When God’s Providences Seem to Contradict God’s Promises

Genesis 13:14-16; Genesis 15:1-4

And the LORD said unto Abram…Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered…

After these things, the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir.

And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.

And he believed in the LORD.

JOHN CALVIN (1509-1564): It appears from that passage that even the godly are tempted to doubt of the Providence of God―It is therefore a temptation to which all men are naturally prone, to begin to doubt of the providence of God, when His hand and judgment are not seen.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): God’s actions may appear to us to be the reverse of His promises, and then our best course is to come before Him in prayer and put the matter before Him just as it strikes our apprehension. We are allowed to do this, for this holy and inspired man did so unrebuked—but we must do it humbly and in faith.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Note: True believers sometimes find it hard to reconcile God’s promises and His providences, when they seem to disagree.

JOHN CALVIN: God exhorts Abram to be of a tranquil mind; but what foundation is there for such security, unless by faith we understand that God cares for us, and rest in His providence?

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): When our own reason fills us with a distrust of providence, it naturally prompts us to sinful shifts, and there leaves us entangled in the snares of our own making. Beware therefore you lean not too much to your own reasons and understandings.

 THOMAS WATSON (1620-1686): God is to be trusted when His providences seem to run contrary to His promises.

JOHN COLLINGES (1623-1690): Among other habits of grace, faith and patience are not the least. The exercise of these is when sense fails, and the providence of God moves out of our sight, [or] in a time of adversity when it seems to move at a great distance from the promise, if not directly contrary to it. “Blessed are they who have not seen, and have yet believed,” saith our Saviour, John 20:29. God gave Abraham a promise, nay, divers promises; two of the more eminent: the one of a child; the other, of a numerous seed, and their inheriting the land of Canaan. Now, if the providence of God had presently moved in a direct line towards the fulfilling of these promises, where had been room for Abraham’s faith, so much celebrated in Scripture?

MATTHEW HENRY: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform,” Romans 4:20,21. Such was his full persuasion, and it was built on the omnipotence of God. Our waverings rise mainly from our distrust of the divine power; and therefore to fix us it is requisite we believe not only that He is faithful, but that He is able, that hath promised.

JOHN COLLINGES: The providence of God delays the time, and suffereth Abraham first, and his wife to live to an age, that they both were past any reasonable hope of children, then it giveth him a child: why doth providence move thus slowly, and obliquely? How else should Abraham’s faith have been tried? How should it have been tried whether he would stagger at the promise through unbelief?

 TIMOTHY CRUSO (1657-1697): Let no appearing impossibilities make you question God’s accomplishment of any of His gracious words. Though you cannot see how the thing can be done, ’tis enough if God hath said that He will do it.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

JOHN COLLINGES: Another branch of that promise was, that this Eliezer of Damascus of whom thou speakest, shall not be thine heir: but he that shall come forth of thine own bowels, shall be thine heir. Later, God, by His providence, tempteth Abraham; He bids him go, and with his own hands sacrifice this his son, his only son; what an oblique, yet contrary motion of providence doth this seem to be, to the promise of Isaac his son being the heir? “In Isaac shall thy seed be called,” saith the promise, Hebrews 11:18.―How shall that be, when Isaac, who as yet had no seed, must be sacrificed? But how else shall Abraham’s faith and obedience be tried, which standeth on the record―“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac,” Hebrews 11:17…Abraham had a promise of Canaan for his seed―but providence went a great way around about before it sensibly came home to this promise.

TIMOTHY CRUSO: Cast not away your confidence because He defers His performances. Though providences run cross, though they move backwards and forwards, you have a sure and faithful word to rely upon. Promises, though they be for a time seemingly delayed, cannot be finally frustrated. Dare not to harbour such a thought within yourselves as Psalm 77:8; “Doth his promise fail for evermore?”  The being of God may as well fail as the promise of God.

JOHN CALVIN: Therefore, whenever we may wander in uncertainty through intricate windings, we must contemplate, with eyes of faith, the secret providence of God which governs us and our affairs, and leads us to unexpected results.

C. H. SPURGEON: It is glory of Omnipotence to work by improbabilities.

JOHN COLLINGES: God does this, that He might be the more admired in the works of His providence…Now, when the providence of God hath moved obliquely, and to our appearance quite contrary unto the promise, when it comes home to it, to give it a being and issue, it comes upon us [suddenly] and contrary to the expectations of our sense and reason, and so wonderfully affects our hearts, that it enforces from us great and high acknowledgments of the omnipotency and power of God, of His mercy and goodness, and of His truth and veracity―If the providence of God moved in a [direct] line, He would neither have so much of the prayers and cries of His people, during the want of their desired good, nor yet so much praise upon the bestowing of it.


This entry was posted in Providence and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.