Sunday, November 7

A Sunday To Contemplate God's Sovereign Providence

O God, Our Help in Ages Past

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Under the shadow of thy throne,
Still may we dwell secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting, thou art God,
To endless years the same.

A thousand ages, in thy sight,
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night,
Before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all who breathe away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.
---Isaac Watts

The featured sermon is called A Time For God. I know very little about it except that it was preached at First Presbyterian Church of Jackson, Mississippi, and is an exposition of Ecclesiastes 3, and uses "The Lord of the Rings" as an illustration. From the sermon:
Look at verse 11. He tells us here that God has ordered everything according to its proper time. He has made everything appropriate in His time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so, that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end. I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime. Verse 14: I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.

In this passage he acknowledges that God has given every human being an innate sense of Him and that there is meaning and order in this life. And so, even those who claimed to believe there is no God and to believe there is no providence, and to believe there is no meaning, cannot live as if there is no meaning in this life. God will not allow them to ultimately live consistently with the idea that there is no meaning and there is no God and there is no purpose. And from time to time, even in the lives of those who are most opposed to God's truth and to God's existence, and to God's providential control, they will act as if there is meaning in life. Find a hard-core atheist when his mother has died or his child has died, or there is some calamity that is encroached upon him and laugh and mock at him; his feelings will be hurt. Well, that makes no sense unless there is some morality to what has happened. You have to have a moral universe to have justifiably hurt feelings. And so, he acts as if there is meaning and the reason that he acts as if there is meaning, is because there is meaning even though he denies it!

And so, the author, the Preacher is saying, "Look, when you look at this world, you have to live one of two ways: As if this world is meaningless and hopeless, the result of a random operation of chance in a naturalistic structure or as if it is the result of the personal direction of a sovereign, Almighty God." In fact, here in verses 9-14, he asserts that God is ordering everything according to its own design. God's permanent and effective and complete and secure providence orders those who know Him to enjoy life and moves them to be in awe of Him.
And more:
So when the problems of life come, how do you look at them? Wha's the index, the measure of your hope in your response to the problems of life? Do you remember the scene in the first volume of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? It's in the chapter "The Shadow of the Past" when Gandalf is speaking to Frodo about the ring of power that has been discovered. If you saw the movie, it's been moved to the Mines of Moria, that's where it happens. And Frodo says, "I wish that this hadn't happened in my time." And you know, a lot of you feel like that today, about things that have entered in to your lives. You've seen a child's heart broken; you've lost a child; you've lost a spouse; you've had your career hopes dashed; you've been betrayed by a friend; and you have thought to yourself, "I wish it hadn't happened." And do you remember how Tolkien has Gandalf respond to Frodo? Here's how it goes from the movie script, roughly. "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the world of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the ring in which case, you were also meant to have it, and that is an encouraging thought."

You see, behind that literary fiction is a stable, moral universe with a God who is in control making sense of it all. And so, in the face of the most difficult problem; in the face of the slings and arrows of the most outrageous fortune, we can trust that everything is coming to us from the hand of heavenly Father who loves us. And so, through all the changing scenes of life--in trouble, and in joy--we can sing the praises of our God whose providence is ruling this world.