Having God’s providence and sin now clearly before us, we face the question: what is the connection as such between them, according to Scripture, without as yet discussing how they are actually related to one another. And then we would remark, in the first place, that the child of God surely demands a scriptural explanation of this phenomenon of God’s sovereign providence and sin. His soul cries for this explanation. He cannot ignore it or brush it aside. He cannot adopt the attitude of the stoic or the American Indian and simply harden himself against all affliction and suffering, the results of sin in the midst of the world. That stoic or Indian may appear calm outwardly but inwardly he seethes and rebels. Neither can he be indifferent with respect to all these sufferings of our present time, assume the attitude that we may just as well take the bitter with the sweet. Our Lord Jesus Christ was surely not such a stoic and neither was He indifferent, resigned to the fact that He might as well realize that the bitter must be taken with the sweet. It is certainly not pleasing in God’s sight that, when He afflicts us, we react indifferently, react as if this mighty hand of God does not affect us.
Indeed, the child of God craves and demands an explanation of this phenomenon, God’s providence and sin. I must have an explanation, first of all, because of the fact of the power of sin. It is simply a fact that we must contend with this power of sin within us. Is there any child of God who is not aware of this awesome power of sin within him? How vividly this fearful struggle is held before us in the seventh chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Romans! How wretched he knows himself and how he longs to be delivered out of the body of this death! But we must also deal with the power of sin in the world round about us. That wicked world hates God and His church. And seemingly they may proceed unmolested in their wickedness. Seemingly that wicked world may afflict and torment the church of God to their hearts’ content. And then the psalmist in Psalm 73 asks whether there be any knowledge with the Most High. Now it is surely for the child of God of the greatest significance to know whether God is God or whether that world rages against the Lord as having power in itself, and that therefore the cause of God’s righteousness must remain in doubt even unto the end. It is surely for him of the greatest significance to know whether God is truly God and He alone.
Secondly, however, the problem of God’s providence and sin demands an explanation because of the living God. This explanation is of even greater importance than that which involves the reality, as such, of the power of sin. Indeed, my soul cries for this explanation because of God Who is the God of my salvation. I am sure that we can understand this. He is the alone living God. He declares the end from the beginning and His counsel shall stand. And this counsel is even as God is: all-comprehensive, eternal, unchangeable, efficacious, and independent. However, this God Who alone is God is my God. Him I love, the eternal, only true God. My soul must have an explanation of the fact of sin because of Him Who is my God. Does the Lord delight in iniquity? But is He not good? Or, does sin exist independently of the eternal Jehovah? But can there possibly be anything that exists independently of Him? Is there an evil in the city and the Lord has not done it? (Amos 3:6). Or, if God be sovereign, the only Ruler of heaven and earth, how must we explain that the world may continue it its mad iniquity? To answer that the Lord permits these things to happen does not satisfy, and this for the simple reason that God does not merely permit anything to happen—fact is, He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, Or, to answer that the Lord does this iniquity would be in conflict with His adorable holiness, righteousness, and perfection. But, to give sin a place independent of the Lord would be a denial of His sovereignty. And because my soul thirsts after the living God, because I desire that God remain God, I must have an answer to the question concerning sin in connection with His divine providence. The text, “For of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things,” must surely be applied also to the reality of sin and iniquity. In other words, also the fact of sin must impart comfort to the child of God.
In answer to this very urgent question, it must be maintained, first of all, that God is really God in all the operation of His providence. We cannot emphasize too strongly that this must be understood in the absolute sense of the word. It is not only true that the Lord supports all things, but also that He is absolutely sovereign in His government over all things. We must surely maintain that there is nothing more certain than the word of His mouth. When He speaks, it is; when He commands, it stands. All things take place through that almighty Word of the Lord. And we may say that, generally speaking, there is agreement with regard to this truth. The Scriptures state very plainly, so plainly that they really tolerate no dispute, that even all the hairs of our head are numbered, and that a sparrow does not fall from the housetop without the will of our heavenly Father.
Secondly, however, we must also understand that the reality of sin takes place through the providence of God. Concerning this truth Scripture leaves no doubt either. The Word of God speaks very plainly also to this effect. Do we not read in the Scriptures that God forms the light and creates the darkness, yea, that He makes peace and creates evil, as in Isaiah 45:7? Joseph is brought into Egypt through the abominations of his brothers; but when these brothers finally appear before him in Egypt, and they fear that he will avenge himself upon them and seek reprisals against them for the evil they committed against him, he declares to them very plainly that the Lord had turned all their evil thoughts unto good. Repeatedly we read in the Word of God that the Lord hardens the hearts of men. He hardens Pharaoh’s heart and even proclaims unto Moses that He will work in Pharaoh’s heart unto that end-indeed, Scripture employs a language in this connection which we otherwise would never dare to take upon our lips. The king’s heart, we read in Proverbs 21:1, is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water; He turneth it whithersoever He wills. Was it not the Lord Who caused David to count the people? We read in 2 Samuel 24:1: “And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” And, mind you, David sinned in this numbering of the people. We all know how Shimei cursed David when he fled from before the face of Absalom; yet David himself declares that this cursing by Shimei was of the Lord. Godless hands nailed the Lord Jesus Christ to the accursed tree; nevertheless, He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). We will have opportunity later to call attention to this particular Word of God. Upon the question whether sin is independent of God, or whether this power of evil occurs also through the providence of God, so that the Lord from moment unto moment is realizing His counsel, there can be but one answer, without a single moment of hesitation: there is no evil in the city which the Lord does not perform (Amos 3:6). Of this there cannot possibly be any doubt. The Word of God surely declares that there is only one God, and that this God is God alone, and that He performs all His good pleasure. We can never stress this truth too emphatically. The Scriptures allow no compromise in this matter. God, God alone, also now and throughout the ages, is the Cause, the supreme Cause of the existence of all things. We must not hesitate to say this. Every curse, every evil thought, every rebellion of sinful man, is of the Lord alone, sovereignly, not only from eternity, but He is ever working it from moment unto moment. Can we possibly doubt this? Is God not the alone living God? Does He not, according to Isaiah 46:19, declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure? Do we not read here that the Lord declares the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done? Is not this a truly marvelous thing? Who but God is able to do this? O, do not say that the Lord merely knows all about these things. The Arminian will concede to you that the Lord knows about the sinner’s unbelief. He claims to believe in a divine election and reprobation based upon foreseen faith and unbelief. But this Word of God in Isaiah 46:10 not only declares emphatically that the Lord knows all things, it also states that He will do all His pleasure and that therefore His counsel shall stand. Indeed, we may not and shall not separate sin from the providence of the Lord. He is absolutely sovereign; He is in absolute control. And sin is no exception to this. Concerning this we need not doubt as far as the testimony of Holy Writ is concerned.
However, confessing this truth of God’s Word, this connection between the providence of God and sin, we become seemingly involved in an irreconcilable conflict with the holiness and righteousness of God. We cannot escape the word of God in Job 34:10: “Far be it from God, that He should do wickedness; and from the Almighty that He should commit iniquity.” Or, turning to Habakkuk 1:13 we read: “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity.” And the apostle John writes so uncompromisingly in his epistle, chapter 1, that He is a Light in Whom is no darkness at all. And, is not our God a consuming fire? Hence, the Lord God and sin must surely be viewed as excluding one another. There is in God nothing that resembles iniquity, as we also read in James 1:13: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man.” The Lord is truly a Light; He is Light, the overflowing fountain of all good. How now is it to be harmonized with our God, Who never beholds iniquity, that sin is nevertheless never to be explained as independent of Jehovah, Who has formed the wicked, note well, the wicked unto the day of evil? Indeed, we must and surely can say something about this. Yes, we must say something about this. This we can and must do in the light of the testimony of the Word of God. And we have already called attention to the fact that my soul cries for an answer, and that because of the power of sin but also and primarily because of the living God. We must understand that God and sin surely exclude each other. If we fail to maintain this we lose God. And we cannot afford to lose God. He is the thrice Holy One of Israel! With this truth our salvation stands or falls. We can expect no good from a God who loves sin and iniquity. As stated previously, we cannot fathom this problem, understand it intellectually. And we do not propose to offer such an explanation. God is the divine and sovereign Potter and we are but the clay, and how presumptuous it would be for clay to fathom and understand the eternal and infinite Potter! But we can say something about it. This we can do because the Scriptures lead us in this. And we must never fail to take God at His Word. Only, we must believe all that the Lord has revealed to us in His Word.