There was once an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed.
One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. “Why do you toss the stick more than once?” someone asked.
“Because,” replied the woman, “it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road on the right.”
Too often, that’s the way we are. “Lord, I’ll do anything you want as long as it’s what I want.”
What direction does God want us to take in our lives? What decision should we make? What purpose do we serve at a given point in time? How should we respond to the circumstances in our lives? To the choices we must make about family? Careers? Jobs? Homes? Moves?
Although the word is not specifically stated, the providence of God is clearly taught in the Bible. I was reminded of this again last night in our Wednesday evening Bible class as we studied the life of Esther.
Esther was a Jewish woman living in Babylon during the time of Israel’s captivity. The Persians now ruled and Xerxes was the King. The time was about 460 B.C. The Queen, Vashti, had displeased Xerxes and was deposed. After a lengthy search for a new Queen, the beautiful Esther was chosen.
During this time a man named Haman had gained power and prominence in the Kingdom. Haman hated the Jews and especially hated Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, who would not bow down to him. Eventually, he devised a plot to annihilate the Jews with a royal decree from the King.
When Mordecai learned of Haman’s evil intentions, he sent a message to Queen Esther asking for her help to save their people. His plea contained this intriguing question: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
This question implies the distinct possibility that Esther’s rise to the throne was a part of an overall plan for her life. Interestingly, God’s name is never specifically mentioned in the entire book of Esther. Yet, it is apparent that Mordecai had faith in the Lord’s plan for His people. For their deliverance. And for the spiritual promises that would ultimately be fulfilled as prophesied by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel.
If you’re not familiar with the narrative, read the book of Esther for “the rest of the story.” However, Queen Esther is remembered for her faith, courage, and trust in the providence of God.
Who knows the will of God for my life?
Yes, there are specific things about God’s will that are unconditional and unchanging. His purpose in Christ. His plan for our salvation. The role and work of His church. The Gospel message. These are constant. Eternal. And Changeless.
There are other things that are conditional. God desires our obedience, but it depends on our response to His will. He is “not willing that any should perish” (2 Pet. 3:9), but some will perish. Because they fail to obey God’s revealed will.
Furthermore, there are some things that God allows, but does not sanction. It is sometimes called “the permissive will of God.” Israel wanted a King. God did not approve. But allowed it. People often make wrong choices that violate God’s will, but He does not interfere with their free moral agency.
Yet, there seems to be a working of God’s providence, in a non-miraculous way, where people will allow themselves to be used by God. Providence involves God’s foresight, care, and response to the needs and petitions of His people.
Paul Earnhart once commented that we can only understand God’s providence retrospectively. As we look back in our lives, like Esther no doubt did, we can see the hand of God working for our ultimate good, even when it seems inconvenient, uncomfortable or frightening.
Who knows what opportunities God may provide for us? Who knows how He may use us in His Kingdom? Who knows how we may make a difference in the lives of others?
May we each rise to the occasion. And be used for such a time as this.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman