Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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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 Contain Error?

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 Bible."

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 Lord."

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; 17:17).

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 extremely limited.

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. Prof. Hanko

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