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Games of “Chance,” Acts of God

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.

Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

Nothing happens by chance. Every event of history takes place within the confines of the sovereign will of Almighty God. This fact is true despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary. A person may witness what he considers a random act, but there is a reason behind every phenomenon. God governs the affairs of human history, including the decrees and actions of politicians, governments, and kings.

Solomon allowed that although human beings may “cast lots,” neither fate nor chance determine the end. The results come from the will of God. One may certainly “roll the dice,” but God controls the outcome.

Solomon further extends his comments to include the decision-making processes of earthly rulers. God directs the plans of the king with ease. One can thus rest assured that in the highest corridors of human power, nothing happens which takes God by surprise or thwarts His plans. The hearts of men conform to the will of God.

Two important lessons flow from these two verses. First, Christians never need be afraid that the world is “out of control.” God’s omnipotent Providence perfectly governs the world at all times. In the face of terrorist attacks and other atrocities, confidence in God’s oversight can be challenging, but the alternative is both heretical and terrifying—that events escape His attention or that His rule is limited.

Second, Christians should support and pray for the authorities God has placed over them. Above all others, Christians should be known as productive, engaged, and supportive citizens. Echoes of these passages serve as the backdrop for both Paul and Peter as they rallied a civilly obedient Church (Rom. 13; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.).

Simply because the Church believes in providential history, however, does not mean that it always understands God’s hidden purposes in current events. As St. Augustine rhetorically queried, “It is clear that God . . . rules and guides [historical] events according to his pleasure. If God’s reasons are inscrutable, does that mean they are unjust?” Christians nevertheless trust in the goodness of God.

Like a civil engineer who controls the power of mighty rivers through a series of dams, levees, and canals, God channels the outcomes of the governor’s decree, the Parliament’s resolution, or the President’s pen. If God is concerned with kings and nations, should this not be a focus of the Church’s prayer and action?