Continuing our study of God’s sovereign outworking of His decree, let us note one of the most significant differences between our Lord’s works of creation and providence: creation was finished many millennia ago while God’s providence is an ongoing work. In seven days, God created all things and then He rested from that specific work (Gen. 1:1–2:3). But the Lord did not rest—cease—from preserving and governing all His creatures and their decisions. In fact, He will never take a break from doing so (Jer. 33:20–21; Col. 1:17), for if He did, all creation would cease to exist.
So, God’s providential governance is ongoing. Moreover, for the most part, God exercises His governing rule not apart from created means but in and through them. In other words, God uses such things as physical laws and even human skills, personalities, and decisions to bring about His purposes and plan for creation. Except in the case of miracles, which we will discuss more in due time, our Lord does not suspend natural processes or directly and forcefully override the plans and choices of His creatures. God’s governance is in many ways and in most instances more subtle than that. He prefers, in most cases, to work in and through established means rather than against them.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with the story of Jael and Sisera recorded in Judges 4:17–22. Just prior to their encounter, Sisera, a commander of the Canaanites, had lost a battle against the Israelites, who were led by Deborah and Barak (vv. 1–16). Fleeing the battle, Sisera escaped to the tent of Jael, whom he regarded as an ally. Yet while Sisera slept, Jael drove a tent peg through his skull, fulfilling the prophecy that a woman would get the glory for killing Sisera (vv. 17–22; see v. 9).
The author of Judges does not paint Sisera’s demise as miraculous. True, Deborah predicted that a woman would kill Sisera, but Jael does not employ any supernatural means to bring about the general’s death. All that was needed to kill Sisera was a certain amount of skill with a tent peg and hammer, and this was a skill Jael possessed because in her culture it was the women who typically erected and dismantled tents. She had spent a lifetime learning how to hammer a tent peg effectively, and that skill was used to deliver the Israelites when the need arose. God brought the prophecy of Sisera’s demise to pass by working through the means of the skilled hands of Jael.