeminence within Mesopotamia. God provided another prophet, Nahum, with a prophecy regarding the fall of Assyria’s capital, Nineveh (Nahum 3). Secular history offers the rest of the story.
The fate of Assyria is the same of all earthly powers that have completed their usefulness–Judgment. After telling Habakkuk about allowing Babylon to rule the region, God said that Babylon would likewise be held guilty (Habakkuk 1.11). In other words, for as long as Babylon could exact the punishment God intended to bring upon Judah, they would remain. God determined that this punishment’s timeframe was seventy years, then God would punish the Babylonians for their atrocities (Jeremiah 25.11-12).
Do we presume that God is not still in the “king-making business?” Romans 13.1 teaches us that all earthly authority comes from God. So, God is the reason that 195 countries exist today. The problem is that you and I, with our finite minds and lifespans, cannot comprehend God’s eternal purpose for each country. Do nations not help to keep their neighbors in check? Sometimes that is the case. The twentieth century saw two global conflicts serving to restrain the avarice of a few aggressor-states.
There is no earthly Christian theocracy today, but God has His Kingdom, and it is not of this world (John 18.36). There is no political boundary capable of keeping God’s Kingdom in check, fulfilling prophecy (Daniel 2.44). That is the Kingdom we must put first (Matthew 6.33). Even so, the proverb remains that God exalts righteous nations (Proverbs 14.34). Hence, we desire moral governance even in the secular world.
Much was said by the Founding Fathers about the role of faith in creating the American republic. John Adams said that the Constitution was incapable of ruling any but a moral and religious people. Yet, among the same men preaching liberty in the eighteenth century, some held other men in slavery. Thomas Jefferson was not oblivious to the irony, though. He said that he knew God was just and that His justice could not sleep forever. In the 1860s, the United States engaged in a bloody civil war that claimed the lives of upwards of 700,000 men. And even if it still took the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s to finalize the work begun by men like Frederick Douglas, America finally made progress in living up to its foundational documents regarding equality for all men.
Yet, there are many other sins besides slavery, of which America remains guilty. America is an immoral nation, albeit a sinful nation peppered with righteous people. The requisite “ten” must still be present to prevent God’s Judgment (cf. Genesis 18.20-32). However, we must not forget about God’s “dark Providence.” He may well cultivate another nation, another “Babylon,” to punish countries like America for their collective sins. Though we can’t know about all the preparations God is making for “future eventualities,” we understand His justice may necessitate doing things we esteem negatively to chastise us.
We are foolish if we think that what happened to Assyria or Babylon cannot happen here. As with slavery, God’s justice regarding abortion on demand, mainstreaming perversion, philandering, and political grift will not remain asleep forever. However, rather than be fearful, we must live faithfully unto death (Revelation 2.10). God will be our Rock even if our world crumbles around us (Psalm 46).
“Providence.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries, www.lexico.com/en/definition/providence.