The Providence of Work

“The young lions roar after their prey
And seek their food from God.”  (Psalm 104:21)

Many of God’s people have way too narrow a view of His Providence. They consider that what God provides for them will just “fall into their lap” in a miraculous way. And indeed, scripture does indicate that God sometimes manifests His Providence through sudden, miraculous gifts of bounty. But it also teaches us that He often provides in much less dramatic ways: through our own work.

Psalm 104 is one of the most magnificent chapters in all of the word of God. It describes the glory of God in His creation and sustaining of life. According to the Psalm, His Providences are manifest all through His creation: verse 4 asserts that the wind is His messenger; and flaming fire (lightning) His minister; :10-11 says that God provides the rivers and streams from which every animal and bird drinks; :14 says He makes grass to grow to feed the cattle, and so on.

And then in :21 we have a very instructive picture: after describing how the Lord appoints darkness for the night, :21 says that in that darkness, “The young lions roar after their prey and seek their food from God.” Do you see the “two sides of the coin” of how the Bible indicates that the lions are fed?

— First, it says that they “roar after their prey.” They are out at night, hunting, seeking, running after their prey, and chasing it down. In other words, they are working hard to get it!

— But then notice the second way the Bible describes what is happening: it says they “seek their food from God.” This second description helps shed understanding about God’s Providence in a way that many of us would profit from.

Those young lions were seeking “food from God” — and yet that didn’t mean they didn’t have to go out and put forth effort to get it. Rather it was through their effort that the Creator would provide. It will often be the same in our situations. God’s Providence and our efforts are not mutually exclusive. Instead of merely hoping that God will miraculously drop a gift in our lap, many of us should “seek our food from God” just like the lions in Psalm 104 did — by working hard for it. Indeed, is it merely a coincidence that immediately after the verse on God’s Providence for the lions, :23 says “Man goes forth to his work, and to his labor until evening”? Or is God telling us here that His ordinary means of Providence will involve our effort and work? We find another hint that this is so in :28, where it says “You give it to them, they gather it up.” When God gives, there is often still labor involved on our part. We still have to “gather it up.”

It is no less a Providence of God just because it involves our own effort and labor. After all, God is the One who created us. He provides the air we breathe, the water we drink (:11), the food we eat, and every skill and ability we possess (Exodus 36:2). Are you waiting for God’s provision today? He may indeed grant it to you — in the form of your own work.

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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