He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities (Psalm 130:8)

POST OVERVIEW. A detailed exegesis of Psalm 130:8 with the objective of discovering the identity of “Israel,” the entity whom the LORD promises to “redeem from all his iniquities.”

Psalm 130 begins with the psalmist in the lowest of the depths, crying to the LORD in his iniquities, but the psalm finishes with the joyous shout of the redeemed. “Israel” hopes in the LORD because of His lovingkindness (Hebrew “hesed”) and His abundant redemption (130:7). The crescendo occurs in the last verse when the LORD’s promise is proclaimed: “He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (130:8). The LORD has heard the cry of His servant and has granted him redemption from all his iniquities. By His mercy and His lovingkindness, the LORD has pulled His penitent servant “Israel” from the misery of guilt to the joy of full redemption. This is certainly salvation language, and it is certain that the “Israel” of verse 8 is saved.

INTERPRETIVE CHALLENGE

As we reflect on this last verse of Psalm 130, we are faced with an interesting interpretive challenge. For while the psalmist begins as one person crying to the LORD for forgiveness (“Out of the depths I have cried,” “hear my voice,” “my supplications,” “I wait,” “I hope”), he concludes the psalm as a member of the group “Israel” exhorting all “Israel” to hope in the LORD and communicating to “Israel” the promise that the LORD “will redeem ‘Israel’ from all his iniquities.”

THE INTERPRETIVE CHALLENGE STATED. (Short form) “Who is the ‘Israel’ of verse 8?” (Expanded form) Since it is clear that, in Psalm 130:8, “Israel” is promised redemption from all his iniquities, and by definition, “redemption from all iniquities” means salvation, it is theologically important to clearly identify who this “Israel” is. Who is in this group “Israel” who will be redeemed from all their iniquities?

THREE POSSIBLE IDENTITIES FOR ISRAEL

Beginning our interpretive task, then, I would maintain that, in the Bible, there are three possible identities for “Israel.” First, “Israel” could refer to Jacob, the man who wrestled with God and with man and prevailed (Gen. 32:28). But second, “Israel” could also refer to the nation made up of the twelve tribes of Israel. That is, this could be the ethnic group known as the Hebrews, the physical descendants of the patriarch Jacob. The third option would be that this “Israel” refers to all the elect, to all those chosen by God for salvation before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5; see also Rom. 8:29-30; 9:8, 23-24).

So first, does this “Israel,” refer to the patriarch Jacob, who was named Israel? No, it does not. The exhortation in verse 7 to “hope in the LORD” makes no sense if it is made to a man who had been dead hundreds of years when this psalm was penned.

Next, could this refer to national Israel, to the ethnic group known as the Hebrews? No, it could not. While it is true that some of the Hebrews in the Bible were redeemed from their iniquities, the biblical record in both Old and New Testaments is very clear that the majority of people in national Israel perished. Just one example among many is in Numbers 14 when, except for Caleb and Joshua, the entire multitude of the sons of Israel coming out of Egypt rebelled against the LORD and therefore died in the wilderness (see also Psalm 95). But in addition to those Hebrews who perished as recorded in the pages of Scripture, virtually all Jewish people (ethnic, national Israel; Jews) who have lived in the last two millennia have not been redeemed but have died in unbelief. In no way, then, can the “Israel” of Psalm 130:8 refer to national, ethnic Israel.

“ISRAEL” IN PSALM 130:8 REFERS TO THE ELECT

Is it possible, then, that the “Israel” in Psalm 130:8 is referring to the elect? Yes, I think it is. In fact, I think “Israel” must refer to God’s elect, to those whom God has chosen for redemption (salvation) in eternity past. “Israel” must refer to God’s elect because only these people fit the words of the verse.

Consider first that Israel, as an entire group, is exhorted to “hope in the LORD” (130:7a). This hope is not the world’s baseless “hope” that somehow, despite all appearances to the contrary, everything will work itself out for my personal happiness. Rather, biblical hope is the conviction that the LORD who loves me will certainly fulfill all His promises to me, and so I can trust in Him as I wait for Him to work out His will. But remember that “God causes all things to work together for good (only) for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Those whom God calls are certainly His elect (Rom. 8:30).

Notice also that the basis of Israel’s hope (130:7a) is the LORD’s lovingkindness (130:7b). Now, the LORD’s lovingkindness is His covenant love given to His chosen people, and this in the sense that these chosen people are forever His. Those who have by faith received the LORD’s lovingkindness have a reason to hope, because all His promises are given for them and they are all “yes” (2 Cor. 1:20). But all these terms, of “covenant love” and “promises” and “hope,” are poured out in the hearts of His elect through the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).

It is also clear that “will redeem” is equivalent to “will save.” The LORD will save (all) Israel from all his iniquities (modified 130:8). It follows that, if Israel is saved from all his iniquities, then Israel is also forgiven of all his iniquities. But consider this, that in the Bible, there is only one group of people in which every member of the group is forgiven of all their iniquities, and that group is the elect. Those whom God has chosen will come to faith in Christ and will be forgiven of all their iniquities.

CONCLUSION. Based on these considerations, our conclusion is that “Israel” in Psalm 130:8 is referring to the elect, to those chosen by God for salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesian 1:4). In this instance, “Israel” is the name for God’s elect.

PROFOUND IMPLICATIONS OF THIS INTERPRETATION

A moment’s reflection will make clear that there are far-reaching implications and applications from this discovery. That, in at least some instances in the Scriptures, the word “Israel” can refer to the elect of God, to those chosen by God for salvation in eternity past, gives a new dimension especially to prophetic passages in the Old Testament. We will explore some of these ideas and implications in a follow-up post in the near future.

Soli Deo gloria            rmb                 12/15/2022                 #600

1 Peter 2:9 (Part 2) – Identity: chosen race, royal priesthood

INTRODUCTION. The first letter of Peter provides a sound foundation for the newly converted disciple of Jesus Christ to begin their journey with their Savior, and the heart of their conversion is captured powerfully in 1 Peter 2:9-10. Here Peter declares the disciple’s new identity, their new purpose, and their new people. This post is about the disciple’s new identity as part of “a chosen race and a royal priesthood.” (See previous post #522 on April 27, 2022, about this same verse.)

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. – 1 Peter 2:9-10

In the first chapter of the epistle, Peter has already told us that we were redeemed from our futile way of life (1:18) by the precious blood of Christ (1:19) and that, by God’s great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope (1:3), but now the apostle is going to tell us more about our new identity in Christ.

A CHOSEN RACE

The redeemed in Christ are, first, a chosen race. Peter declares that we believers have been chosen. But, for us to be chosen, of course, there must be someone who chose us. By whom were we chosen? The answer to that question was already provided at the beginning of the letter when Peter said we were “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1:1-2). So, God the Father chose us. When did He choose us? The apostle Paul tells us that “God the Father chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Thus, God chose us in eternity past. And to what end did God the Father choose us in eternity past? He chose us “so that we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

This verse speaks of the great biblical truth of God’s election, that the Lord of the universe has chosen His people before the world began so that His redeemed people may proclaim His glory and may be witnesses to the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8). The people of God are a chosen race to proclaim His excellencies.

A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD

Not only are we a chosen race, but we believers are also a royal priesthood. Now, we should realize that, under the first covenant, which was governed by the Law given at Sinai in the Old Testament, it was impossible for there to be a royal priesthood. According to the Law, the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe responsible for bringing the people’s sacrifices to God and bringing God near to the people. But the royal line of David came from the tribe of Judah. No priest was allowed to be king, and no king could become a priest. That was under the Law, the first covenant.

But now Christ has come and has ushered in the new covenant in His blood. The Levitical priesthood is gone and Jesus, the King of kings, is now our Great High Priest, so that those who have believed in Him for salvation have become a royal priesthood. We are brothers of King Jesus so we are part of the royal family of God. As the crippled Mephibosheth was allowed to eat at King David’s table as one of his sons (2 Samuel 9), so we eat as royalty at the table of King Jesus. As priests, we bring to God the sacrifices of praise and prayer and thanksgiving. We are given free access into His throne room (Hebrews 4:16) so that we can offer our requests before Him. We offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Believers have been redeemed to be a royal priesthood so that we can proclaim the excellencies of our glorious King.

SUMMARY

The apostle addresses this epistle to aliens scattered throughout the regions of modern-day Turkey (1:1-2). If we were to meet these people, there would be little that was outwardly impressive about them. Truth be told, they were very ordinary folks, probably still rough around the edges from their former pagan lives and godless practices. “There were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” (1 Cor. 1:26). But now these ordinary aliens in Asia Minor had heard the gospel and had believed on Christ, and now they are no longer ordinary in God’s sight. Now they are a chosen race and a royal priesthood redeemed to proclaim the excellencies of God.

Next time, we will continue to examine their new identity.

SDG                 rmb                 5/27/2022                   #536

“All that the Father gives Me” (John 6:37) – Part 1

INTRODUCTION: This is part of a series of blog posts on John 6:37, a verse in which Jesus teaches us about the sovereignty of God in salvation. In this series, we will examine not only what Jesus explicitly taught in this verse, but also its implications based on other passages of Scripture and plain reasoning.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” – John 6:37 (NASB)

In our study, we will examine the verse in small bites.

All that the Father gives Me” – From this opening phrase, we conclude that there is a specific, fixed number of souls that the Father has given to the Son. The Father has not given every soul to the Son, but only “all that the Father gives Me.” This phrase limits the number of those who will be saved to only those given by the Father. We know, therefore that all will not be saved.

It is also true that the Father certainly knows the number who will be saved, for “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19). If the Father knows the number of hairs on each person’s head (Matthew 10:30), then He certainly knows the exact number of souls that He has given to His Son, so we can say with confidence that the number is specific and fixed.

We also know that the number of those who are given to the Son for salvation is specific and fixed because these were chosen by the Father “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). At a time that was before all time, “before the foundation of the world,” God the Father chose the full number of those who would ever be in Christ. Once the Father “chose us in Him,” the full number of future saints was forever established and could not be changed. Thus, we can say that the number is specific and fixed.

Notice also that the Father is completely sovereign in this giving of souls to the Son. The Father alone has determined the exact number of souls that will be given to His beloved Son, and the Father alone is the One who gives them. The people who are chosen by the Father for salvation and then given to the Son are passive. (NOTE: This does not mean that we are saved passively. We will address what it means to come to Jesus for salvation later in this series, but our salvation is not passive. What we are discussing here is that we who are the recipients of salvation made no contribution to our being chosen by the Father and being given to the Son.)

Finally, we call “all the Father has given” to the Son “the elect” or “the chosen.” Substituting this term into the opening phrase yields, “All the elect (will come to Me).”

In the next post, we will consider the phrase, “will come to Me.”

SDG                 rmb                 12/6/2021                   #465