Concerning this mode of Divine government, I will distinguish between a concept of providence as provisional (provision and response) and a concept that is more in the realm of causative (cause and effect). I have been attempting to identify a better phrase for the cause and effect mode as “providential government” does not, in my opinion, best suit this category.
The first dimension of providential government under consideration regards God employing His intelligence and power to provide everything necessary for human beings, individually and corporately, to produce good, healthy, balanced outcome. In reference to this category, it is helpful to think of the word providence as “provide-ence.” Such provisions actually lay the foundation for moral government. Man’s original design, all the abilities and capacities possessed are providential. What man does with such abilities and capacities is associated with man as a moral agent or as a subject of moral government. Beyond this, God providentially arranges for redemptive options designed for man’s recovery from the improper use of his moral agency. Such provisions are conceived of and made by God (providential government) but produce no positive results unless responded to properly by those for whom the provisions apply (moral government). The provisions are made for the promotion of the highest good possible, but they do not guarantee, secure or cause the highest good to come into existence. To expand on this idea slightly I quote from N. W. Taylor who states, “The acts therefore of giving a law, sustaining its authority by sanctions, providing means of conveying truth to the mind, are not constituent parts of moral government, but are providential acts which are necessary to that influence which constitutes moral government.”
When we read from Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth,’” we see provisions made by God for man to be a certain, distinct type of being. What man does with the created design, abilities, capacities and capabilities provided by God is another discussion. God, in His provide-ence, created human beings in His own image with specific abilities, created an environment full of resources with which we are to interact and gave us the responsibility of stewardship over creation for which we are held accountable.
I now move to the concept of providential government that is associated with cause and effect. It is concerning this concept that I believe the phrase “providential government” could be replaced with a more appropriate phrase. However, not having a better phrase, I will proceed to explain the concept.
According to this concept, Scripture supplies us with examples of God, not simply making a provision but overriding or setting aside man’s moral agency in order to accomplish something of importance. In the animate and inanimate, non-moral realm, God is free and able to set aside the instincts or laws that are normal to such modes of government. Here, as well, God can, consistent with His character, set aside man’s normal moral freedom when He sees fit. When moral government is intact, the moral agent is accountable for the choices and actions produced. On occasions when God supersedes man’s moral freedom, the issue of man’s accountability (good or bad) ceases to be a factor. That God intervenes in this way is surely defensible on a Biblical basis. How to discern when such intervention has taken place in extra-Biblical accounts, throughout human history, is challenging. This mode of governmental interaction with the human race is not intended to be the norm. Even if it, at times, becomes the status quo, it is not the norm.
It could be said, in light of the above two concepts, that providential government establishes the foundation of moral government. In other words, God providentially created moral beings and chose, consequently, to establish moral government. It must also be acknowledged that, at times, providential government supersedes moral government. It is worth emphasizing that as we study Scripture in an effort to understand God, His kingdom and His relationship with creation (including man), it is important to maintain distinctions and balance regarding the different forms of government. We enter into error if we attempt to make our understanding of God’s interaction with creation fit into only one of the modes of government to which I have referred. It should also be stated that there is often overlap between the various modes of interaction in which God engages with creation.
God’s interaction with Pharaoh provides a great case study in the interactions of both providential and moral government when studied with appropriate sensitivity. Exodus 11:10 states that, “…the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the sons of Israel go out of his land.” Though I do not intend to delve into the details of the preceding verse, I will clarify that God’s activity, described above, is not related to Pharaoh’s moral accountability or salvation. It is a reference to God strengthening Pharaoh in the resolve he had established in his effort to prevent Israel from leaving Egypt at a time when the pressure became too great for him to carry out his intention. The following verses provide insight into the reason for God doing this.
“…I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 7:3, NASB)
“…for this cause I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth.” (Exodus 9:16, NASB)
“…I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them…” (Exodus 10:1, NASB)
God clearly intended to display His power through signs and wonders and was not going to stop until, it appears, He had “defeated” the false gods of Egypt. Why did God want to do this?
“…I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (Exodus 14:4, NASB; see Ex.14:17 & 18 also)
In the next section, I will attempt to show how such ideas apply in theology and practice.
 Lecture on the Moral Government of God;
 Also see Dt.2:25; Josh.11:20; I Ki.22:19-23; Ps.22:28; 66:7; Pr.21:1; Jer.32:27-30; 50:9; Da.4:17, 32; Zeph.3:8; Jn.7:30; 18:31, 32; 19:9-11; Ro.13:1; Re.17:17