Imagine having X-ray vision like Superman. You could see past obstacles and through walls. At parties, you could mesmerize guests as you revealed the contents of their unopened purses and wallets. Finding the elusive belt hiding somewhere in the bowels of your suitcase wouldn’t be a problem either. What an incredible asset X-ray vision would be!
Superman not only possessed X-ray vision, but he also was blessed with telescopic vision, enabling him to span the solar system in a glance. As well, he had microscopic vision, allowing him to see the tiniest dust particle. But there were two things Superman could not see: anything encased in or hidden behind a wall of lead, and future events.
God has it all-X ray vision, telescopic vision, microscopic vision and future vision. He declares, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand and I will do all that I please” (Isa. 46:9-10 NIV). Nothing, not even kryptonite, can prevent Him from accomplishing His will.
Biblical scholars define God’s future vision as providence. The word “providence” comes from the combination of two Latin words: pro, meaning, “before”, and video, meaning “I see.” It literally means “foresight.” Merriam-Webster’s defines “providence” as “divine guidance or care; God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny. Not one detail of your life takes Him by surprise. He sees what you do and why you do it. The motives within the human heart are penetrated by God’s watchful eye. “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).
Through His providence, God not only orchestrates details in the lives of individuals, but also that of entire nations. One of America’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin, said “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” You might say that history is “His story”!
Kings, presidents and military officers unwittingly fulfill God’s plan as agents of providence. For instance, around the time of Jesus’ birth, Cesar Augustus needed more money for his war campaigns. Like most politicians, he thought that raising taxes was a good way to get it. So he legislated a tax initiative mandating that all citizens be registered in the city of their birth (see Luke 2:1,3). If you were looking over Caesar’s shoulder, you may have thought, Hmmm, That’s incredible. This decree could fulfill a prophecy given nearly 700 years ago by Micah, making sure that the Messiah is born in Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2). The census tax forced Mary and Joseph to travel to their hometown, Bethlehem, while Mary was great with child. Was Caesar a powerful ruler? Perhaps. Was he a pawn in God’s plan? Absolutely!
How can we, as finite human beings, grasp the immensity of God’s purview and knowledge? Perhaps a simple analogy will help. Have you ever stood on the sidelines and watched a parade, such as the famous Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California, go by? You have to wait to see each float, each marching band, each equestrian unit. But if you watched the televised parade, you could get some aerial shots from the Goodyear Blimp that floats over the parade and see the beginning to the end, and everything in between.
Let’s pretend that you and I go to the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California. We arrive the night before and camp out on Colorado Boulevard right in the middle of the parade route between Orange Grove and Sierra Madre Boulevards. The next morning we’re thrilled when our favorite float, depicting a winter wonderland glides past. Next comes the marching band we’ve been waiting for- The Canadian Massed Pipes and Drums-dressed in their mixed Scottish tartans playing traditional music on their bagpipes and drums. Just then, some late-comers push their way to the front. Breathlessly, the lady asks, “Did I miss the Rose Queen? She’s my second cousin. We were delayed by traffic.”
We assure her that she’s made it in time. In fact, if she walks back a few blocks, toward Orange Grove Boulevard, she’ll be able to see what is yet to come-she can view the future before it becomes our present.
Her husband interrupts, “But did we miss The Canadian Massed Pipes and Drums? I’m Scottish.”
We’re sorry to tell him, “Yes, but if you run ahead, toward Sierra Madre Boulevard, you can see what has already transpired.” At the moment, my cell phone rings. It’s my mother, in Michigan, calling to say that she’s watching the whole thing on her television. They just showed an aerial view of the parade from the Good Year blimp. She has seen the end, the beginning and everything in between. She tells us, “Don’t miss the equestrian unit of miniature horses. They’re adorable.”
As you can see from our parade passing by, perspective is everything. Depending on your vantage point along the parade route, you can see the past, the present or the future of this wondrous spectacle.
In a limited sense, the aerial view is how the timeline of history appears to God. He has a birds-eye view of the events taking place on planet Earth. He can observe all aspects of time simultaneously. Therefore, He is able to act providentially in our lives. He knows what’s going to happen before it happens; and He knows how the past can intersect the present.