For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. (Is. 43: 3-4)
For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. ... What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Rom. 9:17-18, 22-24)
I was asked to share the Word in this Wednesday's Homegroup, and the passage that I have chosen was Mt. 15: 21-28, the case of the Syrophoenician woman. More specifically, I shared on Jesus' harsh and apparently unloving attitude towards the woman, which seems to smack of racism, even calling her a "dog."
What is behind this apparently racist attitude that Jesus displayed here? As we see the passage in light of Scripture, we can see that Jesus is teaching us a lesson: namely, that Jesus loves only His people, and that before the Cross, Gentiles are God's enemies. God does in fact hates those who are not His, and the division between the two cities — the City of God wherein God loves the elect, and the City of Man wherein God hates the reprobates. The hatred of God against those who are not His people extends through the Scriptures from Cain down to the end of time, whereby God's wrath will be finally poured out upon all who do not believe in Him in them being thrown into the Lake of Fire.
This is where we begin. Christ (and God) loves His people, and hates those who are not His people. The elect who are His people God loves and saves, while the reprobates God actively allows to remain in their rebellion and sin.
This is where the amazing truths of the Gospel and God's love is manifested in redemptive history. Election and reprobation is true, yet in the New Covenant God does an amazing act. Previously the people of God were limited mostly to the Jews, and those who desire to be saved have to become Jews. That is why Peter had difficulty accepting Cornelius since, although Cornelius was a God-fearer, he was not a Jewish proselyte. Through the Gospel and the historic dawning of the New Covenant, God magnifies His name through changing the (ethnic) bounds of the covenant. By His death on the Cross, Christ reconciled His enemies to Himself. Such reconciliation is manifested most amazingly in God's salvation of the "stinking dogs" — the Gentiles. Those who typologically are the eternal enemies of God's people, the seed of the serpent, have now been accepted into the Kingdom of God. As it is written,
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.(Eph. 2:11-13)
Through the New Covenant, God manifests His abundant mercy in saving His enemies. And in order for it to be totally of grace, God hardened the Israelites unto destruction, as Scripture states:
What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”
And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”
So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (Rom. 11:7-11, 17-22, 30-32)
According to God's wisdom, the majority of Israelites (especially of that generation) were hardened in order for the Gospel to go out to the Gentiles. "For God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all" (Rom. 11:32). In order for it to be shown to be all of grace, God reprobates for the most part the Jews as a group, so that in the end no one can boast of their ethnicity or their status as the covenant people.
Therefore, God through the manifestation of His sovereign plan manifests His wisdom and mercy in saving those who were formerly considered hopeless, without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). Covenantally and typologically considered reprobates, just like the Syrophoenician woman, we (who for the most part are not Jews) not only do not deserve the love and salvation of God, we are dogs and vermin, considered fit only to be fuel for the fires of hell.
BUT, and this is a big "but," God's mercy is manifested in this: in salvation of those who were covenantally and typologically reprobates, God's mercy and grace is magnified. The great reversal comes with the soteric reprobation of those covenantally elect and the soteric election of those covenantally reprobate, as seen in the Parable of the Tenants (Mt. 21:33-44). Indeed, behold the severity and mercy of God (Rom. 11: 22), glorified in the manifestation of His great love and great mercy to us.
Finally, let us realize this awe-ful truth. We often like to identify with the heroes of the faith, and that is good. Yet we oftentimes fail to consider that the "losers" in the Bible are men too. Pharaoh and his great army died, in order that God might be glorified in the salvation of the Israelites from Egypt. The great majority of the Jews died as reprobates, in order for the Gospel to go out to the Gentiles. This is a terrible truth indeed: Men are reprobated and they died apart from Christ to burn in hell forever, just so that we might be saved. As stated earlier in Is. 43:3-4, Christ's love for His elect is manifested in giving men in exchange for us. As Rom. 9:17, 22-24 teaches, the redemptive-historical purpose of God in reprobation is to serve the purpose of calling the elect unto salvation.
As we wrap this study up, I would like us to meditate on these truths. Let us see the great mercy of God to us. Let us marvel at God's grace towards us. We are dogs, vermin, cut off from God and the way of salvation, cut of from the fellowship with God and the encouragement of the saints. Utterly undeserving, yet Christ loved us and saved us. Poor and sick we come, yet God clothed us with royal robes we do not even begin to deserve. Not only that, but for our sakes, other men are rejected and condemned to hell, in order that we might be saved. Do we not rejoice in the grace of God? Do we not weep at the cost of our salvation, not only in us causing the death of Jesus in order for our sins to be paid in full, but also that in the manner and means of our salvation God reprobates some to show His mercy on us?
Truly, behold the love and mercy of God; His severity and kindness to us.