Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Providence BOOK CLUB

Providence by John Piper

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which He will be completely successful in the achievement of His ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries His plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book.

This week we begin by looking at the Introduction: Four Invitations. Below are a few takeaways:

  • In this introduction, I would like to offer you four invitations. First, I invite you into a biblical world of counterintuitive wonders. I hope that you will let the word of God create new categories of thinking rather than trying to force the Scripture into the limits of what you already know.
  • In the end, my invitation into the biblical world of counterintuitive wonders is an invitation to worship.
  • Second, I invite you to penetrate through words into reality.
  • People who love the Bible and believe that it is God’s word want to know what the Bible teaches, not just what it says. They want to know the reality being presented, not just the words that were written.
  • I am going to use the word providence to refer to a biblical reality. The reality is not found in any single Bible word.
  • Third, I invite you into a God-entranced world.
  • Fourth, and finally, I am inviting you to know, maybe as you never have known, the God whose involvement in his children’s lives and in the world is so pervasive, so all-embracing, and so powerful that nothing can befall them but what he designs for their glorification in him and his glorification in them (2 Thess. 1:12).
  • When Christ died, everything—absolutely everything—that his people need to make it through this world in holiness and love was invincibly secured.
  • I would like to help as many as I can to know the God of all-embracing, all-pervasive, invincible providence.
  • The book is divided into three parts. Part 1 defines providence and then illuminates a difficulty, namely, the self-exaltation involved in God’s aim to display his own glory. Part 2 focuses on the ultimate goal of providence. Part 3 focuses on the nature and extent of providence.
  • Providence is all-embracing and all-pervasive, but when God turns the human will, there is a mystery to it that causes a person to experience God’s turning as his own preference—an authentic, responsible act of the human will.
  • God is sovereign over man’s preferences. Man is accountable for his preferences.
  • We are obliged to follow his revealed precepts, not his secret purposes.

Chapter 1: What is Divine Providence?

  • The reason this book is about the providence of God rather than the sovereignty of God is that the term sovereignty does not contain the idea of purposeful action, but the term providence does.
  • The focus of this book is on God’s sovereignty considered not simply as powerful but as purposeful. Historically, the term providence has been used as shorthand for this more specific focus.
  • That would be what we mean by God’s providence: he sees to it that things happen in a certain way.
  • There is a profound theological reason why God’s providence does not merely mean his seeing, but rather his seeing to. When God sees something, he sees to it.

Chapter 2 – Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?

  • What if, in the end, we discovered that the beauty of God turns out to be the kind that comes to climax in being shared? And what if the attitude we thought was mere self-promotion was instead the pursuit of sharing the greatest pleasure possible for all who would have it?
  • It will become increasingly clear why God’s aim to communicate his glory is not at odds with his aim to make us fully and eternally happy.
  • God’s glory is not any one of his perfections but the beauty of all of them, and the perfectly harmonious way they relate to each other, and the way they are expressed in creation and history.

Chapter 3: Before Creation

  • The ultimate goal of God in initiating the entire plan of salvation before creation was that he would be praised for the glory of his grace.
  • When God makes his praise the goal of his providence, he is pursuing our full and lasting pleasure. That is love.

Chapter 4: The Act of Creation

  • Providence presumes creation.
  • God created the world for God.
  • God created the world with the goal that it would display his glory and find an echo in the praises of his people.
  • In creation God is aiming at a display of his glory far greater than the wonders of nature—amazing as they are. He is aiming at a world filled with worshiping human beings.
  • For all eternity, the calling of the redeemed will be to live as images of Christ Jesus—not just to image God in general, as at the first, but to image Christ.
  • The aim of creation, and the aim of the salvation accomplished in the theater of creation, is the glorification of Jesus Christ.
  • The glory of God and the glory of the Son of God in creation are one glory, just as the goal of the first creation through Christ and the goal of the new creation in Christ are one glory.
  • Man was put on the earth to make a name for God, not for himself.

Chapter 5: Overview: From Abraham to the Age to Come

  • It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations.
  • From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.
  • The story of Israel’s history really is a story of God’s providential action. The Bible is radically oriented on God as the decisive actor in the history of Israel.
  • God’s securing a name for himself and God’s securing joy for his people are one. That joy is his name – his reputation, his glory.
  • The things of creation are good gifts to be received with thanksgiving and rejoicing. But joy in God himself – in and through (and, if necessary, without) his gifts – is what makes our final joy a sign of his glory.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the history of Israel is not only the exaltation of his glorious name in the joy of his people; it is also his own joy in their joy in him.
  • God’s glory is our joy. And our joy in God’s glory is his joy.

Chapter 6: Overview from Abraham to the Age to Come

  • It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations.
  • From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.
  • The record of God’s saving dealings with the world—dealings that led men out of the ruin of sin into a relationship with God—was a record of God’s focus on Israel. This is what the Old Testament is.
  • The story of Israel’s history really is a story of God’s providential action. The Bible is radically oriented on God as the decisive actor in the history of Israel.
  • God’s securing a name for himself and God’s securing joy for his people are one. That joy is his name—his reputation, his glory.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the history of Israel is not only the exaltation of his glorious name in the joy of his people; it is also his own joy in their joy in him.
  • God’s glory is our joy. And our joy in God’s glory is his joy.
  • God’s name is a message. And the message is about how he intends to be known. Every time his name appears—all 6,800 times—he means to remind us of his utterly unique being.

Chapter 7: Remembering the Exodus

  • So whom was the exodus for: Israel or God? He saved them. For his name’s sake! To make known his power! Both. It was for Israel. It was for God. But it was not for Israel and for God in the same sense. It was for Israel’s salvation. It was for God’s reputation.
  • God’s aim to be glorified and his aim for his people to be satisfied in that glory are not separate aims. Israel’s being satisfied in the God of the exodus is the essence of how the God of the exodus is glorified in Israel. That is the ultimate goal of God’s providence that we are seeing again and again.
  • At the exodus, God made a name for himself by acting as a God of absolutely free grace.
  • His ultimate goal is that those who have eyes to see will come to tremble at his justice and treasure the glory of his grace—his self-determined, absolutely free grace.
  • God’s providence in the exodus (or any other event) is finally and decisively governed not by man’s will or exertion (9:16), but by his own self-determining will.

Chapter 8: The Law, the Wilderness, and the Conquest of Canaan

  • God saw to it that his ultimate goal in providence was embedded at the center of Israel’s written constitution. That goal is that his worth and beauty be magnified above all things in his people’s heartfelt worship of his excellence.
  • God’s intention is for the other commandments to be obeyed on the basis of the first and last.
  • God’s self-exaltation was the ground of Israel’s undeserved exultation. If they had eyes to see, they would be rejoicing in the glory of God’s grace that moved him to spare them.
  • The purpose of God’s providence in the conquest of Canaan was to put his power and his name on display in justice and mercy so that his people would be stunned at the freedom and glory of his grace.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the law was that the supremacy of his worth and beauty be reflected in the supreme satisfaction of his people in him.

God’s wonders in the wilderness were performed again and again for a people who rebelled against him. Therefore, the glory that God exalted among the nations was the glory of his mighty grace.


Chapter 9: The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy

  • Reading the book of Judges is like having the insanity of sin rubbed in your face while God returns again and again with mercy, which was repeatedly forgotten.
  • The essence of sin is minimizing God and making much of self. In other words, the essence of sin is pride.
  • What shall we say, then, about the relationship between the glory of God’s name and the greatness of his mercies? We shall say that the mercies of God are designed to exalt the name of God.
  • All the kingly dimensions of the incarnation of the Son of God as the Messiah were in the making when God ordained the establishment of the kingship in Israel.
  • The ultimate purpose of the monarchy of Israel will be finally realized as Jesus sits on “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32–33) and reigns not only over a redeemed Israel but over a kingdom of worshipers from all nations (Rev. 5:10).

Chapter 10: The Protection, Destruction and Restoration of Jerusalem

  • For the biblical authors who tell the story, God was acting for the sake of his name from beginning to end in dealing with Jerusalem.
  • God often responds to faith with deliverance and to faithlessness with judgment.
  • Sometimes God lets his godly ones go through great affliction. He does not always deliver them from affliction, but often through affliction (Ps. 34:19).
  • The point of Ezekiel’s prophesying over and over and over again, “You shall know that I am the Lord,” is that we should live in the conscious awareness that the supreme reality in the universe—in America, in China, in Brazil, in Nigeria, in Brussels, in our bedrooms, in our minds—is Yahweh, the God who absolutely is.
  • It is cheap grace, not genuine grace, that thinks life in Christ is without remorse for past sin and for remaining corruption.
  • Our joy in God’s mercy is intensified by the realization of how undeserving we were, and are.
  • God’s God-centeredness—God’s commitment to magnify his name, his holiness, and his glory as the ultimate aim of his providence—is not a threat to our joy but the basis of it.

Chapter 11: The Designs of the New Covenant

  • The new covenant is God’s way of achieving his ultimate purposes from the beginning—that the glory of who he really is be exalted for the enjoyment and praise of all who will have him as their greatest treasure (cf. Jer. 24:7).
  • God’s plan in the new covenant is to communicate his glory in such a way that it is exalted in the way his people enjoy and reflect his excellencies.
  • The fear of the Lord is not the opposite of joy in the Lord; it is the depth and seriousness of it.
  • The final goal of the new covenant is the overflowing joy of God himself in the joy of his people in the glory of his name.
  • The day is coming when loving the Lord will be not just a command in writing, but a creation in the heart. God will give what he commands.
  • The ultimate goal of God’s providence is to glorify his grace in beautifying, by the blood of his Son, an undeserving bride, who enjoys and reflects his beauty above everything.

Chapter 12: Christ’s Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant

  • Jesus is the ground of the new covenant. He is the basis of it. It has taken effect because of the sacrifice he made. He is responsible for putting it into effect.
  • Because of what Christ accomplished in his suffering and death and resurrection, he is not only the ground of the new covenant; he has become its supreme reward.
  • God’s purpose in the new covenant was not only to make it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to know and enjoy the glory of God forever. His purpose was also that the mediator of the covenant would be that very God and would enact a redeeming glory that would become the most beautiful display of glory anyone could ever enjoy—the glory of God’s grace.
  • Grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory, and Christ in his suffering is the consummate expression of grace.
  • The ultimate goal of God in his saving providence—namely, the praise of the glory of his grace—was achieved through the suffering of the Son of God, who died to deliver us from eternal suffering (2 Thess. 1:9) and bring us into everlasting enjoyment of his glory (John 17:24).
  • The ultimate reason that suffering exists is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering himself to overcome our suffering.
  • The suffering of the utterly innocent, and infinitely holy, Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was or ever could be.
  • The suffering and death of the Lamb of God in history is the consummate display of the glory of the grace of God. That is why God planned it before the foundation of the world. That is the aim and work and wonder of God’s pervasive providence.
  • The display of the glory of God’s grace, especially in the suffering of the Beloved, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed, is the goal of creation and the ultimate aim of all God’s works of providence.

Chapter 13: The Entrance of Sin into Creation and the Glory of the Gospel

  • If God planned the suffering of his Son before creation, and thus before the sin of Adam and Eve, as we saw in Revelation 13:8 and 2 Timothy 1:9, then he foresaw the coming of sin and planned to permit it to enter the world.
  • If God had wise and just and good purposes in permitting the fall of Adam and Eve, we may speak of God’s plan in permitting it. That is, we may speak of God planning or ordaining the fall in this sense.
  • God plans and ordains that some things come to pass that he hates.
  • God’s ultimate aim in creation and providence is to display the glory of his grace, especially in the suffering of Christ, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed. That is the ultimate wise, just, and good purpose of God in planning to permit the fall.
  • The gospel brings about a new people who rejoice in the glory of Christ as their greatest treasure and who reflect the glory of Christ as their new identity. Christ is glorified by his glory being enjoyed and being echoed.
  • The clearer and fuller our sight of Christ’s glory, the more we will be transformed into its likeness.
  • God’s ultimate aim in the sufferings of Christ was to exalt the glory of his own righteousness in the very act of saving sinners who will spend eternity praising the glory of God’s grace.
  • The providence of God in sending his Son as a suffering substitute for sinners accomplishes everything necessary to bring his people into his presence with everlasting, soul-satisfying praises of the glory of his grace. God gets the glory of praise. We get the pleasure of praising. The glory of God’s grace and the gladness of our souls are consummated together in this eternal praise.

Chapter 14: The Glory of Christ in the Glorification of His People

  • Our progressive glorification is the experience of growing in ways of thinking and feeling and behaving that reflect the glory of God in Christ.
  • Increasingly conforming to God’s revealed will so that his name is hallowed, or glorified, is the same as progressive glorification.
  • Christ is shown to be glorious as we reflect his glory in this amazing God-sustained pattern of progressive glorification.
  • Things don’t just happen for God’s glory; they happen for God’s glory because the pervasive providence of God sees to it that they happen that way. This is the goal of providence.
  • God is supremely committed to the display of his glory for the admiration and enjoyment of all who will have it as their supreme treasure.
  • The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son are profoundly one glory.
  • The glorification of Christ is not only the result of his coming. It is the purpose of his coming. His purpose. He is coming in order to be glorified and marveled at.
  • From eternity past to eternity future, the purpose of creation and providence has been, and always will be, the communication of the glory of Christ.
  • Every day for all eternity—without pause or end—the riches of the glory of God’s grace in Christ will become increasingly great and beautiful in our perception of them.

Chapter 15: Knowing the Providence of the God Who Is

  • Nothing exists that is greater or better or more beautiful or more satisfying than God himself.
  • God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is an act of supreme love.
  • God is God, and we are not. He is totally self-sufficient. We are totally dependent. Our being comes from him. Our knowing him comes from him.
  • God does not meet us in his word as a partisan advocate, but as a commander. He is not governed by our partisan assumptions. He is who he is. And he reveals what he reveals. Our job is to listen, bow down in trusting worship, and obey.

Chapter 16 The Loss and Recovery of a Theater of Wonders

  • The main reason it is tragic to lose sight of the pervasive and intimate providence of God in the natural world is that it means we also lose sight of the purposes for this providence that God intends for us to see.
  • One of God’s purposes in creating the natural world was the enjoyment he would take in it.
  • God’s joy in creation is the fullness of his joy in the glory of his own power and wisdom and goodness coming to expression in creation.
  • God created the natural world as a theater for his glory and a joyful habitation for his beholding people, who, to all eternity, will live in glorified bodies in a profoundly pleasing glorified world of nature.

Chapter 17 Earth, Water, Wind, Plants, and Animals

  • All natural processes in the earth, such as earthquakes, are in God’s control, for if God causes them, he also can stop them.
  • There is no reason to think that Jesus, from his throne in heaven today, cannot command the waves the way he did when he was here.
  • Nothing in nature happens without God’s wise and just and gracious providence.
  • The world and even thousands of Christians give no praise and thanks to God for millions of daily, life-sustaining providences because they do not see the world as the theater of God’s wonders.

Chapter 18: Satan and Demons

  • Divine providence is never frustrated by Satan in its plan for this world—for the everlasting good of God’s people in the all-satisfying praise of the glory of his grace.
  • In all his acts, Satan is subject to God’s overruling and guiding providence.

Chapter 19: The Ongoing Existence of Satan

  • I would sum up why God permits Satan to go on living and working by saying that God intends to defeat Satan not with one initial blow of power, but through four processes: He is defeating Satan with showing. He is defeating Satan with suffering. He is defeating Satan with Satan. He is defeating Satan with savoring.
  • When Jesus throws Satan into the lake of fire, Jesus’s justice and power will be on full display. But at the cross, his grace and mercy and patience and love and wisdom were on full display as he conquered Satan’s claim on God’s people by paying their debts.
  • God intends for Satan to be defeated in this age not merely by showing him to be weaker than Christ, but also by showing him to be less savory than Christ—less desirable, less satisfying.
  • Providence over Satan and all other created reality reaches its ultimate goal when the intensity of human savoring corresponds to the infinite beauty and worth of Christ.

Chapter 20: Israel’s Divine King Is King of the Nations

  • The people of God today, the Christian church, made up of those who trust the Messiah, Jesus Christ, does not have a single ethnic, political, or national identity.
  • The church is not a nation, and therefore does not relate to nations the way Israel did.
  • The Old Testament record of God’s providence over nations and kings is relevant—even urgent—for Christians today.

Chapter 21: Human Kingship and the King of Kings

  • God has chosen, in the way he orders the world, to enact most of his purposes not by his immediate kingly action but through human agents, in this case human kings— “the kingdom of men.”
  • The reason God created human kingships was for the sake of the kingly glory of his Son.
  • This was the ultimate goal of God’s providence in bringing about a “kingdom of men” and in guiding the thousand-year history of the kingship of Israel—the glorification of the reigning Lamb in the joyful praises of his people.
  • Earthly kingdoms and their inhabitants are not impressive. God is impressive. And when he takes interest in these insignificant creatures, his grace, not their glory, is amazing.
  • My sense is that in the twenty-first-century church, we are more likely to feel God’s mercy as a presumed right rather than a mind-blowing surprise.
  • God is intent on showing these two truths: first, his plans cannot be nullified by man. And, second, no plans of man will ever be fulfilled unless they are part of God’s plan.
  • Without God’s providence over wicked authorities, there would be no gospel.
  • We are to pray for kings and rulers, because the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord (Prov. 21:1), and he can turn it for the advance of the gospel.

Chapter 22: To Know and Rejoice That the Most High Rules

  • So, whether it is Paul under the wicked Nero or Jesus under self-serving Pilate, the testimony of God’s providence over evil rulers stands: no authority but from God.
  • The Most High gives the kingdom to whom he will.
  • Pride is the height of treason and the end of human happiness. It is opposition to the ultimate purpose of providence.
  • The ultimate aim of providence is the exaltation of the worth and beauty of God in the soul-satisfying praises of God’s people. Where pride exists, this purpose is not yet fulfilled. Therefore, pride-opposing providence is love.

All of God’s works of providence over kings and nations are perfectly righteous. They are true to the highest standard in existence—namely, God himself.


Chapter 23: A Bath of Truth and the Gift of Birth

  • Christ walked into death of his own accord. And he walked out of his own accord.
  • The praise of the glory of Christ, manifest supremely in dying and destroying death for his people, was the plan of the ages, and the purpose of all that has ever come to pass in the all-encompassing providence of God.
  • It belongs to God, and God alone, to have absolute sway over life and death.
  • Conception and birth are in the hands of the Lord.

Chapter 24 The Lord Has Taken Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

  • The creation of man in the image of God makes the taking of human life so serious that one who takes it will lose it.
  • A just application of capital punishment reflects not the minimizing of life but the massive value of human life in the image of God.
  • Since life belongs to God, and we have it only as a stewardship to be used while he pleases for his glory, God may take it at any time and in any way he pleases, as he acts in the fullness of his wisdom and goodness and justice.
  • It is astonishing to me how many people who claim to be Bible-believing Christians react angrily to the statement, no matter how carefully timed or caringly spoken, that deadly catastrophes are part of God’s providence—that they are finally in the control of his wise and just and good and purposeful sovereignty.
  • Since the fall, death is not a surprise, and it is not merely an aspect of nature. It is God’s judgment.

Chapter 25: We Are Immortal till Our Work Is Done

  • God regards faithfulness to him as more important than life.
  • God’s rule of every life is not bad news. It is glorious news, for in Christ Jesus nothing befalls us but what is good for us.
  • Unless Jesus comes back first, we all will die. For those who belong to him, the timing and outcome of that death is mercy, not wrath.