Heidelberg Catechism Lesson 10

Q. 27. What dost thou mean by the providence of God?

 
The almighty and everywhere present power of God;[1] whereby, as it were by His hand, He upholds and governs heaven, earth, and all creatures;[2] so that herbs and grass, rain and drought,[3] fruitful and barren years,[4] meat and drink, health and sickness,[5] riches and poverty,[6] yea, and all things come, not by chance, but by His fatherly hand.[7]

[1] Acts 17:25–28;  [2] Hebrews 1:3;  [3] Jeremiah 5:24;  [4] Acts 14:17;  [5] John 9:3;  [6] Proverbs 22:2; Job 1:21;  [7] Matthew 10:29–30; Ephesians 1:11.


 
Q. 28. What advantage is it to us to know that God has created, and by His providence doth still uphold all things?
 
That we may be patient in adversity;[1] thankful in prosperity;[2] and that in all things, which may hereafter befall us, we place our firm trust in our faithful God and Father,[3] that nothing shall separate us from His love;[4] since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.[5]

[1] Romans 5:3; Psalm 39:10;  [2] Deuteronomy 8:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:18;  [3] Romans 5:3–6;  [4] Romans 8:38–39;  [5] Job 1:12 and 2:6; Matthew 8:31; Isaiah 10:15.


Commentary

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has an excellent succinct definition of God’s works of providence, namely: “God’s works of providence are, His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions” (WSC 11). This statement appears to focus on the living beings, such as men, angels and animals, although there is no doubt that the framers of the Catechism believe that “all things,… from the greatest even to the least” (WCF 5.1) are upheld, directed, disposed of, and governed by God. Notice how HC 27 says the same thing, but in very concrete terms pertaining to heaven, earth, creatures, plant growth, weather conditions, health, economic conditions, etc. Notice how all these things are said to be upheld by God’s fatherly hand rather than by chance as commonly understood.


This catechism question therefore teaches us that we ought to be students of providence, to see the display of the power of God everywhere. We must see God’s hand in every natural phenomena, and disasters. We must see the hand of God in every accident and act of man. We must see the hand of the Lord in every opportunity and circumstance in our lives. We must understand and believe that nothing happens by chance or mere coincidence or fate. Why are you reading this article at this time? No, it is not just because of the secondary causes, such as the fact that the worship service has ended and no one is talking to you right now. It is, rather, because God has, in His wisdom, decreed that you should be reading this article at such a time and circumstance and He has brought it to pass by His sovereign power.


Theology must not just remain in our minds. What theology we have learned must govern our lives and cause us to have a different view of the things that happen in the world. We must see that all things are under the sovereign hand of God, who works all things for His own glory and for the good of His Church.


Thus, the child of God who understands and believes in sovereign providence will be patient in adversity, knowing that God is still working out all things according to His wisdom for the good of those who love Him (Rom 8:28). He is also thankful in prosperity because he knows that it is God who provides all that he has. Finally, the child of God who understands and believes in the providence God would be confident that nothing will be able to separate Him from the love of God because Christ shed His blood for his redemption.