"But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." Isaiah 63:10.
The reader who sent in this passage from holy Scripture did not append a specific question, and so I decided to discuss two possible problems in the text. One I discussed last time (the problem of whether to ascribe vexation to the Holy Spirit implies frustration of His work). I now turn to the other.
The other problem which is involved in the interpretation of this text is the seeming contradiction between the context of verse 10 and the passage itself. The context speaks of God's lovingkindness, which the Lord bestowed on His people and His great goodness toward the house of Israel. It speaks of God's Word that Israel is His people and that He became their Saviour. It mentions how the suffering of Israel was God's suffering, and of how God saved them by the angel of His presence, because He loved them and had pity on them.
But now suddenly God has become their enemy and fights against them because they rebelled. How is this possible? Does God change in His attitude towards His people? one minute loving them and saving them? and the next minute fighting against them? How can that be?
It is easy to answer this question with a simple affirmative. The trouble is that a simple Yes involves us in many problems, not the least of which is the problem of ascribing change to God in His attitude towards the nation. His favor then becomes His reward for their goodness; and His hatred is His reaction to their disobedience.
I have discussed in earlier articles in this Newsletter the truth that God always deals with His people "organically." This term is a term with which we ought to become acquainted, and the truth conveyed by it is crucial for an understanding of God's works.
What it means is this. In the old dispensation when God made Israel His chosen people, he always dealt with them as a nation, that is, the people in their entirety; the nation as a whole.
Now this means a number of things, only a few of which can I discuss now.
First of all, it is quite obvious that the nation (now considered as a whole) was spiritually different at different times in its history. Sometimes the nation was spiritually strong. It worshipped God in the temple. It banished or destroyed idolaters. The priests performed their work in the temple diligently. Good kings sat on the throne. The prophets spoke God's Word. The nation trusted in God in its battles with the surrounding nations.
Does this mean that there were no reprobate in the nation? No wicked? No idol-worshippers? Of course not. Paul tells us in Rom. 9:6 that never were all who were of Israel truly Israel. But, under the rule of good kings, the nation taken as a whole was faithful.
There were other times when quite the opposite was true. Wicked kings sat on the throne such as Ahab, or Ahaz, or Manasseh. They promoted idolatry and the worship of the gods of the heathen. The priests appointed for temple service were wicked and used the temple to worship idols. The prophets prophesied lies. Taken as a whole the nation was wicked.
Does that mean there were no elect in the nation? Of course not. God Himself assured Elijah during the terrible times of Ahab that He had reserved to Himself 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal.
Though there were elect in the nation, God spoke of the nation as wicked, rebellious, and deserving of His wrath when the nation as a whole apostatized. And not only did God speak His words of wrath, but He also poured out His wrath upon the nation in the form of famine, foreign invaders, and finally captivity. Though there were reprobate in the nation (perhaps even a majority) when the nation as a whole served the Lord, God spoke words of comfort and blessing to His people. And He not only spoke these words of comfort and blessing, but He sent the nation as a whole prosperity, peace, and victory over their enemies.
The important question is now this. Were the blessings upon the nation as a whole blessings also to the reprobate, and, therefore, indications of God's love and favor upon them? Many mistaking the whole idea, say Yes -- and use that as a justification for the doctrine of common grace. But the other question must also be asked: When judgments came upon the nation so that the nation suffered during famine and under the heel of foreign invaders, were these judgments upon the righteous as well? -- in the sense that God's hatred was upon them as well as upon the reprobate?
We must look at this question carefully and in the light of the whole of Scripture so that our answer may be in keeping with God's Word.
But, in the light of the fact that my space is all but used up for this issue of the Newsletter, I will wait with a further answer until the next issue.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 21
Prof. Herman Hanko (Wife: Wilma)
Ordained: October 1955
Pastorates: Hope, Walker, MI - 1955; Doon, IA - 1963; Professor to the Protestant Reformed Seminary - 1965
Emeritus: 2001Website: www.sermonaudio.com/search.asp?speakeronly=true&currsection=sermonsspeaker&keyword=Prof._Herman_Hanko
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