Does Psalm 145:9 Teach Common Grace?
God’s “tender mercies are over all his works,” according to Psalm 145:9. Advocates of “common grace” reckon that “all [God’s] works” here refer to everybody head for head, including the reprobate.
But immediately the next verse declares, “All thy works shall praise thee” (Psalm 10a). The reprobate do not praise God, and so they cannot be the objects of God’s “tender mercies” (Verse 9). According to Hebrew parallelism, “thy saints shall bless thee” (Psalm 145:10b) defines God’s works here as His holy people created by His sovereign grace in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 19:25; 29:23; 45:11; Ephesians 2:10), the citizens of the gracious kingdom of God, the subject of Psalm 145.
Let us have the Hebrew parallelism of Psalm 145:9-10 clearly before us:
[Psalm 145:9a] The Lord is good to all:
[Psalm 145:9b] and his tender mercies are over all his works.
[Psalm 145:10a] All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord;
[Psalm 145:10b] and thy saints shall bless thee.
“All” (Psalm 145:9a) and “all [God’s] works” (Psalm 145:9b, 10a) and God’s “saints” (Psalm 145:10b) refer to the same group, God’s holy people who are new creatures in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10). The eternal, unchangeable and faithful Jehovah is good to “all” of them (Psalm 145:9a) and they are the objects of His covenantal “tender mercies” (Psalm 145:9b). Knowing God’s goodness and tender mercies, all of His holy people “praise” (Psalm 145:10a) and “bless” (Psalm 145:10b) Him, and “speak of the glory of [His] kingdom, and talk of [His] power” (Psalm 145:11).
Notice that Psalm 145 opens by extolling the ever-blessed God as “king” (Verse 1). Four times this psalm uses the word “kingdom” (Psalm 145:11-13) and once it refers to His “dominion” which “endureth through all generations” (Psalm 145:13). God’s “kingdom” is glorious, majestic and everlasting (Psalm 145:11-13). It is the topic of conversation and the subject of divine praise for the “saints” (Psalm 145:10) who “speak of,” “talk of” and “make known” (Verses 11-12) the “glory” of God’s kingdom, yea, its “glorious majesty” (Verses 11-12). In this kingdom, God’s “power” and “mighty acts” (Verses 11-12) are known and revered.
Similarly, Jehovah’s “works,” “mighty acts,” “wondrous works” and “terrible acts” (Psalm 145:4-6) are also in the service of the “king” (Verse 1) and His kingdom (Psalm 145:11-13) and are so many reasons for the church of all ages to worship Him (Psalm 145:4-6): “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).
We gladly remember God’s “great goodness” and “sing” of His “righteousness” (Verse 7). We bless Him for his ethical perfections: “The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger of great mercy” (Psalm 145:8).
This is seen in Jehovah’s government of His “everlasting kingdom” (Verse 13), for He “upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down” (Psalm 145:14) and He “is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth” (Psalm 145:18).
Thus He fulfils the desire of, hears the cry of, and saves those “that fear him” (Verse 19) and provides food for all, to serve the interests of His kingdom (See verses 15-16).
Thus in the whole of Psalm 145, David (preface) and “all God’s works,” that is His “saints” (Verses 9-10), praise God the king for the mighty acts and glorious majesty and tender mercies shown in setting up and maintaining His kingdom. This is the same kingdom that Jesus Christ preached in His public ministry and established in the blood of His cross and which He governs and defends from His throne at God’s right hand—the same kingdom more fully revealed in the pages of the New Testament. The context of Psalm 145, as well as the Hebrew parallelism in verses 9-10, ought to have kept some from reading “common grace” into Psalm 145:9.
Moreover, if we would follow the eisegesis of those who believe that “all [God’s] works” in Psalm 145:9 include every human being bar none, we would also be forced to conclude that the same would apply to “every living thing” in verse 16. But if we grant this, this would necessarily require us to believe that God “satisfies the desire” for food (Psalm 145:15-16) of every human being in the history of the world—yet we know that thousands have died, and still die, by hunger. Also, “every living thing” is said to “wait upon” God for food (Psalm 145:15). This may well include animals, birds and fish (Psalm 104:21, 25-28), as well as God’s children who seek from Him alone their daily bread. But the reprobate are unbelievers; they do not truly wait upon or pray to God for food in faith!
The exegetical method of those who hold to “common grace” leads to absurdities in Psalm 145, both as regards verses 9-10 and verses 15-16, as well as missing the meaning of the psalm as whole. Let us not isolate parts of verses to make them say what we think they say, but let us interpret Scripture with Scripture. If we do that with this psalm, we cannot but conclude that the theory of a “common grace” for elect and reprobate is not in view here at all. Instead, Psalm 145 praises God for revealing His might (See verses 4-6, 11-13) and goodness (verses 7-9) and nearness (See verses 14 and 18-19) in His glorious kingdom. Verse 20 summarizes for us God’s attitude and will towards the two antithetical, spiritual peoples: “The Lord preserveth all them that love him: but all the wicked will he destroy.”
The holy and unchangeable God of the kingdom “is righteous in all his ways” (Psalm 145:17).
By Angus Stewart