Quips and Quotes
"We do not earn or merit anything by taking refuge in God. Hiding in something makes no contribution to the hiding place. All it does is show that we regard ourselves as helpless and the hiding place as a place of rescue." John Piper

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Composer and Conductor of Creation

“…our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." Psalm 115:3

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between God's sovereignty and His providence, if, indeed, there is a difference? I did and because I was scheduled to teach a class on the attribute of God's sovereignty the question became imminent. Regardless of the class, I really wanted to know how to think about these two aspects of God's character. After studying these themes in the Scriptures and reading a few commentaries this is the understanding I came to:

The difference between sovereignty and providence is that sovereignty concerns the being of God; it is a constitutional part of His nature. He is independent of all other beings. He does whatever He pleases and holds complete and eternal dominion, authority and power in His universe. Sovereignty has to do with who God is.
Providence concerns His sustaining activity in creation; it is God working out His plan in His universe. Had God sovereignly chosen not to create the universe, providence would not exist either, but God would still be sovereign. Seen in this way, providence is the stage of God’s sovereignty. Sovereignty is His attribute - who He is; providence is His activity - what He does in creation.

The analogy of an orchestral composer/conductor provides a picture that illustrates, somewhat, God's sovereignty and providence:

1. We start with a composer/conductor. He is a composer/conductor, whether or not he has an orchestra to direct. (God was sovereign before creation. Rev. 4:11; Job 38:4)

2. The composer/conductor has written and arranged in advance, with great detail, a song to be played by the orchestra. (God's predetermined plan for creation. 46:10-11)

3. The composer/conductor has provided everything each musician needs to produce the sound the composer/conductor wants - the music itself, an acoustically efficient room to practice in, a sound-proof room for private practice, an income, etc. (God has provided for man's needs. Ps. 136:25-26; Acts 14:17)

4. The composer/conductor uses minor chords, dissonance, and sour notes to enhance the song in order to display his proficiency. (Man's sin, trials, tribulations and temptations work for God's glory. Rom. 8:28; 9:17)

5. The song has been written for the composer/conductor’s pleasure and fame – to display his excellence as an orchestral conductor to both the orchestra (creatures here below) and to the audience (all heavenly beings). (To God be the glory! Rev. 4:11)

6. Each musician has his specifically prearranged part to play. (Predestination. Pro.16:4; Eph. 1:11-12 )

7. The composer/conductor is in control of every aspect of the song – timing, strength, softness, rhythm, harmonies, solos, tone stress, etc. to bring about the purpose for his song. (God is in complete control of the details to bring about His ends. Pro. 21:1; Acts 2:22-24)

8. The composer/conductor determines when each musician will play and cues him in. (He determines our times and locations. Acts 17:26)

9. All musician's eyes are on the composer/conductor, watching and heeding his cues. (All men have an internal and external witness of the God of creation. Rom. 1:18-20)

10. Each musician plays his part freely – is not coerced, is not a puppet. (Man is not forced to do what he does. John 3:19)

11. All musicians are responsible for their shortcomings – a missed rehearsal, a bad attitude, a wrong note played, a failed cue, a part not learned… (Man is responsible for his thoughts, words and deeds. Rom. 2:5-8)

12. All instrumental parts work together to fulfill the composer/conductor’s intentions and pleasure for the song. (God is working all things after the counsel of His will for His pleasure and glory. Rom. 8:28; Is 46:10-11 )

13. The composer/conductor is most pleased and revered when the musicians enjoy playing his song and the audience delights in hearing it. (As John Piper says, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." Ps. 36:7-10; 63:1-8)

14. The song resounds back to the composer/conductor and… (Every knee will bow... Phil. 2:9-10)

15. He takes the bows and gets the glory and no one complains. (...and every tongue will confess that Jeus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. Phil. 2:11)

So, the composer/conductor in his personhood represents the Sovereign God. How he interacts with his orchestra represents how the Sovereign God acts in the ordering of His creation.

May we cooperate enthusiastically with Him as He sovereignly ordains and directs our lives. And may we, till the last note is played in His loving arrangement for us, give all glory to Him and in unison with all of creation applaud and praise Him for His incomrpehensible love in calling us to be instruments of His grace and mercy.

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