July 2010 • Volume XIII, Issue 3
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,
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
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. 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 [by God] from thine eyes." This is
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
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
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
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