Coincidence or God-incidence?

Gen 24.1-28,49-52,57-67

Do you see it? In the rock formation above are two praying figures. They are horizontal so it helps to tilt your head to the left. When people see the figures they go “oh, look!” They are amazed; why? Because if the photo is genuine then we are seeing a supernatural message embedded in natural rock; God has arranged natural rock to say “pray”. Now, I have to admit I am sceptical; I have graphic skills and know photos can be manipulated. But if it is genuine we cannot say this is coincidence, we have to say its ‘God-incidence’ because it’s so obvious. What I am addressing today is God-incidence; the fact that God sometimes arranges things; not just nature, but things like; two people meeting, marriage partners, or perhaps our jobs.
In the Scripture above Abraham’s servant has to find a wife for his master’s son, Isaac, but he is told she has to be from among Abraham’s relatives. So the servant travels to Abraham’s native country and the town of Nahor to find such a girl. But where does he begin, Nahor has many people? He sits at a well outside the town thinking it will be a good place because the town’s woman came there to draw water. He prays that the right girl will come and that she will reveal she is the one by offering to give his camels water. All of this happens; Rebekah arrives, and offers to give his camels water.  He then asks her who she is and discovers she is the grand-daughter of Abraham’s brother; just what he was looking for. Was this coincidence or God-incidence? Both the servant and the girl’s parents believed it was a God-incidence (27, 50).
I can personally testify to a number of God-incidences; some more obvious than others. Recently I preached a sermon titled ‘Flying Blind.’ The main illustration was about how pilots have to trust their instruments when flying in the dark or heavy cloud, and how Christians need to trust their spiritual instruments when they cannot see ahead. After the service I shook hands with a visiting couple. He introduced himself with the title ‘Captain,’ so I said “Captain of what?” He said, “I am a pilot for Jet-Link,” and he went on to confirm all I had said about pilots and their instruments. He just happened to be in the city for that weekend, and just happened to visit our church for the first time that Sunday; and I thought “what are the chances of that happening” and took it as a sign from God that I had preached His message. Now you can say it’s just coincidence, and I would not be able to prove you wrong, but like Abraham’s servant I had prayed for confirmation and an unlikely meeting occurred that had the flavour of the God I know.
My claim and the claim of Scripture is that God arranges nature and natural events to fit his divine purposes. I believe God wants us to see his hand in nature and hear from him for what to preach, who to marry, and where to work. I am not claiming that every incident in life is arranged by God. That would be an unscriptural and dangerous way to think. If you and I can do things that are against God, then we know those things are not from him. In fact many things may have an outright evil source. I only mention this because some people do talk as if everything is an act of God. For example; people at a funeral might say “It was his time to go” when the man killed himself through drunk driving. And of course, God doesn’t arrange drunk driving, we do. God only does good. Romans 8.28 says “In all things God works for the GOOD of those who love him.”
Now, I am curious; I would like to know how God arranges some of these things? I mean, think of what it would take to get Rebekah and Abraham’s servant to meet up. The girl had to be of the right family, the right age, the right looks, and the right personality (to water a stranger’s camels). And the timing at the well had to be perfect. It really is like, “In ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him.” But here’s another interesting example from Scripture: what did it take to get 153 fish into Peter’s net when Jesus told him to throw it on the other side of the boat (Jn 21.6, 11)? Did God suddenly create 153 new fish in Peter’s net, or did he arrange a way to gather the fish from different parts of the sea of Galilee? In other words; was it special creation or “in all FISH God worked for the good of Peter who loves him?” God can do either. One thing is for sure; Rebekah was not newly created the day the servant met her; God worked in her, the servant, Abraham, Isaac, the girls parents, and their circumstances to bring everything together. He is a supernatural God who works through natural things. And sometimes these natural things look random and directionless. I am sure Rebekah and her parents made many seemingly random decisions in their lives that eventually influenced the way they met the servant and later, Isaac. But God has a way of using the random for his purposes. This is why I have no problem with the scientific idea that the universe came about through natural, random processes. The God of the Bible is always working through the natural and random. The Jews and early Christians cast lots to know God’s will because they believed he had control of things that were natural and random (Pr 16.33, Ac 1.26). The end result of what appears random to us is that we live on a planet that is the right size, the right distance from a sun in the right part of the galaxy, and our planet is balanced by a moon the right size and distance, and we have the right amount of water, and we could go on and on about how right our enviroment happens to be for human life. God really has worked all things, natural and random, for good. In fact we don’t need the photo above to know God arranges the natural; we have a universe that speaks much louder. Our universe is not a coincidence, it is a God-incidence.
Abraham’s servant sets a wonderful example for us to follow. His example is especially helpful for those who are looking for partners, jobs, or something similar. First, he is obedient to father Abraham’s wishes and looks for a woman amongst his relatives (3, 4). And we should be obedient to our Heavenly Father and look for our partners among his people (2 Co 6.14). God has given us clear parameters, and they are for our own good. Second, Abraham’s servant goes, prays and waits (10, 12, 21). We cannot expect a partner or job to land in our laps as we pray in our rooms, God works through natural events, so we must go looking for them. But as we go we do so prayerfully and watch for God’s hand in the matter. And there will be godly signs when he is involved, we should not be striving and battling in our own strength to make it happen. We should not have to manipulate circumstances and fight to be on top. God will make everything flow by His grace (50-51). This was certainly the servant’s experience; and in the end all he could do was thank and praise the God of divine incidents (26, 52). We worship a God who arranges the natural. Like Abraham’s servant, lets trust his hand and acknowledge his works.

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