One of my fellow pseudonymous bloggers, “diglot,” has posted a response to one of my co-blogger’s articles. The response is titled: “Matt. 23:37 and the Calvinism/Arminian Debate,” and addresses Jamin Hubner’s article here on the Team Apologian blog, “Matthew 23:37: Misquoted by Arminians (and Calvinists?)“
Diglot’s response to the article is to say, in effect, that the observation that it is the leaders (not the people who were being gathered) who “would not,” does not fundamentally address the Arminian objection.
Granted that White’s point is correct that Jerusalem represents the leaders of Israel and the children are the general populace, I can’t  see what exactly this changes. I mean, how does pointing that out resolve the issue of human freewill interfering with the will of God? Because either way, whether it is the Jewish leaders or the Jewish people, someone is impeding God’s desire by not being “willing”.
Actually, however, the verse is part of a long criticism of the leaders of Israel and it is pronouncing judgment on them for their sins.
God’s revealed will is opposed by the Jewish leaders and consequently they have incurred God’s wrath. The point of the passage is not about how poor God has suffered at the hands of the leaders, but rather about how the leaders have come under the judgment and condemnation of God.
That is the drumbeat of the passage, which we might call a diatribe against the Jewish leaders, if not for the negative connotations of the term “diatribe”:
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!
Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? And, Whosoever shall swear by the altar, it is nothing; but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty.
Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso therefore shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Notice how the “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” verse is not the first mention of this bad behavior by the Jewish leaders. They are accused in this way: “ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” They refuse to serve God and they attempt to stop others from doing so.
The point is not that the leaders of Israel succeeded in stopping God from getting what God wanted. The point is that they opposed God’s expressed will. They killed the messengers of God and they are about to “fill up the measure” of their fathers by killing the Lord of Glory.
But while they may have wished to stop God’s will, they were actually doing God’s will. For it is by the death of Christ that Christ obtains victory over sin and death on behalf of his people.
Moreover, God is the Almighty – no one is able to stop God from accomplishing what He desires. As King Nebuchadnezzar recognized, “all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35)
And God tells us:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Praise His name!