November 2010 • Volume XIII, Issue 7
Psalms 9 and 10 on Uncommon Grace
Psalm 9 answers the question, What will happen to the
(reprobate) wicked? What will Jehovah do to them? "The wicked shall be
turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (17; cf. 3b, 5,
15). The psalmist affirms repeatedly that this is justice, divine
justice: "thou satest in the throne judging right" (4b; cf. 7-8).
David declares, "The Lord is known by the judgment
which he executeth" (16a). The believer’s saving knowledge of God
includes knowing Him as the righteous judge. Jehovah reveals Himself as
such in His Word and in this light we understand His judgments in
history. "And," the Psalmist adds, "they that know thy name [i.e., the
glorious revelation of Thyself, including Thy holy justice] will put
their trust in thee" (10a).
The believing response of the individual saint to
God’s righteous judgments, His "marvellous works," is adoration: "I will
praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy
marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise
to thy name, O thou most High" (1-2). Concerning God’s just "doings,"
the church cries out, "Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion:
declare among the people his doings" (11)..
Psalm 9 concludes with the psalmist’s prayer that God
punish the ungodly: "Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail: let the heathen
be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O Lord: that the nations may
know themselves to be but men. Selah" (19-20).
In order to understand more fully why the people of
God earnestly pray, and worship the Lord, for His righteous judgment of
the wicked, we must grasp the truth that the salvation of the elect
church goes hand in hand with the destruction of the reprobate ungodly.
"The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget
God. For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation
of the poor shall not perish for ever" (17-18). Notice the italicised
"For" (18), giving a reason why Jehovah punishes the wicked: to deliver
His "needy" people from them (18)!
Our Father in heaven answers the prayers of His
saints who are "oppressed" (9) and troubled (9, 13) by the ungodly (13),
for He does not forget (12, 18) nor forsake (10) those who "trust in"
and "seek" Him (10). Jehovah’s "judgment" (16) of the wicked (3-6,
15-17) is thus the "salvation" of the righteous (14). This, David
explains, is "mercy" or grace for God’s people (13) but not mercy or
grace to the reprobate, for the Almighty in His mercy and grace saves
His elect church and justly destroys the ungodly (143:12).
Psalm 136 is similar. In His eternal "mercy" (to
Israel), Jehovah slew the firstborn of Egypt (to whom this was not
mercy) and brought out His people with a "strong hand" (10-12). It was
the everlasting "mercy" of the Most High to Israel which drowned
"Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea" (to whom this was not mercy),
whereas the Old Testament church passed through on dry land (13-15).
Likewise "mercy" to Israel meant that they received the "heritage" of
trans-Jordan but Sihon and Og and their people (to whom this was not
mercy) were slaughtered and lost their land (17-22).
Whereas Psalm 9 is a song of thanksgiving for God’s
righteous judgment of the heathen, Psalm 10 is a lament concerning the
wicked and their deeds (2-12): "Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why
hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" (1). This inspired hymn
concludes with the prayer that the Lord would "arise," "lift up [His]
head" and "forget not the humble [who are persecuted by the ungodly]"
(12), which petitions are enforced with arguments (14) and uttered with
confidence (16-18). Neither Psalm 9 nor 10 are likely to be amongst
people’s favourites from this the longest book in the Bible, but both
are certainly instructive and "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Tim. 3:16).
Psalm 10:3 refers to "the covetous, whom the Lord
abhorreth." Thus the Holy One of Israel despises, contemns and abhors
the greedy or covetous man. Various commentators reverse the subject of
the verb, making the verse read, "the covetous abhor the Lord." Though
this is a possible reading of the Hebrew, there is no need to demur from
the reading in our Authorized Version, followed by such commentators as
Matthew Henry, William S. Plumer and C. H. Spurgeon.
Moreover, the same verb is used of God’s attitude
towards apostate Israelites in Deuteronomy 32:19: "And when the Lord saw
it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his
daughters." Many texts in holy Scripture pronounce that God abhors,
abominates, hates and loathes the reprobate wicked. "And I will destroy
your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon
the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you" (Lev. 26:30).
"For all that do such things, and all that do unrighteously, are an
abomination unto the Lord thy God" (Deut. 25:16; cf. 18:12). "Every one
that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord: though hand join
in hand, he shall not be unpunished" (Prov. 16:5; cf. 3:32; 6:16-19;
11:20; 17:15; 22:14). "Behold, ye [idols] are of nothing, and your work
of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you" (Isa. 41:24). "Mine
heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me:
therefore have I hated it" (Jer. 12:8). "All their wickedness is in
Gilgal: for there I hated them: for the wickedness of their doings I
will drive them out of mine house" (Hos. 9:15). "Three shepherds also I
cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also
abhorred me" (Zech. 11:8). "As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but
Esau have I hated" (Rom. 9:13; cf. Mal. 1:2-3).
The ground for God’s righteous abhorrence of the
ungodly is their total depravity, as Psalm 10:2-11 explains so
copiously: pride (2, 4), persecuting the innocent (2, 8-10), boasting
(3), atheism (4, 11), self-sufficiency (6) and evil speech (7). Romans
3, which contains Scripture’s greatest delineation of the utter
wickedness of fallen man, even quotes Psalm 10:7: "whose mouth is full
of cursing and bitterness" (Rom. 3:14).
Given the wicked’s hatred of the true and living God (Ps. 10:4, 11,
13) and His people (2, 8-10, 14, 18), it is no wonder that the eternal
and righteous "King" (16) abhors them (3; 5:6) in this world and the
next. Thus He punishes them "in His just judgment temporally and
eternally" (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 10), in answer to His
people’s prayers (Ps. 10:17-18): "Break thou the arm of the wicked and
the evil man" (15a)! What now is left of a supposed universal love of
God for the reprobate? Rev. Stewart
Does Matthew 27:9
A reader refers to Matthew 27:9-10: "Then was
fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, And they
took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom
they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter’s
field, as the Lord appointed me." He then writes, "Matthew attributes
the saying to Jeremiah but it is quite clearly from Zechariah. I thought
.... that maybe Jeremiah is mentioned because Jeremiah pictures God as
the potter. But it seems like a stretch, and it will be claimed to be
such by those who argue against me who try to show the fallibility of
The problem arises from the fact that no such text
can be found in Jeremiah, while in Zechariah 11:12-13 a passage similar
to what Matthew writes appears: "And I said unto them, If ye think good,
give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price
thirty pieces of silver. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the
potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the
thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the
The question is, quite obviously, Why does Matthew
refer to Jeremiah when a more fitting passage seems to be the verses in
Zechariah that I quoted above? Did Matthew make a mistake? And, if he
did, does this mean that Scripture is not infallibly inspired?
Before I answer the question, one point needs to be
made. It is necessary to underscore this because the reader, correctly,
points out that the enemies of Scripture’s infallibility are accustomed
to refer to this passage among many others in an effort to prove
mistakes in the Bible.
The remark that needs to be made is this: The truth
of Scripture’s infallibility does not rest on our ability to solve
problems created by this passage—and others like it. The proof of
Scripture’s infallibility rests on the testimony of Scripture itself and
the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of believers (John 10:35;
Thus German Lutheran Johann Andreas Quenstedt
(1617-1688) rightly states, "The canonical Holy Scriptures in the
original text are the infallible truth and are free from every error; in
other words, in the canonical Sacred Scriptures there is found no lie,
no falsity, no error, not even the least, whether in subject matter or
expressions, but in all things and all the details that are handed down
in them, they are most certainly true, whether they pertain to doctrines
or morals, to history or chronology, to topography or nomenclature. No
ignorance, no thoughtlessness, no forgetfulness, no lapse of memory can
dare be ascribed to the amanuenses of the Holy Ghost in their penning of
the Sacred Writings."
Thus we are not going to examine the text to find out
whether Scripture is infallible or fallible. We are going to assume,
before even beginning to examine the text, that Scripture is infallible
and contains no mistakes. Whether we find a satisfactory answer or not
makes no difference. After all, the Holy Spirit wrote Scripture and His
knowledge is perfect; we merely study Scripture and our ability is
Having said that, let us look at the text. Many
different solutions have been proposed by men who adhere scrupulously to
Scripture’s infallibility. One can find these attempts at solving the
problem in any good commentary, such as, for example, William
Hendriksen’s commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew. I will not
repeat them here. Some are more satisfactory than others.
There is an explanation offered by James Montgomery
Boice, which seems to me to be the true solution. Boice writes, "The
verses [in Zechariah] are not about a person who betrays the Messiah,
and they say nothing about buying a field. On the other hand, Jeremiah
19 describes a symbolic action in which Jeremiah buys and then breaks a
potter’s jar, symbolizing the destruction of the nation, and chapter 32
describes the purchase of a field ... The best explanation is probably
that Matthew was putting together a number of passages that seemed to
add significance to the death of Jesus’ false but well-known disciple
Judas. The reference to Jeremiah 19 seemed appropriate because it refers
to ‘innocent blood’ and because the place where the prophet broke the
jar would eventually be used as a burial ground for those who were to
die in the siege of Jerusalem. The reference to Zechariah and his role
as a shepherd of the people adds the ideas of the rejection of Jesus as
the true shepherd of the flock, his being valued at the price of a mere
slave, and the betrayal money being cast into the temple" (Matthew,
vol. 2 [Baker,2006], p. 601).
This is a likely explanation and I agree with Dr.
Boice, except for his use of the word "seemed" in the above quotation:
"The reference to Jeremiah seemed appropriate ..." It is more correct to
say, "The reference to Jeremiah was appropriate ..."
William Hendriksen adds that such use of the prophets
was not at all uncommon in New Testament writings: "What Matthew does,
therefore, is this: he combines two prophecies, one from Zechariah and
one from Jeremiah. Then he mentions not the minor prophet but the major
prophet as the source of the reference The mention of only one source
when the allusion is to two is not peculiar to Matthew. Mark does this
also. Thus Mark 1:2, 3 refers first to Malachi, then to Isaiah.
Nevertheless, Mark ascribes both prophecies to ‘Isaiah,’ the major
prophet. And similarly the quotation found in II Chron. 36:21 is drawn
from Lev. 26:34, 35 and from Jer. 25:12 (cf. 29:10), but is ascribed
only to ‘Jeremiah’" (An Exposition of Matthew
[Baker,1975], p. 948).
With these observations I agree. God’s word is eternal in the
heavens. Before it we bow, for it is the rule of our faith and our life.
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