What, then, does the Bible tell us about the doctrine of providence? Again, we are looking at a very difficult subject. The particular doctrines of salvation that we shall be considering are very simple in comparison with a doctrine like this. It is one of those inscrutable doctrines and there is a hymn which reminds us of that. ‘God moves in a mysterious way, his wonders to perform,’ says William Cowper, and, ‘Blind unbelief is sure to err.’ And not only blind unbelief, but lack of faith, but a desire to understand that which is impossible, are certain to lead us into trouble if not into error. Therefore let us approach the doctrine of providence with reverence and humility, going as far as Scripture takes us, but not going beyond that.
Now the Bible teaches everywhere, very clearly, as I shall show you, that God is in control of all things. Psalm 104 is enough, in and of itself, to establish that doctrine. There is no limit to what He does. Psalm 103:19 also says, ‘The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.’ Everywhere. And the Bible teaches us that first of all, as over against deism, to which I have referred, that doctrine which regards the universe as a kind of watch made by the watchmaker, wound up by him, and then put down to run itself out. But the doctrine of providence contradicts that, and I rather like the comparison which was once used to show the difference. The doctrine of providence tells us that the universe, and everything within it, is like a great ship which is being piloted from day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute, second to second, by God Himself. Furthermore, of course, it is over against pantheism also, which says that God is everything, and in everything, and that therefore you cannot differentiate between the universe and God Himself. The doctrine of providence contradicts both these views.
How, then, do we find this doctrine in the Bible? Well, first of all we find it in a number of very direct statements in the Scriptures. I shall give you a list of them later on. Then another very powerful argument for the doctrine of providence is based upon the fact of prophecy. It would not be possible for a man inspired by God to predict what is going to take place, perhaps in several hundreds of years, unless God controlled everything. Prophecy is not merely foreknowledge, it is a guarantee—that the prophesied events are going to happen because God is in control.
Then another great argument, as we have seen, is derived from answers to prayer. If we did not believe that God controlled everything, there would be no point in praying—we would not pray for sunshine, we would not pray for rain; we would not pray for health and for the control of disease. Prayer, in a sense, would be ridiculous if we did not believe in the doctrine of providence. And that is why deists do not believe in prayer. Pantheists do not pray; there is no purpose in it. But those who believe in the doctrine of providence obviously pray because the very idea of that doctrine immediately leads to prayer.
And our last general argument is the argument from miracles. Were it not that the doctrine of providence is true, if it were not the case that God has His hand upon everything, and is controlling everything, then miracles simply could not take place at all.
So then, what exactly do we mean by providence? I cannot think of a better definition or description than this: ‘Providence is that continued exercise of the divine energy whereby the Creator upholds all his creatures, is operative in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.’ We shall consider the biblical proof for that statement later on. Now there are three elements in this idea of providence, and we must differentiate between them in thought as well as in practice, though, of course, the three tend to work together. You can look at the three aspects of providence from different angles. The first is the aspect or the element of preservation—‘that continuous work of God by which He maintains the things which He has created, together with the properties and powers with which He has endowed them.’ Now this is most important. The Bible teaches that God preserves everything that He has made. It is a continuous work. Some have tried to say that this doctrine of preservation simply means that God does not destroy the work He once made, but that is not preservation. It means more than that; it means that He keeps everything in being.
Lloyd-Jones, D. M. (1996). God the Father, God the Son (142–144). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.