03 December, 2016

Psalm 145:9—“The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works”



The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works ... The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145:9, 15-16 KJV).


COMMON GRACE ARGUMENT:
This Psalm, especially verse 9, is used by many to teach a common or general grace and goodness of God upon all men, including the reprobate ungodly.


(I)

Rev. Angus Stewart


God’s "tender mercies are over all his works," according to Psalm 145:9. 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" (v. 10a). The reprobate do not praise God, and so they cannot be the objects of God’s "tender mercies" (v. 9). According to Hebrew parallelism, "thy saints shall bless thee" (v. 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:

[v. 9a] The Lord is good to all:
[v. 9b] and his tender mercies are over all his works.
[v. 10a] All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;
[v. 10b] and thy saints shall bless thee.

"All" (v. 9a) and "all [God’s] works" (vv. 9b, 10a) and God’s "saints" (v. 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" (v. 9b). Knowing God’s goodness and tender mercies, all of His holy people "praise" (v. 10a) and "bless" (v. 10b) Him, and "speak of the glory of [His] kingdom, and talk of [His] power" (v. 11).

Those unfamiliar with Hebrew parallelism should consider that all of the twenty-one verses of Psalm 145 say essentially the same thing in their two "halves:"

[v. 1] I will extol thee, my God, O king;
and I will bless thy name for ever and ever.

[v. 2] Every day will I bless thee; 
and I will praise thy name for ever and ever.

[v. 3] Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; 
and his greatness is unsearchable.

[v. 4] One generation shall praise thy works to another, 
and shall declare thy mighty acts.

[v. 5] I will speak of the glorious honour of thy majesty, 
and of thy wondrous works.

[v. 6] And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts: 
and I will declare thy greatness.

[v. 7] They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, 
and shall sing of thy righteousness.

[v. 8] The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; 
slow to anger, and of great mercy.

[v. 9] The Lord is good to all: 
and his tender mercies are over all his works.

[v. 10] All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; 
and thy saints shall bless thee.

[v. 11] They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom, 
and talk of thy power;

[v. 12] To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, 
and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.

[v. 13] Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, 
and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.

[v. 14] The Lord upholdeth all that fall, 
and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.

[v. 15] The eyes of all wait upon thee; 
and thou givest them their meat in due season.

[v. 16] Thou openest thine hand, 
and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.

[v. 17] The Lord is righteous in all his ways, 
and holy in all his works.

[v. 18] The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him,
to all that call upon him in truth.

[v. 19] He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: 
he also will hear their cry, and will save them.

[v. 20] The Lord preserveth all them that love him: 
but all the wicked will he destroy.

[v. 21] My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord: 
and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Notice that Psalm 145 opens by extolling the ever-blessed God as "king" (v 1). Four times this psalm uses the word "kingdom" (vv. 11-13) and once it refers to His "dominion" which "endureth through all generations" (v. 13). God’s "kingdom" is glorious, majestic and everlasting (vv. 11-13). It is the topic of conversation and the subject of divine praise for "all his works" (vv. 9b, 10a), that is, his "saints" (v. 10b) who "speak of," "talk of" and "make known" (vv. 11-12) the "glory" of God’s kingdom, yea, its "glorious majesty" (vv. 11-12). In this kingdom, God’s "power" and "mighty acts" (vv. 11-12) are known and revered. Similarly, Jehovah’s "works," "mighty acts," "wondrous works" and "terrible acts" (vv. 4-6) are also in the service of the "king" (v. 1) and His kingdom (vv. 11-13) and are so many reasons for the church of all ages to worship Him (vv. 4-6): "One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts" (v. 4). We gladly remember God’s "great goodness" and "sing" of His "righteousness" (v. 7). We bless Him for his ethical perfections: "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger of great mercy" (v. 8). This is seen in Jehovah’s government of His "everlasting kingdom" (v. 13), for He "upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down" (v. 14) and He "is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth" (v. 18). Therefore He fulfills the desire of, hears the cry of, and saves those "that fear him" (v. 19) and provides food for all, to serve the interests of His kingdom (vv. 15-16). Thus in the whole of Psalm 145, David (preface) and "all God’s works," that is His "saints" (vv. 9-10), praise God the king for the mighty acts and glorious majesty and tender mercies shown in setting up and maintaining His kingdom. This is the same kingdom that Jesus Christ preached in His public ministry and established in the blood of His cross and which He governs and defends from His throne at God’s right hand—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.

This is also the exegesis of Psalm 145 of John Owen, who writes,

David, indeed, tells us that 'the Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy;' that 'the Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works,' Ps. 145:8, 9: but he tells us withal whom he intends by the 'all' in this place, even the 'generations which praise his works and declare his mighty acts,' verse 4; those who 'abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness, and sing of his righteousness,' verse 7; or his 'saints,' as he expressly calls them, verse 10. The work he there mentions is the work of the kingdom of Christ over all, wherein the tender mercies of God are spread abroad in reference to them that do enjoy them" (The Works of John Owen, vol. 12, pp. 559-560).

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 grant this, this would necessarily require us to believe that God "satisfies the desire" for food (vv. 15-16) of every human being in the history of the world—yet we know that many thousands have died, and still die, by hunger. Also "every living thing" is said to "wait upon" God for food (v. 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 exegetical method 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 missing the meaning of the psalm as whole. Let us not isolate parts of verses to make them say what we think they say, but let us interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we do that with this psalm, we cannot but conclude that the theory of a "common grace" for elect and reprobate is not in view here at all. Instead, Psalm 145 praises God for revealing His might (vv. 4-6, 11-13) and goodness (vv. 7-9) and nearness (vv. 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" (v. 17).


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(II)

Rev. George Martin Ophoff

[Source: The Standard Bearer, 1 July, 1926, vol. 2, pp. 375–381]

The expressions allall His worksthe eyes of all, and every living thing, must be made to apply to creation, i.e., man, animal and every living thing. The question is whether this psalm teaches that God’s tender and loving care is upon every single creature or upon every kind of creature. The context shall have to decide. We shall confine ourselves to the creature man

…The poet speaks of those who love and fear God and call upon His name, of those who are bowed down. The poet makes mention of the saints who extol and bless God’s name, and declare His mighty acts. Mention is made of God’s works which praise Him. And finally the poet makes mention of the wicked. These various members form one group which we may call the creature. This one group the psalmist divides into two sub-groups. What is his basis of division? Fearing God and not fearing God. 

According to this basis of division the following members must be brought together into one group: “The all, all his works, the saints, those that are bowed down, those that fear Him.” According to the poet these various members have this in common: that they fear and praise God. Again, according to this basis of division the wicked, and the wicked only, comprise the other sub-group. Now the question is whether both of these sub-groups are loved by God? What does the psalmist say? This: “The Lord is nigh unto all that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fill the desire of them that fear Him: He also will hear their cry, and save them. The Lord preserveth all them that love Him: but all the wicked will He destroy.” Hence, the sub-group wicked are not loved by God. They are destroyed. . . . According to the poet the wicked (the reprobate) must not be classified with the non-ethical creatures. They are not members of that group beloved and blessed by God. The Psalmist plainly states that the (reprobate) wicked must be placed in a class by themselves. According to the poet they are hated by God, not loved. The Lord destroys them.

It is not true, that the poet is reasoning from the lesser (the non-ethical creation plus the reprobate) to the greater (the elect). The poet places over against each other two groups: the group that fears God, and the group that fears God not. The former is blessed, the latter is cursed and destroyed. Such are the plain teachings of this psalm.


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(III)

Rev. Martyn McGeown

[Source: British Reformed Journal, Issue No. 63, Autumn/Winter 2016]

Here, although the Psalmist does not write “grace,” he praises God’s “tender mercies,” and in the previous verse (v. 8) he writes, “The Lord is gracious (Hebrew root: hen), and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” The question is, who are the “all” of verse 9?

A Calvinist […] must not demur at such a question, because he faces it elsewhere, such as in II Corinthians 5:14-15 (“one died for all … he died for all”). If [we] does not want to deny the particularity of the atonement, [we] must interpret the word “all” in a certain way in II Corinthians 5:14-15. The exegesis of that text is, however, not at issue here.

Suffice to say that context determines the meaning of the word “all” in any particular text. Psalm 145 is Hebrew poetry. Therefore, we would expect the phenomenon called “Hebrew parallelism,” in which the second phrase of a verse is a further explanation of the first phrase. “The Lord is good to all” is clarified by “and his tender mercies are over all his works.” Therefore, “all” refers to “all his works.” But what do “all his works” mean? Do “all his works” include the reprobate wicked? Certainly, God did create the reprobate wicked but are they included or excluded here? We are not left to speculate, for verse 10 further elucidates verse 9: “All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.” Therefore, the “all” of verse 9 equals the “all thy works” of verse 10, which equals the “all thy saints” of verse 10. Do the reprobate wicked (who, [the advocate of common grace] claims, are included in the “all” of verse 9) praise God? Do they bless Him (v. 10)? Do they speak of the glory of His kingdom (v. 11)? Do the eyes of the reprobate wicked (“the eyes of all”) wait upon God (v. 15)?

The reprobate wicked do appear in Psalm 145, but here is what the Psalmist says about them: “but all the wicked will he destroy” (v. 20). Is God good to them as He destroys them and are God’s tender mercies over them as He destroys them? To ask such questions is to answer them. Therefore, “common grace” is neither implicitly nor explicitly taught in Psalm 145. In fact, we see from Psalm 145 that God’s attitude toward the reprobate wicked is hatred, not love (v. 20).


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(IV)

Rev. Herman Hoeksema

[Source: God’s Goodness Always Particular (RFPA, 2015), pp. 63-64]

If we interpret Psalm 145:9 according to the right method, we obtain the following explanation.

First, Scripture teaches that God hates the reprobate ungodly, that He is angry with them, that His wrath abides on them, that He causes the things of this present time to work to their destruction, that He sets them on slippery places by means of prosperity and peace, and that He casts the ungodly into eternal desolation. This is not deduced from only a single text, but is the current teaching of Scripture. Therefore when we understand Psalm 145:9 in the light of the whole of Scripture, the meaning cannot be that God is merciful and good to every person.

Second, bearing this current teaching of Scripture in mind, we notice at once that the entire psalm speaks of God’s grace, goodness, mercy, longsuffering, and great lovingkindness toward His people. Generation upon generation (not of all men, but of His people) shall praise His works and declare His mighty acts. They shall abundantly utter the memory of His great goodness (toward His people) and shall sing of His righteousness. For the Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy (vv. 4-8). The Lord upholds all who fall and raises those who are bowed down. He is nigh to those who call on Him and will fulfil the desire of those who fear Him. He also will hear their cries and save them (vv. 14, 18–19). And if there is any doubt that by this grace, lovingkindness, mercy, and longsuffering of God the psalmist refers to God’s people only and not the reprobate ungodly, note the contrast in verse 20: “The Lord preserveth all them that love Him, but all the wicked will He destroy.” In all seriousness, would it not be extremely strange if in the midst of all this praise of God’s grace toward His people we would suddenly find a sentence teaching that God is gracious also toward the ungodly, as [some] would have it? The answer of all sound interpretation is, that cannot be the right explanation of verse 9 when it is viewed in the light of the whole of scripture and of its context.

Third, with all this in mind, we notice two things in verse 9. First, we do not read “all men” in the text but merely “all.” To what does “all” refer? What is it content? May we, as [some do], insert here individual men, righteous and ungodly? This would conflict with the whole of Scripture, the whole psalm, and the text. Second, according to the rule of Hebrew parallelism, the second part of the text explains the first part. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works. We explain that the Lord is good to all His works, even as His tender mercies are over all His works. “All” therefore means all creatures in the organic sense, all the works of God, without reference to all the individuals of a certain kind of creatures, as, for instance, men. If we interpret the text thus, it does not conflict with the last part of verse 20: “but all the wicked he destroy.” All kinds of creatures are included in the word “all” in verse 9, but the ungodly are excluded.

This wise, sound, exegetical method will interpret the text. Only thus do we understand the word of God.


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(V)



More to come! (DV)

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