SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 9 May 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 10:6-16
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#15)
I. The uncontrollable corruption of man
II. The indisputable righteousness of God
III. The inconceivable grace of God
The book of Judges is a story book. And in this story book, many stories are told but with one simple message, that is, to tell us the stupidity of man in his corruption and the goodness of God in His endless grace. We find this message in every page of this story book.
All stories in this book have a pattern and this pattern is repeated as stories are told. The beginning is Israel sinning against God. Then, God gives them up and Israel’s enemies come upon them and torment them. Having suffered severely by their merciless enemies, Israel cry to God for help. Hearing them, God raises up a judge who delivers Israel. Then, they enjoy God’s peace for some time. Then, this pattern repeats and Israel sin against God, forsaking Him and worshipping other gods.
Today’s text passage is the beginning of this repeating pattern. After a 45 year-long peaceful period under two judges – Tola and Jair – Israel go back to their old habit, that is, sinning against God; they forsook God and followed many false gods of their neighbouring nations. With this, this Book the Holy Spirit inspired tells us the stupidity of man in his corruption.
But, as I pointed out earlier, telling us the stupidity of man in his corruption is not the only part of the message we hear from this book. A truly important part of the message is the goodness of God in His endless grace. So, seeing Israel’s corrupt heart in their sinning against God, we’re going to see God’s goodness again and be excited again with the Lord’s endless grace toward His own people Israel. Moreover, this story will remind us of God’s goodness toward each of us who are the spiritual Israel! So, let us all look into this story carefully and intently.
I. THE UNCONTROLLABLE CORRUPTION OF MAN
We begin with the text and see how bad Israel was. Those of Israel were corrupt in their hearts. More accurately, their corruption was uncontrollable. They turned away from their covenant God, and followed and served all kinds of idols, all sorts of false gods. They worshipped everything else, but God. In this sense, their corruption was uncontrollable.
A Bible commentator pointed out from this passage and said that God had saved Israel from seven different nations, but Israel was worshipping seven different varieties of pagan gods. That’s an accurate diagnosis. God reminds Israel in vs. 11-12 of the nations from which He has saved them – they are Egyptians, Amorites, Ammonites, Philistines, Sidonians, Amalekites and Maonites. Then, the idols Israel served are listed in v. 6 and they are the gods of Canaan, Syrians, Sidonians, Moabites, Ammonites and Philistines. As they left their God, their hearts ran quickly and uncontrollably after other gods. They have done this before, and now they are doing it again, yet, not just repeating what they’ve done before, but going bad to worse by adding more idols to their bucket list for worshipping.
By the way, with the sermons that have been preached earlier in this sermon series, I think you’ve heard enough about how bad the people of Israel have been. Actually, we’re almost fed up with hearing stories of sinful Israel, the OT church. But, unfortunately, you and I have no other option but to hear about it again and again. In fact, the half of the Bible we’ve received from our God is about man’s corrupt nature. We read and hear about it from every page of the Bible.
Someone told me that our church was too serious about sin and man’s sinfulness. I believe that comment is seriously correct. The truth is that the Bible is serious about sin and man’s sinfulness; it is serious about man’s uncontrollably corrupt heart. This truth is again revealed to us in the beginning of the passage we read today, that is, Jdg. 10:6 which says, “The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” Yes, we’re serious about sin because the Bible is serious about sin, and man’s corruption in his heart is uncontrollable! This uncontrollably corrupt heart was for all people in the time of judges, and the same is for all in the present generation.
Why does the Bible repeat it in such a tedious and dreary way? Why do we read and hear about man’s corruption repeatedly almost to a point of feeling tiresome? That’s because man forgets how corrupt he is; people forget this fact, not occasionally, but always and endlessly! In a way, similar to James’ mentioning in the NT of a man who forgets his own face as soon as he turns away from the mirror. That’s a portrait of mankind, everyone in this race. It’s an endless thing; men and women, boys and girls, young and old, generations in B.C. and in A.D., altogether forget how corrupt we are. That’s why the Bible repeats it endlessly! And that’s why you and I are reminded of this fact, the corrupt heart of man! More specifically, the uncontrollably, untameably corrupt heart of man.
II. THE INDISPUTABLE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD
Whenever the Bible points out this truth of man’s uncontrollable corruption, it displays the righteousness of God that is indisputable, unquestionable. Listen to what v. 7 of Jdg. 10 tells us: “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of the Philistines and into the hand of the Ammonites.” God is angry with the sinful Israel. The righteous God repels the corruption of Israel. Unlike a rock or a mountain or a star far far away in the galaxy which shows no concern, no interest in any affairs of man on earth, God responds to man’s sin immediately in His righteousness, and His anger is kindled against Israel.
Before moving on, let us pause and consider the meaning of the word ‘anger’ in order to understand the message better. The Hebrew word rendered here as ‘anger’ is often translated into ‘wrath’ in other places in the Bible. This word carries with it the meaning of destruction as a retaliation/vengeance. It hints that the offended intends to retaliate the offender corresponding to the damage incurred. This intention is a just, legitimate and righteous reaction against the offence. So, the righteous God’s intention described in this seventh verse is to retaliate the offending Israel.
But, God is not a man; He is God. So, He does not ‘react’ to anybody’s offence or wrong. When the Bible tells us that God’s anger is kindled, it simply means God’s righteousness is offended and the offenders get what they deserve with their offence. It could be compared to how the traffic law works. The law states that you should keep the traffic lights. Once you break the rule, you get what you deserve and the police or government department issues you a fine. This doesn’t mean the police or the government is angry at you; instead, you simply receive what you deserve reflected on the law of the land.
Likewise, God’s righteousness is the set standard over all that is in His created world. Everyone and everything are under this justness of the Creator. It is indisputable and unquestionable. Everyone is bound by this and any offender receives what he/she deserves. Due to their offence to the righteous God, all unbelievers are under what they deserve, namely, eternal damnation. So, God does not ‘react’ to anybody; instead, the sinners in their sin, in their rebellion, receive what they justly earned in accordance with the offence they make to the righteous God.
III. THE INCONCEIVABLE GRACE OF GOD
Then, why does the Bible tell us that He becomes angry at sinners like here, for example, in Jdg. 10:7? The answer is; with this or similar expression, the Bible emphasises God’s deep concern for His own people. He always watches over His own – that is, Israel of the OT and us of His NT Church – and never leaves us alone like a good human mother would do with her child. This kind of ascribing human characteristics to God to describe His compassion toward us is called ‘anthropomorphism.’ God never ‘reacts’ to anybody or anything; He does not get ‘angry’ at anyone. Because being ‘angry’ means someone’s expectation of another is not met or satisfied, thus, internal confusion and failure causes emotional outburst. But God is not a man; He knows the core of man’s heart; nothing of man surprises God’s divine heart. So, He never gets ‘angry’ at anyone. Any anthropomorphic expression in the Bible emphasises God’s deep concern and care for His own, keeping His eyes intently on His beloved, watching each one and caring for each one. This anthropomorphic expression emphasises the righteous God’s kindness toward His own and His compassion on each of us.
This is grace, my dear friends. It is something no man deserves. This kindness toward Israel of the OT and compassion on us of the NT Church is grace. Grace is a divine favour upon the underserving sinner! In this grace, we have the forgiveness of sin. Because of this grace, we live by faith and hope in the Son! This grace is inconceivable; it exceeds the boundary of the wildest imagination of human mind.
How inconceivable is God’s grace? V. 16 of our text passage explains, and we hear from this verse that God “became impatient over the misery of Israel.” NKJV renders, “[God’s] soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel” because He deeply cared for them and grieved with the agony of His own nation Israel.
We need to understand this correctly. If anyone read these verses and thought that God had punished Israel for their sin, he would’ve wondered why God became impatient over Israel’s misery. ‘Hasn’t He put them in that trouble in the first place?’ he might’ve questioned. But that’s not the correct perception of the situation. Israel did rebel against God; they rejected God’s covenant blessing; they ran after other gods who were false gods and, in fact, no gods but the lifeless objects of worship people invented. Israel was the one jumped off a cliff; God did not push them. Instead, God’s guidance for them was – and is still for us all – to walk the way of blessing and eternal life; but sinful man rejected – and still does reject – the way of God, and went astray and lost in sin.
But God was – and still is – impatient over the misery of His own. Listen to the Prophet Hosea, saying this in Hos. 11:8, “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? [Admah and Zeboiim were the cities destroyed alongside Sodom and Gomorrah] My heart recoils within Me; My compassion grows warm and tender.” The God who became impatient with Israel’s misery in Jdg. 10 speaks of the same deep compassion on Israel in Hosea’s time. And in the same compassion, God watches over us even now at this very moment. Let me remind you of the words we read earlier this morning from Mt. 11 – the words of Jesus Christ in His prayer to the Father; He says in vs. 25-26, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these [i.e., the gospel, good news of eternal salvation] from the [arrogant sinners who think they’re] wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was Your gracious will.”
This grace has found you and me, as found Israel of Jdg. 10. And the same grace will find many more after us until the day of Jesus’ return. This grace is truly inconceivable, unimaginable, because of its scale and depth. God who is holy and righteous, who is above all things that exist because He made all, is compassionate toward sinners! Let me give you one last proof text that explains us how inconceivable its scale and depth is. It’s Isa. 63:8-9, “[God] said, ‘Surely they are My people, children who will not deal falsely.’ And He became their Saviour. In all their affliction He was afflicted … in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.” What a grace! How great is His love for us!
Let me conclude by pointing out that Israel and all of us deserved the reward of our own sins and rebellion against God. Before the righteous God, all of us were destined to eternal damnation. But, in His grace which none of us deserve, we were chosen, called to believe in Jesus, His Son, our Saviour and Lord. And by faith, we’ve become His forgiven sinners, members of God’s household, coheirs of the Father’s inheritance together with Jesus Christ now and forever!
Our text passage, Jdg. 10:6-16, is, in this sense, the good news of God’s grace and more grace! ***