Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A #11

Q: What are God's works of providence? 
A: God's works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions.
Nehemiah 9:6: You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.

In some ways, I feel as if this is the climax of all that we've been talking about with God's eternal decrees. We may shudder at some of what we've been talking about, as we realize the awesome power of God to do as he pleases, to ordain whatever he wills, and ordain the means by which his decrees come to pass. Taking comfort in that kind of utterly raw sovereignty is hard sometimes, because it requires the utmost trust in God, and a trust in the fact that his decrees are truly right, good, and good for us. Taken by themselves, the questions on the eternal decrees of God can shake us to the bones. But then this catechism comes along and reminds us of something beautiful and hopeful and wonderful. God, by the means of his works of providence, is preserving us, and all of his creation. If we were to break down the word "preserve", particularly its Latin root, we see that the word means something truly wonderful. The word means, literally, to be kept in advance. That is what God is doing with us, and with all of his creation. He is keeping us, but more than that, he has determined in eternity past to keep us. His preservation is eternally determined. We have talked already about how God is not a cosmic first responder, simply doing damage control, reacting to the will and whims of a fallen creation. Rather, he is sovereign over all of it. He is governing all his creatures, and all their actions. Nothing is outside of his rule and dominion, and through it all, he is preserving us. 

Now we see the comfort and peace that comes from knowing that God is sovereignly executing his decrees. Now we see the comfort in knowing that God not only decrees the ends, but also the means by which they happen. Because in it all, whatsoever comes to pass, we know that God, in his acts of providence, is ruling over all of it, and not only ruling, but is preserving us through it all. The Levites' doxology of praise from Nehemiah, as they came out of exile and led the people of God in dedicating the rebuilt temple, is wonderfully lifting. They recognize the King of all creation and see his love, his care, his preservation of all creation. But they not only see God's preservation all of creation in a general sense, they see his preservation and care for his own people. This doxology is a grand statement of God's faithfulness to his eternal covenant. Here, as the people of God were restored to their promised land, as they were set free from bondage and exile, they realize that God has indeed preserved them. He had not abandoned them. And in this realization, their hearts overflow with praise to the faithful God. 

Brothers and sisters, God will keep you. He has eternally determined to keep you. Before the world was created, before the fall of man, before sin and death and suffering ever entered into the creation, God has determined to keep you. His preservation will not falter. It will not fail. He will keep you until the end, when we ourselves come into our inheritance. When we ourselves are set free from exile and bondage, then we will join the host of heaven before the thrown of God above and worship him. 

Posted on March 17, 2015 .