STUDY SIX: CREATION, SOVEREIGNTY AND PROVIDENCE

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

Genesis 1:1 – 2:3(4) has made a clear affirmation that all that exists by God’s creative word, that there is nothing that does not owe its existence to him. This fact of divine creation is affirmed throughout the Scriptures, and is the foundation upon which the sovereignty and providence of God are based.

 

A. CREATION IN THE SCRIPTURES

There are four main contexts in which the teaching of creation by God appears in the Scriptures:

The context of praise – here the believing heart rejoices in the glory of God’s creation
The context of suffering – here the hurting are reminded of God’s sovereign power
The context of rejection of God – here the rebellious are confronted and judged by their Maker
The context of the incarnation – here the Creator comes and becomes one of us, to redeem us.


A.1 Creation and praise

Task #1: What truths about God as Creator of all are taught in these verses? And how is that truth applied to praise?

Psalm 8


Psalm 19:1-6


Psalm 95


Psalm 139


Revelation 4:11

 

As King David contemplated the natural world he was overwhelmed with awe and wonder. Nature, the universe in all its complexity, was so grand and so glorious that it impacted his attitude to the whole of life. He was totally amazed that the Creator of all this splendour and power and grandeur should put insignificant humans in charge of it all [Psalm 8]. His contemplation of the glory and power of God revealed in the beauty and order of the natural world led him to acknowledge the truth and wisdom of God revealed in the beauty and order of the Word of God, and he was moved to desire that same beauty and order in his life [Psalm 19].  

The fact that God created, and therefore owns, the world [Psalm 95:3-5] is the basis of an exultant call to praise [95:1,2] and a call and a warning to acknowledge him as God [95:6-11] because no one can reject this God with impunity. In Psalm 139 our focus is called away from the macro, objective world that God created and onto our own being: God is our Creator. David is absolutely overwhelmed by the implications of this fact. He is filled with awe, reverence and humility in the presence of his Creator.

 

A.2 Creation and suffering

Task #2: What truths about God as Creator of all are taught in these verses? And how is that truth applied to suffering?

Job 38:1-11

 

Job 40:15-24

 

There are hints of suffering in the previous Psalm [139]: there is vulnerability, there is fragility, there is the awareness of human mortality, there is the presence of ‘the wicked’. But we are looking under this heading at God’s words to Job, a man who concurrently experienced every different kind of human suffering to an extreme degree. What God did not say to Job is just as instructive as what he did say. He did not explain to Job why Job was suffering. That is something known to the reader from the prologue in Job 1 & 2, but the accusation and involvement of Satan is never mentioned to Job. God did not explain the long, rebellious history of the evil one and his perpetual attempts to corrupt what God had declared good, to corrupt and destroy what God loves. What God does say to Job is, in summary: Job, have a look around; look at what I have made. Take a good look. Don’t you see in nature how great is my authority and how great is my power? Don’t you see how intricate and how intimate is my control? Can you not trust me? Just trust me. Do you not think that I, the Creator, could stop your suffering in an instant, if that was the best thing to do? Trust me. I am in control. I know the big picture. I know the detail.  I know what I am doing.

 

A.3 Creation and Rebellion

Task #3: What truths about God as Creator of all are taught in these verses? And how is that truth applied to human rebellion?

Isaiah  40:12-31

 


Isaiah 45:5-7, 11,12,18

 


2Peter 3:4,5

 


Rebellion against God is only a reality and a problem if there actually is a God to whom all mankind is accountable. One cannot rebel against a God who exists only as a human construction. One cannot incur the displeasure of a non-real God. God, if he exists at all, must also be the Creator of all to have any authority over all that exists. Divine creation and human responsibility go hand in hand. It cannot be any other way. Men are accountable to God because God is man’s Creator.

So when men rebel against God the fact that God is the one Creator of all is one of the grounds on which their rebellion is denounced and on which repentance and return to God is demanded. [The other, in the case of Israel, is the fact that God is also their historical Redeemer.] The two Isaiah references above confront the Israel’s rebellion against God by strongly emphasising two things: [1] that God the Creator is the only God, there is no other, and [2] he, the Creator, holds everything in his hands – everything, from the rulers of the nations to the far flung stars: he knows and controls them all. To rebel against such a God, to trust in some lesser ‘god’, is both ludicrous and disastrous.

 

A.4 Creation and the Incarnation

Task #4: What truths about God as Creator of all are taught in these verses? And how is that truth applied to the incarnation?

John 1:1-4


Colossians 1:16,17


Hebrews 1:1-3

 

Here we move to an entirely different concept. The fact that the eternal Word of God ‘became flesh’ and lived among us [the incarnation] is intimately connected to the truth that God is the Creator. This Creator/Incarnation connection is evident at a number of levels:

[1] As indicated in the references above the creation of the universe is attributed to the Son of God. This Holy One who lived incarnate among us, is the Creator of the world. Here he, the eternal God, the one and only God, confronts us with his reality and his identity. He who is beyond seeing is here seen. Here in the incarnate Son the unseen God is made known in a final action of self-revelation [John 1:18]. Here, where the Creator stands face to face with his creation, all other gods, all other ideas of gods, are exposed as idols [1John 5:20,21]. Here belief in the Creator God is vindicated.

[2] During the years of his ministry he, by his ‘nature’ miracles, demonstrated the truth of those scriptures which name him as the Creator. He controlled the sea and the wind. He created food for a multitude from a small boy’s lunch. He restored health and soundness to the sick and disabled. He replaced death with life. At every point of challenge from the natural world he demonstrated his authority over the natural world.

[3] Similarly, during the years of his ministry he demonstrated his authority over the evil spirits. They cringed in fear in his presence. They whom he came to expose and condemn, unlike the humans he came to save, recognized him immediately. They knew he was ‘the Holy One of God’; they knew he was their Creator, and therefore their Master. Rebels though they are they cannot not here disobey him.

[4] At a deep level his incarnation affirms not only the reality of God, but also the reality and the value of the created world, specifically, of man. Among the world religions are those whose goal is to escape from the illusion of ‘matter’ into the reality of the ‘cosmic mind’. Jesus, the Son, the Word, the Holy One, the I AM, deliberately and for our sake exchanged the non-tangible for the tangible, pure spirit for flesh. He became one of us. The Creator became a creature. And thus confirmed the reality and the dignity of the creature. Your reality, your dignity. And mine. This flesh and blood is what God made us. And this flesh and blood is what the Christ took upon himself to redeem, to restore and to renew.

In all of this we are confronted with the fact that to believe in God as the Creator, and as our Creator, is not just an irrelevant doctrine about something that happened [or not, according to some] in the past. It is a doctrine, a truth, with highly significant contemporary relevance. If God was the Creator then, he still is the Creator now – the one God to whom all things owe their existence. This one fact, irrespective of any other biblical facts, is enough. It speaks to us today: today the heavens and the earth are still declaring his glory and commanding our praise and our worship; today his creative power and control still reassure and elicit our trust in the midst of our suffering; today his authority as the only Creator, the only God still confront and challenge our rebellion; today his incarnation constantly confronts us with his reality and ours.

Because of this one fact, even if no other facts were known to us, we owe to this Creator God our allegiance, our obedience and our praise. He, because he is the Creator, because he is the one who brings all things into existence, is ‘worthy … to receive glory and honour and praise’ [Revelation 4:11].

 

B. THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD – A COROLLARY OF CREATION, AND A PERVASIVE BIBLICAL CONCEPT

Even as we spoke of creation in the previous section we were also speaking of sovereignty. It is impossible not to do so; they go hand in hand of necessity. [See also the last section in Study Three - Creation, Sovereignty and Dependence.]

The sovereignty of God taught in the Scriptures takes its nature from the truths embedded in the Creation narratives, and excludes the idolatrous concepts of God common to man:

Deism is excluded, because the Creator God maintains a hands-on relationship with his creation. His sovereignty does not consist in setting the world up and letting it go. Rather this Creator God has on-going sovereign involvement with his Creation, as evident in Genesis 3 and beyond.

Fatalism is excluded, because the Creator God has not fixed everything in concrete with an immovable divine decree: rather the Genesis 3 fall was man’s clear choice, something that God had actually said ‘No’ to. Yet the Creator God, in the omniscience, perfection and fluidity of his sovereignty, incorporates this horrific human choice into his eternal plan and effects the end result of praise and glory.

Determinism is excluded, because the Creator God exercises sovereignty over us as a personal God, a God who communicates, who speaks to our minds, our hearts, our souls, our senses, our wills to evoke our worship and our obedience. He did not make us machines determined by genes; he does not rule us through an embedded, impersonal, predictable, mechanistic, cause-effect process.

Dualism is excluded. The Creator God does not share his glory with another. Rather all ‘others’, including Satan, are his creatures. We are not here at the mercy of two equal powers each vying for our allegiance. Rather he who is against us, the ‘prince of this world’, has only a usurped authority, and that limited by the Word of the Sovereign God. As evident in the Prologue of Job, Satan is not a free agent. There is never any question about who is really the King.

Idolatry [an expression of polytheism and pantheism, even monism] is excluded. God is sovereign – not images of the things he created. The doctrine of Creation by God invalidates all idolatry. Why worship a creature made by God? Why not worship the God who made it? Why worship a man-made image of a creature made by God! Why not worship the God who made both the man and the creature? This is the constant burden of the Old Testament Scriptures which continually call and recall the people away from the worthless idols they have made for themselves and back to the One true living God who created them and all that is, and who alone has sovereign power, who alone can be their strength, their fortress, who alone has the power and the authority over nature and over the nations on which they can depend for their protection and survival.

Spiritism is excluded. It is God in his sovereign power and omniscience who can make known the end from the beginning. It is his word alone that has authority. It is his prophets alone who can be trusted – those to whom he with sovereign power has given his truth.

Because God is the Creator he is also the Sovereign God: the one God who rules all things.

Task #5: Discussion point: Into which of the above ‘isms’ is your mind most likely to wander?

 

 

 

C. CREATION, SOVEREIGNTY AND PROVIDENCE

Providence, the teaching that God is providing for and sustaining the world he created, goes hand in hand with the truths of creation and sovereignty. It is grounded in the fact that God is the Creator. Take away the truth that God is the Creator and we are left alone to provide and care for ourselves. There is no loving Father who, according to his Son, knows what we need even before we ask him, and whose knowledge and compassion are such that he takes note when even a two-a-penny sparrow falls to the ground.

The Scripture testifies to this sovereignty and providence that characterise the Creator God:

Task #6: [optional study] In each section below identify what the verses in each section teach. How is this grounded in the fact that God is the Creator?

The providence of God in the natural world [God is the Sustainer of the world]
Job 38
Psalm 104:10-30
Isaiah 40:21-29
Jeremiah 10:11-13
Mathew 6:45
Acts 17:23,28
Colossians 1:17
Hebrews 1:3

 

 

The sovereignty of God over natural laws
Genesis 6:7,13,17; 8:1
Exodus 8:16-19
Exodus 9:2-7
Exodus 14:13-31
Joshua 10:12-14
Mark 4:39; 6:30-44
John 11:38-44
Romans 4:19-21

 

 

The sovereignty of God over the nations
Genesis 11:5-9
Deuteronomy 2:30
Judges 2:10-23; 3:2-4
Psalm 2:1-12; 22:28
Isaiah 5:25-30
Isaiah 10:5-12; 13:4,5
Isaiah 40:15-17
Isaiah 45:1-4
Jeremiah 10:7-10
Jeremiah 25:12-14
Hosea 1:7
Amos 1:3-2:3
Acts 17:24-27

 

 

The sovereignty of God in individual human lives
2Chronicles 32:25,26,31
Psalm 1:6; 21:1-13
Psalm 113:5-9
Proverbs 16:33
Daniel 3:24-29
Rom. 8:28
2Corinthians 12:7-9
Galatians 1:15-16

 

 

The sovereignty of God in the lives of those who reject him
Exodus 8:15,32; 14:4
Deuteronomy 29:4-6
Psalm 76:10;
Psalm 81:11,12
Isaiah 6:9,10
Matthew 13:10-15
Romans 1:24-26,28
Romans 11:7,8
2Thessalonians 2:10-12
1Peter 2:7,8

 

 

God’s sovereign knowledge
2 Kings 8:12,13
Isaiah 46:10
Matt. 10:29-31
Acts 2:23
Romans 11:32-34

 

 


God’s sovereign purpose and his ability to bring it about
Psalm 115:3
Psalm 135:6
Isaiah 14:24,26,27
Isaiah 46:10,11
Isaiah 55:10, 11
Romans 8:28
Ephesians 1:11
Ephesians 3:10-11

 

 

God’s sovereignty over evil
Genesis 45:5-7
Genesis 50:20
Job 1:12; 2:6,7
Isaiah 45:7
Amos 9:8,9
Acts 2:23
1Timothy 4:10

 

 

The sovereignty of God in choosing a people for himself
Deuteronomy 7:6
Romans 8:28-30
Romans 11:14-18
Ephesians 1:4-5,11
2Timothy 1:9
1Peter 2:4-10