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Providence, Part 1 – War

September 20, 2020

Mille Fleur Tapestry (16th Century), Victor and Albert Museum, London, Author Andrew Dunn (CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic)

Sometimes we can see the hand of God in events. Other times, the situation is not as clear.

At best, we see the reverse of an intricate tapestry, catch a glimpse of God’s overarching plan.  More often than not, we are left to draw our own conclusions.  That may actually grow our faith.

This series will examine the providential reversal of fortune, i.e. deliverance by the hand of God, in the context of war, the Holocaust, crime, and poverty.

Direct and Indirect Intervention

God can intervene in any circumstance.  He can intervene directly or indirectly. In the biblical heroine Esther’s case, for example, God intervened indirectly [1].  He did not move mountains or part waters.

That God does not intervene as or when we might wish does not mean He is uncaring.  His ways are higher than ours (Isa. 55: 8-9).

God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery in Egypt, and did not immediately rescue him from prison.  Yet He did ultimately elevate Joseph to a position of power, using him for the good of many.

Always, God allows the individuals involved in events free will to make their own decisions.  That is a reflection of His great love for us.

American Revolution

During the American Revolution, George Washington’s escape from Brooklyn Heights to New York astonished the larger British force he was facing.

Washington managed to ferry some 9,000 troops, horses, cannons, and supplies across the East River under the cover of fog and darkness.  Had that evacuation not succeeded – had the fog not rolled in – the Revolution might well have ended then and there.

Civil War

During the Civil War, Union Pvt. Barton Mitchell found 3 cigars on the ground, along with Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Special Order 191 dividing the Confederate Army.  That crucial information led to the Battle of Antietam, an opportunity Pres. Abraham Lincoln used to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

World War I

During World War I, Room 40, the cryptanalysis unit of the British Admiralty, obtained Germany’s SKM Codebook when the cruiser SMS Magdeburg ran aground.  This allowed the Allies to decipher secret German messages, a distinct advantage in wartime.

World War II

During World War II, Alan Turing and Britain’s Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchely Park conceived techniques which cracked the German “Enigma” code.

Radar, also, contributed greatly to the Allied victory.  Radar was developed independently by a number of nations, but Britain’s radar network was the most advanced in the world.

Ironically, Adolf Hitler’s desire for supposed “racial purity” drove Jewish scientists out of Europe.  Work by a large number of such immigrants – including Albert Einstein Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Rudolf Peierls, Johann Von Neumann, James Franck, Klaus Fuchs, and Enrico Fermi – contributed to development of the atom bomb.

The Hand of God

“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible.  But in the end, they always fall.  Always.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

In each of these instances individuals made their own decisions.  Not knowing the outcome of events beforehand, they exercised courage and perseverance.  Many made sacrifices we can only appreciate in retrospect.

Gandhi’s observation can be disputed.  Throughout history, evil has repeatedly reared its ugly head.  But tyrants go down to dust, just as ordinary men do.  Hitler is no more; few regret his passing.

So was this the hand of God or, at any rate, God acting “behind the scenes”?  Only God can say with certainty.

[1]  Queen Esther, you will recall, saved the Jewish people from extermination at the hands of Haman by appealing to her husband, King Xerxes, at peril to her own life.

This series will continue next week with Part 2 – The Holocaust


  1. Great post Anna.
    One day we will see perfect peace as God promised.

  2. Excellent post Anna.

  3. I am constantly thankful that God is in charge. Where would we be without him?

  4. Many moons ago, my Scottish Theological College Principal used to say us as his students, ‘Yes, the devil has his finger in every pie… but remember, God’s got his hand on the devil’s finger.’

    Thanks, Anna.

  5. I wouldn’t wonder Anna, if all of us haven’t had experiences that there seemed no logical explanation for, yet down the road the reason for the experience was somehow made clear to us. I know I certainly fall into that group.

  6. Allan Halton permalink

    For reversal of fortune, and then re-reversal, Job’s story is classic. Righteous Job lost all he had in one day. Why didn’t God intervene, or even prevent it from happening in the first place? This was the work of Satan, but in fact it had been God who started it all with a question to Satan: “Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”

    I think what made this trial so painful for Job was the mental agony of not being able to understand why this had happened; he couldn’t find God in it. There he was on the ash pile, where was God? He couldn’t see “the hand of God” in what had happened. What was it all about? But what Job went through, God all the while overseeing what He permitted Satan to do, it was because God had something in mind. He had purposed to reveal Himself to His servant Job in a way that Job could not have comprehended in his prior blessed state. He didn’t have the “capacity” to see God prior to that ordeal. That was his own confession when it was all over, when God did finally re-reverse things for him– but not until He had first revealed Himself to Job so powerfully that it was almost as if he had never known Him before. “I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear,” said Job, “but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

    Are some of us like this? Our knowledge of God is really very limited, and we don’t really know that. And God, purposing to reveal Himself to us more deeply, prepares us for that revelation of Himself in many ways, sometimes by difficult, even very painful things that He permits. It would be good for us to factor this into the trials we find ourselves in, and trust when we can’t understand. It can certainly be challenging to do that, I know– to continue to trust God as Job did, even though he couldn’t understand what this was all about.

    And where was this God that Job could not see when he was on the ash pile scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery? I recall the words of a wise old friend from years ago. “Where was God? He was on the ash pile with Job.”

    • You have nailed it, Allan. The inability to see God in our suffering is torturous. We not only feel abandoned, but rejected. That captures the abuse experience perfectly. It can take a long, long time to regain our trust in God. But suffering deepens our understanding of Him, just as it did for Job.

    • I really like your comment, Allan. Thanks.

      • Allan Halton permalink

        You’re welcome, Erroll, and thank you. I’m reminded of Cowper’s hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform…” One of the stanzas is:

        Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
        But trust Him for His grace;
        Behind a frowning providence
        He hides a smiling face.

        And then the last one:

        Blind unbelief is sure to err
        And scan His work in vain;
        God is His own interpreter,
        And He will make it plain.

        Indeed, this is the fruit of our trusting Him when “feeble sense” cannot see Him. All is made plain in His time, and what is more, He Himself is more fully “made plain.” We come to know Him more fully.

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