The word providence appears one time in the New International Version.
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit.Job 10:12 NIV
I think of providence as the place where the goodness of God and the power of God come together to ensure that God’s purpose is accomplished. Sometimes it takes a miracle, but often God works through people and circumstances. So, in many situations we only begin to see God’s providence when we can see the beginning, middle, and end of the story.
I think today’s short story in the life of David is an example of God’s providence. The Philistines and Israelites are preparing for battle. There is nothing unusual about that. What is unusual is that Israel’s greatest general is currently hiding out with the Philistines. David assumes that since he has been living with the Philistines for over a year that he will go to fight with them against Israel. The Philistine king Achish sees no problem with this. David has given him no reason he is aware of to think that he will be betrayed in battle.
King Achish’s generals question the wisdom of this. David’s reputation as a Philistine slayer is still sung about. The last thing these generals want is to have Israelite armies in front and in back of them. They are so concerned that they convince Achish to send David back to his temporary home far away from the battle.
God at work
I am convinced that this is God’s providence at work. David will be king and his transition to power will be difficult enough without David having fought with the army that defeats and kills King Saul. Twice David has saved Saul’s life when he has a clear opportunity to kill him.
There are many possibilities if David fights with the Philistines. He could discover that he is fighting against King Saul and turn to fight against the Philistines. Even if he is victorious the Philistines would probably take revenge and destroy the families of David’s army who are residing in Philistine territory.
The other option is for David to remain loyal to the Philistines and share in the victory that ultimately destroys King Saul and all his sons, including Jonathan. I cannot imagine what would have happened if David and Jonathan had come face to face on the battlefield. Saul’s family will fight to hang on to the throne. I think this fight would have taken longer and been more costly had David been seen as a traitor to his country.
Nothing miraculous happens in this story. It would appear that God works through the Philistine generals to prevent David from doing something very foolish. The result is that King Saul will be defeated, and David will ascend to the throne with a clean conscience.
What about us?
We do not know the end of our larger story, but we do know the beginning, middle, and end of many smaller stories in our lives. In how many of those smaller stories can you see that God’s providence was evident? Some people choose to call these events luck. I choose to call them providence. I was reminded last week of our best example of God’s providence at work. We were going to go to the beach, but there was a tsunami warning in place due to the volcanic explosion near Tonga.
We had friends staying with us and really wanted to go but stayed home and played it safe. There was a time when we were not aware of any potential danger and took a routine Sunday morning trip to the beach. The result was being totally overcome by a wave and trapped in the sand by a large log. We are convinced we should have drowned and been swept out to sea. We are here today only because God intervened and saved us. (For the complete story check out this blog: https://grandpablog.mygrandmatime.com/2016/01/16/life-changing-events/)
Should we assume that God will always save us and ignore warnings to avoid the beach? Of course not. Instead, I think we must be continually grateful for the times when God’s providence shows up to save us. Also, every time we recognize God’s providence, we should be asking what God wants us to do to fulfil His purpose for us. We have been given a second chance and we should use it well.