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Chapter VI


The Foreknowledge of God - L. D. McCabe

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ONE of the standing promises made to the Jews was temporal prosperity, as a reward for obedience. They were uniformly prosperous when they obeyed, and uniformly not prosperous when they disobeyed. In no instance did God dissolve the connection between obedience and temporal prosperity, and between disobedience and national adversity. Though this providence is not true under the Gospel, it was true under the theocracy. Whenever, under that method of government, the people of God disobeyed, they were punished by temporal calamities. And for their signal punishment it was necessary that instruments be used to do the providential work of correction.

In the tenth chapter of Second Kings we read: "Jehu took no heed to walk in the way of the Lord God of Israel, with all his heart; for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam which made Israel to sin. In those days the Lord began to cut Israel short [that is, as the margin reads, 'to cut off the ends']; and Hazael smote them in all the coasts of Israel; from Jordan eastward, all the land of Gilead, the Gadites, the Reubenites, and the Manassites; from Aroer, which is by the river Arnon, even Gilead and Bashan." Here we have recorded the fulfillment of words previously uttered because of the signal disobedience of God's people. That disobedience merited severe punishment, and Hazael had been selected as the instrument for its infliction. Turning back to the eighth chapter we find that when Elisha met him, the prophet "settled his countenance steadfastly" upon him and wept. "Why weepeth my lord?" inquired Hazael. "Because I know the evil thou shalt do unto the children of Israel. Their strongholds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword," etc. And Hazael said, "But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing." Elisha's mind was fixed on the calamities so soon to come upon his brethren, the children of Israel, and the divine judgments so soon to fall on the whole Jewish Church. As he contemplated the desolations coming upon Zion he wept. He wept because the people of God had been so disobedient as to require so great a measure of the divine displeasure and of retribution. Had his mind been fixed upon the doings of Hazael, as originating in his own perversity, there could have been no desire to weep. For a manly man to weep under such circumstances seems unnatural and unlikely. He would have felt, as would all great souls, indignation, an instinctive horror and condemnation in the presence of one whose nature would allow him to perpetrate such inhuman cruelties as the prophet foretold. While we do not doubt that, however wicked and mean may have been the nature of Hazael, he really thought himself utterly incapable of the barbarities enumerated by the prophet, and that the very supposition that he could perpetrate such deeds outraged his self- esteem. Elisha, enlightened by the Spirit of God, saw his true nature and its tendencies better than he did himself. The prophet was thus enabled to comprehend his ambitious spirit, his feelings and purposes toward his Sovereign, his ability to execute them; also the conditions of power and of opportunity to gratify his ambition, into which his elevation to the throne would bring him; and, knowing these, could as well foreknow what he would do as we may know what a robber and a would-be murderer will do, with untold treasure luring him to crime. Hazael may have needed no constraint on the part of God, angel, or demon, but only the opportunity and the power to perpetrate all the horrors which were spoken of by the prophet. For aught we know, too, it may have been partly Hazael's punishment for previous wickedness that he should now be put in circumstances that would prompt or permit him to commit heinous offenses, barbarous cruelties, against a neighboring people. God used him as an instrument to do the needed work of chastisement. He used him just as he is using men today, in numberless instances, as the instruments of correction and instruction to the disobedient. The cruelties which he inflicted, barbarous as they were, were perhaps not greater than the awful wickedness of Israel had provoked, and were due to his own nature and that of his people, but in no sense to the fact that God used him as an instrument of punishment. As to God's mode of providential correction, confirmatory of the above teaching, Isaiah exclaims (Is. x, 5): "O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against a hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. Howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so." And Jeremiah proclaims (Jer. li, 20), "Thou art my battle-ax and weapons of war: for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms, and render unto them all the evil they have done."

It is apparent, we think, that the dogma of foreknowledge is not necessary to furnish a satisfactory explication of Elisha's prophecy relative to Hazael's future conduct.

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