Meditations on the Larger Catechism, pt. 15
December 10, 2012
Upheld by Providence
The God of the Bible is the God who has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass from all eternity and who in human history brings all his plans to reality through creation and redemption. This means he surely is not absent, but present in all the affairs of his creation. And because he is present, he personally guides the beginning to the end, inauguration to consummation. We call this personal presence in the turning of time God’s providence. Meditate with me for a moment on the fact that all things are Upheld by Providence from a precious verse on this subject, Hebrews 1:3: “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
First, consider the doctrine of providence in Hebrews 1:3 in terms of its person. We read that, “he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Who is this he? This is an intriguing question since question and answer 18 of the Larger Catechism says that “God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures; ordering them, and all their actions, to his own glory.” Ordinarily Scripture attributes the work of providence to God the Father (Matt. 6:25–33). It does this for our simplicity sake. Yet the Scripture’s teaching gave rise to the theological maxim: opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt; the external works of the Trinity are indivisible. This means that the works of creation, providence, and redemption are the works of all three person of the Holy Trinity. And we see an example of that in Hebrews 1:3, which attributes providence to the Son. Notice the context of this statement. The author is arguing for the superiority of the Son over everything in the Old Covenant—angels, Moses, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the temple.
As the Son, as the heir of all things, as the one through whom God created the world, as the radiance of God’s glory, as the exact imprint of God’s nature, as the purifier of sins, as the ruler at God’s right hand, and as the one superior to angels, Jesus Christ upholds all things by his powerful word (Heb. 1:1–3). This is hardly the Jesus of The Da Vinci Code and of pop anti-Christianity today, who was supposedly made God by ancient Christian councils. He is God, and therefore along with the Father and the Holy Spirit he is the upholder of all things. This means he, along with the Father and the Spirit, is worthy of our praise, world without end. Amen.
Second, consider the doctrine of providence in Hebrews 1:3 in terms of its place. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Where does the Son exercise this personally present work? He does so in “the universe,” as the ESV states. This is a sense of the literally phrase, “the ages.” Yet to say “the universe” does run the risk of conveying to our warped minds the idea of something static. Did the Son uphold the universe at one point, does he uphold it every once in a while, and will he do so at some time in the future? On the contrary, to say the Son upholds “the ages” is to say something dynamic. He has, he is, and he will always uphold the successive seconds, minutes, hours, days, years, decades, centuries, and millennia of the universe. He does this for all things, in general, and most importantly for the child of God, he does this for my history, in particular. Truly, “He’s got the whole world in his hands,” as the children’s song celebrates.
Finally, consider the doctrine of providence in Hebrews 1:3 in terms of its power. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The power of the Son is shown in that word “uphold.” Everything in all times and in all places is upon his shoulders, or better, in the palm of his hand. As Paul says elsewhere in Colossians 1:17, “in him all things hold together.”
The power of the Son is also seen in the means he uses to uphold everything in the palm of his almighty hand. He upholds all things not by exerting himself, as if he were the Greek Titan, Atlas, upholding the world on his shoulders. Instead, he upholds all things merely by his word—his powerful word. As in the creation, so in providence, when the eternal Son made man speaks, it is so!
Do you realize what this means for you? You can entrust your entire life to Jesus. You can entrust your children’s lives to Jesus. You can entrust your daily affairs and needs to Jesus. You can entrust everything that concerns you to Jesus. There is nothing too problematic, nothing to insignificant, to our powerful Savior. This also means that you can pray to Jesus in times of need. Since he was intimately involved in your estate in the incarnation, taking upon your flesh and blood, undergoing temptation in your place without sin, and since he continues to be intimately involved in his providential care in your life, he knows you; he cares for you. He is not an aloof Savior, but an intimate and powerful Savior. Therefore “cast[…] all your anxieties upon him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). And because the person of the Son cares for you, as he does all the place of this universe in all its ages, he is able to powerfully turn all evil to your good, and ultimately “to his own glory.”
Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
Pastor, Oceanside United Reformed Church