“I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, a people who continually provoke Me to My face.”
Question: Are the patient hands of God, which
were spread out all day long, an act of grace?
Answer: It was a grace that was spurned. Jesus
states: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets
and stones those who are sent to her! How often I
wanted to gather your children together, the way a
hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you
were unwilling.” God could save anyone unilaterally,
but what He wants is for His children to receive Him
willingly and consensually.
Isaiah 59:1-2 states: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”
It’s not that God can’t save. He can. It’s not that God won’t save. He will. God puts it back upon man to repent in order to receive His grace.
Question: When did God reach out to Israel, all day long?
Answer: It started when He brought them out of Egypt.
Nehemiah 9:28-31: “But as soon as they had rest, they did evil again before You; Therefore You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they ruled over them. When they cried again to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You rescued them according to Your compassion, and admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, by which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen. However, You bore with them for many years, and admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, yet they would not give ear. Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and compassionate God.”
Question: What does it mean that God spread out His hands to them?
Answer: It means that He reached out to them in a sufficient way so as to enable reconciliation. The fact that they so often had spurned His grace, led to God’s indignation. (Jeremiah 18:12-13)
Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer,: “Arminians teach that God is frustrated by the free will of his creatures. He decrees to save as many as possible, but the numbers are comparatively few. He plans and wills the salvation of all, but his goals remain unfulfilled.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.212-213, emphasis mine)
One Calvinist protests: “God created this world in which we find ourselves, He owns it, and He is running it according to His own sovereign good pleasure. God has lost none of His power, and it is highly dishonoring to Him to suppose that He is struggling along with the human race, doing the best He can to persuade men to do right, but unable to accomplish His eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose.”
If that’s how God wishes to deal with His creation, who will deny Him His sovereign right to do so? If God allows Himself to be frustrated by the free-will of His creation, then who is man to charge Him with error? Our feelings are irrelevant. All that really matters is what the Bible says, and no Calvinist would disagree with that. Therefore, Calvinists ought to surrender their sovereignty speculations on the alter of God’s Word.
John Calvin: “...the complaints we read in Isaiah (Isa. 65:2) are just, that though God daily held out His hands to embrace a hard and rebellious people, and though He rose early with assiduous concern (Jer. 7:13), He gained nothing : yet to us today His invitation, through His Son, is far more familiar and kind. A dreadful vengeance awaits us as often as the teaching of the Gospel is put before us, unless we quietly hide ourselves under His wings, in which He is ready to take us up and shelter us.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Matthew, Mark and Luke Vol. III, and James and Jude, p.68, emphasis mine)
Why did God do this, if not because He loved them, and did not wish for them to perish? However, Calvinists will argue that God had also secretly hardened them. (Isaiah 6:10) However, God hardened Israel only after Israel first hardened itself. God, indeed, hardens those who stubbornly reject Him, just like Jeremiah 18:1-13 teaches.
Question: From the Calvinist perspective, why would God need to hold out His arms for even one minute, when an Irresistible Grace could do the trick in one second?
Answer: Calvinism also teaches that God has decreed whatsoever comes to pass, so not only would God have decreed not to use an Irresistible Grace, but also to decree the rebellion of their Total Depravity as well. So in a sense, Calvinism is a theology whereby God decrees to frustrate Himself through others. Conversely, from a non-Calvinist perspective, God is simply showing grace and opportunity to those who can be saved.
Lorenzo Elijah Heighway: “Let’s think about this. God held out His hands ‘all day long’ – i.e. continually, over an extended period of time - to an obstinate people. As far as I can see, there are three alternatives here for the Calvinist:
(1) The people who God held out His hands to were elect, in which case He could just have manipulated them by His irresistible grace, thereby overcoming their obstinateness. In other words, there was no NEED to hold out His hands all day long.
(2) The people who God held out His hands to were not elect, in which case, God knew that He was wasting His time or putting on an act by holding out His hands to them all day, as He had no desire to save them anyway.
(3) The people who God held out His hands to were a mixture of elect and non-elect, in which case 1 & 2 apply to different parts of the group.
In any event, from a Calvinist perspective, it is hard to see any genuine reason for God to hold out His hands. In fact, it is hard to see any genuine reason for God to lament, grieve, be frustrated, or be patient, as in every case, He can solve His own problem....”