SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 29 August 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 19:1-21:25
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#26)
I. Our desperate need to realise the weight of every sin
II. Our urgent need to repent from sin
III. How to live in a wicked generation
Today’s message is the last one in this series on the Book of Judges, and it is based on the last three chapters. Drawing one message out of three chapters is quite unusual for me because I prefer breaking down the Scriptures in smaller units to taking a general overview of a larger section. But these last chapters of Judges should be an exception because these chapters convey a single and general message, that is, the dreadfulness of living in a wicked generation. Let me repeat it – it speaks to us ‘the dreadfulness of living in a wicked generation.’ How awful it is to live in an evil generation, how deadly and fatal it is to live in a sin saturated world – that is the single message these three chapters reveal to us. So, we should consider these as one unit.
While hearing this seems disturbing, the purpose of this message is not. These chapters do not depress or dishearten us at all; instead, their message warns us of the dreadfulness of sin, helps us to examine ourselves and the present generation, and guides us to seek the Saviour and cling to Him who alone can deliver us from the dreadfulness of evil. In this sense, these last chapters are like a set of warning signs that alert the danger ahead and guide travellers to safety.
Simply put, by warning us of the danger of living in a wicked generation, we hear a message, that is, how to live in a wicked generation. So, let us listen to it carefully and follow Christ all the more as He embraces us through the Holy Spirit.
I. OUR DESPERATE NEED TO REALISE THE WEIGHT OF EVERY SIN
Now, let us open up these chapters and see the danger of living in a wicked generation. The first point that draws our attention is ‘our desperate need to realise the weight of every sin.’
In the beginning of ch. 19, we’re told that a certain Levite had a concubine. This means that this unnamed Levite man had more than one wife, and the whole story begins from this man’s bigamy.
As you know, bigamy was a sin – disobedience to God. You’d say to yourself with a strong agreement, ‘Surely, having more than one wife/husband is a condemnable sin, disobedience to God.’ However, please pause for a moment and consider the norms of the day this ‘certain Levite’ lived in and shared with his contemporaries. In his culture, having a concubine or more than one wife was not certainly a sin to be condemned publicly or stoned to death. Rather, it seems to be a norm of the day. Their forefathers, starting from Abraham and followed by Jacob, practised bigamy. Judges like Gideon, Jair, Ibzan and Abdon had more than one wife. So, practising and living in bigamy was, to any man of the time of judges, simply a normal thing. Although God never allowed bigamy, everyone approved it and many, if not all, practised it in the time of judges. This unnamed Levite man of ch. 19 was one of those who practised this sin.
Not only men but also women were guilty in those days. The concubine of the Levite man was unfaithful to her husband. Like the way the Levite man represents fellow men of the time, she represents other women, and all were in sin.
Ch. 19 tells us that the concubine had run away and the Levite visited her parents’ home and they reconciled. So, they were on their way back home. As they stayed a night at a city called Gibeah, a terrible thing happened. Those residents of Gibeah introduced in v. 22 as ‘worthless fellows’ surrounded the house where this couple were staying, and asked this Levite man to come out for sexual relationship. Those ‘worthless fellows’ of Gibeah forced the host to bring the Levite out to them.
I don’t want to spend much of my precious time this morning on elaborating neither the host’s suggestion to that mob to take and abuse his own daughter instead of his guest, nor the Levite’s giving his concubine to that worthless mob and shutting the door behind him and sleeping soundly over that night only to find his concubine dead at the door next morning. Instead, I want you to see how and why all those awful things took place. I want you to focus on the ultimate cause of this indescribably heinous crime.
By the way, was it an accidental uprising of a group of criminals? Or mob psychology by some kind of supermoon lunacy? No, that was not it. That felony was simply one of numerous outcomes of the sins of the people of Gibeah. All of them were saturated in sin and became dull in all forms of sin. Let me tell you that I’m not exaggerating. My proof is what the host said to the worthless mob. He suggested to the worthless mob that he would give his virgin daughter alongside the concubine instead of the Levite man. Most probably, this host of the house was one of, if not the most, generous people in the city which also meant that he was one of the last people in the city who knew and remembered God’s command for being generous to a traveller. But, even a man like him said a dreadful thing – that is, giving his virgin daughter and the Levite’s concubine to the mob! How tragic and absurd he was! There was none in the city who was righteous, but all were the same in sin!
In this conclusion, should we exclude the Levite man? Not at all! He was the first one to be condemned because that night most probably be the beginning of a Sabbath and, being a Levite, he should’ve been at his home, ready for his priestly duty when the day breaks in the house of God on behalf of his fellow men! Like this way, all of them were insensitive to sin, being extremely generous toward sin. They could not recognise evil as they ate and drank evil daily.
From this analysis, one truly important message you and I must hear. That is, we’re not different from them and this generation also is extremely generous toward sin. Many of this world are insensitive toward sin and its grave weight. Not many of us in our day and age grieve over sins. Grieving over one’s sin seems to be outdated to many people’s eyes, even to some Christians and churches. Many people regard sin as something to laugh off; sin has become to quite a portion of even Christians a ‘simple mistake’ which can be easily fixed, not now, but sometime later. This is our generation’s attitude toward sin.
You and I should NOT, must NOT regard sin lightly. Even a sin that seems weightless to our eyes must be considered as deadly. As soon as anyone allows a sin to take foothold, it would take over his heart and control every part of his will, intellect and affection. Then, it drives him to desire more sins and produce and indulge in greater sins. Some cancers have become curable these days – thanks to God’s wisdom given to medical researchers and practitioners – but, sin is not and will never be, unless God steps in. We must never forget how dangerous sin is; we must never regard sin as casual or insignificant – it bites us back immediately and engulfs us. Each of us should mourn over our sins and the sins of our generation.
II. OUR URGENT NEED TO REPENT FROM OUR SIN
What happened in chs. 19 and 20 is gloomy. The Levite man found his concubine dead next morning, and took her corpse home. And, shockingly, he divided the body into twelve pieces, and sent each piece to every tribe of Israel, telling everyone what had happened at Gibeah of the Benjamin. All people were shocked, and they said, as recorded in 19:30, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day.”
So far, we’ve been reading and considering the messages of this Book of Judges. Based on what we’ve covered, let me ask you a question. What does this saying of Israelites recorded in 19:30 sound to you? It sounds to my ears that they’re saying something like this: ‘We’ve heard about so many sins Israel committed since the beginning of our nation; but this is unlike any other – we cannot bear this! We think, some sins are OK; we can bear those; but, not this particular sin – this is too much.’ The Israelites in the time of Judges are well described in both 19:1 and 21:25 with words like these, “In those days, when there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, all of them were in an agreement that could be summed up in words like, ‘It’s OK to sin as long as anyone doesn’t cross another’s line.’ But, here in 19:30, they realised that such a view would bring them to nothing but the dreadful way of condemnation.
So, all Israel gathered together to fight against the people of Gibeah. They called out every tribe to join this war against wickedness. But the tribe of Benjamin refused to join; instead, they stood against the eleven tribes in support of the Gibeahites.
Let me ask you one more question. Why do you think the Benjaminites rejected that call? Was that because the Benjaminites could not abandon their own flesh and blood? I don’t think that was why. The only reason I can think of is the legitimacy or orthodoxy of that national summons. They thought it was an illegitimate call, and that’s why they didn’t respond to it. They thought, the other eleven tribes were not innocent from such a sin of the people of Gibeah. To the eyes of the Benjaminites, everyone was equally guilty of the same sin and worse sins; therefore, the eleven tribes were not qualified for judging the Gibeahites as ‘worthless fellows’ who deserved death penalty. All of Israel were also ‘worthless fellows’! If they were equally guilty, then, how could they judge, let alone killing or excommunicating, others?
I believe this is what is happening with our generation, especially with churches of our time. Needless to mention the callous attitude of the world toward the teachings of Christ’s church, some Christians hardly pay any attention to their fellow Christians who point out the truth of the Bible and urge repentance. The voice of churches has almost muted these days – it seems no one listens to our teaching and urge for repentance and faith. And this is not because the doctrine we teach has become unbiblical anymore or insensitive to the time, but because we ourselves are as GUILTY as all others in sins! Because we say one thing and do another, others no longer listen to the word we proclaim. The eleven tribes of Israel were as guilty and sinful as those worthless fellows of Gibeah of the Benjamin, and that’s why the tribe of Benjamin did not respond to the national summons!
Being angry, the eleven tribes attacked the Benjaminites, thus, the first civil war in Israel broke out! If you do basic arithmetic, you know immediately who would win and who would lose in this fight. The Benjaminite army had 26,700 men, whereas the eleven tribes of Israel had 400,000. Were the Benjaminites defeated and decimated? No. Instead, they won three times. Strange, don’t you think? Not once or twice, but three times the eleven tribes were defeated. Why? Because the eleven tribes were not innocent; because they were as guilty and sinful as those of Gibeah and Benjamin. So, in 20:26 and following, we find that the men of the eleven tribes gathered together at Bethel where the tabernacle of God was, and they WEPT! And they fasted before God. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord!
Do you know what this means? They repented of their sins. Burnt offering and peace offering were the offerings people made to the Lord as their prayer to God for forgiveness of sins. After the third defeat, after three incomprehensible defeats, they realised that they were not innocent of such sin of Gibeah. So, they bowed before God and repented from their sins, weeping, mourning over their sinfulness, arrogance, and unworthiness – the whole eleven tribes altogether! With three bitter defeats, God taught the eleven tribes an important lesson of repentance.
With this story of Israel, God urges us to examine ourselves and repent from our sins. Our voice is muted to our own families and friends, let alone the society and nation we live in; we seem to be threatened by God-haters; many of the biblical and Christian ethos this nation used to uphold have been discarded over some decades. We’re constantly defeated in every way. So, God urges us to weep over our sins, fast over our defeats, repent from our unworthiness immediately. We should bow to God and seek His forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb!
III. HOW TO LIVE IN A WICKED GENERATION
Saying all these, I believe I have put an unbearable weight on your head and shoulders this morning. I believe you’ve just said to yourself something in this regard, ‘How could anyone do all these? It’s almost impossible to realise the weight of every sin and repent from it every time I commit it. It is possible only in theory; and I give up. Kwangho is saying it because he’s simply an idealist.’
But, my dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, please do not give up but consider what I mean and suggest. We have no other option than continuing our life in this wicked generation; we cannot escape and move away from this corrupt society and build our own remotely. By the way, we’re not called to live apart from the world – rather, living in the midst of this evil generation is our grand call. Living in it, we have no option either other than being stained and polluted by various sins of the world. In fact, sin bubbles up from within us!
Then, what should we do to understand and catch the weight of every sin, then, repent from it immediately? How could we remain holy as our Lord is holy? Let me suggest two practical ways. Firstly, repent as much as you could during the day, then, before you close a day, bow to God and offer to Him your penitent heart over the sins you’ve committed for the day. Deeply say sorry for your wrongs and seek forgiveness, remembering the blood of Christ that was shed for you. Then, the next morning when you wake up, bow to the gracious God and seek His near presence and guidance for the day. Repeat it daily and make it an unalterable and unchangeable routine of your day. Remember that the Lord encourages you through His word, like Heb. 12:1, telling you to ‘lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race that is set before you.’
Secondly, follow the Word of God and let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, as Jas. 5:12 urges. It means, do not say ‘yes’ while you know it is ‘no’ or do not say ‘no’ while you know it is in fact ‘yes.’ It sounds simple, but this is what we most frequently break and disobey. We lie or cheat, knowing it is sinful; we steal or envy, knowing it is sinful, don’t we? We stop this, and say what is ‘yes’ to our eyes and heart, yes, and what is ‘no,’ no! But when you do it, do not feel proud of yourself but humble before God because it is the Spirit of God who enables and strengthens you to continue in it, thus, grow in holiness!
If I may add one more, let us encourage one another to do more of these things. And when we gather together in worship on the Lord’s Day, we altogether bow to God in repentance and faith, and altogether rejoice because of our Father’s love and Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit’s ministry of binding us to God and one another more! Amen. ***