Theologian R. C. Sproul once said, “God doesn’t roll dice.” Nothing ever happens by chance. Scripture makes this clear.
Consider Ruth in the Old Testament. Ruth “happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz” (Ruth 2:3). A more literal translation of the Hebrew would actually read, “Her chance chanced upon,” or, as we would say today, “By chance she accidentally stumbled into the part of the field belonging to Boaz.” This is written to an original audience that did not believe in chance. They believed God was sovereign in all things.
In this passage, the author of Ruth is using this exaggeration as a figure as speech. It wasn’t meant to be taken literally. It was meant to convey the same idea stated in Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs each step.”
Kevin DeYoung writes:
The story of the Old Testament is nothing if not a story of divine providence. On every page, in every promise, behind every prophecy is the sure hand of God. He sustains all things, directs all things, plans all things, ordains all things, superintends all things, works all things after the counsel of his will.
While God could certainly rule and govern the earth without our participation, he has chosen us to join him in ruling and governing his creation. We often say our salvation brings us back to fulfill our original calling as described in Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.”
We must take this responsibility to act in God’s providence as “secondary means” very seriously. The Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). These good works are not just the things we do in church. They consist of all the work we do in our families, our communities, and especially our vocations. The late James Montgomery Boice wrote:
The providence of God does not relieve us of responsibility. God works through means (the integrity, hard work, obedience and faithfulness of Christian people, for example). The providence of God does not relieve us of the need to make wise judgments or to be prudent.
Scripture is clear that God does not compel anyone to do anything that is contrary to their own desires, but instead uses their free decisions to bring about his glorious will.
The Day after the Election, Do We Still Believe God Is Sovereign?
Today we have a new president-elect in the United States. The popular vote did not surprise God. The results have not derailed his providence. This is not God’s first rodeo. The prophet Daniel writes that God, in his sovereignty, determines our leaders:
He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding (Daniel 2:21).
As those who serve the King of the Universe, we need to be reminded of three things, especially on today of all days.
- While God is sovereign, we are still responsible to live out our calling based on his design and desire. Because of God’s providence, we can rest assured that our work is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).
- God is working out everything (even elections) for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).
- We need to earnestly pray for our new president (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
In Daniel 4:34-35, Daniel writes about the last days of another ruler:
At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, And he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”
After this crazy election cycle, we all need to return to our reason and read this passage not as the conversion of a pagan king, but as a reminder of our own easily-distracted hearts. We need to cut through all the noise of television pundits and social media soothsayers and remember God is on his throne. None of us can say to him, “What have you done?”