Studies in the Sovereignty Of God Volume 1 Number 1
In this section we will look at numerous scriptures that prove that God is sovereign.
The Sovereign Will of God:
The Divine Sovereign Will of God over His creation. We can see in the following passages God's sovereignty in the preservation of His creation.
Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth; in the seas, and all deep places. Ps. 135:6
6) Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. His will is carried out throughout all space. The king's warrant runs in every portion of the universe. The heathen divided the great domain; but Jupiter does not rule in heaven, nor Neptune on the sea, nor Pluto in the lower regions; Jehovah rules over all. His decree is not defeated, his purpose is not frustrated: in no one point is his good pleasure set aside. The word "whatsoever" is of the widest range and includes all things, and the four words of place which are mentioned comprehend all space; therefore the declaration of the text knows neither limit nor exception. Jehovah works his will: he pleases to do, and he performs the deed. None can stay his hand. How different this from the gods whom the heathen fabled to be subject to all the disappointments, failures, and passions of men! How contrary even to those so called Christian conceptions of God which subordinate him to the will of man, and make his eternal purposes the football of human caprice. Our theology teaches us no such degrading notions of the Eternal as that he can be baffled by man. "His purpose shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." No region is too high, no abyss too deep, no land too distant, no sea too wide for his omnipotence: his divine pleasure travels post over all the realm of nature, and his behests are obeyed. (1)
of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD.Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel. Jeremiah. 18:6
6) Refuting the Jews' reliance on their external privileges as God's elect people, as if God could never cast them off. But if the potter, a mere creature, has power to throw away a marred vessel and raise up other clay from the ground, a fortiori God, the Creator, can cast away the people who prove unfaithful to His election and can raise others in their stead (compare Isa 45:9; 64:8; Ro 9:20, 21). It is curious that the potter's field should have been the purchase made with the price of Judas' treachery (Mt 27:9, 10: a potter's vessel dashed to pieces, compare Ps 2:8, 9; Re 2:27), because of its failing to answer the maker's design, being the very image to depict God's sovereign power to give reprobates to destruction, not by caprice, but in the exercise of His righteous judgment. Matthew quotes Zechariah's words (Zec 11:12, 13) as Jeremiah's because the latter (Jer 18:1-19:15) was the source from which the former derived his summary in Zec 11:12, 13 [Hengstenberg]. (2)
John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. John 3:27
Well saith John, I see a man can receive (that is, perceive) nothing, except it be given him from heaven. The labour of ministers if all lost labour, unless the grace of God make it effectual. Men do not understand that which is made most plain, nor believe that which is made most evident, unless it be given them from heaven to understand and believe it. (3)
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev. 4:11
All the praises, homages, and acknowledgments of all the creatures is thy due; as thou art he who gavest the first being to all creatures, and therefore gavest it them, that they might praise, honour, serve and obey thee. (4)
Volume 1 Number 2
God, the Ruler or governor of the nations:
For the kingdom is the LORD's: and he is the governor among the nations. Ps. 22:28
28) The kingdom is Jehovah’s, that he may rule over the nations Some explain these words thus:- It is not to be wondered at if the Gentiles should be constrained to yield honor to God, by whom they were created, and by whose hand they are governed, although he has not entered into a covenant of life with them. But I reject this as a meager and unsatisfactory interpretation. This passage, I have no doubt, agrees with many other prophecies which represent the throne of God as erected, on which Christ may sit to superintend and govern the world. Although, therefore, the providence of God is extended to the whole world, without any part of it being excepted; yet let us remember that he then, in very deed, exercises his authority, when having dispelled the darkness of ignorance, and diffused the light of his word, he appears conspicuous on his throne. We have such a description of his kingdom by the prophet Isaiah,
"He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people." (Isa 2:4)
Moreover, as God had not subdued the world to himself, prior to the time when those who before were unconquerable were subdued to a willing obedience by the preaching of the gospel, we may conclude that this conversion was effected only under the management and government of Christ. If it is objected, that the whole world has never yet been converted, the solution is easy. A comparison is here made between that remarkable period in which God suddenly became known every where, by the preaching of the gospel, and the ancient dispensation, when he kept the knowledge of himself shut up within the limits of Judea. Christ, we know, penetrated with amazing speed, from the east to the west, like the lightning’s flash, in order to bring into the Church the Gentiles from all parts of the world. (5)
For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down, and setteth up another. Ps. 75:6,7
6) There is a God, and a providence, and things happen not by chance. Though deliverance be hopeless from all points of the compass, yet God can work it for his people; and though judgment come neither from the rising or the setting of the sun, nor from wilderness of mountains, yet come it will, for the Lord reigneth. Men forget that all things are ordained in heaven; they see but the human force, and carnal passion, but the unseen Lord is more real far than these. He is at work behind and within the cloud. The foolish dream that he is not, but he is near even now, and on the way to bring in his hand that cup of spiced wine of vengeance, one draught of which shall staggger all his foes.
7) Even now he is actually judging. His seat is not vacant; his authority is not abdicated; the Lord reigneth evermore. Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall. A certain author has issued a work called "Historic Ninepins," a fit name of scorn for all the great ones of the earth. God only is; all power belongs to him; all else is shadow, coming and going, unsubstantial, misty, dream-like. (6)
The King's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water he turneth it whitheroever he will. Prov. 21:1
1) And indeed Scripture witness is abundant. Abimelech's heart was in the hand of the Lord for good. Pharaoh's heart was turned towards Joseph. The Babylonians monarch showed kindness to Daniel and his captive brethren. The Persian monarchs countenanced and assisted in the building of the temple. The hearts of wicked kings are alike in the hand of the Lord; yet he hath no part in their wickedness. The hatred of Pharaoh; the ambition of Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar, were his instruments for his own purposes. Ahab's murderous heart was restrained, and even made to accomplish the downfall of Baal. The counsels of the kings of the earth against Christ were under Divine control. Thus does the wrath of man praise him; and the remainder he restrains. Thus an Almighty agency is visible by its effects in the minutest affairs. (7)
Volume 1 Number 3
God's sovereign will in election and regeneration:
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but God that showeth mercy. Ro. 9:15,16
15)The all important aspect of verse 15 is that in support of the “God forbid” of verse 14 the mercy of God is not a matter of justice to those who are partakers of it but altogether of free and sovereign grace. This true whether the mercy be viewed as the theocratic election of Israel to covenant privileges or, in terms of what is the apostle's particular interest, as the mercy that is unto salvation. Justice presupposes rightful claims, and mercy can be operative only where no claim of justice exists. Since mercy alone is the constraining consideration, the only explanation is God's free and sovereign determination. He has mercy as he pleases. This is the emphasis of Exodus 33:19 and to this Paul makes his definitive appeal. Back of this thesis is the polemic of the apostle in the earlier part of the epistle for the principle of grace.
16)Can be regarded as the inference drawn from the Scripture quoted in verse 15 but it is preferably regarded as a statement of what is involved in the truth just asserted. The relation would be then as follows: if God has mercy on whomsoever he wills, “then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that hath mercy”. The emphasis falls here on the exclusion of man's determination as the negative counterpart to God's exercise of mercy. The first negation refers to human volition, the determination belonging to man's will; the second refers to man's active exertion (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24, 26; Gal. 2:2; 5:7; Heb. 12:1). The mercy of God is not an attainment gained by the most diligent labour to that end but a free bestowal of grace. No statement could be more antithetic to what accrues from claims of justice or as the awards of labour. (8)
Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Jas. 1:18
18)James designates God the Father of lights. By implication, however, he calls God our Father. Even though he omits the word Father, he employs the concept to give birth. Fatherhood is part of God's nature. He is the Father of Jesus Christ and through him is our Father. a. “He chose to give us birth.” The first verb in this sentence is “chose”; because of its position it receives emphasis. “We have been born of his saving will (Jas. 1:18), and because God himself is the unalterable on (cf. Jas. 1:17), his gracious will cannot be overthrown.” We did not choose him; rather, he chose us and saved us from death. He gave us new life in Christ Jesus. In verse 15 James depicts sin giving birth to death. In verse 18 he states that God “chose to give us birth through the word of truth.” God is our creator but also our redeemer. In this verse the context favours the interpretation that God is our re-creator. He gives us life through spiritual birth. b. “Through the word of truth.” Paul uses this expression a number of time (11 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 11 Tim. 2:15). It refers to the gospel, as Paul explains in his letter to the Colossians. When this gospel is proclaimed, God regenerates the sinner and reforms him into “new creation” (11 Cor. 5:17; Col. 3:10). Writes D. Edmond Hiebert, “There is no substitute for the proclamation of the gospel.” c. “That we might be a kind of firstfruits.” God created, regenerated and renewed us. We are his handiwork, his prize possession. James says that we are “a kind of firstfruits.”
In Old Testament times, the first fruits were holy and belonged to God: the first-born of man and of cattle, the first produce from the vineyard, orchard, and field (see, for instance, Exod. 23:16; 34:22; Lev. 19:23-25; Num. 15:20-21; Deut. 18:4). However, already in the Old Testament the prophets began to use the expression figuratively. Jeremiah writes, “Israel was holy to the LORD, the firstfruits of his harvest” (Jer. 2:3). And in the New Testament, Christians are God's first fruits (Rom. 11:16; 16:5; 1 Cor. 16:15). In his epistle, James calls us “a kind of firstfruits of all [God] created.” We belong to the countless multitude (symbolically represented as the 144,000) who “were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb” (Rev. 14:4).
What an honor! We are God's first fruits and as such are holy. That is, God has chosen us from all his creatures to be holy and has dedicated us to himself. We belong to God. Therefore, let no one ever think that God can lead us astray. That is impossible, for he is holy and we, his first fruits, share his holiness. (9)
Volume 1 Number 4
God's sovereign will in sanctification:
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his
good pleasure. Phil. 2:13
Such fear and trembling does not spell despair. Quite the contrary. Encouragingly Paul says, as it were, You, Philippians, must continue to work out your own salvation, and you can do it, for it is God who is working in you. Were it not for the fact that God is working in you, you Philippians would not be able to work out your own salvation. Illustrations:
The toaster cannot produce toast unless it is “connected,” so that its nichrome wire is heated by the electricity from the electric power house. The electric iron is useless unless the plug of the iron has been pushed into the wall outlet. There will be no light in the room at night unless electricity flows through the tungsten wire within the light-bulb, each end of this wire being in contact with wires coming from the source of electric energy. The garden-rose cannot gladden human hearts with its beauty and fragrance unless it derives its strength from the sun. Best of all, “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me” (John 15:4).
So here also. Only then can and do the Philippians work out their own salvation when they remain in living contact with their God. It is exactly because God began a good work in them – are they not the “beloved” ones? - and because he who began that good work will also carry it toward completion. (Phil. 1:6), that the Philippians, as “co-workers with God” (cf. 1 Cor. 3:9), can carry this salvation to its conclusion. Not only at the beginning but at every point in the process salvation is from God (John 1:12; 15:5b; 1 Cor. 15:10; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:6, 28, 29; 3:9, 12; especially 4:13). “We are God's workmanship,” his creation, his “poem.” He has made us what we are. By means of his Spirit working in the hearts of his people (Phil. 1:19), applying to these hearts the means of grace and all the experiences of life, God is the great and constant, the effective Worker, the Energizer, 103 operating in the lives of the Philippians, bringing about in them both to will and to work. Note: not only to work but even to will, that is, to resolve and desire:
“Tis not that I did choose thee,
For, Lord, that could not be;
This heart would still refuse thee,
Hadst thou not chosen me.
Thou from the sin that stained me
Hast cleansed and set me free;
Of old thou didst ordain me,
That I should live fro thee.”
The impotent man whose story is related in John 5 was unable to walk. Yet, at the word of Jesus he gets up, picks up his mat, and starts walking. That which he cannot do in his own strength, he can, must, and does do in the strength of the Lord.
As to willing and working, the facts are exactly as stated in The Canons of Dort 111 and 1V, articles 11 and 12. “He infuses new qualities into the will, which though heretofore dead he quickens; from being evil, disobedient, and refractory, he renders it good, obedient, and pliable; actuates and strengthens it, that like a good tree, it may bring forth the fruits of good actions . . . Whereupon the will thus renewed, is not only actuated and influenced by God, but in consequence of this influence becomes itself active.” 104 Nowhere is the manner in which God operates within the heart of his child, enabling him to to will and to work, more beautifully described than in Eph. 3:14-19.
It is comforting that the apostle adds for his good pleasure. It is for the sake of and with a view to the execution of God's good pleasure that God, as the infinite Source of spiritual and moral energy for believers, causes them to work out their own salvation. “Causes them,” yet without in any way destroying their own responsibility and self-activity. Note, moreover, the word good pleasure. Says Dr. H. Bavinck (The Doctrine of God, English translation, p. 390), “Grace and salvation are the objects of God's delight; but God does not delight in sin, neither has he pleasure in punishment.” This statement is in harmony with Scripture (Lam. 3:33; Ezek. 18:23; 33:11; Hos. 11:8; Eph. 1:5, 7, 9). (10)
Volume 1 Number 5
The suffering of believers:
For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than
for evil doing. I Peter 3:17
17) For should God so will, and He may, it is better to suffer as those doing good than to suffer as those who do evil. For when evil-doers suffer they are simply experiencing a consequence of their wrongdoing, something they deserve, an outworking of judgment, an expression in some measure of divine sovereignty and of the moral character of the created order. But when well-doers suffer, their suffering is not a true moral consequence of their own well-doing, even though it may be their good actions that have provoked men thus to ill-treat them. Also, if the righteous God, who has established a moral order in creation, not only allows well-doers to suffer, but Himself will that they should, it must be for some good reason and purpose. Far from such suffering being a penal consequence of their own evil-doing, in being thus ordered to happen to them, it must be intended to be a creative cause of good. God must intend that some profit or benefit should come out of it – for His own glory, for others' good, or the personal good of the sufferer himself. Such thinking brings Peter back in thought to the supreme example of such worth-while suffering, the example from which he has himself been taught by Christ and the Spirit thus to think, namely, the suffering of the Christ who suffered at men's hands when Himself righteous, and for well-doing; and yet He suffered according to the will of God, and for the benefit of men. (11)
Volume 1 Number 6
The suffering of Christ:
Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless
not will, but thine, be done. Luke 22:42
It was no easy task to which Jesus looked forward, but His prayer centers on the Father's will rather than on His being spared. He prays that God's will may be done and specifically He says not my will. This does not mean that His will is in opposition to that of the Father: the very praying of the prayer shows that it is not. But this is a strong affirmation o His desire that the Father's will may prevail. (12)
Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Acts 2:23
We note these two points:
a. God's purpose. Peter intimates that the audience is fully acquainted with the trial and death of Jesus Christ. He employs the personal pronoun you in this verse to involve his listeners in assuming responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion. However, he views their accountability from a divine point of view. God is in complete control even though the Jews brought Jesus to trial and the Roman soldiers killed him.
Peter says that Jesus' death occurred according to “God's set purpose and foreknowledge.” The expression set purpose denotes a plan that has been determined and is clearly defined. The author of this set purpose is God formulating his purpose to hand over Jesus to the Jewish people. He adds the term foreknowledge. With this word, Peter points to God in advance (1 Peter 1:2). In his first epistle, Peter writes that “[Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20, NIV). And last, through all the Old Testament prophets, God foretold that Christ would suffer (3:18).
b. Man's responsibility. Peter holds his audience responsible for Jesus' death. In their view, “Jesus' messianic claim and his death on the cross were irreconcilable, self-contradictory opposites..” They know that “any one who is hung on a tree is cursed [by God]” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). Peter opposes this view by pointing to God's determinate counsel and foreknowledge.
Here is an unresolved tension between God determining the death of his Son and man being held responsible for perpetrating the deed (see 3:17-18; 4:27-28; 13:27). God himself handed Jesus over to the Jews, who put him to death by nailing him to the cross. The Jews could not exonerate themselves by blaming Jesus' death on the Romans, whom the Jews called “wicked men,” for they themselves had engaged the help of the Romans. Peter teaches that the Jews must be held accountable for killing Jesus (3:15; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39). The Jews must see all the aspects of God's plan. (13)
Volume 1 Number 7
Man's life and destiny:
But bade them farewell, saying, I must by all means keep this feast that cometh
in Jerusalem: but I will return again unto you, if God will. And he sailed
from Ephesus. Act 18:21
And we must note that he maketh no promise touching his return without using this exception, if it please the Lord. We do all confess that we be not able to stir one finger without his direction; but because there reigneth in men so great arrogancy everywhere, that they dare determine anything (passing over God) not only for the time to come, but also for many years, we must oftentimes think upon this reverence and sobriety, that me may learn to make our counsels subject to the will and providence of God; lest, if we be deliberate and take counsel as those use to do who think that they have fortune at their commandment, we be justly punished for our rashness. And though there be not so great religion in words but that we may at our pleasure say that we will do this or that, yet is it good to accustom ourselves to use certain forms in our speeches, that they may put us in mind that God doeth direct all our doings. (14)
That I may come unto you with joy by the will of God, and may with you
be refreshed. Romans. 15:32
By the will of God. - This shows that all events depend on God's will. Nothing happens without His appointment. All the efforts of his enemies, as well as all the exertions of His servants, only fulfill His irresistible purposes. Without His will, nothing takes place on earth more than in heaven. God not only permits everything that takes place on earth, as some are inclined in this way to soften down His sovereignty, but He wills and appoints it. Calvin well observes on this passage, 'The sentence, By the will of God, instructs us in the necessity of devoting ourselves to prayer, since God alone directs all our paths and all our steps by His gracious and unerring providence.' (15)
For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. James. 4:15
James teaches that God is sovereign in our lives. In all our planning, deeds and accomplishments we must acknowledge our submission to God. Thus, after a comment on the brevity of life, he returns to the subject he introduced in verse 13. He says that instead of ignoring God in our daily activities, we ought to place him first and say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.”
In some circles and cultures, the cliché the Lord will willing is rather common. It is a pious formula that because of its repeated usage begins to lose its intended significance. But why does James tell the merchants to use this formula? He shows them that their lives are in the hands of a sovereign God and that they should acknowledge him in all their plans. He does not tell them when and how to use the phrase if God wills. (16)
Volume 1 Number 8
The Freedom of God's Will:
If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him? Job 11:10
Who can control his power or arraign his wisdom and justice? If he that made all out of nothing think fit to reduce all to nothing, or to their first chaos again, - if he that separated between light and darkness, dry land and sea, at first, please to gather them together again, - if he that made unmakes who can turn him away, alter his mind or stay his hand, impede or impeach his proceedings? (17)
Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of
his matters. Job 33:13
He is not bound either to justify his own proceedings or to satisfy our demands and inquiries; his judgments will certainly justify themselves...It is therefore daring impiety for us to arraign God at our bar, or challenge him to show cause for what he doeth, to say unto him, What doest thou? Or Why doest thou so? He gives no account of all his matters (so some read it); he reveals as much as it is fit for us to know, as follows here (v.14), but still there are secret things, which belong no to us, which it is not for us to pry into. (18)
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. Ps. 115:3
Verse 3. - “And our God (is) in heaven; all that he pleased he has done.” The word “and,” though foreign from our idiom, adds sensibly to the force of the expression. They ask thus, as if our God were absent or had no existence; and yet all the while our God is in heaven, in his exalted and glorious dwelling-place. - Joseph Addison Alexander.
Verse 3 (first clause). - It would be folly to assert the like concerning idols; therefore, if the heathen say, Where is your God? We reply, He is in heaven, etc: but where are your idols? In the earth, not making the earth, but made from the earth, etc. - Martin Geier.
Verse 3. - “But our God is in the heaven.” When they place God in heaven, they do not confine him to a certain locality, nor set limits to his infinite essence; but on the contrary they deny the limitation o f his power, its being shut up to human instrumentality only, or its being subject to fate or fortune. In short, they put the universe under his control; and teach us that, being superior to every obstruction, he does freely everything that may seem good to him. This truth is still more plainly asserted in the subsequent clause, “he hath done whatsoever he ha pleased.” God then may be said to dwell in heaven, as the world is subject to his will, and nothing can prevent his accomplishing his purposes. - John Calvin (19)
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps. Prov. 16:9
A fine description of the Sovereign government of God! Inscrutable indeed is the mystery, how he accomplishes his fixed purpose by free willed agents. Man without his free will is a machine. God without his unchangeable purpose ceases to be God. Mal. Iii. 6.) As rational agents we think, consult, act freely. As dependent agents, the Lord exercises his own power in permitting, overruling, or furthering our acts. Thus man proposes; God disposes. Man devises; the Lord directeth. He orders our will, without infringing our liberty, or disturbing our responsibility. For while we act as we please, we must be answerable.
We observe this supremacy, in directing, not only an important end but every step towards it; not only the great events, but every turn; not only in his own people, but in every child of man. How little did Joseph's brethren contemplate the overruling direction to their evil devisings! When Saul's heart was devising “slaughter against the disciples of the Lord;” when the renegade slave was running in his own path, little did they think of that gracious direction of their steps, for the salvation of their souls. When David simply went at his father's bidding, little did he know the grand crisis, to which the Lord was directing his steps. As little did the captive girl calculate upon the weighty results from her banishment from her country. Often also hath the path of the Lord's people been encouraged by the counter steps, at the moment when they were ready to grasp their prey! (1 Sam. Xxiii. 27; Isa. xxxii. 7,8.) In fact – as Bp. Hall remarks – Every creature walks blindfold. Only he that dwells in light, sees whither they go. (2 Kings, v. 2,3.)
This doctrine of Providence is not like the doctrine of the Trinity – to be received by faith. Experience gives a demonstrable stamp of evidence – even in all the minutiae of circumstances which form the parts and pieces of the Divine plan. A matter of common business; the indulgence of curiosity; the supply of necessary want; a journey from home – all are connected with infinitely important results. And often, when our purpose seemed as clearly fixed, and as sure of accomplishment, as a journey to London, this way of our own devising has been blocked up by unexpected difficulties, and unexpected facilities have opened an opposite way, with the ultimate acknowledgment – He led me forth in the right way.” (Ps. Cvii. 7. Isa. x1ii. 16.) The Divine control of the Apostle's movements, apparently thwarting their present usefulness, “turned out rather to the furtherance of the gospel. Philip was transferred from an important sphere in Samaria, from preaching to thousands, into a desert. But the Ethiopian Eunuch was his noble convert, and through him the gospel was doubtless widely circulated. (Acts, viii. 37-39.) Paul was turned aside from a wide field of labor to a more contracted ministry. A few women, and a family, were his only Church. Yet how did these small beginnings issue in the planting of flourishing Churches! After all, however, we need much discipline to wean us from our own devices, that we may seek the Lord's direction in the first place. The fruit of this discipline will be a dread of being left to our own devices; as before we were eager to follow them. (Ps. cx1iii. 10.) So truly do we find our happiness and security in yielding up our will to our Heavenly Guide! He know the whole way – every step of the way - “the end from the beginning.” And never shall we miss either the way or the end, if only resign ourselves with unreserved confidence to his keeping and direction of our steps. (20)
There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the
LORD, that shall stand. Prov. 19:21
Here is a fine contrast between man and God, setting out the just relative disproportion between the worm and his Maker. Man's most serious, well-digested thoughts are only devices – imaginations – uncertainty – a poor nonenitity. God's mind is counsel, firm and full purpose. Man's devices are many; God's counsel is like himself – Unity. Man's devices are full of anxiety. Many are eventually fruitless. All of them are in vain. God's counsel is immutable, and shall stand for ever. I will work and who shall let it – My counsel shall stand, and I will do my pleasure.
Now when God and man were at one, man's devices were identified with God's counsel. Then it was “as the days of heaven upon earth.” But ever since the fall, man's devices and God's counsel are at opposite. Which will triumph, who can doubt? “There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” (Chap. Xxi. 30. Heb. vi. 17.)
We mark this conflict in every day's life. Man's own way is a way devised by human weakness and folly; and it is impossible to make a solid road out of such frail materials. Even in the most plausible path – a well-calculated moderation in their earthly projects, he is only preparing himself certain disappointment and increasing the certainty and perplexity of that disappointment by his every movement. He devises his whole way, when not a single step is under his own control; not one step can he take, for one moment in opposition to the Lord's counsel. (Lam. Iii. 37.) That shall stand, though it may be reluctantly to give him up his own devices; still – even after he has left him – seem to send a longing, lingering look after him. The malice of Joseph's brethren was the means of fulfilling the Divine counsel in the salvation of his Church. The plot laid for the destruction of Israel furthered their prosperity. The vain attempts at opposition to Christ were subservient to the great end of “determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.” The device of man to prevent the Apostle's journey to Rome was signally defeated.
How vain the impious attempt to “fight against God!” “woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!” Our liberty does not interfere with his secret purpose. But let us be careful, that it does not resist his declared will. As his Providence chooses our lot, let his word discipline our desires, as the best means of bringing them to a prosperous issue. After all , it is a cheering hope. All is clear above, however cloudy it be below. All is calm in heaven, however stormy it may be on earth. There is no confusion there. One will alone reign. Every purpose reaches its appointed end. ”H is of one mind, and who can turn him” And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.” (Job, xxiii. 13.) (21)
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw
magnify itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself,
as if it were no wood. Isa. 10:15
Yet in all this the Assyrian was but an instrument in God's hand, and his proud self-confidence is therefore as absurd as if an axe, or a saw, or a rod, or a staff should exalt itself above the person wielding it. Shall the axe glorify itself above the (person) hewing with it? Or shall the saw magnify itself above the person handling it? (This is indeed) like a rod's wielding those who wield it, like a staff's lifting (that which is) no wood (viz. a man). The idea is not merely that of boastful opposition but of preposterous inversion of the true relation between agent and instrument, between mind and matter. (22)
Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay:
for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed
say of him that framed it, He had no understanding? Isa. 29:16
The attempt to hide anything from God implies that he has not a perfect knowledge of his creatures, which is practically to reduce the maker and the thing made to a level. With this inversion or perversion of the natural relation between God and man, the Prophet charges them in one word. (23)
Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potshered strive with the
potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What
makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Isa. 45:9
These verses are probably to be taken in a general sense to point up the folly of any complaint against the supernatural work God will create. The interjection may be best be rendered Woe, for it is a cry of lament over any who would disbelieve in the certainty of the promised salvation. Such are to be pitied and are also the objects of displeasure. Although the subject o f the participle is not mentioned, we may take it in an indefinite sense, Woe to anyone who strives. The language is terse, but the sense is clear, “He who strives (in argument) with One who formed him is an object of displeasure. To strive with God is to contend with Him in argument with the purpose of showing that what He has promised will not come to pass.
The second half of the line is explanatory of the firs, and the word potsherd is epenthetic to the indefinite subject anyone. One who strives with his former is but a potsherd among the postsherds of the earth. The preposition 'eth cannot have precisely the same connotation that it does in the first half of the line. This is no objection against the rendering adopted, for parallelism need not be complete in every respect. A potsherd from the potsherds of earth is simply an ordinary piece of pottery which has been made of clay.
In order to make clearer the absurdity of the creature's complaining against the Creator, Isaiah now speaks of the clay from which the sherd is made. “Shall the mere clay say to the former, i.e. the potter, etc.” The double occurrence of its former is striking, first used in its general etymological sense of “former” and then in the sense of “potter.” The verbs are imperfects, and hence are to be rendered by either the present of the future. Probably the first question may be translated, What art thou doing? i.e. What is the purpose of Thy action?
Is the last question a continuation of the first, and as for thy work, it has no hands? Or is there a second question, and thy work, shall it say, He (i.e. God) has no hands? The latter construction better preserves the parallelism and is more in keeping with the Masoretic accents. Thus, the clay and his work are parallel, except that there is a certain amount of gradation in the expression his work. The very thing the potter has made asserts that the potter has no hands and cannot make anything, a statement whose absurdity is obvious.
The difficulty in finding a second question in the last line is the presence of the suffix thy. The question must then be understood as addressed either to God or to the potter. If this latter be correct, we may render, “and does thy work speak to thee O man! He has no hands? (24)
Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because
I am good? Matt. 20:15
Do not fail to recognize God's sovereignty, his right to distribute favors as he pleases. (25)
For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will
have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that
willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy....Nay but, O man,
who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that
formed it, Why hast thou made thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of
the same lump to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor. Ro. 9:15,16,20,21
This means: I will give grace, in time and life, to him concerning whom I purposed from eternity to show mercy. On him will I have compassion and forgive his sin in time and life whom I forgave and pardoned from all eternity. In doing this, God is not unjust, for so He willed and was pleased to do from eternity, and His will is not bound by any law or obligation. (God's free will, which subject to no one, cannot be unjust. God's will would be unjust only if it would transgress some law, (and that means that God would go counter to Himself).
This statement seems hard and cruel, but it is full of sweet comfort, because God has taken upon Himself all our help and salvation, in order that He alone might wholly be the Author of our salvation. So also we read in 11:32: “God hath concluded them all in unbelief, (not with cruel intention, but) that he might have mercy upon all”; that is, in order that He might show mercy to all, which otherwise He neither would nor could do, if we would oppose Him with the arrogant pride of our own righteousness.
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (9:16). This does not mean that God's mercy altogether excludes our willing or running. But the word mean: The fact that a person will and runs, he owes not to his own strength, but to the mercy of God; for it is He who gives us the power to will and to do. Without this (power) man of his own accord in unable both to will and to do. This truth the Apostle expresses in Philippians 2:13 thus: “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” Just that the Apostle says in our text in different words: It is not of him that wills nor of him that runs, that is, who (of himself) accomplishes (his salvation), but of God that showeth mercy, that is, who grants to men the gift of His grace.
9:20) Yes, even if under extreme pressure of trials one would utter an impious word against God, he for that reason would not be damned; for our God is not an impatient and cruel Lord, not even over against the wicked. I say this to comfort those who constantly are troubled by impious thoughts and are greatly alarmed about his fact.
9:21) St. Augustine writes in Chapter 99 of his Enchriridion: “The whole race of men is so greatly condemned in its radical apostasy by this righteous divine verdict that not a single person would do right to criticize God's justice, even though not a single one would be free in such a way that some are permitted to remain in their most righteous condemnation, in order that they, (the elect)m night understand that the whole human race had deserved and to what (punishment) the well deserved judgment of God would have to lead them, had not His unmerited mercy rescued them. Every mouth must be stopped (Rom. 3:19), and he that glories, must glory in the Lord (1 Cor. 1:31).” These are great and important words for they humiliate and terrify us greatly. Very aptly St. Augustine show us why the Apostle wrote these words, namely, to lead us to humility. The words are not written to cause us fear and despair, but to glorify (divine) grace and destroy our arrogance. (26)
But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man
severally as he will. I Cor. 12:11
But all these, &c., i.e. notwithstanding the diversity of these gifts they have a common origin. They are wrought by the same Spirit. What therefore in v. 6 is referred to the efficiency of God, is here referred to the efficiency of the Spirit. This is in accordance with constant scriptural usage. The same effect is sometimes attributed to one, and sometimes to another of the persons of the Holy Trinity. This supposes that, being the same in substance (or essence) in which divine power inheres, they cooperate in the production of these effects. What ever the Father does, he does through the Spirit. The Holy Ghost not only produces these gifts in the minds of men, but he distributes them severally to every man as he will, i.e. not according to the merits or wishes of men, but according to his own will. This passage clearly proves that the Holy Spirit is a person. Will is here attributed to him, which is one of the distinctive attributes of a person, Both the divinity and personality of the Holy Ghost are therefore involved in the nature of the work here ascribed to him. (27)
Volume 1 Number 9
God’s revealed prescriptive will, or what is commanded in Scripture:
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Issac, whom thou lovest,
and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt
offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. Gen. 22:2
We have here the famous story of Abraham's offering up his son Isaac, that is, his offering to offer him, which is justly looked upon as one of the wonders of the church. Here is, I. The strange command which God gave to Abraham concerning it (v. 1, 2). II. Abraham's strange obedience to this command (v. 3-10) III. The strange issue of this trial. 1. The sacrificing of Isaac was countermanded (v. 11, 12). 2. Another sacrifice was provided (v. 13, 14). 3. The covenant was renewed with Abraham hereupon (v. 15-19). Lastly, an account of some of Abraham's relations (v. 20, etc.)
Here is the trial of Abraham's faith, whether it continued so strong, so vigorous, so victorious, after a long settlement in communion with God, as it was at first, when by it he left his country: then it was made to appear that he loved God better than his father; now that he loved him better than his son. Observe here,
I. The time when Abraham was thus tried (v. 1): After these things, after all the other exercises he had had, all the hardships and difficulties he had gone through. Now, perhaps, he was beginning to think the storms had all blown over; but, after all, this encounter comes, which is sharper than any yet. Note, Many former trials will not supersede nor secure us from further trials; we have not yet put off the harness, 1 Ki. 20:11. See Ps. 30:6, 7.
II. The author of the trial: God tempted him, not to draw him to sin, so Satan tempts (if Abraham had sacrificed Isaac, he would not have sinned, his orders would have justified him, and borne him out), but to discover his graces, how strong they were, that they might be found to praise, and honour, and glory, 1 Pt. 1:7. Thus God tempted Job, that he might appear not only a good man, but a great man. God did tempt Abraham; he did lift up Abraham, so some read it; as a scholar that improves well is lifted up, when he is put into a higher form. Note, Strong faith is often exercised with strong trials and put upon hard services. (28)
And the LORD said unto Moses, When thou goest to return into Egypt,
see that thou do all those wonders before Pharaoh, which I have put in
thine hand: but I will harden his heart, that he shall not let the people go.
And thou shalt say to Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even
my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and
if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. Ex. 4: 18-23
Moses obtains leave of his father-in-law to return into Egypt, v. 18. His father-in-law had been kind to him when he was a stranger, and therefore he would not be so uncivil as to leave his family, nor so unjust as to leave his service, without giving him notice. Note, The honour of being admitted into communion with God, and of being employed for him, does not exempt us from the duties of our relations and callings in this world. Moses said nothing to his father-in-law (for aught that appears) of the glorious manifestation of God to him; such favours we are to be thankful for to God, but not to boast of before men. from God further encouragements and directions in his work. After God had appeared to him in the bush to settle a correspondence, it should seem, he often spoke to him, as there was occasion, with less overwhelming solemnity. And, 1. He assures Moses that the coasts were clear. Whatever new enemies he might make by his undertaking, his old enemies were all dead, all that sought his life, v. 19. Perhaps some secret fear of falling into their hands was at the bottom of Moses's backwardness to go to Egypt, though he was not willing to own it, but pleaded unworthiness, insufficiency, want of elocution, etc. Note, God knows all the temptations his people lie under, and how to arm them against their secret fears, Ps. 142:3. 2. He orders him to do the miracles, not only before the elders of Israel, but before Pharaoh, v.
21. There were some alive perhaps in the court of Pharaoh who remembered Moses when he was the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and had many a time called him a fool for deserting the honours of that relation; but he is now sent back to court, clad with greater powers than Pharaoh's daughter could have advanced him to, so that it might appear he was no loser by his choice: this wonder-working rod did more adorn the hand of Moses than the sceptre of Egypt could have done. Note, Those that look with contempt upon worldly honours shall be recompensed with the honour that cometh from God, which is the true honour. 3. That Pharaoh's obstinacy might be no surprise nor discouragement to him, God tells him before that he would harden his heart. Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the groans and cries of the oppressed Israelites, and shut up the bowels of his compassion from them; and now God, in a way of righteous judgment, hardens his heart against the conviction of the miracles, and the terror of the plagues. Note, Ministers must expect with many to labour in vain: we must not think it strange if we meet with those who will not be wrought upon by the strongest arguments and fairest reasonings; yet our judgment is with the Lord. 4. Words are put into his mouth with which to address Pharaoh, v. 22, 23. God had promised him (v. 12), I will teach thee what thou shalt say; and here he does teach him. (1.) He must deliver his message in the name of the great Jehovah: Thus saith the Lord; this is the first time that preface is used by any man which afterwards is used so frequently by all the prophets: whether Pharaoh will hear, or whether he will forbear, Moses must tell him, Thus saith the Lord. (2.) He must let Pharaoh know Israel's relation to God, and God's concern for Israel. Is Israel a servant? is he a home-born slave? Jer. 2:14. "No, Israel is my son, my firstborn, precious in my sight, honourable, and dear to me, not to be thus insulted and abused." (3.) He must demand a discharge for them: "Let my son go; not only my servant whom thou hast no right to detain, but my son whose liberty and honour I am very jealous for. It is my son, my son that serves me, and therefore must be spared, must be pleaded for," Mal. 3:17. (4.) He must threaten Pharaoh with the death of the first-born of Egypt, in case of a refusal: I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn. As men deal with God's people, let them expect to be themselves dealt with; with the froward he will wrestle.
Moses addresses himself to this expedition. When God had assured him (v. 19) that the men were dead who sought his life, immediately it follows (v. 20), he took his wife, and his sons, and set out for Egypt. Note, Though corruption may object much against the services God calls us to, yet grace will get the upper hand, and will be obedient to the heavenly vision. (29)
Turn again, and tell Hezekiah the captain of my people, Thus saith the LORD, the
God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold,
I will heal thee: on the third day thou shalt go up unto the house of the LORD. And
I will add unto thy days fifteen years; and I will deliver thee and this city out of
the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for mine own sake,
and for my servant David's sake. II Kings 20: 5, 6
5. Thus saith the God of David thy father-An immediate answer was given to his prayer, containing an assurance that the Lord was mindful of His promise to David and would accomplish it in Hezekiah's experience, both by the prolongation of his life, and his deliverance from the Assyrians. On the third day-The perfect recovery from a dangerous sickness, within so short a time, shows the miraculous character of the cure (see his thanksgiving song, Isa 38:9). The disease cannot be ascertained; but the text gives no hint that the plague was raging then in Jerusalem; and although Arab physicians apply a cataplasm of figs to plague-boils, they also do so in other cases, as figs are considered useful in ripening and soothing inflammatory ulcers. (30)
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven;
but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Matt. 7:21
21. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord-the reduplication of the title "Lord" denoting zeal in according it to Christ (see Mr 14:45). Yet our Lord claims and expects this of all His disciples, as when He washed their feet: "Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am" (John 13:13). Shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven-that will which it had been the great object of this discourse to set forth. Yet our Lord says warily, not "the will of your Father," but "of My Father"; thus claiming a relationship to His Father with which His disciples might not intermeddle, and which He never lets down. And He so speaks here to give authority to His asseverations. But now He rises higher still-not formally announcing Himself as the Judge, but intimating what men will say to Him, and He to them, when He sits as their final judge. (31)
For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my
brother, and sister, and mother. Matt. 12:50
It is very natural for Jesus to say “of my Father,” for he stands in a very peculiar relationship to his Father, being the Father's Son by nature, and thus the Mediator between God and man.
The Father's “will” to which reference is made here is, of course, his revealed will, the will that can be “done” by man through God's enabling grace. Briefly, that will may be summarized as follows: a. that man repents from his sin; b. accepts Jesus as his Savior and Lord; and c. in the Spirit and out of gratitude lives to the glory of God. (32)
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me,
and to finish his work. John 4:34
“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (4:34). What did Christ mean? In what sense is doing the will of God “meat” to one who performs it? What is the Father's “work?” And how was Christ “finishing it? The answer to those questions must be sought in the setting of our verse, noting its connection with what has gone before and what follows. We must first ascertain the leading subject of the passage of which this verse verse forms a part.
As we proceed with our examination of the passage it will become more and more evident that its leading subject is service. The Lord was giving needed instruction to His disciples, and preparing them for their future work. He sets before them a concise yet remarkably complete outline of the fundamental principles which underlie all acceptable service to God. The all-important and basic principle is that of absolute obedience to the will of God. The servant must do the will of his master. This the perfect Servant Himself exemplified. Note how He refers to God. He does not say here, “My meat is to do the will of the Father,” but 'the will of Him that sent me.” That show it is service which is in view.
Now what was “the will” of the One who had sent Christ into the world? Was it not to deliver certain captives from the hands of the Devil and bring them from death unto life? If there is any doubt at all on the point John 6:38 and 39 at once removes it - “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” This at once helps us to define the Father's “work” - “and finish his work,” which must not be confounded with the work that was peculiarly the Son's: though closely related, they were quite distinct. The “will” of the Father was that all those He had “given” to the Son should be saved; His “work” had been in appointing them unto salvation - “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9). Appointment unto salvation (see also 11 Thess 2:13) is peculiarly the work of the Son, and in the saving of God's elect the Son finishes the “work” of the Father. An individual example of this had just been furnished in the case of the Samaritan woman, and other were about to follow in the “many” who should believe on Him because of her testimony (v. 39), and the “many more” who would believe because of His own word (v. 41). (33)
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,
or whether I speak of myself. John 7:17
If any man wish to do his will. He anticipates the objections that might be made. For since he had many adversaries in that place, some one might readily have murmured against him in this manner: “Why dost thou boast to us of the name of God? For we do not know that thou hast proceeded from him. Why, then, dost thou press upon us that maxim, which we do not admit to thee, that thou teachest nothing but by the command of God?” Christ, therefore, replies that sound judgment flows from fear and reverence for God; so that, if their minds be well disposed to the fear of God, they will easily perceive if what he preaches be true or not. He likewise administers to them, by it, an indirect reproof; for how comes it that they cannot distinguish between falsehood and truth, but because they want the principal requisite to sound understanding, namely, piety, and the earnest desire to obey God?
This statement is highly worthy of observation. Satan continually plots against us, and spreads his nets in every direction, that he may take us unawares by his delusions. Here Christ most excellently forewarns us to beware of exposing ourselves to any of his impostures, assuring us that if we are prepared to obey God, he will never fail to illuminate us by the light of his Spirit, so that we shall be able to distinguish between truth and falsehood. Nothing else, therefore, hinders us from judging aright, but that we are unruly and headstrong; and every time that Satan deceives us, we are justly punished for our hypocrisy. In like manner Moses gives warning that, when false prophets arise, we are tried and proved by God; for they whose hearts are right will never be deceived, (Deut. 13:3) Hence it is evident how wickedly and foolishly many persons in the present day, dreading the danger of falling into error, by that very dread shut the door against all desire to learn; as if our Savior had not good ground for saying, Knock, and it shall be opened to you, (Matthew 7:7.)
On the contrary, if we be entirely devoted to obedience to God, let us not doubt that He will give us the spirit of discernment, to be our continual director and guide. If others choose to waver, they will ultimately find how flimsy are the pretences for their ignorance. And, indeed, we see that all who now hesitate, and prefer to cherish their doubt rather than, by reading or hearing, to inquire earnestly where the truth of God is, have the hardihood to set God at defiance by general principles. One man will say that he prays for the dead, because, distrusting his own judgment, he cannot venture to condemn the false doctrines invented by wicked men about purgatory; and yet he will freely allow himself to commit fornication. Another will say that he has not so much acuteness as to be able to distinguish between the pure doctrine of Christ and the spurious contrivances of men, but yet he will have acuteness enough to steal or commit perjury. In short, all those doubters, who cover themselves with a veil of doubt in all those matters which are at present the subject of controversy, display a manifest contempt of God on subjects that are not at all obscure.
We need not wonder, therefore, that the doctrine of the Gospel is received by very few persons in the present day, since there is so little of the fear of God in the world. Besides, these words of Christ contain a definition of true religion; that is, when we are prepared heartily to follow the will of God, which no man can do, unless he has renounced his own views. Or if I speak from myself. We ought to observe in what manner Christ wishes that a judgment should be formed about any doctrine whatever. He wishes that what is from God should be received without controversy, but freely allows us to reject whatever is from man; for this is the only distinction that he lays down, by which we ought to distinguish between doctrines. (34)
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Acts 2:23
We note these two points:
a. God's purpose. Peter intimates that the audience is fully acquainted with the trial and death of Jesus Christ. He employes the personal pronoun you in this verse to involve his listeners in assuming responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion. However, he view their accountability from a divine point of view. God is in complete control even though the Jews brought Jesus to trial and the Roman soldiers killed him.
Peter says that Jesus' death occurred according to “”God's set purpose and foreknowledge.” The expression set purpose denotes a plan that has been determined and clearly defined. The author of this set purpose is God himself (see 4:28), Peter removes any doubt whether God acted rashly in formulating his purpose to hand over Jesus to the Jewish people. He adds the term foreknowledge. With this word, Peter points to God's omniscience by which every part of his plan is fully known to God in advance (1 Peter 1:2). In his first epistle, Peter writes that “[Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world” (1 Peter 1:20, NIV). And last, through all the Old Testament prophets, God foretold that Christ would suffer (3:18).
b. Man's responsibility. Peter holds his audience responsible for Jesus' death. In their view, “Jesus' messianic claim and his death on the cross were irreconcilable, self-contradictory opposites.” They know that anyone who is hung on a tree is cursed by [by God]” (Deut. 21:23; Gal. 3:13). Peter opposes this view by pointing to God's determinate counsel and foreknowledge.
Here is an unresolved tension between God determining the death of his Son and man being held responsible for perpetrating the deed (see 3:17-18; 4:27-28; 13:27). God himself handed Jesus over to the Jews, who put him to death by nailing him to the cross. The Jews could not exonerate themselves by blaming Jesus' death on the Romans, whom the Jews called “wicked men,” for they themselves had engaged the help of the Romans. Peter teaches that the Jews must be held accountable for killing Jesus (3:1a; 4:10; 5:30; 10:39). The Jews mus see all the aspects of God's plan. (35)
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect, will of God. Romans. 12:2
The question arises: Is this the will of determinate purpose or the will of commandment? That the term is used in the former sense is beyond question (cf. Matt. 18:14; John 1:13; Rom. 1:10; 15:32; 1 Cor. 1:1; 11 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:5, 11; 1 Pet. 3:17; 4:19; 11 Pet. 1:21). But is is also used frequently in the the latter sense (cf. Matt. 7:21; 12:50; 21:31; Luke 12:47; John 4:34; 7:17; 9:31; Acts 13:22; Rom. 2:18; Eph. 5:17; p:6; Col. 4:12; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:18; Heb. 10:10; 13:21; 1 Pet. 4:2; 1 John 2:17; 5:14). In this instance it must be the latter. It is is the will of God as it pertains to our responsible activity in progressive sanctification. The decretive will of God is not the norm according to which our life is to be patterned.
The will of God is regulative of the believer's life. When it is characterized as “good and acceptable and perfect”, the construction indicates that these terms are not strictly adjectives describing the will of God. The thought is rather that the will of God is “the good, the acceptable and the perfect”. In respect of that with which the apostle is now dealing the will of God is the law of God and the law is holy and just and good (cf. 7:12). We may never fear that the standard God has prescribed for us is only relatively good or acceptable or perfect, that it is an accommodated norm adapted to our present condition and not measuring up to the standard of God's perfection. The will of God is the transcript of God's perfection and is the perfect reflection of his holiness, justice, and goodness. When we are commanded to be perfect as God is perfect (cf. Matt. 5:48), the will of God as revealed to us in his Word is in complete correspondence with the pattern prescribed, namely, “as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Hence, when the believer will have attained to this perfection, the criterion will not differ from that now revealed as the will of God. Consummated perfection for the saints is continuous with and the completion of that which is now in process (cf. Col. 1:28; 4:12; Psalm 19:7-11). (36)
Volume 1 Number 10
The secret or decretive sovereign will of God:
God's purposes are not always revealed. The secret will of God sometimes appears
to contradict the revealed will.
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring
to pass, as it it is this day, to save much people alive. Gen. 50:20
Ye thought evil against me. Joseph well considers (as we have said) the providence of God; so that he imposes it on himself as a compulsory law, not only to grant pardon, but also to exercise beneficence. And although we have treated at large on this subject, in Genesis 45:1, yet it will be useful also to repeat something on it now. In the first place, we must notice this difference in his language: for whereas, in the former passage, Joseph, desiring to soothe the grief, and to alleviate the fear of his brethren, would cover their wickedness by every means which ingenuity could suggest; he now corrects them a little more openly and freely; perhaps because he is offended with their disingenousness. Yet he holds to the same principle as before. Seeing that, by the secret counsel of God, he was led into Egypt, for the purpose of preserving the life of his brethren, he must devote himself to this object, lest he should resist God. He says, in fact, by his action, “Since God has deposited your life with me, I should be engaged in war against him, if I were not to be the faithful dispenser of the grace which he had committed to my hands.” Meanwhile, he skillfully distinguishes between the wicked counsels of men, and the admirable justice of God, by so ascribing the government of all things to God, as to preserve the divine administration free from contracting any stain from the vices of men. The selling of Joseph was a crime detestable for its cruelty and perfidy; yet he was not sold except by the decree of heaven. For neither did God merely remain at rest, and by conniving for a time, let loose the reins of human malice, in order that afterwards he might make use of this occasion; but, at his own will, he appointed the order of acting which he intended to be fixed and certain. Thus we may say with truth and propriety, that Joseph was sold by the wicked consent of his brethren, and by the secret providence of God. Yet it was not a work common to both, in such a sense that God sanctioned anything connected with or relating to their wicked cupidity: because while they are contriving the destruction of their brother, God is effecting their deliverance from on high. Whence also we conclude, that there are various methods of governing the world. This truly must be generally agreed, that nothing is done without his will; because he both governs the counsels of men, and sways their wills and turns their efforts at his pleasure, and regulates all events: but if men undertake anything right and just, he so actuates and moves them inwardly by his Spirit, that whatever is good in them, may justly be said to be received from him: but if Satan and ungodly men rage, he acts by their hands in such an inexpressible manner, that the wickedness of the deed belongs to them, and the blame of it is imputed to them. For they are not induced to sin, as the faithful are to act aright, by the impulse of the Spirit, but they are the authors of their own evil, and follow Satan as their leader. Thus we see that the justice of God shines brightly in the midst of the darkness of our iniquity. For as God is never without a just cause for his actions, so men are held in the chains of guilt by their own perverse will. When we hear that God frustrates the wicked expectations, and the injurious desires of men, we derive hence no common consolation. Let the impious busy themselves as they please, let them rage, let them mingle heaven and earth; yet they shall gain nothing by their ardor; and not only shall their impetuosity prove ineffectual, but shall be turned to an issue the reverse of that which they intended, so that they shall promote our salvation, though they do it reluctantly. So that whatever poison Satan produces, God turns it into medicine for his elect. And although in this place God is said to have “meant it unto good,” because contrary to expectation, he had educed a joyful issue out of beginnings fraught with death: yet, with perfect rectitude and justice, he turns the food of reprobates into poison, their light into darkness, their table into a snare, and, in short, their life into death. If human minds cannot reach these depths, let them rather suppliantly adore the mysteries they do not comprehend, than, as vessels of clay, proudly exalt themselves against their Maker.
To save much people alive. Joseph renders his office subservient to the design of God’s providence; and this sobriety is always to be cultivated, that every one may behold, by faith, God from on high holding the helm of the government of the world, and may keep himself within the bounds of his vocation; and even, being admonished by the secret judgments of God, may descend into himself, and exhort himself to the discharge of his duty: and if the reason of this does not immediately appear, we must still take care that we do not fly in confused and erratic circuits, as fanatical men are wont to do. What Joseph says respecting his being divinely chosen “to save much people alive,” some extend to the Egyptians. Without condemning such an extension, I would rather restrict the application of the words to the family of Jacob; for Joseph amplifies the goodness of God by this circumstance, that the seed of the Church would be rescued from destruction by his labor. And truly, from these few men, whose seed would otherwise have been extinct before their descendants had been multiplied, that vast multitude sprang into being, which God soon afterwards raised up. (37)
Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem; and
the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech. Judges 9:23
Then God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem, so that they became treacherous towards him. “An evil spirit” is not merely “an evil disposition,” but an evil demon, which produced discord and strife, just as an evil spirit came upon Saul (1 Sam. Xvi. 14, 15, xviii. 10); not Satan himself, but a supernatural spiritual power which was under his influence. This evil spirit God sent to punish the wickedness of Abimelech and the Shechemites. (38)
And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall
at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that
manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said,
I will persuade him. And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said,
I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he
said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore,
behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets,
and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee. I Kings 22:20-23
He informed the king how it was that all his prophets encouraged him to proceed, that God permitted Satan by them to deceive him into his ruin, and he by vision knew of it; it was represented to him, and he represented it to Ahab, that the God of heaven had determined he should fall at Ramoth-Gilead (v. 19, 20, that the favour he had wickedly shown to Ben-hadad might be punished by him and his Syrians, and that he being in some doubt whether he should go to Ramoth-Gilead or no, and resolving to be advised by his prophets, they should persuade him to it and prevail (v. 21, 22); and hence it was that they encouraged him with so much assurance (v. 23); it was a lie from the father of lies, but by divine permission. This matter is here represented after the manner of men. We are not to imagine that God is ever put upon new counsels, or is ever at a loss for means whereby to effect his purposes, nor that he needs to consult with angels, or any creature, about the methods he should take, nor that he is the author of sin or the cause of any man's either telling or believing a lie; but, besides what was intended by this with reference to Ahab himself, it is to teach us, (1.) That God is a great king above all kings, and has a throne above all the thrones of earthly princes. "You have your thrones," said Micaiah to these two kings, "and you think you may do what you will, and we must all say as you would have us; but I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and every man's judgment proceeding from him, and therefore I must say as he says; he is not a man, as you are." (2.) That he is continually attended and served by an innumerable company of angels, those heavenly hosts, who stand by him, ready to go where he sends them and to do what he bids them, messengers of mercy on his right hand, of wrath on his left hand. (3.) That he not only takes cognizance of, but presides over, all the affairs of this lower world, and overrules them according to the counsel of his own will. The rise and fall of princes, the issues of war, and all the great affairs of state, which are the subject of the consultations of wise and great men, are no more above God's direction than the meanest concerns of the poorest cottages are below his notice. (4.) That God has many ways of bringing about his own counsels, particularly concerning the fall of sinners when they are ripe for ruin; he can do it either in this manner or in that manner. (5.) That there are malicious and lying spirits which go about continually seeking to devour, and, in order to that, seeking to deceive, and especially to put lies into the mouths of prophets, by them to entice many to their destruction. (6.) It is not without the divine permission that the devil deceives men, and even thereby God serves his own purposes. With him are strength and wisdom, the deceived and the deceivers are his, Job xii. 16. When he pleases, for the punishment of those who receive not the truth in the love of it, he not only lets Satan loose to deceive them (Rev. xx. 7,8), but gives men up to strong delusions to believe him, 2 Thess. ii. 11, 12.. (7.) Those are manifestly marked for ruin that are thus given up. God has certainly spoken evil concerning those whom he had given up to be imposed upon by lying prophets. Thus Micaiah gave Ahab fair warning, not only of the danger of proceeding in this war, but of the danger of believing those that encouraged him to proceed. Thus we are warned to beware of false prophets, and to try the spirits; the lying spirit never deceives so fatally as in the mouth of prophets. (39)
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou
restrain. Ps. 76:10
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. It shall not only be overcome but rendered subservient to thy glory. Man with his breath of threatening is but blowing the trumpet of the Lord's eternal fame. Furious winds often drive vessels the more swiftly into port. The devil blows the fire and melts the iron, and then the Lord fashions it for his own purposes. Let men and devils rage as they may, they cannot do otherwise than subserve the divine purposes. The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Malice is tethered and cannot break its bounds. The fire which cannot be utilised shall be damped. Some read it "thou shalt gird, "as if the Lord girded on the wrath of man as a sword to be used for his own designs, and certainly men of the world are often a sword in the hand of God, to scourge others. The verse clearly teaches that even the most rampant evil is under the control of the Lord, and will in the end be overruled for his praise. (40)
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the
LORD do all these things. Isa. 45:7
At the same time it is not doing justice to the text to see in it merely a reference to calamities and well-being. The light is formed by God Himself, and is a figure for salvation and truth, which come from God alone. Likewise, He creates the darkness, the opposite of light. The verb bara' implies the ease with which God by the Word of His power brings darkness into existence. The reference is not to the black of night, but to the opposite of light. As light involves truth and salvation, so darkness must be dispelled if there is to be light.
Instead of saying that Yahweh forms peace, the prophet asserts that He makes peace. The word includes wholeness and well-being. The Qumran Scroll reads good in place of peace, and this is the opposite of evil. With the word evil the same verb bara' is employed. There is no reason why the word is not to be taken in an all-inclusive sense. The absence of light and peace is darkness and evil. In the very context, then, we are compelled to admit that the word includes all evil, moral as well as calamities/
Does not this passage, therefore, teach that God is the author of sin? Delitzsch speaks of a decretum absolutum, which, he thinks, would deny creaturely freedom. In our approach to this difficult subject we must be guided alone by what Scripture says, and at this point the significance of systematic theology becomes very clear. The Bible teaches that there is a decretum absolutum, that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Likewise, the Bible also teaches the responsibility of the creature. Both are scriptural truths and both are to be accepted. To stress the first aspect of the truth at the expense of the second is to fall into the error of fatalism or hyper-Calvinism. To stress the second at the expense of the first is to fall into the error of Arminianism. There is a third position, namely to accept both aspects even though one cannot harmonize nor reconcile them. They can, however, be reconciled by God. Hence, even though we say that God has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, we are not thereby denying the responsibility of the creature.
But this is not to assert that God is the author of sin. The statements of the present verse must be explained in the light of the whole Bible. Scripture is its own best interpreter, and Scripture makes clear that God in not evil and not the source of evil. God has included evil in His plan, and has foreordained its existence; and yet He Himself is not evil nor is He its author. Again, we have line of teaching that we as creatures are unable to harmonize or reconcile; we must be believers. We gain nothing by seeking to minimize the force of the present verse. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor” Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory fore ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36). (41)
Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there
be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it? Amos 3:6
This is the explanation of the preceding similes: God is the Author of all the calamities which come upon you, and which are foretold by His prophets. The evil of sin is from ourselves; the evil of trouble is from God, whoever be the instruments. (42)
Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,
ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Acts 2:23
Him have ye slain. He maketh mention of the death of Christ for this cause chiefly, that the resurrection might the more assuredly be believed. It was a thing full well known among the Jews that Christ was crucified. Therefore, in that he rose again, it is a great and wonderful token of his Divine power. In the mean season, to the end he may prick their consciences with the feeling of sin, he saith that they slew him; not that they crucified him with their own hands, but because the people, with one voice, desired to have him put to death. And although many of the hearers unto whom he speaketh did not consent unto that wicked and ungodly cruelty, yet doth he justly impute the same to the nation; because all of them had defiled themselves either with their silence, or else through their carelessness. Neither hath the cloak and color of ignorance any place, forasmuch as he was showed before of God. This guiltiness, therefore, under which he bringeth them, is a preparation unto repentance.
By the determinate counsel He removeth a stumbling-block; because it seemeth, at the first blush, to be a thing very inconvenient, [unaccountable,] that that man whom God had so greatly adorned, being afterward laid open to all manner of mocking, doth suffer so reproachful a death. Therefore, because the cross of Christ doth commonly use to trouble us at the first sight, for this cause Peter declareth that he suffered nothing by chance, or because he wanted power to deliver himself, but because it was so determined (and appointed) by God. For this knowledge alone, that the death of Christ was ordained by the eternal counsel of God, did cut off all occasion of foolish and wicked cogitation’s, and did prevent all offenses which might otherwise be conceived. For we must know this, that God doth decree nothing in vain or rashly; whereupon it followeth that there was just cause for which he would have Christ to suffer. The same knowledge of God’s providence is a step to consider the end and fruit of Christ’s death. For this meeteth us by and by in the counsel of God, that the just was delivered subjected to death. for our sins, and that his blood was the price of our death.
And here is a notable place touching the providence of God, that we may know that as well our life as our death is governed by it. Luke intreateth, indeed, of Christ; but in his person we have a mirror, which doth represent unto us the universal providence of God, which doth stretch itself throughout the whole world; yet doth it specially shine unto us who are the members of Christ. Luke setteth down two things in this place, the foreknowledge and the decree of God. And although the foreknowledge of God is former in order, (because God doth first see what he will determine, before he doth indeed determine the same,) yet doth he put the same after the counsel and decree of God, to the end we may know that God would nothing, neither appointed anything, save that which he had long before directed to his [its] end. For men do oftentimes rashly decree many things, because they decree them suddenly. Therefore, to the end Peter may teach that the counsel of God is not without reason, he coupleth also therewithal his foreknowledge. Now, we must distinguish these two, and so much the more diligently, because many are deceived in this point. For passing over the counsel of God, wherewith he doth (guide and) govern the whole world, they catch at his bare foreknowledge. Thence cometh that common distinction, that although God doth foresee all things, yet doth he lay no necessity upon his creatures. And, indeed, it is true that God doth know this thing or that thing before, for this cause, because it shall come to pass; but as we see that Peter doth teach that God did not only foresee that which befell Christ, but it was decreed by him. And hence must be gathered a general doctrine; because God doth no less show his providence in governing the whole world, than in ordaining and appointing the death of Christ. Therefore, it belongeth to God not only to know before things to come, but of his own will to determine what he will have done. This second thing did Peter declare when he said, that he was delivered by the certain and determinate counsel of God. Therefore, the foreknowledge of God is another thing than the will of God, whereby he governeth and ordereth all things.
Some, which are of quicker sight, confess that God doth not only foreknow, but also govern with his beck what things soever are done in this world. Nevertheless, they imagine a confused government, as if God did give liberty to his creatures to follow their own nature. They say that the sun is ruled by the will of God, because, in giving light to us, he doth his duty, which was once enjoined him by God. They think that man hath free-will after this sort left him, because his nature is disposed or inclined unto the free choice of good and evil. But they which think so do feign that God sitteth idle in heaven. The Scripture teacheth us far otherwise, which ascribeth unto God a special government in all things, and in man’s actions. Notwithstanding, it is our duty to ponder and consider to what end it teacheth this; for we must beware of doting speculations, wherewith we see many carried away. The Scripture will exercise our faith, that we may know that we are defended by the hand of God, lest we be subject to the injuries of Satan and the wicked. It is good for us to embrace this one thing; neither did Peter mean anything else in this place. Yea, we have an example set before us in Christ, whereby we may learn to be wise with sobriety. For it is out of question, that his flesh was subject to corruption, according to nature. But the providence of God did set the same free. If any man ask, whether the bones of Christ could be broken or no? it is not to be denied, that they were subject to breaking naturally, yet could there no bone be broken, because God had so appointed and determined, (John 19:36). By this example (I say) we are taught so to give the chiefest room to God’s providence, that we keep ourselves within our bounds, and that we thrust not ourselves rashly and indiscreetly into the secrets of God, whither our eyesight doth not pierce.
By the hands of the wicked Because Peter seemeth to grant that the wicked did obey God, hereupon followeth two absurdities; one of two absurdities. the one, either that God is the author of evil, or that men do not sin, what wickedness soever they commit. I answer, concerning the second, that the wicked do nothing less than obey God, howsoever they do execute that which God hath determined with himself. For obedience springeth from a voluntary affection; and we know that the wicked have a far other purpose. Again, no man obeyeth God save he which knoweth his will. Therefore, obedience dependeth upon the knowledge of God’s will. Furthermore, God hath revealed unto us his will in the law; wherefore, those men only. do obey God, who do that alone which is agreeable to the law of God; and, again, which submit themselves willingly to his government. We see no such thing in all the wicked, whom God doth drive hither and thither, they themselves being ignorant. No man, therefore, will say that they are excusable under this color, because they obey God; forasmuch as both the will of God must be sought in his law, and they, so much as in them lieth, do desire. to resist God. As touching the other point, I deny that God is the author of evil; because there is a certain noting of a wicked affection in this word. For the wicked deed is esteemed according to the end whereat a man aimeth. When men commit theft or murder, they offend they sin. for this cause, because they are thieves or murderers; and in theft and murder there is a wicked purpose. God, who useth their or murderers; and in theft and murder there is a wicked purpose. God, who useth their wickedness, is to be placed in the higher degree. For he hath respect unto a far other thing, because he will chastise the one, and exercise the patience of the other; and so he doth never decline from his nature, that is, from perfect righteousness. So that, whereas Christ was delivered by the hands of wicked men, whereas he was crucified, it came to pass by the appointment and ordinance of God. But treason, which is of itself wicked, and murder, which hath in it so great wickedness, must not be thought to be the works of God. (43)
Studies in the Sovereignty Of God Volume 1 Number 11
God's sovereignty in seemingly chance events:
And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel
between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his
chariot, Turn thine hand and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. I Kings 22:34
The Syrian that shot him little thought of doing such a piece of service to God and his king; for he drew a bow at a venture, not aiming particularly at any man, yet God so directed the arrow that, 1. He hit the right person, the man that was marked for destruction, whom, if they had taken alive, as was designed, perhaps Ben-hadad would have spared. Those cannot escape with life whom God hath doomed to death. 2. He hit him in the right place, between the joints of the harness, the only place about him where this arrow of death could find entrance. No armour is of proof against the darts of divine vengeance. (44)
Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee,
and get thee down to the floor: but make not thyself known unto the man,
until he have done eating and drinking. Ruth 3:3
Thy raiment to wit, they best raiment. All this was done to render herself more amiable in the eyes of Boaz. Object. But Boaz could not see her, the whole business being to be transacted by night. Answ. First, It was begun in the beginning of the night, as soon as Boaz had supped and composed himself to rest, as appears from ver. 4, 7, when there was so much light left as might discover her to him. Secondly, There being a solemn feast this evening, as is very probably thought, and the master of the feast having invited his laboring people to it, and Ruth among the rest, it is likely that both she and the rest did put themselves into their best dress upon that occasion, as the manner is even at this day; and so he had opportunity enough to see her. Make not thyself known unto the man, to wit, not is so familiar a way, as she was appointed to do, so as he might know her, in the sense in which that word is sometimes used. (45)
By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses,
for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe. Jos. 14:2
Here a difficult question arises. How can it be said that the distribution of the land was made by Joshua, Eleazar, and the princes, if lots were cast? For the lot is not regulated by the opinion or the will or the authority of man. Should any one answer, that they took charge and prevented any fraud from being committed, the difficulty is not removed, nay, this evasion will be refuted from the context. It is to be known, therefore, that they were not selected simply to divide the land by lot, but also afterwards to enlarge or restrict the boundaries of the tribes by giving to each its due proportion. That this business could not be accomplished by a naked lot is very apparent. For while, according to human ideas, nothing is more fortuitous than the result of a lot, it was not known whether God might choose to place the half tribe of Manasseh where the tribe of Judah obtained its settlement, or whether Zebulun might not occupy the place of Ephraim. Therefore they were not at liberty at the outset to proceed farther than to divide the land into ten districts or provinces. In this way, however, the space belonging to each would remain indefinite. For had an option been given to each, some would have chosen to fix themselves in the center, others would have preferred a quiet locality, while others would have been guided in their choice by the fertility of the soil, or the climate and beauty of the scenery. But the lot placed the tribe of Judah, as it were, at the head, while it sent that of Zebulun away to the seashore, placed the tribe of Benjamin adjacent to that of Judah, and removed that of Ephraim to a greater distance. In short, the effect of the lot was that ten divisions fell out from Egypt towards Syria, and from the north quarter to the Mediterranean Sea, making some neighbors to the Egyptians, and giving to others maritime positions, to others hilly districts, to others intervening valleys. (46)
Ye shall therefore describe the land unto seven parts and bring the description
hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. Jos. 18:6
When it was surveyed, and reduced to seven lots, then Joshua would, by appeal to God, and direction from him, determine which of these lots should belong to each tribe (ver. 6): That I may cast lots for you here at the tabernacle (because it was a sacred transaction) before the Lord our God, to whom each tribe must have an eye, with thankfulness for the conveniences and submission to the inconveniences of their allotment. What we have in the world we must acknowledge God's property in, and dispose of it as before him, with justice, and charity, and dependence upon Providence. The heavenly Canaan is described to us in a book, the book of the scriptures, and there are in it mansions and portions sufficient for all God's spiritual Israel. Christ is our Joshua that divides it to us. On him we must attend, and to him we must apply for an inheritance with the saints in light. See John xvii. 2,3. (47)
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. Prov. 16:33
Note, 1. The divine Providence orders and directs those things which to us are perfectly casual and fortuitous. Nothing comes to pass by chance, nor is an event determined by a blind fortune, but every thing by the will and counsel of God. What man has neither eye nor hand in God is intimately concerned in. 2. When solemn appeals are made to Providence by the casting of lots, for the deciding of that matter of moment which could not otherwise be at all, or not so well, decided, God must be eyed in it, by prayer, that it may be disposed aright (Give a perfect lot, (1 Sam. Xiv. 41; Acts I. 24), and by acquiescing in it when it is disposed, being satisfied that the hand of God is in it and that hand directed by infinite wisdom. All the disposals of Providence concerning our affairs we must look upon to be the directing of our lot, the determining of what we referred to God, and must be reconciled to them accordingly. (48)
Studies in the Sovereignty Of God Volume 2 Number 1
God's power beyond that which is realized:
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Gen. 18:14
The angel reproves the indecent expressions of her distrust, v. 13, 14. Observe, 1. Though Sarah was now most kindly and generously entertaining these angels, yet, when she did amiss, they reproved her for it, as Christ reproved Martha in her own house, Luke x. 40, 41. If our friends be kind to us, we must not therefore be so unkind to them as to suffer sin upon them. 2. God gave this reproof to Sarah by Abraham her husband. To him he said, Why did Sarah laugh? perhaps because he had not told her of the promise which had been given him some time before to this purport, and which, if he had communicated it to her with its ratifications, would have prevented her from being so surprised now. Or Abraham was told of it that he might tell her of it. Mutual reproof, when there is occasion for it, is one of the duties of the conjugal relation. 3. The reproof itself is plain, and backed with a good reason: Wherefore did Sarah laugh? Note, It is good to enquire into the reason of our laughter, that it may not be the laughter of the fool, Eccl. Vii. 6. "Wherefore did I laugh?" Again, Our unbelief and distrust are a great offence to the God of heaven. He justly takes it ill to have the objections of sense set up in contradiction to his promise, as Luke I. 18. 4. Here is a question asked which is enough to answer all the cavils of flesh and blood: Is any thing too hard for the Lord? (Heb. too wonderful), that is, (1.) Is any thing so secret as to escape his cognizance? No, not Sarah's laughing, though it was only within herself. Or, (2.) Is any thing so difficult as to exceed his power? No, not the giving of a child to Sarah in her old age. (49)
Ah LORD God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there in nothing too hard for thee. Jer. 32:17
1. Jeremiah adores God and his infinite perfections, and gives him the glory due to his name as the Creator, upholder, and benefactor, of the whole creation, thereby owning his irresistible power, that he can do what he will, and his incontestable sovereignty, that he may do what he will, v. 17-19. Note, When at any time we are perplexed about the particular methods and dispensations of Providence it is good for us to have recourse to our first principles, and to satisfy ourselves with the general doctrines of God's wisdom, power, and goodness. Let us consider, as Jeremiah does here, 1. That God is the fountain of all being, power, life, motion, and perfection: He made the heaven and the earth with his outstretched arm; and therefore who can control him? Who dares contend with him? 2. That with him nothing is impossible, no difficulty insuperable: Nothing is too hard for thee. When human skill and power are quite nonplussed, with God are strength and wisdom sufficient to master all the opposition. 3. That he is a God of boundless bottomless mercy; mercy is his darling attribute; it is his goodness that is his glory: "Thou not only art kind, but thou showest lovingkindness, not to a few, to here and there one, but to thousands, thousands of persons, thousands of generations." 4. That he is a God of impartial and inflexible justice. His reprieves are not pardons, but if in mercy he spares the parents, that they may be led to repentance, yet such a hatred has he to sin, and such a displeasure against sinners, that he recompenses their iniquity into the bosom of their children, and yet does them no wrong; so hateful is the unrighteousness of man, and so jealous of its own honour is the righteousness of God. 5. That he is a God of universal dominion and command: He is the great God, for he is the mighty God, and might among men makes them great. He is the Lord of hosts, of all hosts, that is his name, and he answers to his name, for all the hosts of heaven and earth, of men and angels, are at his beck. 6. That he contrives every thing for the best, and effects every thing as he contrived it: He is great in counsel, so vast are the reaches and so deep are the designs of his wisdom; and he is mighty in doing, according to the counsel of his will. Now such a God as this is not to be quarrelled with. His service is to be constantly adhered to and all his disposals cheerfully acquiesced in. (50)
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness. Zech. 8:7,8
Save my people from . east . west-that is, from every region (compare Ps 50:1; the "West" is literally, "the going down of the sun") to which they are scattered; they are now found especially in countries west of Jerusalem. The dispersion under Nebuchadnezzar was only to the east, namely, to Babylonia. The restoration, including a spiritual return to God (Zec 8:8), here foretold, must therefore be still future (Isa 11:11, 12; 43:5, 6; Eze 37:21; Am 9:14, 15; also Zec 13:9; Jer 30:22; 31:1, 33). (51)
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. Matt. 3:9
And think not to say within yourselves. Luke 3:8. And begin not to say within yourselves. As the import of both phrases is undoubtedly the same, it is easy to ascertain what John meant. Till hypocrites are hard pressed, they either sleep in their sins, or indulge in licentious mirth. “Ils s'endorment toujours en leurs vices, ou s'egayent comme chevaux eschappez.” — “They sleep always in their sins, or indulge in merriment, like horses let loose.” But when they are summoned to the tribunal of God, they eagerly seek for some subterfuge or concealment, or some covering to interpose between God and them. John’s address to the Pharisees and Sadducees amounts to this: “Now that I have sharply upbraided you, do not, as persons of your stamp are wont to do endeavor to find a remedy in an empty and deceitful title.”
He thus tears from them the wicked confidence, by which they had been bewitched. The covenant, which God had made with Abraham, was employed by them as a shield to defend a bad conscience: not that they rested their salvation on the person of one man, but that God had adopted all the posterity of Abraham. Meanwhile, they did not consider, that none are entitled to be regarded as belonging to “the seed of Abraham,” (John 8:33,) but those who follow his faith, and that without faith the covenant of God has no influence whatever in procuring salvation. And even the little word, in yourselves, is not without meaning: for though they did not boast in words, that they were Abraham’s children, yet they were inwardly delighted with this title, as hypocrites are not ashamed to practice grosser impositions on God than on men.
God is able. The Jews flattered themselves with nearly the same pretenses, as are now brought forward insolently by the Papists. “There must be some Church in the world; because it is the will of God that he be acknowledged, and his name invoked, in the world. But the Church can be nowhere else than among us, to whom God has entrusted his covenant.” “D'autant que le Seigneur nous a ordonnez gardiens de son alliance.” — “Because the Lord has appointed us guardians of his covenant.” This arrogance was chiefly displayed by the high priests, and by others who had any share of government or authority. The common people were treated by them as profane and “accursed,” (John 7:49,) and they looked upon themselves as the holy first-fruits; just as, in our own day, mitred Bishops, Abbots, Canons, Monks, Sorbonnists, and every description of Priests, glorying in the proud title of Clergy, regard the Laity with contempt. This error, of relying too much on the promise of God, John exposes and refutes, by saying that, though God passes by them, he will not want a Church.
The meaning of the words, therefore, is: “God has made an everlasting covenant with Abraham and his seed. In one point you are mistaken. While you are worse than bastards, “Quum sitis plus quam degeneres.” — “Combien qu' a la verite vous soyez pires que bastards.” you imagine that you are the only children of Abraham. But God will raise up elsewhere a new seed of Abraham, which does not now appear.” He says in the dative case, children To ABRAHAM, to inform us, that the promise of God will not fail, and that Abraham, who relied on it, was not deceived, though his seed be not found in you. Thus from the beginning of the world the Lord has been faithful to his servants, and has never failed to fulfill the promise which he made to them, that he would extend mercy to their children, though he rejected hypocrites. Some imagine, that John spoke of the calling of the Gentiles. This appears to me to be without foundation: but as proud men did not believe it to be possible that the Church should be removed to another place, he reminds them, that God has in his power ways of preserving his Church, which they did not think of, any more than they believed that he could create children out of stones. (52)
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? Matt. 26:53
Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father? Now follows that special reason which I mentioned a little ago; for Christ reminds them, that he would have at his command a better and more legitimate kind of defense, were it not that he must obey the decree of the Father. The substance of what he says is this. “As he has been appointed by the eternal purpose of God to be a sacrifice, and as this has been declared by the predictions of Scripture, he must not fight against it.” Thus Peter’s rashness is condemned on another ground, that he not only endeavors to overturn a heavenly decree, but also to obstruct the path of the redemption of mankind. Not only did Peter draw his sword unlawfully, but the disciples were foolish and mad; for—though they were few in number, and feeble—they attempted to make some resistance to a band of soldiers and a very great multitude. On this account, the Lord, in order to make their folly more manifest, employs this comparison. “If he wished to have a guard to defend his life, he would immediately obtain not eleven angels, but a large and invincible army, and since he does not implore that angels may be sent to assist him, much less would he resort to ill-considered means, from which no advantage was to be expected; for the utmost that could be effected by the disciples would be of no more service than if a few rooks were to make a noise.”
But here some commentators labor to no purpose in inquiring how Christ could have obtained a commission of angels from his Father, by whose decree it was that he had to suffer death. For the two things are inconsistent: that he exposed his Son to death naked and defenseless, because it was necessary that it should be so, and because it had been appointed; and yet, that he might have been prevailed on by prayer to send him relief. But Christ speaks conditionally, that he has a far better method of defending his life, were it not that the will of the Father was opposed to it. This takes away all contradiction, for Christ refrained from presenting such a request to his Father, because he knew that it was contrary to his decree. Yet from this we draw a useful doctrine, that those who resort to unlawful means on the plea of necessity pour dishonor on God. If a man is destitute of lawful aid and support, he runs headlong to wicked schemes and sinful undertakings; and the reason is, that few look for the secret protection of God, which alone ought to be sufficient to set our minds at rest. Are we threatened with danger? Because no remedy can be discovered according to the flesh, we make this or the other contrivance, as if there were no angels in heaven, who — Scripture frequently tells us — are placed as guardians for our salvation, (Hebrews 1:14.) In this way we deprive ourselves of their assistance; for all who are impelled, by their restlessness and excessive anxiety, to stretch out their hands to forbidden remedies for evils, do unquestionably renounce the providence of God. (53)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 2
God's sovereign power, or His omnipotence:
And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God,
possessor of heaven and earth. Gen. 14:19
God Most High (el elyon), whatever the title meant to Melchizedek's predecessors and successors, meant to him true God, self-revealed in measure, as his next words show. In any case Abram's tithe (cf. Heb. 7:4-10) and his conjunction of the name Yahweh (the Lord, 22) with Melchizedek's term, God Most High, settle the question. The latter title is used frequently in the Psalms. Possessor (or maker, RSV) is from the verb of 4:1 ('I have gotten') and if 'get' is the basic sense, it varies with the manner of getting, to mean e.g., 'bear' (4:1), 'buy', 'learn', and here, 'make'. (54)
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant,
then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all
the earth is mine. Ex. 19:5
Then you shall be a peculiar treasure to me. He does not specify any one particular favour, as giving them the land of Canaan, or the like, but expresses it in that which was inclusive of all happiness, that he would be to them a God in covenant, and they should be to him a people. [1.] God here asserts his sovereignty over, and propriety in, the whole visible creation: All the earth is mine. Therefore he needed them not; he that had so vast a dominion was great enough, and happy enough, without concerning himself for so small a demesne as Israel was. All nations on the earth being his, he might choose which he pleased for his peculiar, and act in a way of sovereignty. [2.] He appropriates Israel to himself, First, As a people dear unto him. You shall be a peculiar treasure; not that God was enriched by them, as a man is by his treasure, but he was pleased to value and esteem them as a man does his treasure; they were precious in his sight and honourable (Isa. xliii. 4); he set his love upon them (Deut. vii. 7), took them under his special care and protection, as a treasure that is kept under lock and key. He looked upon the rest of the world but as trash and lumber in comparison with them. By giving them divine revelation, instituted ordinances, and promises inclusive of eternal life, by sending his prophets among them, and pouring out his Spirit upon them, he distinguished them from, and dignified them above, all people. And this honour have all the saints; they are unto God a peculiar people (Tit. ii. 14), his when he makes up his jewels. (55)
Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory,
and the magesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the
kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. I Chron. 29:11
He is the fountain and centre of every thing that is bright and blessed. All that we can, in our most exalted praises, attribute to him he has an unquestionable title to. His is the greatness; his greatness is immense and incomprehensible; and all others are little, are nothing, in comparison of him. His is the power, and it is almighty and irresistible; power belongs to him, and all the power of all the creatures is derived from him and depends upon him. His is the glory; for his glory is his own end and the end of the whole creation. All the glory we can give him with our hearts, lips, and lives, comes infinitely short of what is his due. His is the victory; he transcends and surpasses all, and is able to conquer and subdue all things to himself; and his victories are incontestable and uncontrollable. And his is the majesty, real and personal; with him is terrible majesty, inexpressible and inconceivable. (2.) His sovereign dominion, as rightful owner and possessor of all: "All that is in the heaven, and in the earth, is thine, and at thy disposal, by the indisputable right of creation, and as supreme ruler and commander of all: thine is the kingdom, and all kings are thy subjects; for thou art head, and art to be exalted and worshipped as head above all." (56)
Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens,
with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is
therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Neh. 9:6
Thou, even thou, art Lord alone, &c.-In this solemn and impressive prayer, in which they make public confession of their sins, and deprecate the judgments due to the transgressions of their fathers, they begin with a profound adoration of God, whose supreme majesty and omnipotence is acknowledged in the creation, preservation, and government of all. Then they proceed to enumerate His mercies and distinguished favors to them as a nation, from the period of the call of their great ancestor and the gracious promise intimated to him in the divinely bestowed name of Abraham, a promise which implied that he was to be the Father of the faithful, the ancestor of the Messiah, and the honored individual in whose seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. Tracing in full and minute detail the signal instances of divine interposition for their deliverance and their interest-in their deliverance from Egyptian bondage-their miraculous passage through the Red Sea-the promulgation of His law-the forbearance and long-suffering shown them amid their frequent rebellions-the signal triumphs given them over their enemies-their happy settlement in the promised land-and all the extraordinary blessings, both in the form of temporal prosperity and of religious privilege, with which His paternal goodness had favored them above all other people, they charge themselves with making a miserable requital. They confess their numerous and determined acts of disobedience. They read, in the loss of their national independence and their long captivity, the severe punishment of their sins. They acknowledge that, in all heavy and continued judgments upon their nation, God had done right, but they had done wickedly. And in throwing themselves on His mercy, they express their purpose of entering into a national covenant, by which they pledge themselves to dutiful obedience in future. (57)
Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him,
what doest thou? Job 9:12
If "He taketh away," as in my case all that was dear to me, still a mortal cannot call Him to account. He only takes His own. He is an absolute King (Ec 8:4; Da 4:35). (58)
Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee,
thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass. Job 14:5
Of the settled period of human life, v. 5. - 1. Three things we are here assured of:-(1.) That our life will come to an end; our days upon earth are not numberless, are not endless, no, they are numbered, and will soon be finished, Dan. 5:26. (2.) That it is determined, in the counsel and decree of God, how long we shall live and when we shall die. The number of our months is with God, at the disposal of his power, which cannot be controlled, and under the view of his omniscience, which cannot be deceived. It is certain that God's providence has the ordering of the period of our lives; our times are in his hand. The powers of nature depend upon him, and act under him. In him we live and move. Diseases are his servants; he kills and makes alive. Nothing comes to pass by chance, no, not the execution done by a bow drawn at a venture. It is therefore certain that God's prescience has determined it before; for known unto God are all his works. Whatever he does he determined, yet with a regard partly to the settled course of nature (the end and the means are determined together) and to the settled rules of moral government, punishing evil and rewarding good in this life. We are no more governed by the Stoic's blind fate than by the Epicurean's blind fortune. (3.) That the bounds God has fixed we cannot pass; for his counsels are unalterable, his foresight being infallible. (59)
Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as it it had issued
out of the womb? When I made the cloud the garment thereof, and thick
darkness a swaddlingband for it, And brake up for it my decreed place, and
set bars and doors, And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and
here shall thy proud waves be stayed? Job 38:8-11
Concerning the limiting of the sea to the place appointed for it, v. 8, etc. This refers to the third day's work, when God said (Gen. 1:9), Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and it was so. 1. Out of the great deep or chaos, in which earth and water were intermixed, in obedience to the divine command the waters broke forth like a child out of the teeming womb, v. 8. Then the waters that had covered the deep, and stood above the mountains, retired with precipitation. At God's rebuke they fled, Ps. 104:6, 7. 2. This newborn babe is clothed and swaddled, v. 9. The cloud is made the garment thereof, with which it is covered, and thick darkness (that is, shores vastly remote and distant from one another and quite in the dark one to another) is a swaddling-band for it. See with what ease the great God manages the raging sea; notwithstanding the violence of its tides, and the strength of its billows, he manages it as the nurse does the child in swaddling clothes. It is not said, He made rocks and mountains its swaddling bands, but clouds and darkness, something that we are not aware of and should think least likely for such a purpose. 3. There is a cradle too provided for this babe: I broke up for it my decreed place, v. 10. Valleys were sunk for it in the earth, capacious enough to receive it, and there it is laid to sleep; and, if it be sometimes tossed with winds, that (as bishop Patrick observes) is but the rocking of the cradle, which makes it sleep the faster. As for the sea, so for every one of us, there is a decreed place; for he that determined the times before appointed determined also the bounds of our habitation. 4. This babe being made unruly and dangerous by the sin of man, which was the original of all unquietness and danger in this lower world, there is also a prison provided for it; bars and doors are set, v. 10. And it is said to it, by way of check to its insolence, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further. The sea is God's for he made it, he restrains it; he says to it, Here shall thy proud waves be stayed, v. 11. This may be considered as an act of God's power over the sea. Though it is so vast a body, and though its motion is sometimes extremely violent, yet God has it under check. Its waves rise no higher, its tides roll no further, than God permits; and this is mentioned as a reason why we should stand in awe of God (Jer. 5:22), and yet why we should encourage ourselves in him, for he that stops the noise of the sea, even the noise of her waves, can, when he pleases, still the tumult of the people, Ps. 65:7. It is also to be looked upon as an act of God's mercy to the world of mankind and an instance of his patience towards that provoking grace. Though he could easily cover the earth again with the waters of the sea (and, methinks, every flowing tide twice a day threatens us, and shows what the sea could do, and would do, if God would give it leave), yet he restrains them, being not willing that any should perish, and having reserved the world that now is unto fire, 2 Pt. 3:7. (60)
The heavens are thine, the earth alas is thine: as for the world and the
fullness thereof, thou hast founded them. Ps. 89:11
The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine. All things are alike God's—rebellious earth as well as adoring heaven. Let us not despair of the kingdom of truth; the Lord has not abdicated the throne of earth or handed it over to the sway of Satan. As for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. The habitable and cultivated earth, with all its produce, owns the Lord to be both its Creator and Sustainer, builder and upholder. (61)
Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the
work of thy hand. Ps. 102:25
Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth. Creation is no new work with God, and therefore to "create Jerusalem a praise in the earth" will not be difficult to him. Long ere the holy city was laid in ruins the Lord made a world out of nothing, and it will be no labour to him to raise the walls from their heaps and replace the stones in their courses. We can neither continue our own existence nor give being to others; but the Lord not only is, but he is the Maker of all things that are; hence, when our affairs are at the very lowest ebb we are not at all despairing, because the Almighty and Eternal Lord can yet restore us. And the heavens are the work of thine hands. Thou canst therefore not merely lay the foundations of Zion, but complete its roof, even as thou hast arched in the world with its ceiling of blue; the loftiest stories of thine earthly palace shall be piled on high without difficulty when thou dost undertake the building thereof, since thou art architect of the stars, and the spheres in which they move. When a great labour is to be performed it is eminently reassuring to contemplate the power of him who has undertaken to accomplish it; and when our own strength is exhausted it is supremely cheering to see the unfailing energy which is still engaged on our behalf. (62)
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again
to cover the earth. Ps. 104:9
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth. That bound has once been passed, but it shall never be so again. The deluge was caused by the suspension of the divine mandate which held the floods in check: they knew their old supremacy, and hastened to reassert it, but now the covenant promise for ever prevents a return of that carnival of waters, that revolt of the waves: ought we not rather to call it that impetuous rush of the indignant floods to avenge the injured honour of their King, whom men had offended? Jehovah's word bounds the ocean, using only a narrow belt of sand to confine it to its own limits: that apparently feeble restraint answers every purpose, for the sea is obedient as a little child to the bidding of its Maker. Destruction lies asleep in the bed of the ocean, and though our sins might well arouse it, yet are its bands made strong by covenant mercy, so that it cannot break loose again upon the guilty sons of men. (63)
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth
throughout all generations. Ps. 145:13
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. His meditation has brought him near to God, and God near to him: he speaks to him in adoration, changing the pronoun from "his" to "thy." He sees the great King, and prostrates himself before him. It is well when our devotion opens the gate of heaven, and enters within the portal, to speak with God face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend. The point upon which the Psalmist's mind rests is the eternity of the divine throne,—"thy reign is a reign of all eternities." The Lord's kingdom is without beginning, without break, without bound, and without end. He never abdicates his throne, neither does he call in a second to share his empire. None can overthrow his power, or break away from his rule. Neither this age, nor the age to come, nor ages of ages shall cause his sovereignty to fail. Herein is rest for faith. "The Lord sitteth King for ever." And thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. Men come and go like shadows on the wall, but God reigneth eternally. We distinguish kings as they succeed each other by calling them first and second; but this King is Jehovah, the First and the Last. Adam in his generation knew his Creator to be King, and the last of his race shall know the same. All hail, Great God I Thou art ever Lord of lords!
These three verses are a reverent hymn concerning "the kingdom of God": they will be best appreciated by those who are in that kingdom in the fullest sense, and are most truly loyal to the Lord. It is, according to these verses, a kingdom of glory and power; a kingdom of light which men are to know, and of might which men are to feel; it is full of majesty and eternity; it is the benediction of every generation. We are to speak of it, talk of it, and make it known, and then we are to acknowledge it in the homage directed distinctly to the Lord himself—as in Ps 145:13. In these three verses Jehovah is adored for his gracious providence towards men and all other creatures; this fitly follows the proclamation of his royalty, for we here see how he rules his kingdom, and provides for his subjects. (64)
Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him,
ye heaven of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them
praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. He
hath also stablished them for ever and ever; he hath made a decree which
shall not pass. Ps. 148:3-6
Verse 3. Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. The Psalmist enters into detail as to the heavenly hosts. As all, so each, must praise the God of each and all. The sun and moon, as joint rulers of day and night, are paired in praise: the one is the complement of the other, and so they are closely associated in the summons to worship. The sun has his peculiar mode of glorifying the Great Father of lights, and the moon has her own special method of reflecting his brightness. There is a perpetual adoration of the Lord in the skies: it varies with night and day, but it ever continues while sun and moon endure. There is ever a lamp burning before the high altar of the Lord. Nor are the greater luminaries allowed to drown with their floods of light the glory of the lesser brilliants, for all the stars are bidden to the banquet of praise. Stars are many, so many that no one can count the host included under the words, "all ye stars"; yet no one of them refuses to praise its Maker. From their extreme brilliance they are fitly named "stars of light"; and this light is praise in a visible form twinkling to true music. Light is song glittering before the eye instead of resounding in the ear. Stars without light would render no praise, and Christians without light rob the Lord of his glory. However small our beam, we must not hide it: if we cannot be sun or moon we must aim to be one of the "stars of light", and our every twinkling must be to the honour of our Lord.
Verse 4. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens. By these are meant those regions which are heavens to those who dwell in our heavens; or those most heavenly of abodes where the most choice of spirits dwell. As the highest of the highest, so the best of the best are to praise the Lord. If we could climb as much above the heavens as the heavens are above the earth, we could still cry out to all around us, "Praise ye the Lord." There can be none so great and high as to be above praising Jehovah. And ye waters that be above the heavens. Let the clouds roll up volumes of adoration. Let the sea above roar, and the fulness thereof, at the presence of Jehovah, the God of Israel. There is something of mystery about these supposed reservoirs of water; but let them be what they may, and as they may, they shall give glory to the Lord our God. Let the most unknown and perplexing phenomena take up their parts in the universal praise.
Verse 5. Let them praise the name of the LORD; for he commanded, and they were created. Here is good argument: The Maker should have honour from his works, they should tell forth his praise: and thus they should praise his name—by which his character is intended. The name of JEHOVAH is written legibly upon his works, so that his power, wisdom, goodness, and other attributes are therein made manifest to thoughtful men, and thus his name is praised. The highest praise of God is to declare what he is. We can invent nothing which would magnify the Lord: we can never extol him better than by repeating his name, or describing his character. The Lord is to be extolled as creating all things that exist, and as doing so by the simple agency of his word. He created by a command; what a power is this! Well may he expect those to praise him who owe their being to him. Evolution may be atheistic; but the doctrine of creation logically demands worship; and hence, as the tree is known by its fruit, it proves itself to be true. Those who were created by command are under command to adore their Creator. The voice which said "Let them be", now saith "Let them praise."
Verse 6. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever. The continued existence of celestial beings is due to the supporting might of Jehovah, and to that alone. They do not fail because the Lord does not fail them. Without his will these things cannot alter; he has impressed upon them laws which only he himself can change. Eternally his ordinances are binding upon them. Therefore ought the Lord to be praised because he is Preserver as well as Creator, Ruler as well as Maker. He hath made a decree which shall not pass. The heavenly bodies are ruled by Jehovah's decree: they cannot pass his limit, or trespass against his law. His rule and ordination can never be changed except by himself, and in this sense his decree "shall not pass": moreover, the highest and most wonderful of creatures are perfectly obedient to the statutes of the Great King, and thus his decree is not passed over. This submission to law is praise. Obedience is homage; order is harmony. In this respect the praise rendered to Jehovah from the "bodies celestial" is absolutely perfect. His almighty power upholds all things in their spheres, securing the march of stars and the flight of seraphs; and thus the music of the upper regions is never marred by discord, nor interrupted by destruction. The eternal hymn is for ever chanted; even the solemn silence of the spheres is a perpetual Psalm. (65)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 3
God's sovereign power, or His omnipotence:
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth. Prov. 8:27
I was there, not as an idle spectator, but as a co-worker with my Father. Of the depth, i.e. of that great and deep abyss of water and earth mixed together, which is called both earth and water, and the deep, Gen. i. 2. When he made this lower world round, or in the form of a globe, agreeable to the form of the upper world. (66)
I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it and God doeth it, that men should fear before him. Ecc. 3:14
He is in one mind, and who can turn him? His measures are never broken, nor is he ever put upon new counsels, but what he has purposed shall be effected, and all the world cannot defeat nor disannul it. It behoves us therefore to say, "Let it be as God wills," for, how cross soever it may be to our designs and interests, God's will is his wisdom. 2. That that counsel needs not to be altered, for there is nothing amiss in it, nothing that can be amended. If we could see it altogether at one view, we should see it so perfect that nothing can be put to it, for there is no deficiency in it, nor any thing taken from it, for there is nothing in it unnecessary, or that can be spared. As the word of God, so the works of God are every one of them perfect in its kind, and it is presumption for us either to add to them or to diminish from them, Deu. 4:2. It is therefore as much our interest, as our duty, to bring our wills to the will of God.
V. We must study to answer God's end in all his providences, which is in general to make us religious. God does all that men should fear before him, to convince them that there is a God above them that has a sovereign dominion over them, at whose disposal they are and all their ways, and in whose hands their times are and all events concerning them, and that therefore they ought to have their eyes ever towards him, to worship and adore him, to acknowledge him in all their ways, to be careful in every thing to please him, and afraid of offending him in any thing. God thus changes his disposals, and yet is unchangeable in his counsels, not to perplex us, much less to drive us to despair, but to teach us our duty to him and engage us to do it. That which God designs in the government of the world is the support and advancement of religion among men.
VI. Whatever changes we see or feel in this world, we must acknowledge the inviolable steadiness of God's government. The sun rises and sets, the moon increases and decreases, and yet both are where they were, and their revolutions are in the same method from the beginning according to the ordinances of heaven; so it is with the events of Providence (v. 15): That which has been is now. God has not of late begun to use this method. No; things were always as mutable and uncertain as they are now, and so they will be: That which is to be has already been; and therefore we speak inconsiderately when we say, "Surely the world was never so bad as it is now," or "None ever met with such disappointments as we meet with," or "The times will never mend;" they may mend with us, and after a time to mourn there may come a time to rejoice, but that will still be liable to the common character, to the common fate. The world, as it has been, is and will be constant in inconstancy; for God requires that which is past, that is, repeats what he has formerly done and deals with us no otherwise than as he has used to deal with good men; and shall the earth be forsaken for us, or the rock removed out of his place? There has no change befallen us, nor any temptation by it overtaken us, but such as is common to men. Let us not be proud and secure in prosperity, for God may recall a past trouble, and order that to seize us and spoil our mirth (Ps. 30:7); nor let us despond in adversity, for God may call back the comforts that are past, as he did to Job. We may apply this to our past actions, and our behaviour under the changes that have affected us. God will call us to account for that which is past; and therefore, when we enter into a new condition, we should judge ourselves for our sins in our former condition, prosperous or afflicted. (67)
Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked? Ecc. 7:13
Consider the work of God. To silence our complaints concerning cross events, let us consider the hand of God in them and not open our mouths against that which is his doing; let us look upon the disposal of our condition and all the circumstances of it as the work of God, and consider it as the product of his eternal counsel, which is fulfilled in every thing that befals us. Consider that every work of God is wise, just, and good, and there is an admirable beauty and harmony in his works, and all will appear at last to have been for the best. Let us therefore give him the glory of all his works concerning us, and study to answer his designs in them. Consider the work of God as that which we cannot make any alteration of. Who can make that straight which he has made crooked? Who can change the nature of things from what is settled by the God of nature? If he speak trouble, who can make peace? And, if he hedge up the way with thorns, who can get forward? If desolating judgments go forth with commission, who can put a stop to them? Since therefore we cannot mend God's work, we ought to make the best of it. (68)
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?... Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. Isa. 40:12,26
Verse 12. Lest the Jews should suppose that He who was just before described as a "shepherd" is a mere man, He is now described as God.
Who-Who else but God could do so? Therefore, though the redemption and restoration of His people, foretold here, was a work beyond man's power, they should not doubt its fulfilment since all things are possible to Him who can accurately regulate the proportion of the waters as if He had measured them with His hand (compare Isa 40:15). But Maurer translates: "Who can measure," &c., that is, How immeasurable are the works of God? The former is a better explanation (Job 28:25; Pr 30:4).
span-the space from the end of the thumb to the end of the middle finger extended; God measures the vast heavens as one would measure a small object with his span. dust of the earth-All the earth is to Him but as a few grains of dust contained in a small measure (literally, "the third part of a larger measure"). hills in a balance-adjusted in their right proportions and places, as exactly as if He had weighed them out. Verse 26. bringeth out . host-image from a general reviewing his army: He is Lord of Sabaoth, the heavenly hosts (Job 38:32). calleth . by names-numerous as the stars are. God knows each in all its distinguishing characteristics-a sense which "name" often bears in Scripture; so in Ge 2:19, 20, Adam, as God's vicegerent, called the beasts by name, that is, characterized them by their several qualities, which, indeed, He has imparted. by the greatness . faileth-rather, "by reason of abundance of (their inner essential) force and firmness of strength, not one of them is driven astray"; referring to the sufficiency of the physical forces with which He has endowed the heavenly bodies, to prevent all disorder in their motions [Horsley]. In English Version the sense is, "He has endowed them with their peculiar attributes ('names') by the greatness of His might," and the power of His strength (the better rendering, instead of, "for that He is strong"). (69)
Thus saith God the LORD, he that created the heavens, and stretched them out; he that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; he that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein. Isa. 42:5
Previously God had spoken of Messiah; now (Isa 42:5-7) He speaks to Him. To show to all that He is able to sustain the Messiah in His appointed work, and that all might accept Messiah as commissioned by such a mighty God, He commences by announcing Himself as the Almighty Creator and Preserver of all things. spread . earth-(Ps 136:6). (70)
Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? Isa. 43:13
"None can deliver out of my hand those whom I will punish; not only no man can, but none of all the gods of the heathen can protect." It is therefore a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, because there is no getting out of them again. "I will work what I have designed, both in mercy and judgment, and who shall either oppose or retard it?"
(2.) That the gods of the heathen, who are rivals with him, are not only inferior to him, but no gods at all, which is proved (v. 9) by a challenge: Who among them can declare this that I now declare? Who can foretel things to come? Nay, which of them can show us former things? ch. 41:22. They cannot so much as inspire an historian, much less a prophet. They are challenged to join issue upon this: Let them bring forth their witnesses, to prove their omniscience and omnipotence. And, [1.] If they do prove them, they shall be justified, the idols in demanding homage and the idolaters in paying it. [2.] If they do not prove them, let them say, It is truth; let them own the true God, and receive the truth concerning him, that he is God alone. The cause of God is not afraid to stand a fair trial; but it may reasonably be expected that those who cannot justify themselves in their irreligion should submit to the power of the truth and true religion. (71)
Fear ye not me? saith the LORD: will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can
they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? Jer. 5:22
God shews here why he had said that the people were foolish and without understanding. It was indeed a monstrous stupidity, not to fear at the presence of God, since even inanimate elements obey his bidding: and he takes the sea especially as an example; for there is nothing more terrific than a tempestuous sea. It appears as if it would overwhelm the whole world, when its waves swell with so much violence. No one can in this case do otherwise than tremble. But the sea itself, which makes the stoutest to tremble, quietly obeys God; for however furious may be its tossings, they are yet under restraint. Now, if any inquires how this is, it must be confessed to be a miracle which cannot be accounted for; for the sea, we know, as other elements, is spherical. As the earth is round, so also is the element of water, as well as the air and fire. Since then the form of this element is spherical, we must know that it is not lower than the earth: but it being lighter than the earth shews that it stands above it. How then comes it that the sea does not overflow the whole earth? for it is a liquid, and cannot stand in one place, except retained by some secret power of God. It hence follows, that the sea is confined to its own place, because of God’s appointment, according to what is said by Moses,
“Let the dry land,” said God, “appear,” (Genesis 1:9:) for he intimates that the earth was covered with water, and no part of it appeared, until God formed the sea. Now the word of God, though it is not heard by us, nor resounds in the air, is yet heard by the sea; for the sea is confined within its own limits. Were the sea tranquil, it would still be a wonderful work of God, as he has given the earth to be the habitation of men: but when it is moved, as I have said, by a tempest, and heaven and earth seem to blend together, there is no one, being nigh such a sight, who does not feel dread. Hence then the power of God, and his dread might, appear more evident when he calms the turbulent sea.
We now see the scope of the Prophet’s words: He shews that the Jews were monsters, and unworthy not only to be counted men, but even to be classed with brute animals; for there was more sense and understanding in the tempestuous and raging sea than in men, who seemed endued with reason and understanding. This is the design of the comparison.
But as it was a heavy complaint, the Prophet asks a question, Will ye not fear me? As though God had said, “What do you mean? How is it that I am not feared by you? The sea obeys me, and its fury is checked by my secret bidding; for I have once for all commanded the sea to remain within its own limits, and though it may be violently agitated by storms and tempests, it does not yet exceed my orders. Will not you men, endowed with reason, fear me? will you not tremble at my presence?” And he says, that he had set the sand to be the boundary of the sea: and this is much more expressive than if he had said that he had set boundaries to the sea; for the sand is movable and driven by a small breath of wind, and the sand is also penetrable. Were there rocks along all the shores of the sea, it would not be so wonderful. Had God then restrained the violence of the sea by firm and strong mounds, the keeping of it within its limits might be ascribed to nature; but what firmness is there in sand? for a little water thrown on it will soon penetrate through it. How then is it, that the sea, when tossed by violent storms, does not remove the sand, which is so easily shifted? We hence see that this word is not in vain introduced. And there is a similar passage in Job 38:11, where God, speaking of his infinite power, says among other things,
“Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further:” for doubtless no storm arises, except when it pleases God. He might indeed keep the sea in the same quiet state; but he does not do so: on the contrary, he gives it as it were loose reins, but he says, “Hitherto shall it come.” When therefore high mountains seem to threaten all mortals, and the earth seems nigh an overthrow, then suddenly the impetuous waves are repressed and become calm.
And he adds, A perpetual ordinance It is indeed true that the sea sometimes overflows its limits; formany cities, we know, have been swallowed up by a flood; but still it is rightly said, that it is a perpetual ordinance or decree, that God confines the sea within its own limits. For whenever the sea overflows a small portion of land, we hence learn what it might do without that restraint, mentioned here by Jeremiah and in the book of Job. We hence learn, that there is nothing to hinder the sea from overflowing the whole earth, but the command of God which it obeys. In the mean time the perpetuity of which the Prophet speaks remains generally the same: for though many storms arise every year, yet the fury of the sea is still quieted, but not otherwise than by the command of God. True then is this — that the sea has prescribed limits, over which its waves are not permitted to pass. And hence he says, Move themselves and not prevail shall its waves; and again, Resound, or tumultuate shall they, and shall not pass over
We now apprehend the design of this verse: God complains, that there was so much madness and stupidity in the people, that they did not obey him as much as the sea, even the stormy sea. He then condemns here the Jews, as though they were monsters; for nothing can be more contrary to nature than for the tempestuous sea to have more understanding than man, created in God’s image and endued with reason. (72)
Ah LORD God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee. Jer. 32:17
He beginneth his prayer with a recognition of God's omnipotency, and the infiniteness of his power, which was showed in first making the heaven and the earth, as we read, Gen. i.; Psal. Cx1vi. 6. God himself used this instance to confirm his people's faith in his ability to do what he pleased, chap. xxvii. 5. It is observable, that the servants of God in holy writ used in their prayers to give God such names as might help to confirm their faith as to what they asked. Nothing can further be necessary to confirm our faith that we shall have what we ask, than for us to be persuaded that the person is able to do it, and also willing. The prophet beginneth with a declaration of his faith in God as to the first, and then goes to the second. (73)
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the
times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. Dan. 2:19-22
Matters that were hidden from Babylon's wise men were revealed to Daniel. Where the former had
been impotent (10), the God of heaven proved Himself able to reveal to His servants what they needed to know. In a vision of the night Daniel saw what the king had seen in his dream and in addition realized what it meant. Fro the use of vision of the night in Job 4:13 and 33:15 it seems that the recipient of the vision was in a deep sleep, but he was not said to be dreaming, perhaps because the imagery was arising not out of his own mind, but by God's direct intervention.
Relief found expression in a spontaneous hymn of thanksgiving to the only God who could so answer prayer, but there was also an awe because the same God, unseen and infinitely great, had been directly in touch with him personally. This last thought lies behind the opening line of his hymn: the name of God is disclosed only by God Himself (cf. Ex. 6:3; Jdg. 13:17, 18) and represents what may be known of Him. Daniel has just seen something of His wisdom and might and has received from God a share of the divine attributes(23). God's might, explicitly to control the natural order and to govern human politics, anticipates the meaning of the dream which the author has not yet disclosed. God's wisdom likewise, is all-embracing (22), unlimited; but the emphasis throughout is on the fact that God makes His wisdom available: he give wisdom...and knowledge...; he reveals...;thou hast given...thou hast now made known to me...thou hast made known to us, who together prayed for knowledge of the King's dream. (74)
How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. Dan. 4:3
As a king of all the earth Nebuchadnezzar is in a unique position of advantage from which to commend to all the nations of the earth the blessings he has received from the Most High, who kingdom is not only great in extent than his own, but endures through all generations. (75)
Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Jonah 1:17
17. prepared a great fish-not created specially for this purpose, but appointed in His providence, to which all creatures are subservient. The fish, through a mistranslation of Mt 12:40, was formerly supposed to be a whale; there, as here, the original means "a great fish." The whale's neck is too narrow to receive a man. Bochart thinks, the dog-fish, the stomach of which is so large that the body of a man in armor was once found in it [Hierozoicon, 2.5.12]. Others, the shark [Jebb]. The cavity in the whale's throat, large enough, according to Captain Scoresby, to hold a ship's jolly boat full of men. A miracle in any view is needed, and we have no data to speculate further. A "sign" or miracle it is expressly called by our Lord in Mt 12:39. Respiration in such a position could only be by miracle. The miraculous interposition was not without a sufficient reason; it was calculated to affect not only Jonah, but also Nineveh and Israel. The life of a prophet was often marked by experiences which made him, through sympathy, best suited for discharging the prophetical function to his hearers and his people. The infinite resources of God in mercy as well as judgment are prefigured in the devourer being transformed into Jonah's preserver. Jonah's condition under punishment, shut out from the outer world, was rendered as much as possible the emblem of death, a present type to Nineveh and Israel, of the death in sin, as his deliverance was of the spiritual resurrection on repentance; as also, a future type of Jesus' literal death for sin, and resurrection by the Spirit of God.
three days and three nights-probably, like the Antitype, Christ, Jonah was cast forth on the land on the third day (Mt 12:40); the Hebrew counting the first and third parts of days as whole twenty-four hour days. (76)
And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd. Jonah 4:6
6. gourd-Hebrew, kikaion; the Egyptian kiki, the "ricinus" or castor-oil plant, commonly called "palm-christ" (palma-christi). It grows from eight to ten feet high. Only one leaf grows on a branch, but that leaf being often more than a foot large, the collective leaves give good shelter from the heat. It grows rapidly, and fades as suddenly when injured. to deliver him from his grief-It was therefore grief, not selfish anger, which Jonah felt (see on Jon 4:1). Some external comforts will often turn the mind away from its sorrowful bent. (77)
But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Matt. 19:26
26. With men this is impossible. Christ does not entirely free the minds of his disciples from all anxiety; for it is proper that they should perceive how difficult it is to ascend to heaven; first, that they may direct all their efforts to this object; and next, that, distrusting themselves, they may implore strength from heaven. We see how great is our indolence and carelessness; and what the consequence would be if believers thought that they had to walk at ease, for pastime, along a smooth and cheerful plain. Such is the reason why Christ does not extenuate the danger — though he perceives the terror which it excited in his disciples — but rather increases it; for though formerly he said only that it was difficult, he now affirms it to be impossible Hence it is evident, that those teachers are guilty of gross impropriety, who are so much afraid to speak harshly, that they give indulgence to the slothfulness of the flesh. They ought to follow, on the contrary, the rule of Christ, who so regulates his style that, after men have been bowed down within themselves, he teaches them to rely on the grace of God alone, and, at the same time, excites them to prayer. In this manner, the weakness of men is seasonably relieved, not by ascribing anything to them, but by arousing their minds to expect the grace of God. By this reply of Christ is also refuted that widely embraced principle — which the Papists have borrowed from Jerome — “Whoever shall say that it is impossible to keep the law, let him be accursed. “For Christ plainly declares, that it is not possible for men to keep the way of salvation, except so far as the grace of God assists them. (78)
For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37
He is able to do whatever he wishes to do (Gen. 18:14; Ps. 115:3; Jer. 32:17; Dan. 4:35; Matt. 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27; Eph. 1:19; 3:20). Therefore he was able to give a child to Zechariah and Elizabeth though both had long given up hope of ever having one. And therefore he was also able to fulfill his promise to Mary, without any help from Joseph. (79)
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Romans. 1:20
For the invisible things of God, etc. (1.) Observe what they knew: The invisible things of him, even his eternal power and Godhead. Though God be not the object of sense, yet he hath discovered and made known himself by those things that are sensible. The power and Godhead of God are invisible things, and yet are clearly seen in their products. He works in secret (Job 23:8, 9; Ps. 139:15; Eccl. 11:5), but manifests what he has wrought, and therein makes known his power and Godhead, and others of his attributes which natural light apprehends in the idea of a God. They could not come by natural light to the knowledge of the three persons in the Godhead (though some fancy they have found footsteps of this in Plato's writings), but they did come to the knowledge of the Godhead, at least so much knowledge as was sufficient to have kept them from idolatry. This was that truth which they held in unrighteousness.
(2.) How they knew it: By the things that are made, which could not make themselves, nor fall into such an exact order and harmony by any casual hits; and therefore must have been produced by some first cause or intelligent agent, which first cause could be no other than an eternal powerful God. See Ps. 19:1; Isa. 40:26; Acts 17:24. The workman is known by his work. The variety, multitude, order, beauty, harmony, different nature, and excellent contrivance, of the things that are made, the direction of them to certain ends, and the concurrence of all the parts to the good and beauty of the whole, do abundantly prove a Creator and his eternal power and Godhead. Thus did the light shine in the darkness. And this from the creation of the world. Understand it either, [1.] As the topic from which the knowledge of them is drawn. To evince this truth, we have recourse to the great work of creation. And some think this ktisis kosmou, this creature of the world (as it may be read), is to be understood of man, the ktisis katÕ exocheµn-the most remarkable creature of the lower world, called ktisis, Mk. 16:15. The frame and structure of human bodies, and especially the most excellent powers, faculties, and capacities of human souls, do abundantly prove that there is a Creator, and that he is God. Or, [2.] As the date of the discovery. It as old as the creation of the world. In this sense apo ktiseoµs is most frequently used in scripture. These notices concerning God are not any modern discoveries, hit upon of late, but ancient truths, which were from the beginning. The way of the acknowledgement of God is a good old way; it was from the beginning. Truth got the start of error. II. Their gross idolatry, notwithstanding these discoveries that God made to them of himself; described here, v. 21-23, 25. We shall the less wonder at the inefficacy of these natural discoveries to prevent the idolatry of the Gentiles if we remember how prone even the Jews, who had scripture light to guide them, were to idolatry; so miserably are the degenerate sons of men plunged in the mire of sense. (80)
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power. Eph. 1:19
Paul continues by adding one more item to the hop and the inheritance. He says, “I pray that the eyes
of your hearts may be illumined, so that you may know what is the hope...what the riches of the glory
of his inheritance among the saints,” and what the surpassing greatness of his power (displayed) with
respect to us who believe, as seen in that manifestation of his infinite might.... This “surpassing
greatness of his [God the Father's] power” is needed as a link between the two other items which were
mentioned in the preceding verse, namely, the hop and the inheritance. The power (Greek dunamis, cf.
“dynamite”) of God is necessary in order that the hope may be realized, the inheritance obtained. The
words “with respect to us who believe” show that this power is exerted in he interest of believers, of
no one else. They alone receive the inheritance. Paul is asking God to give the addressed enlightened
eyes in order that they may know what is the surpassing greatness of God”s power “...according to that
working of the strength of his might,” etc., thus literally. The three words he employs to show how this
is used are: energeia (whence our “energy”), that is, activity, working, manifestation, kratos: exercised
strength; and ischus: might, great inherent strength. Nevertheless, when such synonyms are piled up,
as happens in this part of the sentence, it is a question whether we should distinguish them so sharply.
F. W. Grosheide is probably correct when he says, “It is difficult to indicate an accurate distinction
between the various words used for power. It is permissible to conclude that the apostle uses more than
one term to indicate the fulness and certainty of this power” (op. cit., p. 30). In harmony with this view
I suggest the translation “power...as seen in that manifestation of his infinite might,” which he exerted
in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 4
God's sovereign creation power dealing with men:
Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb,
I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone;
that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself. Isa. 44:24
Thus saith Jehovah. The Prophet will immediately describe in his own manner the strength and power of God; because the bare promises would have little authority and weight, if the power of God were not brought forward, in order to remove all doubt from our hearts. By our distrust and obstinacy we are wont to lessen the power and goodness of God, that is, to ascribe to it less than we ought; and, therefore, the Prophet, by remarkable commendations, which we shall soon afterwards see, will encourage believers to learn to hope beyond hope.
Thy Redeemer. He begins by praising the goodness and fatherly kindness with which God has embraced his Church, and which he intends to exercise till the end; for the declaration of his power and strength would have little influence on us, if he did not approach to us and assure us of his kindness. We ought not therefore to begin with his majesty, nor to ascend so high, lest we be thrown down; but we ought to embrace his goodness, by which he gently invites us to himself. The name Redeemer in this passage refers to past time, because the Jews, who had once been brought out of Egypt, as from a gulf, by an incredible miracle, ought to have been strengthened by the remembrance of that “redemption” to expect continual advancement. (Exodus 12:51.I
And thy Maker. He calls himself the “Maker,” in the same sense which we formerly explained; that is, because he regenerates by his Spirit those whom he adopts, and thus makes them new creatures; and therefore he mentions, in passing, the former benefits which they had received, that they may conclude from them, for the future, that God will abide by his promises. When he added from the womb, it was in order that the people might acknowledge that all the benefits which they had received from God were undeserved; for he anticipated them by his compassion, before they could even call upon him. By this consolation David comforted his heart in very severe distresses,
“Thou art he who brought me out of the womb; I trusted in thee while I was hanging on my mother’s breast; I was thrown on thee from my birth; thou art my God from my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 22:9,10.)
Yet here he does not speak of the favor generally bestowed, by which God brings any human beings into the world, but praises his covenant, by which he adopted the seed of Abraham to a thousand generations; for they were not at liberty to doubt that he would wish to preserve his work even to the end.
Who alone stretcheth out the heavens. Now follow the commendations of his power, because he has measured out at his pleasure the dimensions of heaven, and earth. By the word “stretcheth out” he means that he has in his hands the government of the whole world, and that there is nothing that is not subject to him; for the power of God ought to be united to his word in such a manner as never to be separated. (82)
(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom
he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which
be not as though they were. Ro. 4:17
As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations, — According to the Apostle’s interpretation of this promise, it imports a numerous spiritual offspring, as well as a numerous natural posterity. It is not by way of what is called accommodation that this is said; it is the real interpretation of the promise, whether Abraham himself understood it so or not. This interpretation of the Apostle is a key to all that is said on this subject. It shows that Abraham had a double seed, that the promise had a double meaning, and both are distinctly verified. Thus, each of the three promises made to Abraham had a double fulfillment: — Of a numerous posterity; of God being a God to his seed; and of the earthly and heavenly country. Before Him. — At that moment, when he stood in the presence of God whom he believed, Genesis 17:4, he was made the father of all his natural and spiritual posterity; and though he was not then actually a father, yet, being so in the purpose of God, it was made as sure to him as if it had already taken place. God now willed it, and the result would follow as surely as creation followed His word. Quickeneth the dead. — Does this refer to the literal general fact of bringing the dead to life, or to Abraham’s body now dead, and Sarah’s incapacity of having children at her advanced age, or to the raising of Isaac had he been sacrificed? The first appears to be the meaning, and includes the others; and the belief of it is the ground on which the others rest. Faith in God’s power, as raising the dead, is a proper ground of believing any other work of power which God engages to perform, or which is necessary to be performed, in order to fulfill His word. If God raises the dead, why should Abraham look with distrust on his own body, or consider Sarah’s natural incapacity to bear children? Why should he doubt that God will fulfill His promise as to his numerous seed by Isaac, even though Isaac shall be slain? God could raise him from the dead. Calleth those things which be not as though they were. — This does not say that God calls into existence the things that exist not, as He calls into existence the things that are. But God speaks of the things that exist not, in the same way as He speaks of the things that exist; that is, He speaks of them as existing, though they do not then actually exist. (83)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 5
God's Sovereign Providence:
Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters. Ex. 15:10
The destruction of the enemy; the waters were divided, v. 8. The floods stood upright as a heap. Pharaoh and all his hosts were buried in the waters. The horse and his rider could not escape (v. 1), the chariots, and the chosen captains (v. 4); they themselves went into the sea, and they were overwhelmed, v. 19. The depths, the sea, covered them, and the proud waters went over the proud sinners; they sank like a stone, like lead (v. 5, 10), under the weight of their own guilt and God's wrath. Their sin had made them hard like a stone, and now they justly sink like a stone. Nay, the earth itself swallowed them (v. 12); their dead bodies sank into the sands upon which they were thrown up, which sucked them in. Those whom the Creator fights against the whole creation is at war with. All this was the Lord's doing, and his only. It was an act of his power: Thy right hand, O Lord, not ours, has dashed in pieces the enemy, v. 6. It was with the blast of thy nostrils (v. 8), and thy wind (v. 10), and the stretching out of thy right hand, v. 12. It was an instance of his transcendent power-in the greatness of thy excellency; and it was the execution of his justice: Thou sentest forth thy wrath, v. 7. This destruction of the Egyptians was made the more remarkable by their pride and insolence, and their strange assurance of success: The enemy said, I will pursue, v. 9. Here is, First, Great confidence. When they pursue, they do not question but they shall overtake; and, when they overtake, they do not question but they shall overcome, and obtain so decisive a victory as to divide the spoil. Note, It is common for men to be most elevated with the hope of success when they are upon the brink of ruin, which makes their ruin so much the sorer. See Isa. 37:24, 25. Secondly, Great cruelty-nothing but killing, and slaying, and destroying, and this will satisfy his lust; and a barbarous lust that is which so much blood must be the satisfaction of. Note, It is a cruel hatred with which the church is hated; its enemies are bloody men. This is taken notice of here to show, 1. That God resists the proud, and delights to humble those who lift up themselves; he that says, "I will, and I will, whether God will or no," shall be made to know that wherein he deals proudly God is above him. 2. That those who thirst for blood shall have enough of it. Those who love to be destroying shall be destroyed; for we know who has said, Vengeance is mine, I will repay. (84)
The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all. Ps. 103:19
Here is, I. The doctrine of universal providence laid down, v. 19. He has secured the happiness of his peculiar people by promise and covenant, but the order of mankind, and the world in general, he secures by common providence. The Lord has a throne of his own, a throne of glory, a throne of government. He that made all rules all, and both by a word of power: He has prepared his throne, has fixed and established it that it cannot be shaken; he has afore-ordained all the measures of his government and does all according to the counsel of his own will. He has prepared it in the heavens, above us, and out of sight; for he holds back the face of his throne, and spreads a cloud upon it (Job 26:9); yet he can himself judge through the dark cloud, Job 22:13. Hence the heavens are said to rule (Dan. 4:26), and we are led to consider this by the influence which even the visible heavens have upon this earth, their dominion, Job 38:33; Gen. 1:16. But though God's throne is in heaven, and there he keeps his court, and thither we are to direct to him (Our Father who art in heaven), yet his kingdom rules over all. He takes cognizance of all the inhabitants, and all the affairs, of this lower world, and disposes all persons and things according to the counsel of his will, to his own glory (Dan. 4:35): His kingdom rules over all kings and all kingdoms, and from it there is no exempt jurisdiction. II. The duty of universal praise inferred from it: if all are under God's dominion, all must do him homage. (85)
Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. Isa. 54:16
Behold, I have created the workmen. The Lord shows how easily and readily he delivers his Church from the base attacks of wicked men; for they can do nothing but so far as the Lord permits them, though he makes use of them as instruments for chastising his people. Moreover, this may be appropriately viewed as referring both to the Babylonians and to other foes who afterwards distressed the elect people. If the former sense be preferred, God undertakes to prove that he can easily drive away those whom he led against them, and east down those whom he raised up. If it be supposed to refer to Antiochus and others of the same description, the meaning will not be very different; namely, that they too shall not be permitted to hurt them, because they cannot even move a finger but by God’s direction.
But it may be thought that the Prophet contradicts himself; for in the former verse he said, that wicked men attack the Church “without the Lord,” and now he says that they fight under God as their leader, that under his guidance and direction they may waste and destroy. I reply, we must keep in view the contrast; namely, that the Lord had raised up the Babylonians to destroy the Church. We must observe the metaphor of the deluge, by which he denoted utter extermination; for at that time the Church might be said to have been drowned, and he made use of the Babylonians as his agents for that purpose. But he solemnly declares that henceforth he is resolved to restrain his anger, so as never to permit the Church to be destroyed by her enemies, though he chastise her by his own hand. The object at which the enemies of the Church aim, and which they labor with all their might to accomplish, is to ruin and destroy the Church; but the Lord restrains their attacks; for “without him,” that is, without his command, they do nothing. Some explain the meaning to be, that. “the workman has been created for his work,” that is, that he may effect his own destruction, and the waster, to destroy himself. But the former sense appears to me more simple.
I have created the waster to destroy. When the Lord says that he “createth the waster,” this does not refer merely to the nature with which men are born, but to the very act of “wasting.” And yet we must not, on that account, lay blame on God, as if he were the author of the unjust cruelty which dwells in men alone; for God does not give assent to their wicked inclinations, but regulates their efforts by his secret providence, and employs them as the instruments of his anger. But on this subject we have treated in the exposition of other passages. (86)
Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Lam. 3:37
Who is it that can (as God, Ps 33:9) effect by a word anything, without the will of God? (87)
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the
ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matt. 10:29,30
Sparrows and other small birds were caught, killed, skinned, roasted, and consumed. They were considered delicacies, as is still the case in certain countries. It is not surprising therefore that they had become an article of commerce, were bought and sold. The price at the time when Jesus spoke these words was “two for an as (or: assarion),” (cf. 5:26), a Roman copper coin worth only about one-sixteenth of a denarious. We would call it a cent or penny; hence, “two for a penny.” For the price of two cents and extra sparrow was thrown in; hence, “five for two cents” (Luke 12:6). But even though relatively speaking these sparrows were so cheap, so insignificant in comparison with other costlier articles, Jesus assures his disciples, “Not a single sparrow shall fall to the ground without your Father,” thus literally; probably meaning, “without the involvement or the will of your Father.” Note that their Creator is “your Father.” Jesus declares that not only the soul and the body (see verse 28) of the disciples are matters of importance to their heavenly Father, but even the very hairs of their head are all numbered; and this in the sense that he both knows how many there are and pays attention to each and to all. Each of these hairs is of some value to him, since it is the hair of one of his children. Therefore apart from his sovereign care and loving heart nothing can happen even to any of these hairs. Here God's general providence with respect to all his creatures and his special providence of which all men are the objects make place for that very special watchfulness which he exercises in behalf of those who by virtue not only of creation but also of redemption are his own. Are they not more precious to him than any number of sparrows? There is something unique about the Father's love for those whom he has chosen as his own, something very special. To appreciate the depth and tenderness of 10:31 it should be read not only in its own context but also in the light of other similarly beautiful assurances, namely, those found in Ps. 91:14-16; 116:15; Isa. 49:16; Hos. 11:8; Matt. 11:25, 26; Luke 12:32; John 13:1; 14:3; 17:24; Rom. 8:28; 1 John 4:19; and Rev. 3:21, to mention only a few. (88)
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in
earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or
principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And
he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Co. 1:16,17
16. Visible and invisible. Both of these kinds were included in the foregoing distinction of heavenly and earthly things; but as Paul meant chiefly to make that affirmation in reference to Angels, he now makes mention of things invisible. Not only, therefore, have those heavenly creatures which are visible to our eyes, but spiritual creatures also, been created by the Son of God. What immediately follows, whether thrones, etc., is as though he had said — “by whatever name they are called.”
By thrones some understand Angels. I am rather, however, of opinion, that the heavenly palace of God’s majesty is meant by the term, which we are not to imagine to be such as our mind can conceive of, but such as is suitable to God himself. We see the sun and moon, and the whole adorning of heaven, but the glory of God’s kingdom is hid from our perception, because it is spiritual, and above the heavens. In fine, let us understand by the term thrones that seat of blessed immortality which is exempted from all change.
By the other terms he undoubtedly describes the angels. He calls them powers, principalities, and dominions, not, as if they swayed any separate kingdom, or were endowed with peculiar power, “Have power or authority of themselves.” but because they are the ministers of Divine power and dominion. “Are the executors of God’s power, and ministers of his dominion.” It is customary, however, that, in so far as God manifests his power in creatures, his names are, in that proportion, transferred to them. Thus he is himself alone Lord and Father, but those are also called lords and fathers whom he dignifies with this honor. Hence it comes that angels, as well as judges, are called gods. See Calvin on John, vol. 1: p. 419. Hence, in this passage also, angels are signalized by magnificent titles, which intimate, not what they can do of themselves, or apart from God, but what God does by them, and what functions he has assigned to them. These things it becomes us to understand in such a manner as to detract nothing from the glory of God alone; for he does not communicate his power to angels as to lessen his own; he does not work by them in such a manner as to resign his power to them; he does not desire that his glory should shine forth in them, so as to be obscured in himself. Paul, however, designedly extols the dignity of angels in terms thus magnificent, that no one may think that it stands in the way of Christ alone having the pre-eminence over them. He makes use, therefore, of these terms, as it were by way of concession, as though he had said, that all their excellence detracts nothing from Christ, “Takes nothing from the glory of Christ.” however honorable the titles with which they are adorned. As for those who philosophize on these terms with excessive subtlety, that they may draw from them the different orders of angels, let them regale themselves with their dainties, but they are assuredly very remote from Paul’s design.
17. All things were created by him, and for him. He places angels in subjection to Christ, that they may not obscure his glory, for four reasons: In the first place, because they were created by him; secondly, because their creation ought to be viewed as having a relation to him, as their legitimate end; thirdly, because he himself existed always, prior to their creation; fourthly, because he sustains them by his power, and upholds them in their condition. At the same time, he does not affirm this merely as to angels, but also as to the whole world. Thus he places the Son of God in the Highest seat of honor, that he may have the pre-eminence over angels as well as men, and may bring under control all creatures in heaven and in earth. (89)
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the exceeding image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Magesty on high. Heb. 1:1-3
That which distinguishes the Hebrews’ Epistle from all other books is that it has for its subject the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. Its theme is the super-abounding excellency of the new covenant. The method followed by the Holy Spirit in developing His theme is to take Him who is the center and circumference, the life and light of Christianity, even Christ, and hold before Him one object after another. As he does so, elevated, important, venerated, as some of those objects are, yet, in the presence of the "Son" their glories fade into utter insignificance.
Someone has suggested an analogy with what is recorded in Matthew 17. There we see Christ upon the holy Mount, transfigured before His disciples; and, as they continue gazing on His flashing excellency, they saw no man "save Jesus only." At first, there appeared standing with Him, Moses and Elijah, and so real and tangible were they, Peter said, "If Thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But as they looked "a blight cloud overshadowed them." and a Voice was heard saying, "This is My Beloved Son: hear Him" (Luke 9:35). How significant are the words that immediately followed: "And when the Voice was passed, Jesus was found alone." The glory associated with Moses and Elijah was so eclipsed by the infinitely greater glory connected with Christ, that they faded from view.
Now it is something very much like this that we see here all through the Hebrews’ Epistle. The Holy Spirit takes up one object after another, holds each one up as it were in the presence of the all-excellent "Son," and as He does so, their glory is eclipsed, and the Lord Jesus is "found alone." The prophets, the angels, Moses, Joshua, the Levitical priesthood, the Old Testament men of faith, each come into view; each is compared with Christ, and each, in turn, fades away before His greater glory. Thus, the very things which Judaism most highly esteemed are shown to be far inferior to what God has now made known in the Christian revelation.
In the opening verses the keynote of the Epistle is at once struck. As is usual in Scripture, the Spirit has placed the key for us over the very entrance. There we see an antithesis is drawn. There we behold a contrast between Judaism and Christianity. There we are shown the immeasurable superiority of the latter over the former. There we have brought before us the "Son" as the Speaker to whom we must listen, the Object on which to gaze, the Satisfier of the heart, the One through whom God is now perfectly and finally made known. God hath, in these last days, "spoken unto us in Son." As God is the Source from which all blessings flow, He is set before us in the very first word of the Epistle. As Christ is the Channel through which all blessing comes to us, He is mentioned next, and that, in His highest character, as "Son." The more these opening verses are prayerfully pondered, the more will their wondrous depths, exhaustless contents, and unspeakable preciousness be made apparent.
In the preceding article we pointed out how that in the first two verses of Hebrews a contrast is drawn between Christ and the prophets. Israel regarded them with the highest veneration, and justly so, for they were the instruments Jehovah had condescended to employ in the giving forth of the revelation of His mind and will in Old Testament times. But Divine as were their communications, they were but introductory to something better and grander. The revelation which God made through them was neither complete nor final, as was hinted at in its fragmentary character: "in many parts and in many ways" God, of old, spake to the fathers in the prophets. Over against this, as transcending and excelling the Old Testament revelation, God has, in these last days "spoken to us in Son," i.e., in Christianity has given a new, perfect, final revelation of Himself.
Thus, the superiority over Judaism of Christianity is here denoted in a twofold way: First, by necessary implication the latter, not being diverse and fragmentary, is one and complete; it is the grand consummation toward which the other was but introductory; it is the substance and reality, of which the former furnished but the shadows and types. Second, by the instruments employed: in the one God spoke "in the prophets," in the other "in (His) Son." Just as far as the personal glory of the Son excels that of the prophets, so is the revelation God made through Christ more sublime and exalted than that which He made under Judaism. In the one He was made known as light—the requirements, claims, demands of His holiness. In the other, He is manifested as love—the affections of His heart are displayed.
Now, to prevent the Hebrews from concluding that Christ was nothing more than another instrument through which God had "spoken," the Holy Spirit in the verses which we are now to take up, brings before us some of the highest and most blessed of our Savior’s personal excellencies. He there proceeds to exalt the Hebrews’ conception of the Divine Prophet and Founder of the new economy. This He does by bringing into view seven of His wondrous glories. To the contemplation of those we now turn. Let us consider.
1. His Heirship.
"Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things" (verse 2). There are three things here claiming attention. First, the character in which Christ is viewed. Second, His appointment unto the inheritance. Third, the scope of the inheritance.
First, this declaration that God has appointed the Savior "Heir of all things" is similar in scope to that word of Peter’s on the day of Pentecost. "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). In both passages the reference is to the honor which has been conferred upon the Mediator, and in each case the design of speaker or writer was to magnify the Christian revelation by showing the exalted dignity of its Author and Head.
That the title "Heir" is similar in force to "Lord" is clear from Galatians 4:1, "The heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all." Yet though there is a similarity between the terms "Heir" and "Lord," there is also a clear distinction between them; not only so, we may admire the Divine discrimination in the one used in Hebrews 1:2. Strikingly does it follow immediately after the reference to Him as "Son," in fact furnishing proof thereof, for the son is the father’s heir.
The word "heir" suggests two things: dignity and dominion, with the additional implication of legal title thereto. For its force see Genesis 21:10, 12; Galatians 4:1, etc. "An ‘heir’ is a successor to his father in all that his father hath. In connection with the Father and the Son, the supreme sovereignty of the One is nowise infringed upon by the supreme sovereignty of the Other—cf. John 5:19. The difference is only in the manner: the Father doeth all by the Son, and the Son doeth all from the Father" (Dr. Gouge). The title "Heir" here denotes Christ’s proprietorship. He is the Possessor and Disposer of all things.
Second, unto an inheritance Christ was "appointed" by God. This at once shows us that the "Son" through whom God has revealed Himself, is here viewed not in His abstract Deity, but mediatorially, as incarnate. Only as such could He be "appointed" Heir; as God the Son, essentially, He could not be deputed to anything.
This "appointment" was in the eternal counsels of the Godhead. Two things are hereby affirmed: certainty and valid title. Because God has predestined that the Mediator should be "Heir of all things," His inheritance is most sure and absolutely guaranteed, for "the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul?" (Isa. 14:27); hath He not said, "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:10)! Again: because God has "appointed" the Mediator "Heir" we are assured of His indubitable right to this supreme dignity. That which is said of Christ’s being made priest, in Hebrews 5:5, may also be applied to this other dignity: Christ glorified not Himself to be an Heir, but He that saith to Him, "Thou art My Son, today have I begotten Thee," also "appointed" Him Heir.
Above we have said, This appointment was in the eternal counsels of the Godhead. With our present passage should be compared Acts 2:23, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Thus there were two chief things to which the Mediator was "appointed": sufferings (cf. also 1 Peter 1:19, 20), and glory—cf. 1 Peter 1:11. How this shows us that, from the beginning, Christ was the Center of all the Divine counsels. Before a single creature was called into existence, God had appointed an "Heir" to all things, and that Heir was the Lord Jesus. It was the predestined reward of His Voluntary humiliation; He who had not where to lay His head, is now the lawful Possessor of the universe.
This appointment of Christ to the inheritance was mentioned in Old Testament prophecy: "Also I will make Him My Firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth" (Ps. 89:27). "Firstborn" in Scripture refers not so much to primogeniture, as to dignity and inheritance: see Genesis 49:3 for the first occurrence. It is remarkable to observe and most solemn to discover that, in the days of His flesh, Israel recognized Him as such: "This is the Heir come let us kill Him, and the inheritance shall be ours" (Mark 12:7), was their terrible language.
Third, a few words now on the extent of that Inheritance unto which the Mediator has been deputed: "Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things." The manifestation of this is yet future, but confirmation of it was made when the risen Savior said to the disciples, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and earth" (Matt. 28:18). At that time we will recall God’s words, "I will declare the decree (i.e., the "appointment"), Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heaven for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession" (Ps. 2:7, 8). His proprietorship of mankind will be evidenced when He shall "sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats" (Matt. 25:31, 32). His right to dispose of all will be witnessed at the great white throne. But it is when this world has passed away that His universal Heirship will be fully and eternally displayed: on the new earth shall be "the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Rev. 22:1)!
"How rich is our adorable Jesus! The blessed Lord, when He was upon the cross, had nothing. He had not where to lay His head; even His very garments were taken from Him. He was buried in a grave which belonged not to Him or to His family. On earth He was poor to the very last; none so absolutely poor as He. But as man, He is to inherit all things; as Jesus, God and man in one person. All angels, all human beings upon the earth, all powers in the universe, when asked, ‘Who is Lord of all?’ will answer, ‘Jesus the Son of Mary’" (Saphir). Such is the reward which God has ordained for the once humiliated One.
But most wonderful of all is that word in Romans 8:16, 17, "The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." This the angels are not. It is because of their indissoluable union with Him that His people shall also enjoy the Inheritance which God has appointed unto the Son. Herein we discover the Divine discrimination and propriety in here speaking of Christ not as "Lord of all things," but "Heir." We can never be "joint-lords," but grace has made us "joint-heirs." Because of this the Redeemer said to the Father, "the glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them" (John 17:22).
2. His Creatorship.
"By whom also He made the worlds" (verse 2). The Greek term for the last word is "aionas," the primary meaning of which is ages. But here, by a metonymy, it seems to be applied to matter, and signifies, the universe. "Aion properly denotes time, either past or future; and then comes to signify things formed and done in time—the world . . .The aionas is plainly the synonym of the ta panta ("all things") in the preceding clause" (Dr. J. Brown). Two things incline us to this view. First, other scriptures ascribe creation to the Son: John 1:3; Colossians 1:16. Second, this gives force to the previous clause: He was, in the beginning, appointed Heir of all things because He was to be their Creator. Colossians 1:16 confirms this: "all things were created by Him and for Him."
"By whom also He made the worlds." Here is furnished clear proof of the Mediator’s Diety: only God can create. This also is brought in for the purpose of emphasizing the immeasurable value of the new revelation which God has made. Attention is focused on the One in whom and through whom God has spoken in the "last days." Three things are told us in verse 2 concerning Christ: first, we have His person—He is the "Son"; second, His dignity and dominion—He is the "Heir of all things"; third, His work—He has "made the worlds," heaven and earth. If, then, His dignity be so exalted, if His glory be so great, what must not be the word of such a "Son"! what the fullness of truth which God has made known to His people by Him!
3. His Effulgency.
"Who being the brightness of (His) glory" (verse 3). In this verse the Holy Spirit continues to set forth the excellencies of Christ, and in the same order as in the preceding one. First, the Divine dignity of His person, His relation to the Father—He is the Brightness of His glory. The Greek verb from which "brightness" is derived, signifies "to send forth brightness or light," and the noun here used, such brightness as cometh from light, as the sunbeams issuing from the sun. The term is thus used metaphorically. So ably has this been developed by Dr. Gouge we transcribe from his excellent commentary of 1650: "No resemblance taken from any other creature can more fully set out the mutual relation between the Father and the Son: "1. The brightness issuing from the sun is the same nature that the sun is—cf. John 10:30. 2. It is of as long continuance as the sun: never was the sun without the brightness of it—cf. John 1:1. 3. The brightness cannot be separated from the sun: the sun may as well be made no sun, as have the brightness thereof severed from it—cf. Proverbs 8:30. 4. This brightness though from the sun is not the sun itself—cf. John 8:42. 5. The sun and the brightness are distinct from each other: the one is not the other—cf. John 5:17. 6. All the glory of the sun is this brightness—cf. John 17:5; 2 Corinthians 4:6. 7. The light which the sun giveth the world is by this brightness—cf. John 14:9 . . . Thus the Son is no whit inferior to the Father, but every way His equal. He was brightness, the brightness of His Father, yea, also the brightness of His Father’s glory. Whatever excellency soever was in the Father, the same likewise was in the Son, and that in the most transplendent manner. Glory sets out excellency; brightness of glory, the excellency of excellency."
That which is in view in this third item of our passage so far transcends the grasp of the finite mind that it is impossible to give it adequate expression in words. Christ is the irradiation of God’s glory. The Mediator’s relation to the Godhead is like that of the rays to the sun itself. We may conceive of the sun in the firmament, yet shining not: were there no rays, we should not see the sun. So, apart from Christ, the brightness of God’s "glory" could not be perceived by us. Without Christ, man is in the dark, utterly in the dark concerning God. It is in Christ that God is revealed.
4. His Being.
"The express image of His person," or, more literally, "the impress of His substance" (verse 3). The Greek for "express image" is a single word, and the verb from which it is derived signifies "to engrave," and in its noun form "that which is engraved," as the stamp on a coin, the print pressed on paper, the mark made by a seal. Nothing can be more like the original mold or seal than the image pressed out on the clay or wax, the one carrying the very form or features of the other. The Old Testament saints did not perfectly "express" God, nor can angels, for they are but finite creatures; but Christ, being Himself God, could, and did. All that God is, in His nature and character, is expressed and manifested, absolutely and perfectly, by the incarnate Son.
"And the very impress of His substance." Here again we are faced with that which is difficult to comprehend, and harder still to express. Perhaps we may be helped to get the thought by comparing 1 Timothy 6:16 with Colossians 1:15: "Dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see," "Who is the image of the invisible God." All true knowledge of God must come from His approach unto us, for we cannot by "reaching" find Him out. The approach must come from His side, and it has come, "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18).
"The very impress of His substance." This is the nearest approach to defining God’s essence or essential existence. The word "substance" means essential being or essential existence; but how little we know about this! God—self-existent: One who never had a beginning, yet full of all that we know of blessed attributes. And Christ, the incarnate Son, is the very "impress," as it were, of that substance. As we have said, the original term is taken from the impress of a seal. Though we had never seen the seal we might, from beholding the impress of it (that which is exactly like it), form a true and accurate idea of the seal itself. So Christ is the Impress of the substance of God, the One in whom all the Divine perfections are found. Though essentially Light, He is also the Outshining of the "Light"; though in Himself essentially God, He is also the visible Representation of God. Being "with God" and being God, He is also the Manifestation of God; so that by and through Him we learn what God is.
"The very impress of His substance." It is not enough to read Scripture, nor even to compare passage with passage; nor have we done all when we have prayed for light thereon; there must also be meditation, prolonged meditation. Of whom were these words spoken? Of the "Son," but as incarnate, i.e., as the Son of man; of Him who entered this world by mysterious and miraculous conception in the virgin’s womb. Men doubt and deny this, and no wonder, when they have nothing but a corrupt reason to guide them. How can a sin-darkened understanding lay hold of, believe, and love the truth that the great God should hide Himself in a frail human nature! That Omnipotence should be concealed in a Servant’s form! That the Eternal One should become an Infant of days! This is the "great mystery" of godliness, but to the family of God is "without controversy."
But if the human mind, unaided, is incapable of grasping the fact of the great God hiding Himself in human form, how much less can it apprehend that that very hiding was a manifestation, that the concealing was a revealing of Himself—the Invisible becoming visible, the Infinite becoming cognizable to the finite. Yet such it was: "And the very impress of His substance." Who was? The incarnate Son, the Man Christ Jesus. Of whose "substance?" Of God’s! But how could that be? God is eternal, and Christ died! True, yet He manifested His Godhead in the very way that He died. He died as none other ever did: He "laid down" His life. More, He manifested His Godhead by rising again: "destroy this temple" (His body) said He, "And I will raise it again"; and He did. His Godhead is now manifested in that "He is alive forever more."
But God is immutable and self-sufficient, and Christ hungered and thirsted/ True; because He was made "in all things like unto His brethren," and because that from actual experience of these things, He might be able to "succor them that are tempted." Moreover, He manifested His self-sufficiency by miraculously feeding the five thousand, and by His absolute power over all Nature—ruling the winds and waves, blasting the fig tree, etc.
But God is Lord of all, and Christ was "Led as a lamb to the slaughter": He seemed so helpless when arrested and when hanging upon the cross! But appearances are deceptive; sometimes it is a greater thing to withhold the putting forth of power than to exert it! Yet glimpses of His Lordship flashed forth even then. See Him in the Garden, and those sent to apprehend Him prostrate on the ground (John 18:6)! See Him again on the Cross, putting forth His power and "plucking a brand from the burning": it was the power of God, for nothing short of that can free one of Satan’s captives! Yes, Christ was, ever was, the "very impress of His substance," "for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9).
5. His Administration.
"Upholding all things by the word of His power" (verse 3). The Spirit of truth continues to describe the dignity and majesty of Him in whom God now "speaks" to us. Here is a declaration that is unequivocal in meaning and unlimited in its scope. Against the statement "by whom" God "made the worlds," it might be argued that, after all, the "Son" was only a minister, an agent whom God employed for that great work. In reply it would be sufficient to point out that there is no hint in Scripture of God ever having assigned to a mere creature, no matter how exalted his rank, a work which was in any wise comparable with the stupendous task of "making the worlds." But as if to anticipate such an objection, to show that the "Son" is high above the noblest and most honored of God’s ministers, it is here affirmed that "He upholdeth all things by the word of His power," that is, His own power; we may add that the Greek reads "His own" as in Matthew 16:26—"his own soul"; and "His own house" (Heb. 3:6). The "upholding" of all things is a Divine work.
We have said that the term "Heir" connotes two things: dignity and dominion. In the opening clauses of verse 3 the dignity of the Mediator is set forth; here, it is His dominion which is brought before us. As it was said that He is appointed Heir of "all things," so are we now told that He upholds "all things"—all things that are visible or invisible, in heaven or earth, or under the earth: "all things" not only creatures, but all events.
The Greek word for "upholding" means to "carry or support," see Mark 2:3; it also signifies "to energize or impel," see 2 Peter 1:21. It is the word used in the Septuagint for "moved" in Genesis 1:2. That which is in view in this fifth glory of Christ is His Divine providence. "The term ‘uphold’ seems to refer both to preservation and government. ‘By Him the worlds were made’—their materials were called into being, and arranged in comely order: and by Him, too, they are preserved from running into confusion, or reverting back into nothing. The whole universe hangs on His arm; His unsearchable wisdom and boundless power are manifested in governing and directing the complicated movements of animate and inanimate, rational, and irrational beings, to the attainment of His own great and holy purposes; and He does this by the word of His power, or by His powerful word. All this is done without effort or difficulty. He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast" (Dr. J. Brown). What a proof that the "Son" is God!
He who appeared on earth in servant form, is the Sustainer of the universe. He is Lord over all. He has been given "power over all flesh" (John 17:2). The Roman legions who destroyed Jerusalem were "His armies" (Matt. 22:7). The angels are "His angels," see Matthew 13:41; 24:31. Every movement in heaven and earth is directed by Jesus Christ: "by Him all things consist" (Col. 1:17). He is not only at the head of the spiritual realm, but he "upholds all things." All movements, developments, actions, are borne up and directed by the word of His power. Glimpses of this flashed forth even in the days of His flesh. The winds and the waves were subservient to His word. Sickness and disease fled before His command. Demons were subject to His authoritative bidding. Even the dead came forth in response to His mighty fiat. And all through the ages, today, the whole of creation is directed by the will and word of its Heir, Maker, and Upholder.
6. His Expiation.
"When He had by Himself purged our sins" (verse 3). Here is something still more wondrous. Striking is it to behold the point at which this statement is introduced. The cross was the great stumbling-block unto the Jews; but so far was the apostle from apologizing for the death of the "Son," he here includes it as among His highest glories. And such indeed it was. The putting away of the sins of His people was an even greater and grander work than was the making of the worlds or the upholding of all things by His mighty power. His sacrifice for sins has brought greater glory to the Godhead and greater blessing to the redeemed than have His works of creation or providence.
"Why has this wonderful and glorious Being, in whom all things are summed up, and who is before all things the Father’s delight and the Father’s glory; why has this infinite light, this infinite power, this infinite majesty come down to our poor earth? For what purpose? To shine? To show forth the splendor of His majesty? To teach heavenly wisdom? To rule with just and holy right? No. He came to purge our sins. What height of glory! what depths of abasement! Infinite in His majesty, and infinite in His self-humiliation, and in the depths of His love. What a glorious Lord! And what an awful sacrifice of unspeakable love, to purge our sins by Himself"! (Saphir).
"By Himself purged our sins." This has reference to the atonement which He has made. The metaphor of "purging" is borrowed from the language of the Mosaic economy—cf. 9:22. The Greek word is sometimes put for the means of purging (John 2:6), sometimes for the act itself (Mark 1:44). Both are included here: the merits of Christ’s sacrifice, and the efficacy thereof. The tense of the verb, the aorist, denotes a finished work, literally, "having purged." Another has suggested an additional and humbling thought which is pointed by this metaphor—the filth of our sins, which needed "purging" away. The contrastive and superlative value and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is thus set before us. His blood is here distinguished from that of the legal and ceremonial purifications. None of them could purge away sins—Hebrews 10:4. All they did was to sanctify to "the purifying of the flesh" (Heb. 9:13), not to the "purifying of the soul!"
"The manner and power of this purification form the subject of this whole Epistle. But in this short expression, ‘by Himself He purged our sins,’ all is summed up. By Himself; the Son of God, the eternal Word in humanity. Himself: the priest, who is sacrifice, yea, altar, and everything that is needed for full and real expiation and reconciliation. Here is fulfilled what was prefigured on the day of atonement, when an atonement was made for Israel, to cleanse them from all sins, that they may be clean from all their sins before the Lord (Lev. 16:30). Thus our great High Priest saith unto us, Ye are clean this day before God from all your sins. He is the fulfillment and the reality, because He is the Son of God. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). The church is purchased by the blood of Him who is God (Acts 20:28, with His own blood). Behold the perfection of the sacrifice in the infinite dignity of the incarnate Son. Sin is taken away. Oh, what a wonderful thing is this!" (Saphir).
7. His Exaltation.
"Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (verse 3). Unspeakably blessed is this. The One who descended into such unfathomable depths of shame, who humbled Himself and became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross," has been highly exalted above all principality and power, and dominion, and every name which is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. All-important is it, too, to mark carefully the connection between these two wondrous statements: "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." We cannot rightly think of the God-man as where He now is, without realizing that the very circumstance of His being there, shows, in itself, that "our sins" are put away for ever. The present possession of glory by the Mediator is the conclusive evidence that my sins are put away. What blessed connection is there, then between our peace of soul, and His glory!
"Sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Three things are here denoted. First, high honor: "sitting," in Scripture, is often a posture of dignity, when superiors sit before inferiors: see Job 29:7, 8; Daniel 7:9, 10; Revelation 5:13. Second, it denotes settled continuance. In Genesis 49:24 Jacob said to Joseph that his "bow sat in strength," fittingly rendered "abode in strength." So in Leviticus 8:35, "abode" is literally "sit." Though He will vacate that seat when He descends into the air (1 Thess. 4:16) to receive His blood-bought people unto Himself, yet it is clear from Revelation 22:1 that this position of highest honor and glory belongs to Christ for ever and ever. Third, it signifies rest, cessation from His sacrificial services and sufferings. It has often been pointed out that no provision was made for Israel’s priests to sit down: there was no chair in the Tabernacle’s furniture. And why? Because their work was never completed—see Hebrews 10:1, 3. But Christ’s work of expiation is completed; on the cross He declared, "It is finished" (John 19:30). In proof of this, He is now seated on High.
The term "the Majesty on high" refers to God Himself. "Majesty" signifies such greatness as makes one to be honored of all and preferred above all. Hence it is a delegated title, proper to kings, cf. 2 Peter 1:16. In our passage it denotes God’s supreme sovereignty. It is brought in here to emphasize and magnify the exaltation of the Savior—elevated to the highest possible dignity and position. The "right hand" speaks of power (Exo. 15:6), and honor (1 Kings 2:19). "On high" is, in the Greek, a compound word, used nowhere else in the New Testament; literally, it signifies, "the highest height," the most elevated exaltation that could be conceived of or is possible. Thus we are shown that the highest seat in the universe now belongs to Him who once had not where to lay His head.
It is to be observed that in Hebrews 10:2, 3 the Holy Spirit has, briefly, set forth the three great offices of the Mediator. First, His prophetic: He is the final Spokesman of God. Second, His kingly: His royal majesty—upholding all things, and that, by the word of His power, which affirms His absolute sovereignty. Third, His priestly: the two parts of which are expiation of His people’s sins and intercession at God’s right hand.
In conclusion, it should be pointed out how that everything in these opening verses of Hebrews is in striking contrast from what Israel enjoyed under the old economy. They had prophets; Christ is the final Spokesman of Diety. They were His people; He, God’s "Son." Abraham was constituted "heir of the world" (Romans 4:13); Christ is the "Heir" of the universe. Moses made the tabernacle; Christ, "the worlds." The law furnished "a shadow of good things to come"; Christ is the Brightness of God’s glory. In Old Testament times Israel enjoyed theophanic manifestations of Christ; now, He is revealed as the Image of God’s person. Moses bore the burden of Israel (Num. 11:11, 12); Christ, "upholds all things." The sacrifices of old took not sins away; Christ’s sacrifice did. Israel’s high priests never sat down; Christ has. (90)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 6
God's sovereign redemptive power:
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the
covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand
to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although
I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD. But this shall be the covenant that
I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will
put my laws in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their
God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his
neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall
all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD:
for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jer. 31:31-33
The new covenant. - Jeremiah 31:31. "Behold, days are coming, saith Jahveh, when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant; Jeremiah 31:32. Not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I laid hold of their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which covenant of mine they broke, though I had married them to myself, saith Jahveh; Jeremiah 31:33. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith Jahveh: I will put my law within them, and on their heart will I write it; and I will become to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. Jeremiah 31:34. And they shall no more teach every man his neighbour and every man his brother, saying, Know ye Jahveh, for all of them shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, saith Jahveh; for I will pardon their iniquity, and their sins will I remember no more. Jeremiah 31:35. Thus saith Jahveh, [who] gives the sun for light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and stars for light by night, who rouses the sea so that its waves roar, Jahveh of hosts is His name: Jeremiah 31:36. If these ordinances move away from before me, saith Jahveh, then also will the seed of Israel cease to be a people before me for ever. Jeremiah 31:37. Thus saith Jahveh: If the heavens above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth below can be searched out, then will I also reject all the seed of Israel because of all that they have done, saith Jahveh. Jeremiah 31:38. Behold, days come, saith Jahveh, when the city shall be built for Jahveh, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner, Jeremiah 31:39. And the measuring-line shall once more go out straight over the hill of Gareb, and turn round towards Goah. Jeremiah 31:40. And all the valley of the corpses and of the ashes, and all the fields unto the valley of Kidron, unto the corner of the gate of the horses towards the east, [shall be] holiness to Jahveh; it shall not be plucked up nor pulled down again for ever.
The re-establishment of Israel reaches its completion in the making of a new covenant, according to which the law of God is written in the hearts of the people; thereby Israel becomes in truth the people of the Lord, and the knowledge of God founded on the experience of the forgiveness of sins is such that there is no further need of any external means like mutual teaching about God (Jeremiah 31:31-34). This covenant is to endure for ever, like the unchangeable ordinances of nature (Jeremiah 31:35-37); and in consequence of this, Jerusalem shall be guilt as the holy city of God, which shall never be destroyed again (Jeremiah 31:38-40). (91)
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in
righteousness, and in judgement, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. Hosea 2:19
"Betroth" is thrice repeated, implying the intense love of God to His people; and perhaps, also, the three Persons of the Triune God, severally engaging to make good the betrothal. The marriage covenant will be as it were renewed from the beginning, on a different footing; not for a time only, as before, through the apostasy of the people, but "forever" through the grace of God writing the law on their hearts by the Spirit of Messiah (Jer 31:31-37).
righteousness . judgment-in rectitude and truth.
loving-kindness, &c.-Hereby God assures Israel, who might doubt the possibility of their restoration to His favor; low, sunk, and unworthy as thou art. I will restore thee from a regard to My own "loving-kindness," not thy merits. (92)
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. Hosea 11:1
God here expostulates with the people of Israel for their ingratitude. The obligation of the people was twofold; for God had embraced them from the very first beginning, and when there was no merit or worthiness in them. What else, indeed, was the condition of the people when emancipated from their servile works in Egypt? They doubtless seemed then like a man half-dead or a putrid carcass; for they had no vigour remaining in them. The Lord then stretched forth his hand to the people when in so hopeless a state, drew them out, as it were, from the grave, and restored them from death into life. But the people did not acknowledge this so wonderful a favour of God, but soon after petulantly turned their back on him. What baseness was this, and how shameful the wickedness, to make such a return to the author of their life and salvation? The Prophet therefore enhances the sin and baseness of the people by this circumstance, that the Lord had loved them even from childhood; when yet, he says, Israel was a child, I loved him The nativity of the people was their coming out of Egypt. The Lord had indeed made his covenant with Abraham four hundred years before; and, as we know, the patriarchs were also regarded by him as his children: but God wished his Church to be, as it were, extinguished, when he redeemed it. Hence the Scripture, when it speaks of the liberation of the people, often refers to that favour of God in the same way as of one born into the world. It is not therefore without reason that the Prophet here reminds the people that they had been loved when in childhood. The proof of this love was, that they had been brought out of Egypt. Love had preceded, as the cause is always before the effect.
But the Prophet enlarges on the subject: I loved Israel, even while he was yet a child; I called him out of Egypt; that is, “I not only loved him when a child, but before he was born I began to love him; for the liberation from Egypt was the nativity, and my love preceded that. It then appears, that the people had been loved by me, before they came forth to the light; for Egypt was like a grave without any spark of life; and the condition this miserable people was in was worse than thousand deaths. Then by calling my people from Egypt, I sufficiently proved that my love was gratuitous before they were born.” The people were hence less excusable when they returned such an unworthy recompense to God, since he had previously bestowed his free favour upon them. We now understand the meaning of the Prophet.
But here arises a difficult question; for Matthew, accommodates this passage to the person of Christ. Matthew 2:15 — fj. They who have not been well versed in Scripture have confidently applied to Christ this place; yet the context is opposed to this. Hence it has happened, that scoffers have attempted to disturb the whole religion of Christ, as though the Evangelist had misapplied the declaration of the Prophet. They give a more suitable answer, who say that there is in this case only a comparison: as when a passage from Jeremiah is quoted in another place, when the cruelty of Herod is mentioned, who raged against all the infants of his dominion, who were under two years of age,‘Rachel, bewailing her children, would not receive consolation, because they were not,’ (Jeremiah 31:15.) The Evangelist says that this prophecy was fulfilled, (Matthew 2:18.) But it is certain that the object of Jeremiah was another; but nothing prevents that declaration should not be applied to what Matthew relates. So they understand this place. But I think that Matthew had more deeply considered the purpose of God in having Christ led into Egypt, and in his return afterwards into Judea. In the first place, it must be remembered that Christ cannot be separated from his Church, as the body will be mutilated and imperfect without a head. Whatever then happened formerly in the Church, ought at length to be fulfilled by the head. This is one thing. Then also there is no doubt, but that God in his wonderful providence intended that his Son should come forth from Egypt, that he might be a redeemer to the faithful; and thus he shows that a true, real, and perfect deliverance was at length effected, when the promised Redeemer appeared. It was then the full nativity of the Church, when Christ came forth from Egypt to redeem his Church. So in my view that comment is too frigid, which embraces the idea, that Matthew made only a comparison. For it behaves us to consider this, that God, when he formerly redeemed his people from Egypt, only showed by a certain prelude the redemption which he deferred till the coming of Christ. Hence, as the body was then brought forth from Egypt into Judea, so at length the head also came forth from Egypt: and then God fully showed him to be the true deliverer of his people. This then is the meaning. Matthew therefore most fitly accommodates this passage to Christ, that God loved his Son from his first childhood and called him from Egypt. We know at the same time that Christ is called the Son of God in a respect different from the people of Israel; for adoption made the children of Abraham the children of God, but Christ is by nature the only-begotten Son of God. But his own dignity must remain to the head, that the body may continue in its inferior state. There is then in this nothing inconsistent. But as to the charge of ingratitude, that so great a favour of God was not acknowledged, this cannot apply to the person of Christ, as we well know; nor is it necessary in this respect to refer to him; for we see from other places that every thing does not apply to Christ, which is said of David, or of the high priest, or of the posterity of David; though they were types of Christ. But there is ever a great difference between the reality and its symbols. (93)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to
the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written,
The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Ro. 1:16, 17, 18
Paul here enters upon a large discourse of justification, in the latter part of this chapter laying down his thesis, and, in order to the proof of it, describing the deplorable condition of the Gentile world. His transition is very handsome, and like an orator: he was ready to preach the gospel at Rome, though a place where the gospel was run down by those that called themselves the wits; for, saith he, I am not ashamed of it, v. 16. There is a great deal in the gospel which such a man as Paul might be tempted to be ashamed of, especially that he whose gospel it is was a man hanged upon a tree, that the doctrine of it was plain, had little in it to set it off among scholars, the professors of it were mean and despised, and every where spoken against; yet Paul was not ashamed to own it. I reckon him a Christian indeed that is neither ashamed of the gospel nor a shame to it. The reason of this bold profession, taken from the nature and excellency of the gospel, introduces his dissertation.
I. The proposition, v. 16, 17. The excellency of the gospel lies in this, that it reveals to us,
1. The salvation of believers as the end: It is the power of God unto salvation. Paul is not ashamed of the gospel, how mean and contemptible soever it may appear to a carnal eye; for the power of God works by it the salvation of all that believe; it shows us the way of salvation (Acts 16:17), and is the great charter by which salvation is conveyed and made over to us. But, (1.) It is through the power of God; without that power the gospel is but a dead letter; the revelation of the gospel is the revelation of the arm of the Lord (Isa. 53:1), as power went along with the word of Christ to heal diseases. (2.) It is to those, and those only, that believe. Believing interests us in the gospel salvation; to others it is hidden. The medicine prepared will not cure the patient if it be not taken.-To the Jew first. The lost sheep of the house of Israel had the first offer made them, both by Christ and his apostles. You first (Acts 3:26), but upon their refusal the apostles turned to the Gentiles, Acts 13:46. Jews and Gentiles now stand upon the same level, both equally miserable without a Saviour, and both equally welcome to the Saviour, Col. 3:11. Such doctrine as this was surprising to the Jews, who had hitherto been the peculiar people, and had looked with scorn upon the Gentile world; but the long-expected Messiah proves a light to enlighten the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel.
2. The justification of believers as the way (v. 17): For therein, that is, in this gospel, which Paul so much triumphs in, is the righteousness of God revealed. Our misery and ruin being the product and consequent of our iniquity, that which will show us the way of salvation must needs show us the way of justification, and this the gospel does. The gospel makes known a righteousness. While God is a just and holy God, and we are guilty sinners, it is necessary we should have a righteousness wherein to appear before him; and, blessed be God, there is such a righteousness brought in by Messiah the prince (Dan. 9:24) and revealed in the gospel; a righteousness, that is, a gracious method of reconciliation and acceptance, notwithstanding the guilt of our sins. This evangelical righteousness, (1.) Is called the righteousness of God; it is of God's appointing, of God's approving and accepting. It is so called to cut off all pretensions to a righteousness resulting from the merit of our own works. It is the righteousness of Christ, who is God, resulting from a satisfaction of infinite value. (2.) It is said to be from faith to faith, from the faithfulness of God revealing to the faith of man receiving (so some); from the faith of dependence upon God, and dealing with him immediately, as Adam before the fall, to the faith of dependence upon a Mediator, and so dealing with God (so others); from the first faith, by which we are put into a justified state, to after faith, by which we live, and are continued in that state: and the faith that justifies us is no less than our taking Christ for our Saviour, and becoming true Christians, according to the tenour of the baptismal covenant; from faith engrafting us into Christ, to faith deriving virtue from him as our root: both implied in the next words, The just shall live by faith. Just by faith, there is faith justifying us; live by faith, there is faith maintaining us; and so there is a righteousness from faith to faith. Faith is all in all, both in the beginning and progress of a Christian life. It is not from faith to works, as if faith put us into a justified state, and then works preserved and maintained us in it, but it is all along from faith to faith, as 2 Co. 3:18, from glory to glory; it is increasing, continuing, persevering faith, faith pressing forward, and getting ground of unbelief. To show that this is no novel upstart doctrine, he quotes for it that famous scripture in the Old Testament, so often mentioned in the New (Hab. 2:4): The just shall live by faith. Being justified by faith he shall live by it both the life of grace and of glory. The prophet there had placed himself upon the watch-tower, expecting some extraordinary discoveries (v. 1), and the discovery was of the certainty of the appearance of the promised Messiah in the fulness of time, not withstanding seeming delays. This is there called the vision, by way of eminence, as elsewhere the promise; and while that time is coming, as well as when it has come, the just shall live by faith. Thus is the evangelical righteousness from faith to faith-from Old-Testament faith in a Christ to come to New-Testament faith in a Christ already come.
II. The proof of this proposition, that both Jews and Gentiles stand in need of a righteousness wherein to appear before God, and that neither the one nor the other have nay of their own to plead. Justification must be either by faith or works. It cannot be by works, which he proves at large by describing the works both of Jews and Gentiles; and therefore he concludes it must be by faith, ch. 3:20, 28. The apostle, like a skilful surgeon, before he applies the plaster, searches the wound-endeavours first to convince of guilt and wrath, and then to show the way of salvation. This makes the gospel the more welcome. We must first see the righteousness of God condemning, and then the righteousness of God justifying will appear worthy of all acceptation. In general (v. 18), the wrath of God is revealed. The light of nature and the light of the law reveal the wrath of God from sin to sin. It is well for us that the gospel reveals the justifying righteousness of God from faith to faith. The antithesis is observable. Here is,
1. The sinfulness of man described; he reduceth it to two heads, ungodliness and unrighteousness; ungodliness against the laws of the first table, unrighteousness against those of the second.
2. The cause of that sinfulness, and that is, holding the truth in unrighteousness. Some communes notitae, some ideas they had of the being of God, and of the difference of good and evil; but they held them in unrighteousness, that is, they knew and professed them in a consistency with their wicked courses. They held the truth as a captive or prisoner, that it should not influence them, as otherwise it would. An unrighteous wicked heart is the dungeon in which many a good truth is detained and buried. Holding fast the form of sound words in faith and love is the root of all religion (2 Tim. 1:13), but holding it fast in unrighteousness is the root of all sin.
3. The displeasure of God against it: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven; not only in the written word, which is given by inspiration of God (the Gentiles had not that), but in the providences of God, his judgments executed upon sinners, which do not spring out of the dust, or fall out by chance, nor are they to be ascribed to second causes, but they are a revelation from heaven. Or wrath from heaven is revealed; it is not the wrath of a man like ourselves, but wrath from heaven, therefore the more terrible and the more unavoidable. (94)
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power
of God, and the wisdom of God. I Cor. 1:24
24. called-(compare 1Co 1:26). The same class as the "us which are (being) saved" (1Co 1:18); the elect, who have obeyed the call; called effectually (Ro 8:28, 30).
Christ-"Crucified" is not here added, because when the offense of the cross is overcome, "Christ" is received in all His relations, not only in His cross, but in His life and His future kingdom.
power-so meeting all the reasonable requirements of the Jews who sought "a sign." The cross (the death of a slave), which to the Jews (looking for a temporal Messiah) was a "stumbling-block," is really "the power of God" to the salvation of all who believe.
wisdom of God-so really exhibiting, and in the highest degree (if they would but see it), that which the Greeks sought after-wisdom (Col 2:3). (95)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 7
God the Sovereign Ruler of the Nations:
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by
the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of
Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom,
and put it also in writing, saying. Ezra 1:1
In this chapter we have, I. The proclamation which Cyrus, king of Persia, issued out for the release of all the Jews that he found captives in Babylon, and the building of their temple in Jerusalem (v. 1-4). II. The return of many thereupon (v. 5, 6). III. Orders given for the restoring of the vessels of the temple (v. 7-11). And this is the dawning of the day of their deliverance. (96)
God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. Ps. 47:8
Now at this moment, over the most debased idolaters, God holds a secret rule; here is work for faith. How we ought to long for the day when this truth shall be changed in its aspect, and the rule now unrecognised shall be delighted in! The great truth that God reigneth in providence is the guarantee that in a gracious gospel sense his promises shall be fulfilled, and his kingdom shall come. He sitteth upon the throne of his holiness. Unmoved he occupies an undisputed throne, whose decrees, acts, and commands are holiness itself. What other throne is like this? Never was it stained with injustice, or defiled with sin. Neither is he who sits upon it dismayed, or in a dilemma. He sits in serenity, for he knows his own power, and sees that his purposes will not miscarry. Here is reason enough for holy song. (97)
God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete
out the valley of Succoth. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also
is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver; Moab is my washpot; over Edom
will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me. Ps. 60:6-8
God hath spoken in his holiness. Faith is never happier than when it can fall back upon the promise of God. She sets this over against all discouraging circumstances; let outward providences say what they will, the voice of a faithful God drowns every sound of tear. God had promised Israel victory, and David the kingdom; the holiness of God secured the fulfilment of his own covenant, and therefore the king spake confidently. The goodly land had been secured to the tribes by the promise made to Abraham, and that divine grant was an abundantly sufficient warrant for the belief that Israel's arms would be successful in battle. Believer make good use of this, and banish doubts while promises remain. I will rejoice, or "I will triumph." Faith regards the promise not as fiction but fact, and therefore drinks in joy from it, and grasps victory by it. "God hath spoken; I will rejoice:" here is a fit motto for every soldier of the cross.
I will divide Shechem. As a victor David would allot the conquered territory to those to whom God had given it by lot. Shechem was an important portion of the country, which as yet had not yielded to his government; but he saw that by Jehovah's help it would be, and indeed was all his own. Faith divides the spoil, she is sure of what God has promised, and enters at once into possession. And mete out the valley of Succoth. As the east so the west of Jordan should be allotted to the proper persons. Enemies should be expelled, and the landmarks of peaceful ownership set up. Where Jacob had pitched his tent, there his rightful heirs should till the soil. When God has spoken, his divine shall, our I will, becomes no idle boast, but the fit echo of the Lord's decree. Believer, up and take possession of covenant mercies. Divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth. Let not Canaanitish doubts and legalisms keep thee out of the inheritance of grace. Live up to thy privileges, take the good which God provides thee.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine. He claims the whole land on account of the promise. Two other great divisions of the country he mentions, evidently delighting to survey the goodly land which the Lord had given him. All things are ours, whether things present or things to come; no mean portion belongs to the believer, and let him not think meanly of it. No enemy shall withhold from true faith what God has given her, for grace makes her mighty to wrest it from the foe. Life is mine, death is mine, for Christ is mine. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. All the military power of the valiant tribe was at the command of David, and he praises God for it. God will bow to the accomplishment of his purposes all the valour of men; the church may cry, "the prowess of armies is mine, " God will overrule all their achievements for the progress of his cause. Judah is my lawgiver. There the civil power was concentrated: the king being of that tribe sent forth his laws out of her midst. We know no lawgiver, but the King who came out of Judah. To all the claims of Rome, Or Oxford, or the councils of men, we pay no attention; we are free from all other ecclesiastical rule, but that of Christ: but we yield joyful obedience to him: Judah is my lawgiver. Amid distractions it is a great thing to have good and sound legislation, it was a balm for Israel's wounds, it is our joy in the Church of Christ.
Having looked at home with satisfaction, the hero king now looks abroad with exultation. Moab, so injurious to me in former years, is my washpot. The basin into which the water falls when it is poured from an ewer upon my feet. A mere pot to hold the dirty water after my feet have been washed in it. Once she defiled Israel, according to the counsel of Balaam, the son of Beor; but she shall no longer be able to perpetrate such baseness; she shall be a washpot for those whom she sought to pollute. The wicked as we see in them the evil, the fruit, and the punishment of sin, shall help on the purification of the saints. This is contrary to their will, and to the nature of things, but faith finds honey in the lion, and a washpot in filthy Moab. David treats his foes as but insignificant and inconsiderable; a whole nation he counts but as a footbath for his kingdom. Over Edom will I cast out my shoe. As a man when bathing throws his shoes on one side, so would he obtain his dominion over haughty Esau's descendants as easily as a man casts a shoe. Perhaps he would throw his shoe as nowadays men throw their glove, as a challenge to them to dare dispute his sway. He did not need draw a sword to smite his now crippled and utterly despondent adversary, for if he dared revolt he would only need to throw his slipper at him, and he would tremble. Easily are we victors when Omnipotence leads the way. The day shall come when the church shall with equal ease subdue China and Ethiopia to the sceptre of the Son of David. Every believer also may by faith triumph over all difficulties, and reign with him who hath made us kings and priests. "They overcame through the blood of the Lamb, "shall yet be said of all who rest in the power of Jesus.
Philistia, triumph thou because of me. Be so subdued as to rejoice in my victories over my other foes. Or does he mean, I who smote thy champion have at length so subdued thee that thou shalt never be able to rejoice over Israel again; but if thou must needs triumph it must be with me, and not against me; or rather is it a taunting defiance, a piece of irony? O proud Philistia, where are thy vaunts? Where now thy haughty looks, and promised conquests? Thus dare we defy the last enemy, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" So utterly hopeless is the cause of hell when the Lord comes forth to the battle, that even the weakest daughter of Zion may shake her head at the enemy, and laugh him to scorn. O the glorifying of faith! There is not a grain of vain glory in it, but yet her holy boastings none can hinder. When the Lord speaks the promise, we will not be slow to rejoice and glory in it. (98)
Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations. Ps. 82:8
Arise, O God, and judge the earth. Come thou Judge of all mankind, put the bad judges to thy bar and end their corruption and baseness. Here is the world's true hope of rescue from the fangs of tyranny. For thou shalt inherit all nations. The time will come when all races of men shall own their God, and accept him as their king. There is one who is "King by right divine, "and he is even now on his way. The last days shall see him enthroned, and all unrighteous potentates broken like potter's vessels by his potent sceptre. The second advent is still earth's brightest hope. Come quickly, even so, come, Lord Jesus. (99)
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it
come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the
Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall
his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand
that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed,
and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn
it back. Isa. 14:24-27
24. The Lord of hosts hath sworn. For more full confirmation an oath was necessary. There is nothing of which it is more difficult to convince us than that wicked men will immediately be ruined, when we see them flourishing, and furnished with all means of defense, and seemingly placed out of danger, and free from all fear. We are therefore stunned by beholding them, and are dazzled by their brightness, so that we can scarcely believe God when he foretells their ruin and destruction. On this account he employs an oath, that he may leave no room for doubt. Hence we learn how great is his forbearance towards us, when he aids our weakness by applying this remedy, for otherwise he might have been satisfied with simply declaring it. This tends to the consolation of the godly, as we shall afterwards see.(Isaiah 22:14.)
If it hath not been as I thought. The elliptical form of an oath which he employs must be well known, for it occurs frequently in Scripture. The Lord purposely used this guarded language, that we might not be too free in the use of oaths, which burst from us daringly and at random. He suppresses the greater part of the oath. "If I shall not do what I have decreed, let men think that I am a liar, and let them not think that I am God;" or something of this kind (which we shudder to express) is left to be supplied. Men ought, therefore, to lay a bridle on themselves, so as not to break out at random into imprecations, or to pronounce shocking curses against themselves; but let them learn from this to restrain their insolence.
25. That I may bruise the Assyrian in my land. Some think that this relates to Sennacherib's army, which the hand of God destroyed by means of an angel, when he besieged Jerusalem. (2 Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36.) If this interpretation be preferred, the meaning will be, that the Lord will shortly give some evidence of that destruction which he has threatened against the Babylonians. Those who heard these predictions might have brought this objection: "Of what avail will it be to us that Babylon is destroyed, after Babylon has ruined us? Would it not have been better that both Babylon and we had remained uninjured? What consolation will be yielded to us by its destruction, when we, too, shall have been destroyed?" And, indeed, I have no doubt that he holds out a proof of God's favor in destroying their enemies, which either had been already manifested, or would be manifested soon afterwards.
I dare not affirm at what time this prediction was uttered by the Prophet, but it may be conjectured with some probability that the slaughter of Sennacherib's army by the angel had already taken place. In this way, from a striking event which they had known, the Prophet would lead them to expect a future redemption; as if he had said, "You have already perceived how wonderfully God assists his people at the very hour of danger." I am thus prepared to assign a reason for thinking that Sennacherib's army had been already slain. Undoubtedly this instruction must have been of some use.
But Babylon did not begin to give any annoyance to the Jews before she had subdued the Assyrians and renewed the monarchy. So long, therefore, as the Jews had nothing to do with Babylon, why did the Prophet speak of the judgment of God, by which he would avenge his people? There is no absurdity in supposing that the record of a past event is confounded with a prediction. And yet it will not be inadmissible to say that the Assyrians are here put for the Chaldeans; for though they had been deprived of the government, yet it is probable that they were always first in a state of readiness whenever there was an opportunity of attacking the Jews, and that, while they fought under foreign leaders, they formed the greater part of the army. Not only were they nearer than the Chaldeans, but those who at that time held the sway were aware that their inveterate hostility against the Jews would make them loyal and obedient in that war. Besides, it was advantageous to the conquerors to weaken the vanquished by continual wars, till they had been accustomed to bear the yoke.
Most appropriately, therefore, by a figure of speech in which a part is taken for the whole, Isaiah, though he is speaking of Babylon, describes the whole of its forces under the name of Assyria. There will thus be no argument which lays us under the necessity of explaining this passage as relating to the slaughter effected by the angel in Sennacherib's army. The Prophet merely affirms, so far as my judgment goes, that the Lord will put an end to the tyranny of the Assyrians, so that they shall not always enjoy their present superiority. As if he had said, "Though for a time God permits wicked men to rule over you, this power will not always last; for one day he will, as it were, break the yoke, and deliver this people from this bondage under which they groan." The Assyrians, though they were vanquished by the Chaldeans, did not on that account, as we have said, cease to be enemies of the Church; but Babylon, which had succeeded in the room of Nineveh, began at that time, by a kind of transferred right, to carry on war with the Jews.
And his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden shall be taken from their shoulder. When he says that the Assyrian will be broken in Judea, this must not be understood as if they would be slain there, or that they would be instantly crushed by some calamity; but that the chosen people would be delivered from their tyranny, and that their authority would thus be taken away. The breaking, therefore, does not refer so much to persons as to the empire. What he says about the yoke and the burden would not apply strictly to the Assyrians alone, who at least never were masters of the city of Jerusalem; and therefore we must attend to the succession which I mentioned, for the Chaldeans had no right to carry on war except that right which they boasted of as having been conveyed to them by the Assyrians. Thus I think that I am justified in extending this prophecy to that deliverance by which the Lord showed that he would avenge his people against the Chaldeans and Assyrians; for at that time the yoke was shaken off by which the Jews were miserably held bound, and it even includes the redemption obtained through Christ, of which that deliverance was a forerunner.
And upon my mountains I will tread him under feet. Some think that the word mountains is put in the plural number for Mount Zion; but I prefer a different interpretation. Jerusalem being situated among the mountains, the whole country around was despised for that reason. The Prophet therefore speaks contemptuously, as if he admitted that the country was regarded by the enemies as of little value because it was mountainous. But this very contempt serves to magnify the power of God; for he shakes off from his mountains the dominion of this powerful monarchy. This refers to the narrative contained in 1Kings 20:23, 28.
26. This purpose which is purposed upon the whole earth. The Lord is not satisfied with one or two confirmations, and can scarcely refrain from proclaiming it more and more abundantly, because he knows well that our minds are naturally prone to distrust. No confirmation suffices for us, even though his promises be frequent and copious and solemn. God therefore wishes to remedy this disease, and that is the design of the repetition, so that we must not think that it is superfluous. They who suppose that the Prophet, or rather the Spirit of God, uses too many words, are not well acquainted with themselves.
He declares, first, the will and purpose of God, and, secondly, his power. How comes it that we have any doubts about the word, but because we do not ascribe to God that power which belongs to him, or because we are not convinced of his power? These are the only two causes of our unbelief, with which, on the other hand, we ought to contrast the two things which Isaiah recommends to our notice, namely, the purpose and the power of God. We ought to believe, first, that God is true, for he declares nothing that is not fixed and unchangeable; and, secondly, that he is powerful, and that nothing can withstand his arm. Again, we must not inquire about the secret purpose of God: for the Prophet here enjoins us to rest satisfied with the decree which has been manifested in the word of God. We must not rise any higher, therefore, so as to penetrate into the secrets of God; but we ought to be satisfied with undoubted proofs which he declares by the mouth of the prophets. Let us therefore embrace all the promises of God with our whole heart, and let us also add to them his power; for his hand ought never to be separated from his mouth. We must not imagine his power to be, as philosophers talk, a power that is unemployed, but, as the Scriptures teach us, powerful and active.
A question may here arise, Why does he mention the whole earth and all the nations, when he is only speaking about Babylon? But we must keep in remembrance what we formerly said, that the Babylonian empire, after having swallowed up Nineveh, extended nearly through the whole of the east, and that various nations were subject to it. The consequence was, that the devastation of that empire was also the destruction of the whole world; for such great monarchies cannot fall without involving many in an extensive ruin. Accordingly, as the extent of that empire might lead men to call in question this prophecy, Isaiah shows that, though it be spread far and wide, and includes a boundless multitude of nations, that does not prevent God from executing his decree.
27. For the Lord of hosts hath decreed. Isaiah here employs what may be regarded as a concluding exclamation, to confirm more fully the preceding statement. Having said that it is the purpose of the Lord, in order to show that it cannot be broken or made void, (Psalm 33:11.) he puts a question as if about a thing impossible, Who shall disannul his purpose? or, who shall turn back his hand? By this exclamation he speaks disdainfully of all the creatures; for as soon as the Lord has decreed, he stretches out his hand, and when his hand is stretched out, the execution of the work must undoubtedly follow. Nor is it only men whom he declares to be incapable, but he also declares everything else to be incapable of preventing the decree of God; at least if there be anything but man and Satan that opposes his will. In short, he intimates that there can be no repentance or change in God, (Numbers 23:19.) but that whatever may happen, even amidst an endless diversity of events, he continues always to be like himself, and that no occurrence can thwart his purpose.
If it be objected that God sometimes changed his purpose, as when he spared the Ninevites, (Johah 1:2, Jonah 3:10,) Abimelech, (Genesis 20:3, 17,) or Pharaoh, (Genesis 12:17,) the answer is easy. When the Lord sent Jonah to the Ninevites, he did not reveal what had been decreed in his secret purpose, but wished to arouse their minds by the preaching of Jonah, that he might have compassion on them. The same thing might be said, when he threatened Abimelech and Pharaoh, because they wished to lay hands on Abraham's wife; for thus the Lord, by terrifying them, intended to keep them back, that they might not suffer the punishment of their obstinacy. (100)
That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts
of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet
thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know
that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever
he will. Dan. 4:25
Because thou hast lived a brutish, epicurean life, and wert lifted up above the common race of mankind in thy heart, therefore thy fate shall be, not to be cast out to live among the basest and meanest sort of men, which were hard enough; no, not among herdsmen, as if that were too good for him; but among the beasts, to herd with them. This was such a thundering peal, that it was wonderful the king could endure to hear without wrath and fury boiling in his heart, yet the Lord withheld him. How hard is it for lofty princes to learn this lesson, that God is the giver of all they have, and will call them to account severely for all they do, and make the kings and kingdoms of the world to know they are his, and not theirs, and that their tenure is but at the will of the Lord solely, who can alter and alienate the property of all they enjoyments, being the high Lord paramount above all. (101)
The Sovereign Power of God: Volume 2 number 8
Israel's enemies raised used by God to accomplish His sovereign purposes:
And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of
Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:
And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and
Elisha the son of Shaphat of abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet
in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of
Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall
Elisha slay. I Kings 19:15-19
"When Hazael comes to be king of Syria, he shall make bloody work among the people (2 Ki. 8:12) and so correct them for their idolatry." 2. "When Jehu comes to be king of Israel he shall make bloody work with the royal family, and shall utterly destroy the house of Ahab, that set up and maintained idolatry." 3. "Elisha, while thou art on earth, shall strengthen thy hands; and, when thou art gone, shall carry on thy work, and be a remaining witness against the apostasy of Israel, and even he shall slay the children of Bethel, that idolatrous city." Note, The wicked are reserved to judgment. Evil pursues sinners, and there is no escaping it; to attempt an escape is but to run from one sword's point upon another. See Jer. 48:44, He that flees from the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that gets up out of the pit shall be taken in the snare. Elisha, with the sword of the Spirit, shall terrify and wound the consciences of those who escape Hazael's sword of war and Jehu's sword of justice. With the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked, Isa. 11:4; 2 Th. 2:8; Hos. 6:5. It is a great comfort to good men and good ministers to think that God will never want instruments to do his work in his time, but, when they are gone, others shall be raised up to carry it on.
VI. The comfortable information God gives him of the number of Israelites who retained their integrity, though he thought he was left alone (v. 18): I have left 7000 in Israel (besides Judea) who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Note, 1. In times of the greatest degeneracy and apostasy God has always had, and will have, a remnant faithful to him, some that keep their integrity and do not go down the stream. The apostle mentions this answer of God to Elijah (Rom. 11:4) and applies it to his own day, when the Jews generally rejected the gospel. Yet, says he, at this time also there is a remnant, v. 5. 2. It is God's work to preserve that remnant, and distinguish them from the rest, for without his grace they could not have distinguished themselves: I have left me; it is therefore said to be a remnant according to the election of grace. 3. It is but a little remnant, in comparison with the degenerate race; what are 7000 to the thousands of Israel? Yet, when those of every age come together, they will be found many more, 12,000 sealed out of each tribe, Rev. 7:4. 4. God's faithful ones are often his hidden ones (Ps. 83:3), and the visible church is scarcely visible, the wheat lost in the chaff and the gold in the dross, till the sifting, refining, separating day comes. 5. The Lord knows those that are his, though we do not; he sees in secret. 6. There are more good people in the world than some wise and holy men think there are. Their jealousy of themselves, and for God, makes them think the corruption is universal; but God sees not as they do. When we come to heaven, as we shall miss a great many whom we thought to meet there, so we shall meet a great many whom we little thought to find there. God's love often proves larger than man's charity and more extensive. (102)
In those days the LORD began to send against Judah Rezin the king of
Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah. II Kings 15:37
37. the Lord began to send against Judah Rezin the king of Syria, &c.-This is the first intimation of the hostile feelings of the kings of Israel and Syria, to Judah, which led them to form an alliance and make joint preparations for war. [See on 2Ch 27:5.] However, war was not actually waged till the reign of Ahaz. (103)
Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and
join his enemies together; The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and
they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned
away, but his hand is stretched out still. Isa. 9:11,12
God would arm the neighbouring powers against them, v. 11, 12. At this time the kingdom of Israel was in league with that of Syria against Judah; but the Assyrians, who were adversaries to the Syrians, when they had conquered them should invade Israel, and God would stir them up to do it, and join the enemies of Israel together in alliance against them, who yet had particular ends of their own to serve and were not aware of God's hand in their alliance. Note, When enemies are set up, and joined in confederacy against a people, God's hand must be acknowledged in it. Note further, Those that partake with each other in sin, as Syria and Israel in invading Judah, must expect to share in the punishment of sin. Nay, the Syrians themselves, whom they were now in league with, should be a scourge to them (for it is no unusual thing for those to fall out that have been united in sin), one attacking them in the front and the other flanking them or falling upon their rear; so that they should be surrounded with enemies on all sides, who should devour them with open mouth, v. 12. The Philistines were not now looked upon as formidable enemies, and the Syrians were looked upon as firm friends; and yet these shall devour Israel. When men's ways displease the Lord he makes even their friends to be at war with them. (104)
O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. Isa. 10:5
The destruction of the kingdom of Israel by Shalmaneser king of Assyria was foretold in the foregoing chapter, and it had its accomplishment in the sixth year of Hezekiah, 2 Ki. 18:10. It was total and final, head and tail were all cut off. Now the correction of the kingdom of Judah by Sennacherib king of Assyria is foretold in this chapter; and this prediction was fulfilled in the fourteenth year of Hezekiah, when that potent prince, encouraged by the successes of his predecessor against the ten tribes, came up against all the fenced cities of Judah and took them, and laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Ki. 18:13, 17), in consequence of which we may well suppose Hezekiah and his kingdom were greatly alarmed, though there was a good work of reformation lately begun among them: but it ended well, in the confusion of the Assyrians and the great encouragement of Hezekiah and his people in their return to God. (105)
And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king
of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve
him. Jer. 27:6
6. beasts of the field-not merely the horses to carry his Chaldean soldiers, and oxen to draw his provisions [Grotius]; not merely the deserts, mountains, and woods, the haunts of wild beasts, implying his unlimited extent of empire [Estius]; but the beasts themselves by a mysterious instinct of nature. A reproof to men that they did not recognize God's will, which the very beasts acknowledged (compare Isa 1:3). As the beasts are to submit to Christ, the Restorer of the dominion over nature, lost by the first Adam (compare Ge 1:28; 2:19, 20; Ps 8:6-8), so they were appointed to submit to Nebuchadnezzar, the representative of the world power and prefigurer of Antichrist; this universal power was suffered to be held by him to show the unfitness of any to wield it "until He come whose right it is" (Eze 21:27). (106)
Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars,
and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots
from beneath. Amos 2:9
And if this daring contempt of the commandments of God was highly reprehensible even in itself, it became perfectly inexcusable if we bear in mind that Israel was indebted to the Lord its God for its elevation into an independent nation, and also for its sacred calling. For this reason, the prophet reminds the people of the manifestations of grace which it had received from its God (Amos 2:9-11). Amos 2:9. "And yet I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and who was strong as the oaks; and I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. (107)
I have cited over one hundred scripture passages that deal with God's sovereign control over man, and the created realm along with comments from the greatest classical commentators. God controls even seemingly chance events. God's sovereign control even extends to man's heart. God not only knows the future, He controls the future. There is a vast difference between the teaching of scripture and the beliefs of the Arminian system. The Christian will be able to rejoice with the Psalmist by saying: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path". The Arminian needs to forsake his rationalism. It is exceedingly sinful to bring God's word before, and hold it accountable to, the judgment seat of human reason. This is idolatry. We will now begin to look at some particulars of soteriology or the system of salvation.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Volume 11, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 193.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 618.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 1932.
Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 961
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 385,386.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 294, 295.
Charles Bridges, Proverbs, The Geneva Series of Commentaries, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1983), p. 364, 365.
John Murray, The New International Commentary On The New Testament, The Epistle To The Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM. B. Eerdmans, Reprinted 1982), Volume 11 p. 26.
Simon J. Kistemaker, New Testament Commentary, James and 1-111 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), pp. 53, 54
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, James and 1-111 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 122, 123.
A.M. Stibbs and A.F. Walls, 1 Peter, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, IVP - Eerdmans, reprinted 1983), pp. 137, 138.
Leon Morris, Luke, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, IVP - Eerdmans, reprinted 1984), p. 311.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Acts1990, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 93, 94.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume X1X Acts 14-28, Romans 1-16, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), p. 198.
Robert Haldane, An Exposition Of Romans, (McLean Virginia, MacDonald Publishing Company, 1958), p. 632.
Simon J. Kestemaker, James and 1-11 John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1986), p. 148.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 678.
Matthew Henry, p. 721.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Volume 11, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 59.
Charles Bridges, Proverbs, The Geneva Series of Commentaries, (Carlisle, Pennsylvania, The Banner of Truth Trust, Reprinted 1983), p. 232, 233, 234.
Charles Bridges, pp. 327, 328.
Joseph A. Alexander, Commentary on Isaiah, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kregel Publications, p. 230.
Joseph A. Alexander, p. 467.
Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah Volume 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, Publishing Company, reprinted 1993) pp.203, 204.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), p. 740.
Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, reprinted 1982), pp. 139, 140, 142.
Charles Hodge, Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Erdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1994), pp. 252, 253.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. p 2.
Matthew Henry, p 101.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 286.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 911.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), p. 543.
Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1975), pp. 217, 218.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume XV11 Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 290-292.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Acts, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 93, 94.
John Murray The New International Commentary On The New Testament, The Epistle To The Romans, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, reprinted 1982) pp. 115, 116.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume 1 Genesis, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 486-489.
Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament 2 Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 11 Samuel, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p.365.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985), p 519.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David Volume 11, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 304.
Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah, Volume 3, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1993), pp. 200, 201.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 792.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume 18, John 12-21, Acts 1-13, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 95-99.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985), p 519.
Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 510.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume 1V, Joshua, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 192, 193.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985), p 319.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985), p 992.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p 46.
Matthew Henry, p. 1293.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 856.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume XV1 Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 190-192.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries Volume XV1l Harmony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 246, 247.
Derek Kidner, Genesis, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, IVP - Eerdmans, reprinted 1983), pp. 121, 122.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 122.
Matthew Henry, p. 580.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) pp. 350, 351.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 372.
Matthew Henry, p. 684.
Matthew Henry, p. 732.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 11, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 27.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 257.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 304.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 380.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pp. 438, 439.66.Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 228.
Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 228.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 1036.
Matthew Henry Commentary, p. 1044.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) pp. 558, 559.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 562.
Matthew Henry Commentary, p. 1158.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume 1X, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), p. 294-297.
Matthew Poole, p. 594.
Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, IVP - Eerdmans, reprinted 1983), p. 90.
Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel, p. 110.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 807.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 810.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume XV1, pp. 402, 403.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, Luke, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1984), pp. 89, 90.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, p. 2195.
William Hendriksen, Galatians and Ephesians, pp. 99, 100.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume V111, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 385, 386.
Robert Haldane, An Exposition Of Romans, (McLean Virginia, MacDonald Publishing Company, 1958), p. 179.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 116.
Matthew Henry, p. 891.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume V111, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp. 151, 152.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 665.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary, The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1973), pp. 472, 473.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume XX11, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Reprinted 1979), pp. 150-152.
Arthur W. Pink, An Exposition Of Hebrews, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, Twelfth printing 1984), pp. 29-41.
Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament Jeremiah, Lamentations, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p.35-37.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 768.
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Hosea, Volume V111, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp.385-388.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 2194.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 1189.
Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 614.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 1, (Nashville, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984), p. 354, 355.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, pp. 30, 31
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, p. 413.
100. John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Isaiah, Volume VII, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House Reprinted 1979), pp.456-461.
101. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Vol. 11, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 823.
102. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 513.
103. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zondervan, 1977) p. 281.
104. Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible, (Hendrickson Publishers, Inc, Fourth printing 1985) p. 1097.
105. Matthew Henry, p. 1098.
106. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, p. 629.
107. Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament Minor Prophets, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted 1985), p.254, 255.
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com