Sermon #226                                              The Book of Psalms Series


          Title:            The Mystery of Providence

          Text:            Romans 8:28; Psalm 107:1-43


          Subject:       The display of God’s providence in saving his elect

          Date:            May 20, 1981

          Tape #        




Hail, sovereign love that first began the scheme to rescue fallen man,

Hail, matchless, free, eternal grace that gave my soul a hiding place.

Against the God that rules the sky I fought with hands uplifted high;

Despised His rich abounding grace, too proud to seek a hiding place.


Enwrapt in Egyptian night and fond of darkness more than light,

Madly I ran the sinful race, secure without a hiding place.

But thus the eternal counsel ran, “Almighty love, arrest that man!”

I felt the arrows of distress and found I had no hiding place.


Indignant justice stood in view, to Sinai’s fiery mount I flew;

But justice cried with frowning face, “This mountain is no hiding place!”

Ere long the heavenly voice I heard and mercy’s angel form appeared;

She led me on with gentle pace to Jesus as my hiding place.


Should storms of thundering vengeance roll and shake the earth from pole to pole,

No flaming bolt shall daunt my face, for Jesus is my hiding place.

A few more rolling suns at most will land me safe on Canaan’s coast,

Where I shall sing the song of grace and see my glorious hiding place!


            This evening, I want to show you how God graciously brings sinners safely into Christ, the refuge of mercy. My subject is The Mystery of Providence. My text is that blessedly familiar verse in the eighth chapter of Romans – “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Psalm 107 is a sermon upon that text. This Psalm is a beautiful display of God’s adorable providence in saving his elect. The Psalm is an allegory picturing God’s ways of grace. You know what an allegory is. It is a parable. It is an earthly picture of a spiritual truth. The allegory may or may not be a fact of history. But its purpose is to illustrate some spiritual truth. For example: In Galatians 4 Paul uses the story, a historical story, of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael to represent the covenant of grace and the covenant of works. In Luke 16 our Lord used a fictional story of the rich man and Lazarus to illustrate the life and death of the wicked and the life and death of the righteous. In Psalm 105 David used the story of Israel’s history from Abraham to Canaan as an allegory of God’s salvation of his people. In Psalm 106 he showed us why God’s saves sinners – “For his name’s sake.” And here, we have an allegorical picture of the way in which God saves his people.


            The providence of God is simply God’s universal government of all things. In providence God brings to pass what he has purposed in eternity. There is a general providence of God in the world. And there is a special providence of God toward his elect. Fro example: God’s general providence is his superintendence and government of the world. We do not believe in the laws of nature. We believe in the laws of God. We believe in a God “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Our God did not create the world, and then leave it. No. He is actively presiding in all the affairs of the universe. The dew falls and waters the earth by his decree. The grass grows for the cattle in his appointed place. The sparrow is fed from his almighty hand. And the planets are held in their orbit around the sun by the Word of God. This is his general providence.


            But his special providence is something else. It is God working all things together for the good, for the eternal salvation of his elect. Beloved, get this if you can, everything that has ever taken place in the history of the world, since the beginning of time, whether good or evil, has been ruled by the providence of God for your salvation! That is a stupendous thought. And that is what our Psalm this evening is all about. Empires have been raised up and empires have fallen by the hand of God so that he might save your soul and mine. This is what God says, “I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life” (Isa. 43:3-4). Truly, his thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways are not our ways!




            Our Psalm tonight magnifies the Lord for his spiritual blessings, of which temporal blessings are but types and pictures.


            This Psalm is like the Interpreter’s house in Pilgrim’s Progress. There Pilgrim was told that he would see excellent and profitable things. And, truly, if the Lord will give us eyes to see and ears to hear, we will see and hear excellent and profitable things from this song of the redeemed.




            Let’s now look at the Psalm. There are four things that I want to call to your attention from these verses:


1.      We are called upon to extol and give thanks to God for his goodness (1-3).

2.      We are given four illustrations of Divine providence in salvation (4-32).

3.      We are given insight into the mystery of providence (33-42).

4.      We are exhorted to observe the lovingkindness of God in his providence (43).


I. In the first place, we are called upon to extol and give thanks to God for his goodness (1-3).


David is here speaking to the people of God. Those who have been saved and gathered from among the heathen ought to extol the Lord God for his goodness to them.


      A. Why should we give thanks to the Lord our God?


            1. We should give thanks to the Lord for his goodness.


            The very name God is but an abbreviation of the word good. God is good. He does good. And he is the author of all good.


            a. All temporal goodness.

            b. All spiritual goodness.

            c. All eternal goodness.


            2. We should give thanks unto the Lord, because his mercy endures forever.


            God’s mercy is from everlasting to everlasting. From generation to generation, the sons of men experience the mercy of God in Christ.


            a. His purpose of mercy.

            b. His electing mercy.

            c. His redeeming mercy.

            d. His regenerating mercy.

            e. His preserving mercy.


            B. Who should give thanks to the Lord? (3-4).


            All men ought to do so. All men have their life and being, food and clothing, health and strength by the hand of God. But those who have experienced his grace in all parts of the world are under special constraint to praise him. The redeemed of the Lord, the gathered ones of the earth, should break forth in continual thanksgiving to God.


            1. In mercy and goodness God has redeemed us with the precious blood of Christ.


            The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us from the hand of the enemy.


            a. He has redeemed us from the law by price.

            b. He has redeemed us from Satan and sin by power.

            c. He has redeemed us from death by his resurrection.


            2. Another example of God’s goodness and mercy is that he has gathered us to Christ by effectual power.


            We had all gone astray. We had turned everyone to his own way. But the Lord observed our ways. And in the fullness of time he gathers his elect to Christ by sovereign power, from the four corners of the earth.


            NOTE: This is a phrase often used to signify faith, salvation, and effectual calling (Isa. 43:5-6).


            NOTE: Those who are redeemed of the Lord will, most assuredly be gathered to him. “I will hiss (call) for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them” (Zech. 10:8).


            3. The men of the world will not confess the goodness of God, therefore we must. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” We have found him to be good, and we must say so.


            a. Is God good when he takes away, as well as when he gives? “The redeemed of the Lord say so.”

            b. Is God merciful when he frowns, as well as when he smiles? “The redeemed of the Lord say so.”

            c. Does God work all things together for good to them that love him? “The redeemed of the Lord say so.”


II. Secondly, we are given four illustrations of Divine providence in salvation (4-32).


            The redeemed of the Lord say that God is good and his mercy endures forever. Now, the Psalmist displays that mercy in providence.


            Mark it down, beloved, the mercy of God toward you did not begin when you first believed. God’s mercy was actively arranging all the affairs of your life in order to bring you to faith in Christ. Indeed, he arranged all the affairs of history to secure your eternal salvation. This is his prevenient grace, that grace of providence, which precedes the grace of salvation.


            NOTE: Sometimes God’s good providence appears to us to be hard and rough. But he has a good purpose. In providence he may bring Gomer down to the lowest pit of degradation. He may even use Satan to do it. But his purpose is to exalt her in due time. Before God ever exalts a sinner to his place among the sons of God, he will bring him down in the dust of humiliation.


            Look now at these illustrations of Divine providence, these illustrations of prevenient grace.


            A. We were all lost, weary travelers in need of a guide to bring us home to God (4-9).


            1. We were lost in the wilderness of sin by reason of our own rebellion and ignorance (4).


            Like silly, ignorant sheep we all went astray. We all went our own way, according to the bent of our will. And we wandered on in darkness, so ignorant that we did not even know our condition.


            2. But God, in his providence, made us hungry and thirsty (5).


            God knows how to create dissatisfaction in a man’s heart. God knows how to make the prodigal hungry. We found ourselves in desperate need, with no means of provision.


            3. Then, in the time of our soul’s trouble, we called upon the Lord (6).


            It is a time of trouble when awakened sinners are convinced of sin by the Spirit of God.


            a. We were pricked to the heart by a sense of sin.

            b. The terrors of death and hell got hold of us.

            c. We saw our lost and undone condition, ready to perish.

            d. Then, and not till then, we cried to God for mercy.


            4. Then, the Lord God led us to Christ the Way, our City of Habitation (7).


            5. All of this we owe to God’s providence. Therefore, we will praise him (8-9).


Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,

And grace my fears relieved;

How precious did that grace appear

The hour I first believed.


            None abut Christ satisfies the hungry soul.


            B. We were all prisoners, in bondage to sin, satan, and the law of God, but Christ set us free (10-16; Isa. 9:2; 42:7; 49:9).


            1. We were prisoners sentenced to death (10).

            2. Our sentence was just (11).

            3. God graciously humbled our proud hearts (12).


            With one afflictive providence after another, the haughtiness of man is laid low. When a man is humbled under a sense of sin, then he is willing to submit to Christ and his righteousness. Then the guilty sinner falls down and pleads for mercy. He has no other hope.


            4. When the guilty, weary, helpless sinner cries for mercy, the Lord sets him free (13-14).

            5. All of this, we owe to God’s providence. Therefore, we will praise him (15-16).


Grace, ‘tis a charming sound!

Harmonious to mine ear!

Heaven with the echo shall resound,

And all the earth shall hear.


Grace first inscribed my name

In God’s eternal book:

Twas grace that gave me to the Lamb,

Who all my sorrows took.


Grace taught my soul to pray,

And made my eyes o’erflow;

Twas grace that kept me to this day,

And will not let me go.


            C. We were all sin-sick souls in need of a healing Physician (17-22).


            1. Sin has made fools of all men (17).

            2. In our folly we despised the good Word of God, and Christ the Bread of Life was rejected by us. We were famishing and ready to die, by reason of our sin-sick souls (18).

            3. When we were at the point of death, we called upon the Lord and he saved us (19).


            Sending his Word, the Word of the gospel he healed us (20). The gospel is a tree of life. Its doctrines are leaves for the healing of the nations.


            4. All of this we owe to the good providence of God. Therefore, we will offer to him the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, the calves of our lips (21-22; Heb. 13:15).


            D. We were all like seaman on the raging sea, ready to perish, until the Lord God intervened and gave us peace (23-32).


            1. We have seen the wonders of God’s hand, but we paid them no heed (23-24).

            2. God tossed us about in his stormy providence until he made our souls melt within us and brought us to our wits end (25-27).

3. Then, and not till then, we called upon him, and he gave us peace, great peace, peace that passeth understanding, bringing us to our desired haven of rest (28-30).

4. All of this we owe to God’s adorable providence. Therefore, we will give thanks and praise to him (31-32).


NOTE: This is God’s goodness and his wonderful work.


            1. He causes the lost to hunger and thirst. Then he brings them to Christ and satisfies their need.

            2. He causes the prisoner’s heart to be heavy. Then he brings him to Christ and sits him free.

            3. He causes sin-sick souls to feel their desperate sickness. Then he sends the Great Physician to heal them.

            4. He causes the rebel’s soul to melt into submission. Then he gives him peace.


III. Now, in the third place, we are given insight into the mystery of providence (33-42).


            David has told us how that God deals with individuals to bring them to saving faith in Christ. Now, he goes deeper into the mystery of providence, showing us how that God arranges the affairs of princes, and nobles, and nations in this world for the salvation of his elect.


            A. God causes the fruitful places to be barren and the barren places he makes fruitful, according to his wise designs (33-35).


            He takes the gospel from one nation and gives it to another.


            1. When a land is left barren, without a gospel witness, it is because they have despised the goodness of God to them.

            2. When a land of darkness and ignorance is given the light of the gospel, it is because God has a people in that land whom he intends to save.


            NOTE: How often history has proven this fact. “Ephraim is joined to his idols. Let him alone.”


            1. Israel despised the gospel, so Jerusalem is left desolate.

            2. Rome once flourished in the gospel, but now she is imprisoned in idolatry and superstition.

            3. Ethiopia once was the place of great gospel preaching, now she is the place of gross darkness.

            4. But God is not without a witness. He opened the borders of England, then America, then Canada. And the gospel now flourishes in the land of barrenness!


            Why do you suppose that America was discovered? It was not just so that England might increase her colonies. It was because God would prepare a place for you and me to hear the gospel!


            B. God makes the hungry and thirsty soul to dwell in a land where the gospel is preached (36-40).


            Those whom he intends to save, the Lord will put in a place where they will hear the gospel.


            1. He sows the seed of the gospel in a land by his servants.

            2. He plants his churches as vineyards in the land.

            3. And he gives fruit and increase.

            4. For a season, they prosper and flourish.

            5. But then, because of sin and unbelief, by an act of providence they are diminished and scattered.


            Where are the flourishing churches of Jerusalem, Asia, and Rome? They have long ago been scattered.


            C. But of these things we may be sure (41-42).


            1. God will save his own (41).

            2. The righteous will see the wonderful works of God and rejoice (42).

            3. The wicked shall be without excuse (42).


IV. In the last place, we are exhorted to observe the lovingkindness of God in his providence (43).


            This I say, brethren, “All things are yours; whether…the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.”


            Whatever God does, he does because of his lovingkindness toward his children in this world.




1. Let us give thanks to God for his goodness that he has shown to us.

2. Let us cherish the blessings of God upon us. They can be removed as easily as they were given.

3. Let us adore the good providence of God.


            This is God’s providence. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”


God moves in a mysterious way

His wonders to perform;

He plants His footsteps in the sea,

And rides upon the storm.


Deep in unfathomable mines

Of never failing skill,

He treasures up His bright designs,

And works His sovereign will.


Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy, and shall break

In blessings on your head.


Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust Him for His grace;

Behind the frowning providence,

He hides a smiling face.


His purposes will ripen fast,

Unfolding every hour.

The bud may have a bitter taste,

But sweet will be the flower.


Blind unbelief is sure to err,

And scan His work in vain.

God is His own Interpreter,

And He will make it plain.


4. Now I ask you, child of God, if God has given nations for you, and people for your life, don’t you suppose he is worthy of your trust day by day? “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”


            Go home, my friends, resting in the lovingkindness of God’s good providence. Amen.