They Limited the Holy One of Israel… or Did They?

Mr. David Cloud, in today’s News Notes, shared with his subscribers a small article called “God Can Be Limited?” In it, Mr. Cloud speaks of Psalm 78:41 and from it draws the conclusion that Calvinist must be in direct contradiction to the Scriptures. But is this really so?

These Friday Church News Notes are sent out weekly as a part of Mr. Cloud’s Fundamental Baptist Information Service, which he states is purposed “to provide information to assist preachers in the protection of their churches in this apostate hour.” Awesome. Incidentally, that could be said to be one of the goals of Timothy’s Burden, as I very strongly believe Colossians 2:4-8. I also believe that Jesus Christ must be worshiped in truth because He is the Truth. I believe that when David Cloud speaks on matters such as Calvinism (or music or Bible versions), he does so perhaps not dishonestly but certainly errantly. Such errors, especially when they are widespread, must be corrected, and because I do not have access to his mailing list to send this to his subscribers, I will share this here for the benefit of the few people who visit.

The quoted text is used in accordance with American copyright law, which allows fair use of material for critical examination.

“Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israelâ€? (Psalm 78:41). According to Calvinism, if man can resist God or thwart His purposes then God is no longer a Sovereign God and man must be Sovereign.

Absolutely correct. We know from Scripture that the Lord’s will is always accomplished; Isaiah 46:10 establishes this beyond question. In other words, if it is God’s “counsel” and “pleasure” to do something, He will do it. If something can prevent Him from doing what He desires, that something must be more sovereign than He is.

Thus they claim that it is impossible that man could accept or reject God’s salvation.

The regenerated man, quickened by the Holy Spirit and imparted faith by the Father, is 100% able to believe in Jesus Christ — and indeed, he will. The unregenerate man not only isn’t able to believe in Jesus Christ, he has no desire to do so. This is why salvation isn’t “of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” Romans 9:16, NKJV. I can’t even boast that I had faith in Jesus Christ, for that faith is not of myself but is of God who shows mercy.

Psalm 14, Psalm 53, and Romans 3 make it abundantly clear that no man desires God, nor does anything good in His eyes. If my faith is of myself and is something good in His eyes, those whole chapters fall as lies.

But the fact is that the Bible says man does resist and reject God, and this has been going on since the earliest days of his history. Adam rejected God’s Word. Cain rejected it. Noah’s generation rejected it. The men gathered at the Tower of Babel rejected it. When the Psalmist recounts the experience of Israel in the wilderness, he describes them as “a stubborn and rebellious generation” (Psa. 78:8) who “refused to walk in his law” (Psa. 78:10).

No argument there. Man is totally depraved, completely without the will to cooperate with God. It is this inability or bondage of the will that requires salvation — if there is to be a salvation — to be wholly of God. Man does not desire Him or His Christ.

The Psalmist then makes this amazing statement: “THEY LIMITED THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL” (Psa. 78:41). According to Calvinist thinking, this is not possible and if it were possible it would mean that God is not sovereign, but it is obvious that Calvinism is wrong on both counts.

It is not possible, and if it were possible it would mean that God is not sovereign. Here is Mr. Cloud’s point of contention. However, this contention is not caused by an inability to understand what is being read — indeed, Psalm 78:41 in the King James Version does indeed state that the Holy One of Israel was limited. How can that be? It’s simple. The King James Version’s translation of this verse is less than perfect. I realize Mr. Cloud believes the King James Version to be the best English version available and that he will follow it without deviation as he is able to do so. My preferred version, the New King James Version, follows suit and uses “limited” here as well.

However, the problem comes into focus when comparing this verse in other translations. John Darby translated the word as “grieved”; the English Standard Version says “provoked”; the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible reads “pained”; the Modern King James Version also reads “pained”; and the New International Version gives “vexed.”

Indeed, looking up the word in Strong’s Concordance, the word in question, taÌ‚vaÌ‚h, only has the meaning of “to limit” if definitions of the word are somehow confused. These definitions include the ideas of “to grieve,” “to mark out,” or “to scrape.”

Because of the temptation of God, He was grieved. This is consistent with the rest of Scriptures when man’s rebellion is in view. God was certainly not limited when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and … every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” Genesis 6:5, NKJV. Rather than being limited, He was provoked to take drastic measures, up to and including the xenocide of the giants and near xenocide of humanity.

For God to make man in His own image with a will and an ability to make real choices and for God to allow man to exercise his will even in the matter of receiving salvation does not make God any less sovereign than had He created a robot.

No, of course not. However, to assume that the will of man is capable of overriding the will of God makes man more sovereign than God. We know that God can override the will of man. He does this every time He removes the heart of stone of an unbeliever, replacing it with a heart of flesh both capable of and invariably inclined to faith in Jesus Christ. It was not of man who wills, but of God who has mercy. God’s will overrode that of man.

If God had decided to grant man absolute free will to man, including in salvation, no man would ever be saved. Apart from the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, we have no desire to seek or to know God or His Christ. If man had free will in this matter, God would never be glorified by vessels of mercy prepared for glory; He would only be glorified by vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. His glorification would be incomplete, in exchange for a little bit of vain free will on the part of man.

And it will not do to allow that man can resist God in some things but not in the matter salvation. If man can resist and reject and limit God in any way and God can still be God, then God can still be God if He offers salvation to all and some receive it and some reject it, as the Bible so plainly says. “And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely� (Rev. 22:17).

Revelation 22:17 does not specify who those are who will drink freely. Only those whom the Father gives to Christ and drags to Him are capable of drinking of the water of life that Christ offers.

Man cannot limit God. He has already determined the end of all things from the beginning, and all things which have yet to be done. His will is perfect, and it will be done. It’s a biblical certainty.

6 thoughts on “They Limited the Holy One of Israel… or Did They?

  1. Justin says:

    Brother Cloud states, “For God to make man in His own image with a will and an ability to make real choices and for God to allow man to exercise his will even in the matter of receiving salvation does not make God any less sovereign than had He created a robot.”

    1. He assumes, as so many others do, that in order for a man to have a will, it must be free (i.e. independant from any outside influence, including God). But to hold to such a view of man’s will is insufficient given the biblical proof. The heart is “more deceitful… and terribly sick; who can understand it” (Jeremiah 17:9)? The will is “enslaved to sin” (John 8:34). Indeed, we are all “dead in [our] transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). By assuming men are neutral, or free, is offensive to the Word of God.

    2. Furthermore, he assumes that if a sinner does not choose, in and of themselves, to accept Christ, it makes them a robot because God chooses to regenerate them. However, robots do not feel anything. They do not have thoughts. Do I have emotions and thoughts? Very much so. But before Christ mercifully gave me “a heart of flesh” (Ezekial 36:26-27), those emotions and thoughts were entirely void of love, trust, and reverance towards God. Before God put His Law in my mind and wrote it on my heart, according to the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34), I would never have used my “free will” to bow the knee and confess Him Lord.

    It is just as Toplady said, “The greatest judgment which God Himself can, in this present life, inflict upon a man is, to leave him in the hand of his own boasted free-will.”

    Also, it is as Calvin put it, “The will is not destroyed but rather repaired by grace.”

  2. Adrian says:

    Rick Beckman says>>> “Revelation 22:17 does not specify who those are who will drink freely. Only those whom the Father gives to Christ and drags to Him are capable of drinking of the water of life that Christ offers.”

    Adrians reply>>>
    The Father drags none to Christ. That is a very poor choice in words, the word Father & drag does not go well together. The Father gives.

    ……………………………………………

    For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received [it] not [as] the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. 1Thess 2:13

    Could Paul be teaching mans responsibility towards God, having heard the Gospel.
    It seems to me man has to make a choice in the matter of salvation.

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 2Thess 2:13

    It would seem to me that sanctification comes before man believes.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    So to sum up these to verses in the matter of salvation, God deals with men as pleases him. Man clearly has a responsibility to God, and can lay hold of God through belief in the Gospel. 1Thess 2:13

    It also appears to me that God sometimes chooses this or that person and that one is unable to resist him. 2Thess 2:13
    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

    Here is more for my readers to chew on.

    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

    So God here determined that Christ should be delivered. On the other hand men have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain him. So which is it? It does not have to be one or the other. God operates as pleases Him.

    Thought I would share that with you.

    Adrian

  3. Rick Beckman says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    The Father drags none to Christ. That is a very poor choice in words, the word Father & drag does not go well together. The Father gives.

    None can come to Christ unless the Father drags them. John 6:44

    The word “draw” in that verse is often weakened to “woo” without any textual support whatsoever; in fact, if you look at every time the word is used in the New Testament, it must mean “drag” or “cause to come” (i.e., not merely invite, but to actually cause to come).

    Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of American English, Strong’s Concordance, etc. all agree that the word “draw” literally means “drag.”

    The Father drags people to Christ. Apart from that dragging, none can come to Him.

    Could Paul be teaching mans responsibility towards God, having heard the Gospel.
    It seems to me man has to make a choice in the matter of salvation.

    Man only chooses Christ after they have been brought to Him by the Father, regenerated by the Holy Spirit. In his natural state, man is content to live in sinful darkness. Paul unequivocally taught what two Psalms loudly proclaimed: there are none who seek God, none who do good, etc., etc. If there are none who seek God, I fail to see how anyone, left to themselves, would ever choose to seek God. If that is even a possibility, the Bible is a hopeless lie.

    And so it must be that if any are to come to Christ in belief, it must be by an act of divine grace alone: not of man who wills or runs, but entirely of He who has mercy.

    It would seem to me that sanctification comes before man believes.

    I fail to see what point you are trying to make. Indeed, that anything comes before faith is an argument for what I believe, not against. Regeneration logically precedes faith which logically precedes justification, though temporally they occur at the same time. One cannot believe in Christ unless his heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh, and one cannot be justified unless one believes in Christ.

    But the logical beginning of salvation is not man’s decision to believe in Christ — if that were to be the beginning, none would ever be saved because none seek God. The logical beginning is God’s regeneration of certain men. And once they are regenerated, they do have a desire for God and naturally believe in Jesus Christ, just as once they naturally chose to reject Him in willful sin and rebellion.

    So to sum up these to verses in the matter of salvation, God deals with men as pleases him. Man clearly has a responsibility to God, and can lay hold of God through belief in the Gospel. 1Thess 2:13

    Yes, man has a responsibility to believe in order to be saved, but the natural man is unable to fulfill that because he has no desire to. While it is gloriously true that whosoever believes in Jesus Christ will be saved, it is even more gloriously true that those who believe do so because they are brought to Christ by the Father and not by their own decision.

    If we stop and say “people are saved because they believe” and go no farther back than that, we rob the glory from He who chooses who to bring to His Son, who died for those the Father would give Him.

    It also appears to me that God sometimes chooses this or that person and that one is unable to resist him. 2Thess 2:13

    If God chooses to save a person and yet that person resists, then God has failed at saving that person. Yet we know that God cannot fail.

    The first chapter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew emphatically declares that He will save His people from their sins Matthew 1:21.

    That verse alone establishes that all of those who are saved are Christ’s people, and all those who are not saved are not Christ’s people and that HE did not come to save them. If He did intend to save some who are not ultimately saved, then He failed at His primary purpose in the Incarnation.

    Christ will save His people, and only His people is He obligated to save.

    So God here determined that Christ should be delivered. On the other hand men have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain him. So which is it? It does not have to be one or the other. God operates as pleases Him.

    Indeed. And that very fact that God operates as He pleases does great damage to the idea of “complete free will” or anything of the like. If we have complete free will, God’s free will must be limited. Likewise, if God has complete free will, so ours is limited. We cannot both be sovereign, and I’d much rather He be. That any man would even want to have free will surprises me. The way that seems right to us is a way of destruction!

  4. Adrian says:

    I fail to see what point you are trying to make.

    But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 2Thess 2:13

    The point ultimately I was trying to make was that I do see in this verse God working in such a way that would seem to make it impossible for a man to resist.

    But beyond that I was hoping that it would be seen that God does not have to choose between the 2 views in question, he allows people who believe to come unto him. And again as I have stated earlier, he chooses this or that person for his own pleasure and will. Man has a responsibility to believe the Gospel, that’s free will !. God may at times choose, even against a mans will to do with him whatsoever pleases Him.

    I have read some of your material over the past months, you really put effort into things, that’s commendable, I am sure you are am asset to your local assembly. However I feel that in this particular topic you are addressing, you are being a little one sided, and as you know , a half truth is not truth at all.

    I will not be posting on this topic anymore. I am sure you will now take this opportunity to have the last word.

    take care

  5. Justin says:

    Adrian, I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you. I’m pretty sure that Rick does too. Neither Rick or I disagree that humans have the responsibility to obey God. All we are saying is that humans, unless regenerated by the Holy Spirit, are utterly incapable of fulfilling that responsibility, and, more so, they are unwilling to fulfill that responsibility (yuck, way too many i’s).

    Adrian, I do not see how Rick is being one-sided in this conversation. If you would, please show me where. However, if you remain to your commitment of not posting on this topic, that is fine.

    Your’s most sincerely in Christ,
    –Justin

  6. Rick Beckman says:
    Student of the sciences, the religions, the science fictions, and the fantasies… But mostly I’m just trying to find my groove in this big, crazy world.

    In response to Adrian:

    I fail to see what point you are trying to make.

    My point is that even though God commands all men everywhere to repent, granting salvation to all who call upon the name of the Lord (i.e., man’s responsibility), the only people who are able to meet those conditions are those whom the Father brings to Christ.

    So, more concisely, my point is, glory to God! :)

    The point ultimately I was trying to make was that I do see in this verse God working in such a way that would seem to make it impossible for a man to resist.

    The verse says that God has chosen us for salvation by certain means — means that He carries out entirely (i.e., He sanctifies and He gifts us our faith). If it is entirely of Him, how is it He could be resisted?

    Paul makes it clear beyond any doubt that God’s grace (such as that shown in salvation) has absolutely nothing to do with the will of man — whether we choose to be saved or run from being saved has no effect on whether or not we are saved. It is entirely about God who shows mercy Romans 9:16. (Bear in mind that I say it has nothing to do with us choosing to be saved primarily due to the fact that none of us will choose Christ until after God has already regenerated us and given us a heart that is capable of believing in Christ. A natural man with a heart of stone has no inclination whatsoever toward Christ, God, salvation, or “good” period.)

    But beyond that I was hoping that it would be seen that God does not have to choose between the 2 views in question, he allows people who believe to come unto him.

    I agree, but no man will ever come to Him without first being regenerated by God. There are none who seek after God, none that do good, and none who understand… No, not one. Scriptures repeat that at least three times, and the concept is ever present. Man does not — indeed, can not lest the Scriptures be shown a liar — choose God in his natural state.

    And again as I have stated earlier, he chooses this or that person for his own pleasure and will. Man has a responsibility to believe the Gospel, that’s free will !. God may at times choose, even against a mans will to do with him whatsoever pleases Him.

    The idea that there can be “elect” people and then some who come who are not elect is foreign to the Scriptures. Romans 9 makes it clear that humanity is of two varieties: vessels of mercy prepared for glory and vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. There are no vessels of uncertainty prepared for whatever they want. God prepares us for a certain purpose, and He does so according to the good pleasure of His own will, without any regard whatsoever to the actual person (He is no respecter of persons, after all).

    I have read some of your material over the past months, you really put effort into things, that’s commendable, I am sure you are am asset to your local assembly. However I feel that in this particular topic you are addressing, you are being a little one sided, and as you know , a half truth is not truth at all.

    I’ve been on the other side of the fence and I used to firmly hate Calvinism and believed very similarly to what you do, however I found it to be unable to stand the test of the Scriptures, and so I have abandoned it in favor of an unadulterated TULIP. And I’ve yet to find a verse(s) which gives me any reason to be otherwise.

    I will not be posting on this topic anymore. I am sure you will now take this opportunity to have the last word.

    I could mention that this seems to imply you want the last word… ;)

    And honestly, if you don’t want someone to reply to you — don’t leave a comment on their blog. I do appreciate your comments, though. :)

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