O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Matthew 23:37.
A reader asks: "Will you please re-explain this passage?" I am happy to do that because it is an important and interesting passage which has often been misinterpreted. Apparently, I explained the passage in an earlier issue, but that was long ago and it will not hurt to look at the passage once again. Note that a parallel passage is found in Luke 13:34.
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In the article in the last issue, I pointed out that this passage was often used as proof for the well-meant offer of the gospel. (If you have that issue handy, it would be well to take a moment to re-read it.)
I made two comments at that time. One was that the doctrine of the well-meant offer was a thoroughly Arminian doctrine. The second was that the well-meant offer defender has to misread the text in order to use the text to support his contention.
I need to say a few more things about this verse if we are to understand it properly.
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In all fairness to well-meant offer defenders, we must, first of all, point out that they have another appeal to the text in support of their position. They say, in effect, "We will concede that the text makes a distinction between Jerusalem and Jerusalem's children, and that Christ expresses a desire to save only Jerusalem's children. But the fact of the matter is that Christ expresses sorrow over Jerusalem. That is implied in the very wording of the text. And if Christ is sorrowful over Jerusalem because of its unbelief, then that can only be true if Christ truly desires Jerusalem's salvation."
I am not going to answer this objection here, for it is better to postpone an answer until we are sure about a couple of other elements in the text. To those we now turn.
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The first question is: What does Jesus mean by "Jerusalem" when He addresses it in this figure of speech called "personification?"
The obvious answer to that question is that the nation of Judah is being addressed by the name of the city which was Judah's political capitol and center of Judah's ecclesiastical life. It was Judah's capitol because the throne of David was there -- although the nation was now under the political control of Rome. It was the center of Judah's ecclesiastical life because the temple stood on Mt. Moriah as the place of worship.
Thus Jerusalem was the center of Judah's life as it constituted a theocracy, the old dispensational church, the people of God whom God had formed into His own covenant people. And the city itself was representative of the entire nation and therefore, of the church in the old dispensation.
That the city of Jerusalem is itself identified with the church in the old dispensation is evident from many different texts. As examples one can look up Isaiah 3:1, 8; 4:3, 4; 30:19; and such passages as Ps. 48:1, 2, while not mentioning the name Jerusalem, obviously refers to that city as a picture of the church.
In the days of Christ the nation had become apostate. The apostasy of the nation did not mean that God had not preserved His elect in the nation, for we know from Scripture that many believed in Christ during His earthly ministry and after He poured out His Spirit on the church.
But the nation, in its outward manifestation and in its official form, was apostate. The scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees, who were in control of Israel's ecclesiastical life -- and political life insofar as Rome permitted this, were wicked men. The throne of David was no more. The temple was served by wicked priests and Levites under the control of a monster of sin, Caiaphas the high priest. The majority in the nation were wicked and showed their wickedness in their rejection of Christ. In fact the nation was coming closer to that terrible moment when it would crucify the very Christ of Whom all the institutions in Judah were types and pictures.
That city of Jerusalem had children. Such children were spoken of, e.g., in Zech. 9:9: "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem…." Jesus addresses these daughters of Jerusalem on His way to the cross: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children .. . (Lu. 23:28). Jerusalem's daughters were the covenant mothers in Israel who were apostate along with the rest of the nation.
But the clearest passage is found in Gal. 4:22-27. I think it best if we quote the entire passage, but I am going to wait with quoting it until next time because I have some remarks to make about it. But if you look up the passage now, you will discover that the old Jerusalem is described as being in bondage with her children, while the Jerusalem which is above is free and is the mother of us all. Those are significant words and have a great deal to do with our text that we are considering.
- Volume: 7
- Issue: 18
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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