IT IS GOD WHO ADDS AND SUBTRACTS PEOPLE FROM OUR LIVES
“Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. [Isa 43:4]
What does the Lord mean when He says, “I give men for thee, and people for thy life. [Isa 43:4]? I shall first speak of how this Scripture applied to me personally and then quote the best classical interpretation given on this portion of Scripture.
The Apostle wrote that God’s divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness! [2Pet 1:3] WHATEVER it is that the elect need to sustain their natural bodies and their spiritual souls, GOD HAS ALREADY DECREED, ORDAINED AND APPOINTED IN ETERNITY PAST! As the Master Himself said, “your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things”! [Matt 6:32] And since most of these temporal blessings come to us through MEN, in one form or another, God has in His sovereign grace and providence given us these men.
When I review my own life, and the men who are involved in it, starting from my employer to my landlord, my barber, my doctor and even my housekeeper; I see that they have been given to me by the Lord with a special view to be a blessing to me. And especially when I hear the sad tales of some of my unsaved friends as to how they are having a very difficult time with the above mentioned individuals like say their doctor or their motor mechanic etc, I can see that God has given me not just any doctor or any mechanic to bless my life, but a ‘hand picked’ one particularly with ME in mind”.
And not only those people who have been a blessing to me, but even those who have caused me much pain and grief by either their unloving attitude or their plain indifference were ALL sent by GOD for my good!!!
“I will give men for thee, and people for thy life” [Isaiah 43:4]
But here is a theological masterpiece of an interpretation on this verse, by that renowned Reformed theologian, Herman Hoeksema, quoted from his classic sermon –
‘THE PLACE OF REPROBATION IN THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL’!
God loved His people with an infinite love. In His great love He determined to lead them to the glory He had appointed for them in Christ. If He determined to attain this greatest glory and lead the elect into it, it was necessary for Him, reverently speaking, to reprobate some. Not because all could not find a place in that glory, for then the question would arise, Why did God decree to create more people than could assume a place in the organism of the body of Christ? But because those who are presently to be damned must for a time serve the salvation of the elect, be it in an antithetical manner. In this sense, reprobation is a DIVINE NECCESITY. In this sense, the reprobate exist for the sake of the elect. They are in a certain sense the price, the ransom, which God pays for the higher glory of His children.
Of course, you will ask if we can prove this. We think we can. In the first place, we wish to refer you to the fact that this idea is not strange to God’s general revelation in nature and in history. You find it proved in the life of the nations and of people in particular. On many monuments erected in honor of our soldiers who lost their lives on the battlefield, you may read the inscription, ‘They gave their lives that we might live.’ Here is a figure of election and reprobation as we are now considering it. How often it occurs that thousands lose their lives on the battlefield in order that others may live. They do not merely give their lives, but it is required of them. They were reprobated that the nation might live.
It is no different in the lives of individuals, or individual persons and animals. The mother gives life to her child, not infrequently at the expense of her own. It is virtually always true that one generation lives and dies to make room for the next. There are species of animals in which the male dies after mating. The male is cast off (reprobated) to give life to the young.
According to the Scriptures, it is no different in the plant kingdom. When a farmer sows seed in his field, he sows much more than he needs. When the seed falls into the earth and dies, there appear not only the kernels of wheat, for which the seed was planted, but also the stem, the straw, and even the chaff. Without the stem and the chaff the grain could never have germinated and ripened. The stem and the chaff serve the grain, the seed. Yet both will presently be burned by fire in order that the grain may be gathered into the barn. Here also we find election and reprobation, and in such a way that the latter serves the former, and is necessary to it.
Yet this is not all. Not only do you find a figure of this truth in the general revelation of God, but it is also literally proved in Scripture, both in various texts and in the historical accounts. The Lord declares in Isaiah 43:4 to Israel, ‘Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.’ It is true that this passage refers to that which the Lord did for Israel in the past. But it is also true that this passage refers to the eternal counsel of God’s good pleasure. For indeed God has loved His people from eternity. In His counsel they are precious in His eyes. Thus the text refers to the eternal love of God. In that eternal love He has desired to glorify and magnify His people, and to lead them to the highest possible glory in His eternal inheritance.
The text says that, in order to accomplish this, God has given other people in the place of His chosen people. Because He loved His people, those others had to pay for Israel’s salvation with their own lives. Israel’s history proves this time and time again. Pharaoh and his host perish. They must serve Israel temporarily, but God does not hesitate to give people for the life of His people. When Israel enters Canaan, people are again given in the place of Israel. This is effectuated by the sins of these people. They have filled the measure of iniquity at the time when Israel must enter into the rest and are destroyed to make room for Israel. So it is throughout the history of Israel. Babylon also serves a purpose, namely, to chastise Jerusalem. Yet, hereby it makes itself ripe for judgment. And when it has served to realize God’s counsel, Babylon is destroyed.
Thus it is literally presented in Proverbs 11:8: ‘The righteous is delivered out of trouble and the wicked cometh in his stead.’ The idea here is that the ungodly serve to deliver the righteous out of trouble, to glorify them. And having done so they perish for their sins. Still stronger is the language of Proverbs 21:18: ‘The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.’ Here again we have the idea that God gives the wicked as a ransom, which He pays to glorify the righteous.
Naturally, this does not detract from the other truth that in reprobation God also reveals His righteousness, and is glorified in revealing His holy name. Indeed, these reprobate do not serve the salvation of the elect willingly, but as godless, and in spite of themselves. For this reason, they become guilty in serving this purpose, and are worthy of condemnation. Thus, in serving God’s purpose they become ripe for destruction. Just as chaff ripens for destruction while it serves the grain, so the godless become ripe for perdition while they serve the elect.
More evident this is in the case of our Savior Himself. Surely for the glorification of the elect, the blood of the Savior must flow. But if this blood is to flow, there must be a wicked and reprobate world to shed it. There must be a Judas who betrays Him; there must be a Sanhedrin that condemns Him; there must be a mighty and godless Roman power that finally brings Him to the cross. In all this, the reprobate serve for the glorification of the elect. Without that ungodly world, the cross cannot be imagined. But the situation is also thus that the world, in crucifying the Savior, through which it serves for the glorification of the elect, becomes ripe for destruction.
As it was then, so it is now. So it will be to the end of the world. And when the end shall come, the ungodly shall be righteously condemned and damned, in sin having served God’s counsel. The elect shall be eternally glorified with the Savior in the inheritance of the saints. Thus we conclude that in the unity of God’s plan, reprobation necessarily serves election. God’s love toward His people reigns supreme in His counsel. To reveal and to realize this love fully He brings into existence people who must finally be damned. Reprobation is the necessary antithetical counterpart of election.