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Caught by Providence

Caught in Providence is a television show whose clips are popular on the internet. The show features true scenes from the traffic courtroom of Judge Frank Caprio, who is the Chief Municipal Judge in Providence, Rhode Island. In three to four minute clips, you see people appearing before Judge Caprio. He presents them with their parking tickets or traffic violations, such as speeding in a school zone or running a red light. You would think viewing such minor violations would not be all that entertaining. But it is the judge's interactions with the people who appear before him that make the show.

For Judge Caprio not only has a just heart but a kind one. He takes time to listen to the people before him. He watches carefully the videos of infractions played before the courtroom. When children are present, he interacts with them. If he believes a ticket was issued unfairly, or taking a person's circumstance into consideration makes the ticket an undue burden, he will dismiss the case. If the ticket is deserved, he will work out a reasonable payment plan for the poor. And if someone comes in with crocodile tears and a bogus story, the good judge is not afraid to tell them so and give them what they deserve.

Judge Caprio has become such an internet sensation that people who watch the show actually send in gifts. They ask him to help someone who may deserve a ticket but who could also use a break. Here's an example of the judge so doing even as he deals justly yet compassionately with a woman who had struggled with a domestic violence situation:

Watching some clips recently from Caught in Providence, then preaching on the subject of providence yesterday, made me think of how all people are caught by providence.

For the Scriptures teach that everything that occurs in creation is under the control of God. As the Shorter Catechism says, "God’s works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions” (WSC 11). Yet the Lord's rule over all things does not remove mankind's culpability. We know that God mysteriously governs over all of men's affairs in such a way that "the sinfulness thereof proceedeth only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin" (WCF 5.4).

Consider then what these truths imply for every person. The Lord who reigns over all the earth, to the point a little sparrow cannot fall from the sky without his notice (Matt. 10:29-31), sees all that you do. His eye is infinitely more attentive than the traffic cameras and cops of Providence, RI. He sees your every infraction. He also rules in such a way so as to bring your sinfulness and its consequences to your notice, like a ticket appearing in the mail. As judge of all the earth, the Lord will one day summon you before Him in His holy courtroom.

Yet unlike those appearing before Judge Caprio, who have to give an account of just one or a few instances of relatively minor infractions, the whole of your life will be before Him. You will be caught by God's providence, having to give an account for all the wrong you have ever done. In and of itself, that's a horrifying thought, is it not? Can you imagine standing before the Lord on Judgment Day solely on your own merits?

However, remember what draws so many people to watch the show above. Is it not the kindness of the judge? Then think of what providence teaches us about the compassion of the Judge of all the earth.

For as Peter preached at Pentecost concerning Jesus, "this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death" (Acts 2:23). God the Father planned the death of His Son, yet the ones who put him to death were godless, guilty men. Jesus Christ was put to death in that greatest of providential acts in order to pay the debt of our sins. He was then raised to newness of life so that you could repent of your sin, believe upon Christ, and be washed clean of them (Acts 2:38-39). The Judge Himself has paid the price of the penalty!

The point should be clear. On Judgment Day, you will be caught by providence in one of two ways. You will appear before God with His record book standing against you with no assistance. Stubbornly remaining in your sin, you will forever view Christ as an unfair and unyielding judge as He casts you from His presence forever. Or, you will have accepted Christ's offer of mercy and forgiveness, knowing that He Himself paid your debt. If so, having received His offer of acquittal, you will know Him as the merciful judge He truly is. And with open arms, He will take you into His eternal home.

Barry York

Barry York

Sinner by Nature - Saved by Grace. Husband of Miriam - Grateful for Privilege. Father of Six - Blessed by God. President of RPTS - Serve with Thankfulness. Author - Hitting the Marks.

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