SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 17 January 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 2:1-10
Sermon Series: Judges (#2)
I. God’s promise forgotten and a due judgment announced
II. Israel repented and worshipped God
III. A strange end of Israel’s repentance
IV. Forgotten promise, forsaken blessing
James 1:23 talks about a strange man who looks intently at his face in a mirror and goes away, and at once forgets what he was like. That’s unusual and absurd, isn’t it? How could anyone forget his own face as he turns away from a mirror? If anyone does, that is a serious medical condition and we call it amnesia. Although forgetting is not always a bad thing, amnesia requires medical attention. Forgetting things that are vitally important is a really serious problem.
In fact, the OT Israel had an awful spiritual amnesia, that is, forgetting God’s promise for them. Failing to remember it, they sinned against God, thus, faced a terrible judgment of God. The first chapter of Judges began with their forgetfulness, as we heard last Lord’s Day, and today’s text passage is an outcome of their amnesia. God’s angel appeared to Israel and announced God’s judgment for their disobedience and apathy toward Him and His promise.
Before we go on, I think we need to ask a question like this to ourselves, that is, ‘why does God tell us of this story of Israel?’ What message does He want us to hear from it? There is, after all, an at least 3,000-year time gab between them and us. And what does He want us to learn from their spiritual amnesia?
Its answer is this – through the story of Israel in Judges, God wants us to look at our own face intently and not forget what we are like. This is because we’re exactly like those of Jdg. 2 and many of us have forgotten God’s promise. These ten verses of Jdg. ch. 2 is, in a sense, a medical certificate for the churches of our time. God who is the Physician of man’s soul has issued it for Israel and for us. Through this story, He wants us to remember our spiritual forgetfulness; and, remembering it, come to Him always in repentance and faith, never trusting our own wit, never depending on anything or anyone but seeking God alone and His grace.
I. GOD’S PROMISE FORGOTTEN AND A DUE JUDGMENT ANNOUNCED
Today’s passage is about Israel around the end of their conquest war in Canaan. An angel of God appeared to them and delivered the Lord’s message for them. What did he say in this announcement? A judgment of God for Israel’s sin.
What was the sin Israel committed? As we heard last week, they sinned by dismissing God’s command and altering it to suit their own tastes and interests. God said that Judah would go up first and destroy the Canaanites and the Perizzites and take the land. But Judah turned his eyes to his brother Simeon and asked him to come with him. Likewise, all tribes of Israel did not listen to God and, instead of driving out the inhabitants of the land, allowed them to live in their midst. That was their sin and God’s judgment was announced against that sin.
Let me remind you of God’s original command for Israel, what they ought to do when they enter the land allotted for them. It’s found in Dt. 7:1-2 and let me read those verses: “When the LORD your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the LORD your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.”
All tribes of Israel dismissed this command and, by dismissing it, rejected God. By their disobedience and rejection, they mocked their God. So this message of judgment was announced to them.
The spiritual aspect of God’s command is for Israel to be pure in faith before God. By allowing those Canaanites and others to live among Israel, they rejected the required purity of heart. Setting this spiritual meaning of God’s command aside, let me help you to see how Israel’s disobedience is a mockery to the holy God. If your spouse you dearly love pays attention to not your words but your neighbour’s, ignoring you again and again, wouldn’t that irritate you? Wouldn’t that make you feel ignored and even betrayed? Or if your child never listens to you but to all strangers on the streets, would that be anything you simply shrug your shoulders and move on? Absolutely not! You’d feel provoked, defied, ignored and mocked.
This is what Israel did to God; they did not listen to their God. Hearing Him say, “You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them,” they did whatever they liked to do. They neither devoted those seven nations to utter destruction, nor demolished their altars or idols.
The due judgment announced were, firstly, that God would not drive the enemies of Israel out from the land and, secondly, those enemies should be thorns in Israel’s sides and their idols a snare to Israel.
Hearing it, someone might think, ‘A thorn and a snare? Ha! That sounds no threat to me.’ But that’s a serious misunderstanding of what a thorn and a snare signify. If anyone has a tiny splinter in his fingertip, his whole body will ache. Until its removal, his entire hand and arm are unusable. If such is the case with a tiny splinter in one’s fingertip, how would it be with a thorn on one’s side? The whole body would be parallelised, dysfunctional. That’s the judgment God’s angel delivered to Israel. Israel would be a nation on that land, but not as a self-sustaining sovereign nation, but as a defected one, as a divided one with no bright future. A thorn is not simply a thorn, but a seed for calamities and despairs in the coming days.
Moreover, the idols of the people would be a ‘snare’ to Israel. It’s much worse than a thorn. This snare would grab Israel and drag them down to a pit of apostasy and damnation!
All these troubles were announced because Israel rejected God by altering His command. Israel’s sin of altering God’s word, thus, rejecting Him was caused by their amnesia, their forgetfulness of God’s promise for them. God’s promise is, in a word, that He’ll love them and be with them forever. He’ll be their Saviour; He’ll be their Provider; He’ll be their Father; He’ll be their eternal King. So, only believe and trust in Him – that was God’s promise. But Judah forgot about it; Simeon forgot about it either and so did Zebulun and Naphtali and so on.
This is not only a story of Israel of Jdg. 2, but also of Christians and churches of all times. And God’s message is the same, that is, His favour will be upon all who believe in God and remember His promise for His beloved and His churches. Hear the message the Lord Jesus announces as recorded in Jn. 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” And in v. 6 of Jn. 14, He confirms His message, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”
II. ISRAEL REPENTED AND WORSHIPPED GOD
It is encouraging to hear from Jdg. 2:4 that Israel wept in repentance, hearing God’s judgment. They cried their eyes out in deep lamentation. They wept like Esau of Gen. 33 did when he finally embraced his brother Jacob after so many years of hatred and separation; Israel wept like the widows of Ps. 78 did before the corpses of their husbands and sons slaughtered by Israel’s enemies. They repented in deep remorse; they realised the weight of their wrongdoings, that is, their rejection of their God.
They responded immediately to God’s message. V. 4 says, “As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept.” It was a truly commendable response of sinners to God’s message. All of them turned away from their wrongs at once. I believe many of you know that waiting for a sinner to realise his sinfulness and turn to God in repentance is like waiting for water drops to make a hole in a rock. But, here, we read that all Israel wept in repentance as soon as the Lord’s message was announced. What a great moment of spiritual revival!
Oh, I wish and pray with all my heart and soul for another national repentance like this one on this land you and I stand! How wonderful and great it would be, if all of Australia – starting from the Prime Minister and including each and every one in this nation – altogether repent from our sins and ask God’s forgiveness, seeking His favour upon us! This scene of Jdg. 2:4 is a truly amazing and unprecedented moment of national spiritual revival.
Weeping in repentance, they named that place, Bochim, meaning – in Hebrew – ‘weepers.’ It was a place of repentance. And at that place, they worshipped God and renewed their faith in God.
This is, in fact, a case in history that Jesus’ message was actualised. As Mk. 1:15 testifies, Jesus’ message preached to us is to “repent, and believe in the gospel,” and such was what happened to Israel in Jdg. 2:4 – they wept over their sins and renewed their faith in God.
III. A STRANGE END OF ISRAEL’S REPENTANCE
But, unfortunately, we read a strange outcome of their repentance and renewal of faith. After such a great national spiritual revival of v. 4, we read in v. 10 a strange end of their revival. V. 10 testifies that “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.” When the generation of a great revival passed away, the next generation came, and they had no knowledge of God or the works He had done for Israel.
This is a truly odd thing I read from the Bible. Believing miracles and wonders of God and acknowledging them as God’s works that really and actually happened in history is no trouble to my mind. But reading what v. 10 of Jdg. 2 says is hard to comprehend – a new generation that arose after the generation of such a great man of God like Joshua, did not know God, nor His works! How could this be? I don’t mean I disbelieve what this verse tells us; I mean, it’s too radical to picture in my mind that the generation after Joshua and his people was totally ignorant of their God.
It seems to me like a church building once filled with good and strong worshippers turns suddenly into an empty and deserted place. Or, like a strong Christian nation that used to uphold the name of God high, being faithful to His Word, is suddenly overturned and led by atheists and fierce haters of God and Christ. Or a family with a strong heritage of Christian faith suddenly denies all and gives up their church membership. It’s hard to picture such a thing to take place.
Nevertheless, it happened to the children of Joshua’s generation. Truth is, if it happened to the generation after Joshua’s, it could happen again to any generation, to any nation, any church, and any family. Truth is that such a thing is happening with our own generation, happening in churches of our time, and in families around us.
The question that arises is, ‘Why is it happening in our midst as was the case of the generation after Joshua and his people?’
IV. FORGOTTEN PROMISE, FORSAKEN BLESSING
The simplest answer is this: people forget God’s promise. We have amnesia. We don’t remember God’s promise. So, we reject the Lord’s blessing, reject His grace, and His judgment due to our sin of rejecting God is announced.
Forgetting God’s promise, we forget to believe in Him, thus, alter His words. By altering His words, we let sins to cohabit with us and they become ‘thorns on our sides.’ Then, these thorns turn us to be indifferent to God’s righteousness. With our amnesia, we compromise our faith, allowing pagan beliefs and practices to coexist with our Christian faith. And this becomes a ‘snare’ before our feet and this snare grabs us and drags us to a deeper pit of despair in sin.
When God’s promise is forgotten, when His word is altered and His command dismissed, His blessing is also forsaken. But when God’s people repent from their sins and come to their God in faith, seeking His mercy and grace, He relents His anger and restores His favour upon them. Hear what God says in Jer. 26:3, “It may be they will listen, and every one turn from his evil way, that I may relent of the disaster that I intend to do to them because of their evil deeds.” In v. 13 of the same chapter, God concludes, “Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the LORD your God, and the LORD will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you.”
By the way, Jesus’ word in Mt. 11:28 is a simplified version of this invitation of sinners to repentance; hear what He says in Mt. 11:28, “Come to Me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I believe you know how hard and dangerous it is to turn truth into a lie. I believe you know how heavy it is to disobey God and continue in disobedience. The more one tries to ignore God’s voice, the heavier it becomes to his mind and soul. So, Jeremiah delivers God’s message and says, ‘Listen to the Lord’s voice and obey Him!’, and Jesus emphasises it, saying, ‘I know how heavy the burden of your sin is for you, how difficult it is for you to remain in sin and continue in it; give it all up and come to Me and I will give you rest.’ Simply put, the message is to remember God and His promise, and He’ll be with you and restore you in His grace!
But Joshua’s generation missed this. I mean, they wept in repentance and worshipped God at Bochim, the place of weepers. But that was all they did. They soon forgot about God’s promise all over again! If they had been faithful to their repentance before God and remembered His promise, they would’ve led their children to the Lord.
Sadly, this is a snapshot of our own generation. We come to God on Sundays and worship Him with a very brief touch of repentance in worship services. Surprisingly, even this element of repentance in worship has dramatically been disappearing, if not totally dismissed, in the span of our generation. We renew our faith and reaffirm our dedication to the Lord in worship. Then, what follows? We go back to where we feel comfortable in the world, and desire no further deepening of our trust in God! If we’re in a situation to choose between God’s word and the way of the world, instead of following the very word of our God, many of us hesitate, if not abandon God’s word, don’t we? In this way, we’re no different from the generation of Jdg. 2. So, the same message is for us as much as it was for them, and the message is, remember God’s promise and come to Him in repentance and faith!
Hearing this, someone might think that today’s message is gloomy and depressing. But that’s not right. I’ve been following the author of this book, Judges, and delivering a simple message that is so bright and full of hope, that is, ‘repent from disbelieving God and trust Him always!’ It is like following the road signs in your trip. If you follow them, your driving will be pleasant and enjoyable with a sure hope of safe arrival at your destination. But if you disregard or dismiss or interpret them in whatever way you like, your trouble begins and more troubles will be added. Soon, you’d find yourself in a maze of problems. And that’s depressing.
But following a simple message of God is sound and satisfying, pleasant and enjoyable – so, remember God’s promise, and believe in the Lord ALWAYS! ***