Sovereignty Versus Prudence
Sovereignty Versus Prudence
God’s sovereignty does not set aside our responsibility to act prudently. Acting prudently means to use all biblical means at our disposal to avoid harm to ourselves or others and to bring about what we believe to be the right course of events. An example of this is David’s continually evading Saul while Saul was determined to kill him.
David had already been anointed to succeed Saul as King. 1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.
David was confident that God would fulfill His purpose for him. Psalm 57:2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. David wrote this Psalm during the time that he and his men were evading Saul. David took all the precautions he could to avoid being killed by Saul. David had a number of opportunities to kill Saul. David acted prudently and depended upon God to bless his efforts.
Another example of God’s servants acting prudent is Paul. Paul was prudent when he was shipwrecked on the island of Malta in Acts 27. After many days of being battered by a storm Paul stood before the men on the deck of the ship and stated that not one of you will be lost. Acts 27:22–26 Yet now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, 24 and he said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told. 26 But we must run aground on some island.”
Paul trusted in the sovereign God. He also had a Revelation from God that no life would be lost. When he saw the sailors trying to escape from the ship he said to the Centurion: Acts 27:31 …..“Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Paul realized that the skill of the sailors were necessary for the safety of all the people on board. So he took prudent actions to bring about that which God through divine revelation had already promised. He did not confuse God’s sovereignty with his responsibility to act prudently.
In our circumstances today we do not know what God’s sovereign purpose is in a specific situation. God works through means and He intends that we use the means He has placed at our disposal. Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem when he and his people faced the threat of an armed attack from their enemies. Nehemiah 4:7–9 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
Nehemiah’s response was to pray and post a guard. They were prudent and they prayed. Nehemiah 4:16–18 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. Nehemiah 4:20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
Nehemiah used all available means believing that God would bless those means. We must not only pray for His overruling Providence in our lives as David did in Psalms 57:2. We must also pray for wisdom to rightly understand our circumstances and use the means He has given us. The Gibeonites deceived Joshua and the sons of Israel. They came with worn clothing and dried-out bread pretending to have come from a faraway country. Joshua 9:14 So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD.
They were deceived by the Gibeonites and made a treaty with them when they should have destroyed them. The men of Israel were not prudent because they did not pray and ask God for wisdom and insight to understand the situation.
Solomon tells us to seek wisdom and godly counsel. Proverbs 15:22 Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.
Our plans succeed only within the sovereign will of God. All the wise counsel in the world cannot enable our plans to succeed contrary to the sovereign will of God. God can use the wise counsel of others to bring our plans into line with His sovereign will.
When was the last time you acted responsibly and prudently allowing God’s purpose to be fulfilled in your life?