July 2010 • Volume XIII, Issue 3
(Our: Vol. 12; Number 9)
Psalms 4 and 6 on Uncommon Grace
Christ's Weeping Over Jerusalem (2)
Psalms 4 and 6 on Uncommon Grace
In Psalm 4, the first psalm to refer to things musical in its heading, David beseeches Jehovah for mercy (1) and deliverance from his enemies (2, 8). As the God of his righteousness (1), the Almighty imputes righteousness to the Psalmist (justification) and infuses righteousness into him (sanctification) and vindicates him from the slander and lies of the wicked (2).
Psalm 4 sharply distinguishes between two human parties. On the one hand are David, who sings and prays to the Lord for relief from distress (1), and his "godly" associates (3), the "us" of verse 6. On the other hand are the ungodly "sons of men" who castigate David with falsehoods (2), the "them" referred to in verse 7.
The "sweet Psalmist of Israel" (II Sam. 23:1) lays this down as a basic principle: "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly [but not him that is ungodly] for himself: the Lord will hear when I [but not the wicked] call unto him" (Ps. 4:3). The antithesis between the two seeds—the seed of the woman (Christ and those in Him) and the seed of the serpent (Satan and all unbelievers; Gen. 3:15) —is created by our covenant God in devoting us to Himself.
The "godly" (Ps. 4:3) receive "righteousness" and "mercy" (or grace) from God (1), plus "peace" and "safety" (8), as well as answer to prayer (1, 3). The Psalmist also praises Jehovah for "Thou has put gladness in my heart" (7), joy being a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:22).
Notice that David knows "gladness" (Ps. 4:7) and "peace" (8) in Jehovah, irrespective of his (adverse, earthly) circumstances. Moreover, his (spiritual) joy is greater than that of his ungodly enemies, even when they are prospering in this world: "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased" (7).
Unlike the righteous, the ungodly receive only "corn and wine" (7)—shorthand for all the earthly provisions God sovereignly gives them in His providence—but not "mercy" (1) or "peace" (8) which are for the "godly" whom "the Lord hath set apart ... for himself" (3). Listen to the Reformed faith’s exposition of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: "‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ that is, be pleased to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even thy gifts, can profit us without thy blessing; and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in thee" (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 125).
Since Jehovah loathes the reprobate ungodly ("the froward is abomination to the Lord;" Prov. 3:32), he receives no divine blessing with the earthly good gifts he receives from God ("The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just;" 33).
The "mercy" of the Lord in answer to "prayer" (Ps. 4:1) breaks through as "the light of [God’s] countenance [shining] upon us" (6)—the "us" who belong to Christ (6) and not the "them" who only receive earthly good things (7). Whereas God "hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6), the ungodly do not experience God’s gracious smile upon them through our Saviour’s cross, for "the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (Ps. 34:16).
Psalm 5 ’s teaching on God’s particular, uncommon grace was considered recently (CR News XII:21).
Psalm 6 opens with a reference to chastisement (1), which is a fruit of God’s love for His elect children: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). Do you see the connection? Love—chastisement—sonship. Hebrews 12:7-8 explains that those who are not chastened are illegitimate and "not sons." Christ calls such people Satan’s sons: "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44). Moreover, if those who are not chastened are not God’s children, could it really be that He loves them? Surely, if God loves and therefore chastises His sons, then those who are not His sons, and whom He does not chastise, are not loved by Him. Consider in this connection Proverbs 13:24: "He that spareth his rod [i.e., does not chasten] hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
Psalm 6 speaks of God’s severe chastening of David: his bones were "vexed" (2) and his soul was "sore vexed" (3). He groaned and wept much (6-7), as he felt the pangs of "death" (5). Yet knowing that the God who chastened him surely loved him, David pleads for Jehovah’s "mercy" (2) and "[covenant] mercies" (4). But whereas the Psalmist, knowing God’s grace towards him, is confident of answered prayer for himself (8-9), his wicked "enemies" will surely be "ashamed" (10), for this too is according to God’s sovereign will and just desire.
This shame ultimately is in hell, and so verse 8 ("Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity") is alluded to by Christ: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41). Notice the striking words that precede Christ’s quoting of Psalm 6:8 in the Sermon on the Mount: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23). As the omniscient, universal judge, the Lord Jesus, of course, has an intellectual knowledge of everybody. Thus the word "knew" in Christ’s words of banishment to the reprobate wicked on the judgment day must, and does, refer to the intimate knowledge of love (cf. Gen. 4:1; Amos 3:2; II Tim. 2:19). The Lord "never knew" or loved the reprobate—not before God formed the world, not during their lives, not after they died. This is Christ’s word to them: "I never knew [orloved] you" (Matt. 7:23)!
God loves all His adopted children and therefore chastises us (Ps. 6:1) out of love for us (Heb. 12:5-8) with this glorious purpose and result: "that we might be partakers of his holiness" (10). So let us hold fast to God’s particular, uncommon, efficacious grace and not "despise" or "faint" under His loving chastisement of us (5)! Rev. Stewart
Christ’s Weeping Over Jerusalem (2)
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes (Luke 19:41-42).
In the last News, I explained this text as teaching something quite different from the gracious, well-meant gospel offer, which claims that God desires the salvation of all men (including the reprobate). The preaching of the gospel is, according to that view, intended to demonstrate God’s love, mercy and grace to everybody in the hope that men might be persuaded to forsake their wicked ways and believe in Christ. According to that view, Jesus’ weeping over the city in Luke 19 is evidence of His disappointment that all He had done for the city had ended in failure.
Many serious objections can be brought against the well-meant gospel offer, not the least of which is that an omnipotent God (Christ) is unable to accomplish that which He wishes: He wishes to save all, but is successful in saving only some. Some theologians, more inclined than others towards the teachings of Calvinism, have had to cope with two wills in God: one will of election according to which God wills to save only some and another will according to which He desires to save everybody. Not only does God have two wills in this view, but the two wills are contradictory!
But with this objection and many others that arise we will not busy ourselves in this article for the News. In a month or so, I will be dealing extensively with the whole issue of the well-meant offer. If any of our readers are interested in this on-going discussion in my forum on common grace (www.common-grace-considered.blogspot.com), they are very welcome to sign up by e-mailing me (email@example.com). But here, I will limit our discussion of the well-meant offer to this passage in Luke 19.
We need to remind ourselves that Jesus’ tears over Jerusalem are explained in the text, not as tears of disappointment because He failed in His attempt to save the city; His tears were over the imminent destruction of the city for its unbelief. Verses 43 and 44 teach us that: "For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."
We need also to note that the destruction of Jerusalem was according to God’s eternal purpose. This too is taught in the text. Jesus bemoans the fact that Jerusalem’s destruction would not have taken place, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!" These things that belong to Jerusalem’s peace are "hid [byGod] from thine eyes." This is sovereign reprobation.
In connection with the clear teaching in the text of the doctrine of reprobation, we must emphasize that reprobation does not cancel out man’s accountability before God for his sins. God accomplishes His eternal decree of reprobation in such a way that man is culpable for his sins and deserves eternal damnation for them. While God had hid from the leaders in Jerusalem the "things which belong unto thy peace," these things were also well-known to the leaders who were guilty of rejecting them.
When Jesus says, "If thou hadst known, even thou ..." He refers not to the mere formal knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures, which the Jews surely possessed, but to the saving knowledge that gives the spiritual ability to believe these things and act accordingly. The distinction is the same as Paul uses in Romans 1:18ff. The wicked know that God is the only true God and that He must be served, but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness—and in this sense do not know it.
Jerusalem was to be destroyed because the Jews did not know (and believe) the things that belonged to Jerusalem’s peace. The things that belonged to Jerusalem’s peace were Jerusalem’s status as the capital of the nation and the centre of God’s worship in the temple as these things in Israel’s life signified, typified and pointed ahead to the Messiah, the Christ, the One who had now come to fulfil all these types. They wanted no part in the Messiah and clung firmly but foolishly to the pictures, despising their reality in Christ. They were like a man who worships the photograph of his wife while treating her with cruelty and being unfaithful to her.
But if Jerusalem’s destruction because of Israel’s unbelief was God’s sovereign work, why did Jesus weep when He saw the city’s unbelief and its subsequent destruction?
I answered this question in part in the last News, but perhaps something more can be said. It is completely in harmony with God’s Being and with Christ’s divine nature to say that sin makes God "sad"—as it made Christ sad and brought about His tears. The decree of reprobation as it is sovereignly carried out in the way of man’s sin does not preclude God’s hatred of sin and His "distress" at man’s refusal to obey Him. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that he turn from his evil way (Eze. 33:11). God has no delight in disobedience to his law and takes no pleasure in man’s rebellion. It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone would teach this hateful doctrine.
To take an opposite position would mean—would it not?—that God is pleased with man’s sin and rubs His hands in glee when men transgress. Reprobation is sovereign, but man is accountable for his sin, and his iniquity brings down upon him God’s judgment. If God would not punish man for his sin, then He would not be God—holy and true, righteous and spotless, rejoicing in purity. We belong to and worship the one true God who takes pleasure in holiness and rejoices in uprightness.
Jesus was sad because Jerusalem had rejected Him to whom the whole Old Testament pointed for He was the one who had come to fulfil it all.
God’s sovereignty, also in reprobation, must not obscure His hatred of sin and His just punishment of the sinner. That Christ, also in His divine nature, was sad because of Jerusalem’s wickedness must not be interpreted as disappointment or frustration—as with the well-meant gospel offer. It must be interpreted as God’s hatred of sin and determination to maintain that which is pleasing to him, namely holiness. Prof. Hanko