Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee . . . . I am the Lord thy God . . . . But my people would not hearken to my voice . . . . So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lusts . . . . Psalm 81:8-14.
A reader sent in Psalm 81:8-14 for comment. No question was attached, and so I presume that the reader would like to have some remarks made about these vss., perhaps particularly on the question of how God can give his people up to their own hearts' lusts. I have not quoted the entire passage because it would take too much space in these pages. The reader is asked to look up the passage and read the entire Psalm.
The verses all refer to the nation of Israel, and this nation is called, "God's people." But about that nation God says some things which seem to be contradictory not only, but which seem to conflict with the idea that Israel is truly God's people.
God speaks of the many blessings He has given the nation, particularly in delivering them from Egypt (6, 7, 10). He reminds them of the commandments He gave them (8, 9). He speaks of their evil disobedience, how they would not hearken to His voice; and how Israel would have none of Him (11). Then, in an astonishing statement, He speaks of how He punished them by giving them up to their own lusts and letting them walk in their own ways (12). And finally, He tells of how He would have blessed them if they had but obeyed His voice (14-16).
The best way to understand this is to remember that God always deals with people in their full relationships of life: not as individuals only, but as parts of families, churches, nations, races, etc. This is so true that Scripture compares the nation of Israel (and the church) to a field of wheat with tares in it (Mt. 13:24-30), a vineyard with vines which do not bear fruit(Isaiah 5:1-7), a vine which has branches which do not bear fruit (John 15:1-3, Psalm 80), and an olive tree from which branches are cut out (Romans 11).
To make clear what is the idea here in Psalm 81, let us limit our use of a figure to that of a field with wheat and tares in it.
The nation of Israel (and the church) are like a field in which both wheat and tares are to be found because in the church is to be found both elect and reprobate.
A farmer calls that field his wheat field, even though it has in it wheat and tares. So God calls the nation of Israel (and the church) "My people." A farmer calls a field his wheat field because he looks at that field from the viewpoint of his purpose with it. He would be angry if someone called it a weed field. He would point out that, although there are weeds in it, he takes care of the field for the wheat, not the weeds. So God calls Israel (and the church) His people, because that is His purpose with the nation and the church.
The farmer treats the whole field the same. He has to do this because that was of farming lies in the nature of the field of wheat. He cultivates the ground, prepares the soil, irrigates the field if necessary, puts fertilizer on it, and earnestly seeks the sunshine. If someone would say to him that he is foolish for doing all these things because he only makes the weeds grow more swiftly, then he would respond: I do it for the wheat, not the weeds.
So God delivered the whole nation from Egypt, gave the nation His law at Sinai, fed them with manna and gave them to drink from the rock, and finally brought them into Canaan. And so God does to His church. He causes the Word of be preached to the whole church. He commands that all the children of believers be baptized. He gives to all the children Christian education in the home, school, and church. If one would complain to the Lord and suggest that He does foolishly because He gives all these things to the reprobate in the church, then the Lord replies: I do it for my people.
But the presence of two kinds of people in the church means that the church (as was true of the nation of Israel) lives in a kind of perpetual tension. I am not sure that is exactly the right word to use, but it will illustrate my point.
The same kind of "tension" exists, really, in the life of every Christian. He is, by nature, a depraved sinner. God has saved him, although he has only a beginning of the new life of Christ. He is two people at the same time. He is a new man, created in holiness, and he is a depraved sinner.
Sometimes his evil nature gains the dominance in his life. The result is that he neglects the holy exercises of Scripture reading, prayer, and attending worship services in church. He walks in sin, stubbornly clings to his sin when he is rebuked, and delights in evil.
But he is also a child of God who has been regenerated. And so the new man of Christ is sometimes dominant in his life, and the old man of sin is in the background. Then his life is quite different.
But our space is taken up for this issue, and we shall continue this discussion next time, God willing. I consider this to be so important that I would be pleased if you would save this issue, lay it in a place where you can find it, and read this article again when the next issue of the Newsletter arrives.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 13
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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