03 November, 2019

Nehemiah 9:17-31—“Yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness”

… And [Israel] refused to obey, neither were mindful of thy wonders that thou didst among them; but hardened their necks, and in their rebellion appointed a captain to return to their bondage: but thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not. Yea, when they had made them a molten calf, and said, This is thy God that brought thee up out of Egypt, and had wrought great provocations; yet thou in thy manifold mercies forsookest them not in the wilderness: the pillar of the cloud departed not from them by day, to lead them in the way; neither the pillar of fire by night, to shew them light, and the way wherein they should go. (Neh. 9:17-19).

And testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgments, (which if a man do, he shall live in them;) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear.  Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.  Nevertheless for thy great mercies’ sake thou didst not utterly consume them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.  (Neh. 9:29-31).

“[In verses 17-19], God’s elect are nowhere in view.  The only people that are here considered are the impenitent wicked—the reprobate.  When the Israelites wanted to return to Egypt after just being delivered therefrom, God demonstrated His readiness to pardon them—His graciousness, mercifulness, longsuffering, and kindness—by not utterly destroying them immediately in the wilderness that moment.  Notice that these are attributes of God’s nature and they are exercised towards the reprobate.  God’s leading them in the wilderness by the pillar of the cloud was an expression of God’s manifold mercies to them ...

... [Regarding verses 29-31] notice, in verse 29, that the purpose of God in sending prophets to show the reprobates their sin was to turn them back to Him.  God purposes that the reprobate should repent and turn to Him.  This purpose is frustrated and fails.   Yet God still continued to strive with them by His prophets.  His longsuffering with them, in and of itself (and not immediately destroying them), is a gracious and merciful action … because God has a gracious and merciful disposition to them, for it reflects His nature, which is gracious and merciful, even to the reprobate.  To make a modern application, it is the kindness and mercy of God to all the reprobates in our land that He does not utterly destroy America off the face of the earth for her many provoking sins, and yet continues to compassionately send His ministers to preach in her streets.”


Prof. David J. Engelsma

Theology answers this argument by referring to the “organic” view of Israel.  Basically, this means that the OT Israel in view is the nation as determined by Christ Jesus, who was the head of the nation.  It was the Israel according to election, not as made up of every individual Israelite.  This is shown by the NT, particularly Romans 2 and Galatians 3.  Israel is Christ and those in Him by faith.  Romans 9 also speaks to the issue:  they are not all Israel that are of Israel.  The true Israel is the Israel of election.  The individuals that make up God's Israel are themselves depraved and disobedient.  But God does not abandon them.  Rather He is faithful in grace.

Nehemiah like all the OT must be explained in light of Romans 2 and 9 and Galatians 3.
The true Israel is Christ the seed of Abraham and all those, but those only, who are in Christ by faith according to election. (DJE, 29/10/2019)



More to come! (DV)

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