Does the providence of God sometimes keep us from sinning? What happens when God lifts His providential care from protecting us against sin? As you read the following, please keep this verse in mind, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:13-14) B.H. Carroll (1843-1914) explains:
The permissive providence of God is simply God’s not putting forth His preventive force; that is all. We sometimes see that God permits a man to sin who has been hindered a week, a year, two years, five years. He has tried hard hitherto to do this mean, devilish thing and God has withheld opportunity. God has brought in somebody or something to interrupt him.
Some force visible or [supernatural] has stayed his hand. But he incorrigibly followed after that sin until at last God said, “Now I will just remove my prevention, I will not incite him, but I will break down my hedge of thorns.”
God never tempts to sin. That is what is called “letting a man alone,” “leaving him to his own devices.” God says to His Spirit, “Let him alone. You have been preventing. You have been guarding. You have been hedging. And he fights against the restraint and bruises himself against the hedge, and manifests an incorrigible spirit to go on and commit this offense. Now, if he will, let him go his way. I will call him no more. I will visit him neither by day nor by night. So far as that providence is concerned which has hovered over him and kept him back from presumptuous sin, I will take it away. Now, sinner, commit thy sin.” That is permissive providence.
The case of a good man, Hezekiah, is an example. He had grown unmindful of God’s care for him and got to thinking that he was holding himself up until it became necessary to teach him a lesson. The Scriptures tell us, in the 32nd chapter of 2 Chronicles, how this man, who it seemed could not make a mistake, that went along accomplishing everything he wished, until he really thought that he was infallible and invincible, all at once stumbled and fell, as much to his own surprise as to the wonder of others.
God explains it to him. He had let him alone for a little season to show him that his help was in the Lord. It needed to be done. It was a part of God’s discipline. So dealt the Lord with David, another good man. David knew his fundamental principles of divine government, that as power rested in God it made no difference about numbers; that the Lord could work with a few people; that one could chase a thousand and two could put ten thousand to flight. But David got into his mind a vain conceit that frequently misleads modern Christians – pride in numbers: “I have a large people now, let us count them and glory in their multitude.”
Seeing David’s bent, the Lord took away the hedge and let him do what he pleased. One scripture expresses it, “The Lord moved David to number Israel,” while another, referring to the same event, says, “Satan moved David to number Israel.” And the question is, “How can both be true?” The answer is this: Satan had been trying to move him to do that for a long while and Satan could not make him do it because this intervening providence of God had kept him from it. Now when God just gets out of the way, Satan gets in and you may say the Lord moved, or the Lord permitted it to be done. Satan moved him. He would have moved him sooner if God had permitted. (“The Providence of God”)
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
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