God’s Glory in Calamity

Plane Crash

Today’s post is from Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible. He offers helpful words on the incident with the blind man in John 9:1-3 and how we should think about providence and calamity. His words are below:

“Christ…gives the reason of this poor man’s blindness: “Neither has this man sinned nor his parents, but he was born blind, and has continued so to this day, that now at last the works of God should be made manifest in him,” v. 3. Here Christ, who perfectly knew the secret springs of the divine counsels, told them two things concerning such uncommon calamities:—

[1.] That they are not always inflicted as punishments of sin. The sinfulness of the whole race of mankind does indeed justify God in all the miseries of human life; so that those who have the least share of them must say that God is kind, and those who have the largest share must not say that he is unjust; but many are made much more miserable than others in this life who are not at all more sinful. Not but that this man was a sinner, and his parents sinners, but his was not any uncommon guilt that God had an eye to in inflicting this upon him. Note, We must take heed of judging any to be great sinners merely because they are great sufferers, lest we be found, not only persecuting those whom God has smitten (Ps. 69:26), but accusing those whom he has justified, and condemning those for whom Christ died, which is daring and dangerous, Rom. 8:33, 34.

[2.] That they are sometimes intended purely for the glory of God, and the manifesting of his works. God has a sovereignty over all his creatures and an exclusive right in them, and may make them serviceable to his glory in such a way as he thinks fit, in doing or suffering; and if God be glorified, either by us or in us, we were not made in vain. This man was born blind, and it was worth while for him to be so, and to continue thus long dark, that the works of God might be manifest in him.

That is, First, That the attributes of God might be made manifest in him: his justice in making sinful man liable to such grievous calamities; his ordinary power and goodness in supporting a poor man under such a grievous and tedious affliction, especially that his extraordinary power and goodness might be manifested in curing him. Note, The difficulties of providence, otherwise unaccountable, may be resolved into this—God intends in them to show himself, to declare his glory, to make himself to be taken notice of. Those who regard him not in the ordinary course of things are sometimes alarmed by things extraordinary. How contentedly then may a good man be a loser in his comforts, while he is sure that thereby God will be one way or other a gainer in his glory!

Secondly, That the counsels of God concerning the Redeemer might be manifested in him. He was born blind that our Lord Jesus might have the honour of curing him, and might therein prove himself sent of God to be the true light to the world. Thus the fall of man was permitted, and the blindness that followed it, that the works of God might be manifest in opening the eyes of the blind. It was now a great while since this man was born blind, and yet it never appeared till now why he was so. Note, The intentions of Providence commonly do not appear till a great while after the event, perhaps many years after. The sentences in the book of providence are sometimes long, and you must read a great way before you can apprehend the sense of them.”[1]


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1976.

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