Photo Credit: Smithsonian American
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. (Ezekiel 1: 15-19; ESV)
What Spurgeon is focusing on here in this part is, “And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around.” How are we to understand that? The first thing that came to my mind is that the very word “tall” carries with it a measure of greatness, especially when compared to its opposite, “short.” A city built with nothing more than one or two story buildings, just doesn’t say great and awesome as much as a city filled with tall high-rise buildings does. Add to that “eyes all around,” implying that God sees everything and is involved in everything, and all we can be left saying is, “Amazing!” Spurgeon says,
O! that thought, it stagers thought! O! it is an idea that overwhelms me – that God is working all! The sins of man, the wickedness of our race, the crimes of nations, the iniquities of kings, the cruelties of wars, the terrific scourge of pestilence – all these things in some mysterious way are working the will of God! We must not look at it; we cannot look at it. I cannot explain it. I cannot tell you where human will and free agency unite with God’s sovereignty and with his unfailing decrees. This has been the place where intellectual gladiators have fought with each other ever since the time of Adam. Some have said, Man does as he likes; and others have said, God does as He pleases. In one sense, they are both true; but there is no man that has brains or understanding enough to show where they meet.
The Providence of God is truly an amazing thing! Who can understand how God works in this world? With so much junk in this cesspool of our society, and generally in society since the beginning of time, how does our holy God wade through it all and still come up with working out His purposes in it? It truly is amazing that such a thing is even possible. It is perhaps easier to speak of God’s Providence when only looking at the good things in life, but can we see it in the bad things of life too? That’s a little more difficult. It is easier to see the Providence of God in the wedding than it is in the funeral. Fact is, however, that God’s Providence somehow resides in both.
We do not have to understand something for it to be true. Truth can be there apart from any understanding. The truth is that God’s word does not return to Him void, but accomplishes everything that He wills and determines should be (Isaiah 55:11). This He somehow does, regardless of what you and I do, or fail to do, or understand. No matter how much of a mess our human race makes of things, God’s Providence is amazingly carried out each and every time in total perfection. As Spurgeon said, “It staggers thought.” I don’t pretend to understand that, but I know in my spirit that it is true.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55: 8-9; ESV)
If God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours but are higher than ours, then that simply says to me that we cannot fully understand the mind of God. Sure, there are many brilliant thinkers out there. If we could segregate all of them who ever lived together in one room, they would still never come up with a unanimous verdict on the nature and character of the Providence of God. Man just simply is not that smart.
How is it that, with all the free will that God has given to us, His purposes in Providence are fulfilled regardless of the choices that you and I make? It simply blows my mind. If we are obedient or disobedient to His call, His purposes in Providence still stand. Somehow He cares for His creation, with us, or despite us. That’s amazing to me and totally beyond my comprehension!
Recently I had a phone call from a friend wondering if I would meet him downtown. I had two choices; I could go meet my friend, or I could choose to stay at home. Neither option would necessarily have been right or wrong. Little did I know that God had providentially orchestrated a meeting between my friend and me on the street with a person whose heart was at that precise time made ready to hear from our Heavenly Father. Little did I know that in a short period of time I would be praying with a complete stranger on the street that day. That’s amazing. (For more on this event, please see my blog post entitled “of Fornication and Street Evangelism”).
What’s amazing about that event? It is amazing because even with my freedom to choose to go or not to go at the call of my friend, God’s purpose in that stranger’s life was realized. If I had no choice but to robotically go, then that wouldn’t have been as amazing. The amazing part is how God somehow still grants us a measure of autonomy to do as we please without Him reneging on His plan.
God’s Providence is amazing. Think about it. God’s providence means that He is caring for and helping us day by day. The food on our table, the clothing on our backs and the roofs over our heads all come from the Providence of God. We could argue that we worked for those things ourselves. However, if God had not providentially given us our jobs and the ability to work at them, then could we claim credit for those things? Hmm, I doubt it.
Ultimately, even the person who has nothing is a recipient of the Providence of God by virtue of the fact that he is alive. That says to me that God’s Providence is different from one person to the next. One person has a steak dinner and the next only a slice of bread. Is one less providential than the other? No, neither person would eat anything were it not for the Providence of God. Why do some people seem able to gorge themselves in their excess whereas others don’t seem to have enough? Doesn’t that seem grossly unjust? From our human understanding it does, but we need to again remember that passage we quoted above from Isaiah 55: 8-9, “God’s ways are not our ways.” Though I can’t answer that question, it doesn’t mean that God’s Providence isn’t somehow at work in both. Though I cannot explain it doesn’t make it untrue. That’s part of the “mysterious way” that Spurgeon spoke of.
Even our very salvation comes from the Providence of God. His care of all present and future events, including all eternity, is providential in that none of it comes from our ability or effort. Someone has said, “God doesn’t love us because of who we are; He loves us because of who He is.” He is the God of love who orchestrated a plan of salvation for you and me. The cross of Christ was a sign of the Providence of God. In His great love for you and me, He provided the means by which we can spend eternity with Him. He didn’t do so because you or I desired it, but because He willed it, regardless of what we did or didn’t desire.
Spurgeon concludes this section by saying, “A God that cannot do as he pleases – a God whose will is frustrated, is not a God and cannot be God. I could not believe in such a God as that.” Yes, the Providence of God is truly amazing. Often it is also incomprehensible, but it is still no less amazing.