In my articles on God’s uncommon grace in the Psalms, we saw, first, how Psalms 5, 11, 73, 92 and 69 oppose this popular error (CR News XII:21-24). Second, we looked, in turn, at the first ten Psalms (except Psalm 5, which had already been covered) to see how each of them, in their own way, teaches or fits with particular, uncommon (but not common!) grace. The main issues we dealt with were the antithesis (Ps. 1), Christ’s rule of grace and rule of power (Ps. 2), Jehovah’s blessing (Ps. 3), the light of God’s countenance (Ps. 4), divine chastisement (Ps. 6), Jehovah’s anger (Ps. 7), the creation week (Ps. 8), God’s justice (Ps. 9) and divine abhorrence (Ps. 10)—see CR News XIII:1-4, 6-7. Lest anyone should think that I simply avoided passages from the Psalms that are appealed to by those who want common grace, we shall conclude our treatment of this subject by looking at Psalm 145:9, the number one text cited in this regard.
Psalm 145:9 states that God’s "tender mercies are over all his works." Advocates of common grace reckon that "all [God’s] works" here refer to everybody head for head, including the reprobate. But immediately the next verse declares, "All thy works shall praise thee" (10a). The reprobate do not praise God and so they cannot be the objects of God’s "tender mercies" (9b). According to Hebrew parallelism, "thy saints shall bless thee" (10b) defines God’s works here as His holy people created by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 19:25; 29:23; 45:11; 60:21; 64:8; Eph. 2:10), the citizens of the gracious kingdom of God, the subject of Psalm 145.
Let us have the Hebrew parallelism of Psalm 145:9-10 clearly before us:
[9a] The Lord is good to all:[9b] and his tender mercies are over all his works.[10a] All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;[10b] and thy saints shall bless thee.
"All" (9a) and "all [God’s] works" (9b, 10a) and God’s "saints" (10b) refer to the same group, God’s holy people who are new creatures in Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10). The eternal, unchangeable and faithful Jehovah is good to "all" of them (Ps. 145:9a) and they are the objects of His covenantal "tender mercies" (9b). Knowing God’s goodness and tender mercies, all of His holy people "praise" (10a) and "bless" (10b) Him, and "speak of the glory of [His] kingdom, and talk of [His] power" (11).
Those unfamiliar with Hebrew parallelism should consider that the twenty-one verses of Psalm 145 say essentially the same thing in their two "halves."
Notice that Psalm 145 opens by extolling the ever-blessed God as "king" (1). Four times this Psalm uses the word "kingdom" (11-13) and once it refers to His "dominion" which "endureth through all generations" (13). God’s "kingdom" is glorious, majestic and everlasting (11-13). It is the topic of conversation and the subject of divine praise for "all [God’s] works" (9b, 10a), that is, His "saints" (10b) who "sing of" (7), "speak of," "talk of" and "make known" (11-12) the "glory" of God’s kingdom, yea, its "glorious majesty" (11-12). In this kingdom, God’s "power" and "mighty acts" (11-12) are known and revered. Similarly, Jehovah’s "works," "mighty acts," "wondrous works" and "terrible acts" (4-6) are also in the service of the divine "king" (1) and His kingdom (11-13), and are so many reasons for the church of all ages to worship Him (4-6): "One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts" (4). We bless Him for His "great goodness" and "righteousness" (7): "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy" (8). This is seen in Jehovah’s government of His "everlasting kingdom" (13), for He "upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down" (14) and He "is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (18). Thus He fulfils the desire of, hears the cry of, and saves those "that fear him" (19) and provides food for all, to serve the interests of His kingdom (15-16). In the whole of Psalm 145, David (preface) and "all [God’s] works," that is His "saints" (9-10), praise the divine king for the mighty acts and tender mercies shown in setting up and maintaining His kingdom. This is the same kingdom that Jesus Christ proclaimed and established in the blood of His cross and which He governs from His heavenly throne—the same kingdom more fully revealed in the pages of the New Testament. The context of Psalm 145, as well as the Hebrew parallelism in verses 9-10, ought to have kept some from reading common grace into Psalm 145:9.
Moreover, if we would follow the eisegesis of those who believe that "all [God’s] works" in Psalm 145:9 include every human being bar none, we would also be forced to conclude that the same would apply to "every living thing" in verse 16. But if we were to grant this, it would require us to believe that God satisfies "the desire" for food (15-16) of every human being in the history of the world. Yet we know that thousands have died, and still die, of hunger. Also, "every living thing" (16) is said to "wait upon" God for food (15). This may well include animals, birds and fish (cf. Ps. 104:21, 25-28), as well as God’s children who seek from Him alone their daily bread. But the reprobate are unbelievers; they do not truly wait upon or pray to God for food in faith!
The interpretation of those who hold to common grace leads to absurdities in Psalm 145, both as regards verses 9-10 and verses 15-16, as well as misunderstanding the meaning of the Psalm as whole. Let us not isolate parts of verses to make them say what we want, but let us interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we do that with Psalm 145:9, we cannot but conclude that the theory of a common grace for the reprobate is not here at all. Instead, Psalm 145 praises God for revealing His might (4-6, 11-13), His goodness (7-9) and His nearness (14, 18-19) in His glorious kingdom. Verse 20 summarizes for us God’s attitude and will towards the two antithetical, spiritual peoples: "The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy." Why? The holy and unchangeable God of the kingdom "is righteous in all his ways" (17).
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 2
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
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Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851