Providence may be considered as immediate and mediate. The former is that operation of God whereby, without the use of any other means, He accomplishes His purposes. Hence, the world and all in it are upheld by His power without the intervention of any other force or influence. All creatures are immediately dependent upon their Creator for its life and being [i].
Mediate providence is what God exercises by use of secondary causes. In this way, God lends some dignity of work to His creatures and in them makes His work more discernible. He makes the earth fruitful by rain and sunshine, giving seed to the sower, and bread to the hungry man [ii].
The Westminster Confession brilliantly summarizes that which is involved in these two aspects of divine providence: “Although in relation to the foreknowledge of God, the First Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providence, He orders them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently [iii].
Again, providence may be considered both ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary providence is exercised in the common course of events (as humans see them) by a chain of secondary causes or what we think of as “natural” means. It operates in accordance with the original laws of nature that are nonetheless designed and created by our loving God. “ Fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His words [iv]. Even inanimate things such as snow, rain, and hail obey His will. No man should complain about the weather, for it is the manifestation of God’s providence.
Extraordinary providence is that in which God goes out of His common way of doing things. It consists of miraculous operations that exceed the power of nature. For example, this would include how God ordered a rock to be smitten and waters gushed out to supply water for His people [v]. He rained manna about their tents [vi], and many other miraculous deeds.
[i] Hebrews 1:3; Acts 17:24, 28
[ii] Isaiah 55:10;
[iii] Westminster Confession 5.2
[iv] Psalm 148:8
[v] Exodus 17
[vi] Exodus 16