Updated: Oct 6, 2022
God’s providence is his “preserving and governing all his creatures, ordering them and all their actions, to his own glory.” Ezekiel pictures God’s providence as constantly moving wheels, wheels within wheels, purposes within purposes (1:16), huge wheels lifted up to heaven and then descending to earth by the ceaseless activity of the cherubim (1:19-21), filled with eyes and hands (1:18; 10:12), seeing all and doing all God’s purposes.
God’s providence is not passive. He is changeless, but he relentlessly carries out his purposes. The wheels or the Lord’s providence drives all that we see happening in the world today, including the activity of evil men. There is far more that we do not see; this, too, is the wheel within the wheel. We see only the “edge of his ways” (Job 26:14). The size of the wheels terrified Ezekiel (1:18). The revelation of God’s providence is not initially to make us feel at ease but to fill us with wonder and worship.
World leaders threaten one another and billionaires build their Babel’s. Economies are teetering, manipulated, and pillaged. Men have one purpose; the Lord of glory has another. The wheels of his providence raise up and then devastate his enemies. The wheels of his providence challenge and chasten his people. Our God loves us, and he promises to take care of us. He does not promise to stop being God or to rule all things without inconvenience to us. We must expect to be tested. His purposes are vast, his power inestimable, and his servants innumerable. We do not control this world. He does.
Whatever men are doing and intending, the living God has ordained that they do it. They would not be doing it had he not ordained it. His plan is being worked out before our very eyes (Ps. 33:10-11). If a nation experiences a nuclear attack or a terrible pestilence or financial collapse, he has done it (Isa. 45:7). If unthinkable, devastating calamities happen in our land, we cannot plead injustice. He gave the Amorites four centuries of reprieve but with little if any gospel light. He has given us two centuries with constant gospel light, but we have not repented.
God’s providence does not preserve us from passing through the judgments God sends. Our Savior will establish justice in the earth. He will “rule with a rod of iron and dash to pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Rev. 2:27). Forums and foundations with God-pretentions reject his rule. He may give them a long leash and power to punish his enemies and chasten his people. In time, he will crush them (Rev. 19:11-15). He must reign; his enemies must bow. This is the historical inevitable, the wheel of providence that will lift up the believing and crush the rebellious.
He will crush and rule them with the rod of his lips – our confession of his gospel and use of his gospel armor. If you want to see the wheels of providence advancing the reign and kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, “go everywhere speaking the gospel” (Acts 8:4). Pray without ceasing for the Lord Jesus to strike the earth with the rod of his mouth and “with the breath of his lips to slay the wicked (Isa. 11:4). Take up the sword of the Spirit and wield it against sin and Satan (Eph. 6:17).
The Lord Jesus Christ wins with one little word, and you possess it, believer. Use it. Let the thrill and terror of the wheels of God’s providence rolling through the nations, the triumph of our Savior’s kingdom, and the sufferings of his church open your mouth. “And many of the brethren of the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Phil. 1:14). Gospel words are the living Word of the King. This is his age, and he will prevail.
Calvin once wrote that God’s providence is the greatest of all comfort to believers. Do we experience great changes in this life, hurts that never seem to end, pain that will not release us? The Lord who loves us has done this, and he intends good for us through it. Does our work seem never to end, but with little evident fruit? Do ungodly men prosper and get away with their crimes? Crime advances on all sides when ungodly men rule (Ps. 12:8), but the Lord has raised up criminals to pillage his enemies and drive his friends under the shadow of his wings. The future seems terrifying, but we must pour our sighs and trembling into our Father’s bosom, and leave them there (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7). If our children struggle, we lose our jobs, government theft through inflation rises, or our house burns down, our comfort is, “It is the Lord.”
The wheels of providence bring common miseries to us all, for this world is fallen, and the Lord’s wheels are gradually grinding this universe down so that a glorious new heavens and earth can arise to take its place. Expect the Lord’s wheels of sickness, weakness in old age, temptation in every age, and the thorns of sin’s curse to pierce you regularly. These things happen to us all, and they must not make us cynical, bitter, or angry. Instead, we must confess, “The Lord has done it.” And since he has done it, we can be sure he intends to bring good to us through our afflictions (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:18), for he loves us, has always loved us, will never stop loving us. For, we love the One he loves, Jesus Christ. We confess that he, not man, is King. We follow him wherever he leads, and he is leading us to the Father, to heaven, and to glory.