Is history a set of random disconnected events, soley the result of the activities of man? Or, does history reveal the hand of God working through men and nations bringing about His purposes?
The Providence of God is the Biblical principle “by which all the creatures God has made are preserved, governed, guided, and directed…The government of the world, and the ordering and disposing of all things in it, are attributed to Him, without the counsel and direction of others.” (John Gill, A Body of Divinity, 1769-70)
“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…yea, I have spoken it; I will also bring it so pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)
“Seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find Him; though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live and move and have our being .” (Acts 17:25-28a)
These passages declare the sovereignty of God over all things, that He “declares the end from the beginning” that His purposes will come to pass. His sovereignty extends not just over men and nature, but over nations as well. The passage in Acts indicates that God has made all nations, that He “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Psalm 2 warns nations about the futility of rebelling against the sovereign God, stating He would give them to His Son as an inheritance and that they should “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him.” This Psalm, pronounces judgment upon nations which rebel against His sovereignty and blessings for those “who put their trust in Him.”
This understanding of the sovereignty of God goes to the issue of cause; and reveals that He is the ultimate cause. God has a plan. That plan, as revealed in Ephesians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:19-20, is the redemption of man. He has spoken it and He will bring it to pass. The history of this world is like a huge drama with the earth as the stage. The coming of Christ and the gospel are the focal point. The unfolding of the rest of history are acts in that play, until ultimately, all people and nations bend their knee and acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ.
He has a big picture plan, the redemption of man. However, within this overall plot there are many subplots which playout in the lives of individuals and nations. Many today understand something of the grace of God, the big picture or plot, but few consider the hand of God in history. Is man the primary shaper of history? Or is God? The book of Acts tells us that He “hath made… all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” In the Old Testament the nation of Israel is constantly reminded to remember the mighty works of God. In Psalms 78 the Israelites are admonished to teach each successive generation the law along with “His strength and His Wonderful works that He has done,” so they might set their hope in God.
In January of 1876, in a sermon titled “The Hand of God in American History,” Rev. S.W. Foljambe stated, “The more thoroughly a nation deals with is history, the more decidedly will it recognize and own an overruling Providence therein, and the more religious a nation will it become; while the more superficially it deals with its history, seeing only secondary causes and human agencies the more irreligious will it be…history is not a string of striking episodes, with no connection but that of time. It is rather the working out of a mighty system, by means of regularly defined principles as old as creation, and as infallible as divine wisdom.” Rev. S.W. Foljambe goes on to describe history as “the biography of communities; in another and profounder sense, it is the autobiography of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11), and is graciously timing all events in the interest of his Christ, and of the kingdom of God on earth.”
“Neglecting to teach America’s history from a providential view which sadly has been the case for nearly one hundred years in our nation, leads the citizenry into a non-Christian or secular interpretation and without hope for the future. This is the “superficial” approach, “seeing only secondary causes and human agencies.” The result…is to make us an “irreligious people.” (The Noah Plan History and Geography Curriculum Guide) “The failure to recognize the importance of the Providential Approach has resulted in educating Christians to live in two worlds – a spiritual world and a secular world. This was not the way of the Pilgrim, who lived in one world, the world created by God, ruled and directed by God, for God’s purpose and glory.” (Rosalie Slater, “Partners of a Glorious Hope,” The Journal of the Foundation for American Christian Education, Vol. 1, 1989, p.22)
This begs the question, was America an accident? Was it merely the result of a group of men who wrestled through political and economic issues to arrive at a governmental framework which produced the most powerful and richest country in the world? Or is it possible that God shaped a people over 150 years, a people who embraced the idea of being self-governed, subject to His law. Is it possible, He was present in a hall in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787; that He guided the discussion and debate? Is it possible, He had a hand in forming both the hearts of the men and the Constitution formed during that convention in 1787?
As the Constitutional Convention dragged on throughout the summer of 1787, without a great deal of success, there was a key turning point which changed the tenor and tone of the convention; it was a call to prayer by Benjamin Franklin, “to the Creator of the universe, and the Governor of all nations, beseeching Him to preside in our council, enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!” Was America an accident, or was it brought about by the hand of God?