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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 general.

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" (Heb. 12:5-11).

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 they sleep.

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 Pleasure (1)

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 the questioner.

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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