August 2010 • Volume XIII, Issue 4
Psalm 7 on Uncommon Grace
A consideration of Psalm 7’s teaching on God’s
sovereign, particular grace was specifically requested by a brother from
Portugal surprised at its omission from the four articles on "The Psalms
Versus Common Grace" (CR News XIII:21-24).
Psalm 7 was penned by David, as the heading informs
us, in response to "the words of Cush the Benjamite," whom I take to be
the same as Shimei who cursed and railed on Israel’s king when he fled
Jerusalem upon Absalom’s rebellion (II Sam. 16:5-14). Psalm 7 applies to
all of David’s "enemies" (6) and, indeed, the (reprobate) wicked in
In this psalm, Israel’s king appeals to God as his
deliverer (1-2), judge (3-9) and defence (10-17): "O Lord, don’t let the
ungodly tear me in pieces (1-2). If I really am guilty of the terrible
things with which Shimei charges me (3-4; II Sam. 16:7-8)—though I’m not
(Ps. 7:4b)—then let the enemy kill me and trample my honour in the dust
(5). Awake, Lord, and judge my enemies (6) and so Thy people will draw
near Thee in praise (7). Vindicate me and all the ‘just,’ O Jehovah, and
destroy the wicked (8-9). Thou art ‘my defence’ (10) and Thou art ‘angry
with the wicked every day’ (11). The sin of the wicked will boomerang
upon him (14-16) and Thou hast already prepared the instruments of his
destruction (12-13). Therefore I will sing praise to my Lord (17)."
"God is angry with the wicked every day" (11) is
especially relevant to the truth of uncommon grace. "With the wicked" is
in italics in the Authorised Version but it gives the correct sense, for
the next verse continues, "If he [i.e., the wicked] turn not," Jehovah
will destroy him (12). The terribly vivid imagery of God’s punishment of
the ungodly—His sharpening the sword of judgment and bending His bow and
filling it with arrows against him, yea, His preparation of the
"instruments of death"—is realised in Jehovah’s cutting off the wicked
and casting him into everlasting hell (12-13).
It is true that God is "angry" with the elect before
their conversion. We "were by nature the children of wrath, even as
others" (Eph. 2:3), for the Holy One of Israel saw our totally depraved
natures and all our thoughts, words and deeds were 100% sinful. We
experienced this wrath too in the pangs of our guilty consciences and
the "bondage" of the "fear of death" (Heb. 2:15). Yet God also loved us
with His infinite and irresistible love in Jesus Christ before the
foundation of the world (Jer. 31:3; Eph. 1:4). But prior to God’s giving
us repentance and faith, we had no knowledge or experience of His love;
all that we knew or experienced was His anger against us for our sins.
God can even be said to be angry with His believing
people when we fall into sin or continue impenitently in it for a time.
This was David’s experience in Psalm 32:3-5 and in Psalm 6:1: "O Lord,
rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot
displeasure." Our heavenly Father is angry with His (spiritual)
children when we disobey, as an earthly father is angry with his
(physical) children when they disobey. In His holy "anger" and
"displeasure," God "rebukes" and "chastens" us, to use the language of
Psalm 6:1. Hebrews 12:6, quoting Proverbs 3:12, explains that God’s
"chastening" of us as "sons" proceeds from His "love." In other words,
God’s love for His believing children reveals itself in anger when we
walk in sin. He loves us so much and He so seeks our holiness that He
chastises us—sometimes severely—for our transgressions to bring us to
repentance and so produce in us the "peaceable fruit of righteousness"
The "wicked" (Ps. 7:11) who "turn not" (12) and
endure eternal torments (12-13; cf. 11:5-6) are the reprobate wicked.
God is angry with them in His fiery indignation "every day" (7:11), from
the day of their conception and the day of their birth to the day of
their death, and every day in between. God is indignant with the
reprobate wicked as he celebrates his birthdays or enjoys his holidays
or rejoices on his wedding day or in the births of his children. God is
angry with him on a Sunday, whether he spends the day playing golf or
watching TV or even going to church! Nor are we to think that God is
angry with the reprobate wicked for some
time or part of "every day" (11). God is indignant with
each and every one of them from the rising of the sun to the going down
of the same. Yea, He is angry with them all day every day, even when
As Paul states in Romans 9:13, quoting Malachi 1:3,
"Esau have I hated." Isaac’s older son was not only hated by God all day
every day; God hated him before the foundation of the world (in the way
of his sin), for Romans 9:13 in its context is dealing with God’s
unconditional and eternal election and reprobation. Moreover, God’s
sovereign hatred of Esau (13) and His sovereign hardening of Pharaoh
(17-18) are not merely references to these two men only. These
principles apply to all the reprobate (13-24).
Since God is angry with the reprobate wicked every
day (Ps. 7:11), it is not a surprise but entirely appropriate that He
destroys them with His sharp sword and taut bow (12-13). In fact, one
can argue the other way round: Given the terrible and everlasting
torment that awaits the reprobate wicked (12-13), of course, God is
angry with them even while they live on earth (11)!
God’s punishment of the reprobate wicked is entirely
fair for they conceive, travail with and give birth to iniquity and
falsehood (14). This is their progeny! Also there is poetic justice, for
the wicked falls into the pit he made for others (15) and his trouble
falls on his own head (16).
Justice is an intrinsic characteristic of the Almighty;
He judges (8, 11) and exercises judgment (6). He is "the righteous God"
(9) and His perpetual indignation with the reprobate wicked (11),
issuing in their everlasting destruction (12-13) for their sins (14), is
"according to his righteousness" (17), His unswerving commitment to
Himself as His own perfect standard. Moreover, Jehovah’s indignation
against, and punishment of, the reprobate is ground for holy worship, as
David concludes Psalm 7: "I will praise the Lord according to his
righteousness: and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high"
(17). There is no "common grace" for the reprobate here! Rev. Stewart
Reprobation and God’s Good
Question: "If God is always saddened by sin and His
just wrath always expressed against it, can we still say that His
eternal condemnation of reprobate sinners is part of His good pleasure?"
The question arises out of what I wrote in the last
two issues of the News concerning Luke 19:41-44 and Matthew
23:37. I was particularly concerned with the question of Jesus’ sorrow
over the apostasy of Jerusalem. These passages have frequently been
quoted in support of a gracious and well-meaning offer presented in the
gospel, by which God expresses His desire to save all men out of His
love for all men.
I pointed out that the argument used by defenders of
the well-meant gospel offer is that the text teaches God’s love for all
men and His desire to save them, because Christ wept over the sin of the
nation of Israel. The weeping of Jesus is, therefore, the disappointment
the Lord experiences that the nation rejected and spurned His love and
turned away in disgust from His gracious expressions of His desire to
save them. The sorrow is evidence of the frustrations of His desire: He
wanted to save them, but failed.
I showed that this is impossible and puts this text
in conflict with other passages of Scripture—a conflict, by the way,
which does not bother the defenders of a gracious offer; they brush such
conflicts aside, appealing to apparent contradictions in Scripture.
I explained various elements of the text to
demonstrate what the text does mean, and in the last article pointed out
that Jesus’ sadness at the impending destruction of Jerusalem was due to
His displeasure with sin, and not disappointment at His frustrated
desires. It was this latter that prompted the question quoted above. The
point of the questioner is important: he wants to know how it is
possible for God to damn the reprobate according to His own good
pleasure and yet be saddened by their unbelief. This point is a key to
understanding why the gospel is not an expression of God’s desire to
save all men to whom the gospel comes.
We can understand this point if we have a clear
understanding of God’s hatred of sin. The negative part of my answer is
simply this—and no one would disagree: God is supremely holy in His own
infinite being. His holiness is so great that sin is a terrible
abomination in His sight. He hates sin and the sinner. His holiness
demands that sin be punished. However, if, as the Arminian claims, God
tolerates sin and for the most part overlooks it, one is left with a god
far, far less than the Holy One of Israel.
No one would dare to say that God is pleased with
sin. No one would argue that God rejoices in it because He has ordained
that sin should enter the world; that is, it is His good pleasure that
man become a sinner, and God delights that his purpose is accomplished.
I even shudder to write the words, for they are such blasphemous denials
of God’s infinite holiness. Yet the question implies the possibility of
that very thing—although I know as a fact that this is not the intent of
But we must look at the matter from a positive point
of view. This requires of us, first of all, that we recognize how
serious the gospel is when it comes to all with the command to repent
and believe in Christ. The Canons of Dordt express the matter
as clearly as it is possible to express it: "As many as are called by
the gospel are unfeignedly called. For God hath most earnestly and truly
shown in His Word what is pleasing to Him, namely, that those who are
called should come to Him" (III/IV:8).
This seriousness of the call to repent and believe in
Christ is emphasized in Scripture in many graphic ways. In Romans
10:18-21, Paul writes, "But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily,
their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of
the world. But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will
provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish
nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold, and saith, I was found
of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not
after me. But to Israel he saith, All day long I have stretched forth my
hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people."
This passage is found in a section (Romans 9–11) that
stresses in almost every verse the sovereignty of God in the unbelief of
the reprobate. Yet the text also says that the command to repent of sin
and believe in Christ is so sincere that it can be described as God
stretching out His hands to Israel.
In Isaiah 5:1-7, Israel is compared to a vineyard
that has brought forth nothing but sour grapes. Yet, of that vineyard,
God says, "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have
not done to it" (5:4)? That is indeed a powerful figure and one that
must not in any way be minimized. The seriousness of the call that comes
through the preaching of the gospel must be defended and maintained!
God’s command to all who hear the gospel, to repent
of sin and believe in Christ, is also rooted in His own holiness. If God
did not demand, upon penalty of hell, that man turn from his evil way
and believe in Christ, God would have to be charged with taking sin
lightly and tolerating it at the expense of His own holiness. God
created man good and upright and able to live in all respects in
obedience to the will of God. That man is no longer capable of doing
this is not God’s fault, but man’s own perverse and dreadful rebellion.
Yet as all the Reformed creeds insist, God continues His demand that man
obey him—even though he lost the ability to do this. To say that God
now, because of man’s total depravity, has softened His demands is to
put a terrible blemish on God’s holiness. God maintains His own holiness
even though man rebelled. The gospel does exactly that: it demands, on
the grounds of God’s holiness, that man forsake his sin and believe in
Christ. Anything less would make God less than He is.
But the matter lies yet at a deeper level. The questioner points this
out. Scripture teaches that God is sovereign not only in election but
also in reprobation. Romans 9:9-24 cannot be gainsaid. It is there in
Scripture as clearly expressed as anyone can express it. God is
sovereign—not only in electing some to everlasting blessedness in
Christ, but also rejecting others according to His own sovereign
determination. Prof. Hanko
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