Judges 2.12-3.6 Faithful Anger
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 2:12–3:6
Good Morning! Today we’re continuing (un)faithful, our series on the Book of Judges where we see how Israel, God’s people, deal with finally making it into the promised land. Last week we closed the chapter on the generation of Joshua. While by no means perfect, Joshua’s generation was considered a faithful one that both knew and served the lord. They had a very real and experiential relationship with God. God parted the Jordan River. God won the battle of Jericho with a marching band and glee club. God send down rocks the size of Volkswagens to win one battle and stop the sun from setting to win another. Amazing experiences and amazing victories Joshua’s generation was a part of and yet, with all the battles won and the relative peace and comfort they had at the end of their lives, the war was not over. There were still faithless peoples in the land that God had commanded to be purged. Joshua’s generation lost the battle of the home front by failing to train their children to fight or teach them to know, fear, and serve the Lord. The generation after Joshua’s did not know the Lord; or even know about what the Lord had done for the previous generations. This brings us to our text today as we look at how this generation’s idolatry begins a cycle repeated though out Judges, how God’s righteous anger towards them is both faithful and loving, and how this cycle is used by God to train future generations in grace and faithfulness.
Cycle of Judges
After a period of peace the people provoke God. 2:11-13 This generation had been raised on primitive temporary military bases while their fathers fought for God against the evil pagan Canaanite cites. When they had grown up and finally entered the robust cites their father had fought for, they found them, and the gods of the people, to be ultimately more attractive than the God of their parents. Israel’s children had lived humbly in tents and religiously saw animals sacrificed for sin. The Canaanites were sophisticated, wealthy, urban, and didn’t worry about sin or a god that controlled them because they had gods of money and sex they could control. Canaanites had coffee shops, malls, houses with walls, centers of art/music, and their church services were at strip clubs and brothels. Israel rejects “the God of their fathers” and willingly chooses to worship and serve the Baals and Ashtaroth. This is called idolatry and apostasy and it provokes God anger because we were made to worship Him alone. This leads to God’s response.
God raises up oppressors 2:14-15 A generation earlier it was Israel, with the hand of the Lord with them, who had surrounded the land to plundered the Canaanites, who God had judged rightly as idolaters. Now because of this generation’s idolatry the same God flips the script and puts his hand against Israel and raises up the pagan Canaanite peoples to judge and punish Israel. While these verses talk of God’s anger being kindled, God is not responding in irrational rage. He is responding to His people precisely how, according to v15, he both warned and sworn to them He would, if they disobeyed His command to against idolatry. As God promised numerous times in Deuteronomy sin will always lead to a righteous wrath. Israel’s new gods of wealth and sex were unable to keep them from terrible distress. God’s wrath hurts.
God raises up a Judge to deliver the people 2:16, 18 Israel is groaning under the power and weight of their sin and its consequences. They are grieved by their difficult circumstances and the pain of punishment, but they’re not explicitly repentant. It doesn’t say “Israel turned from the Baals and God delivered them from oppression, just that they were suffering. The gospel is here in Judges in a big way. The same God who initiates righteous wrath is the same God who initiates grace. The one who gave them over to the plunderers in vs 14 is the same one who delivered them from the plunders in v 16. There is no repentance in-between, there is only mercy because the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning. It’s the same response God had generations early when His people were suffering as slaves in Egypt. Despite Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, He remains faithful to them and delivers them from wrath and pain they deserve.
After a period of peace the people provoke God again, 2:17 ,19 Given grace and period of rest and reprieve from their punishment the people again turned from God back to idolatry. Their faithfulness lasted only as long there was a faithful, God appointed, judge to lead them. They didn’t own their faithfulness to God as individuals; they relied solely on the faith and restraint of their leaders. Not even the memory of previous punishment and deliverance was enough to keep the people faithful to their covenant with God. As soon as they had an opportunity to chart their own path they choose idolatry over worship of God. Their ancestors were forced slaves in Egypt, this generation is willing sell themselves as slaves to sin. God responds again.
God raises up oppressors again 2:20-21 Same people, same sin, same God, same kindled anger, same response. Remarkably, Israel’s rebellion and faithlessness is actually worse than before. They have done seemingly all they can to break covenant relationship with God. God speaks. He says, Israel is not His people they are those people, and they will not take full possession of the Promised Land. They are no longer under God’s protection/blessing; they are now under wrath as miserable captives of Sin.
God’s Faithful Anger
There is difficult and even disturbing concept on display in this section that is uncomfortable for us to look at, but is necessary if were to understand and grow from this text. Because of our self-righteousness pride or guilty despair, I think it’s relatively easy for us to deal with the faithlessness, sin, and idolatry of Israel. If we’re a religious legalist we judge them self-righteously assuming we would do better. If we’re a self-reliant relativist we give them a pass because we assume nobody’s perfect and we should all have license to do as we please and not be judged at all. As Christians, we should all have some level of understanding of God’s grace towards us as sinners so that concept isn’t entirely foreign. The most challenging concept, Christian or not, is God’s anger. Specifically His anger kindled towards His people. He’s not irrational, capricious, or spiteful. God’s anger is not sinful so he is not lead or controlled by it like we often are when we’re angry. It’s a faithful anger perfectly felt, controlled and executed. In this text, and during the cycles in Judges, God actively raises up pagan, debauched, evil people in and around the Promised Lands to punish Israel only a few generations after delivering them from the biggest pagan Super-Power on the planet. We have to do something with this.
Our tendency is to either judge God’s actions or emotions, assuming we know better, or we just ignore difficult texts look the other way pretend they didn’t happen. Part of why we preach right through books of the Bible is so we have to engage things like God’s anger. His anger is as intense as it is intentional. His Faithful Anger exists for His Glory and our Joy. As difficult as it sounds we desperately need God’s Faithful Anger. We need His premeditated, fiery, intense, active, focused, and consistent anger because without it he cannot be a just God, a trustworthy God, a gracious God, or even a loving God. For those of us who claim to follow God, the manner of God’s anger displayed in Judges is both positive and comforting for several reasons:
God’s Faithful Anger shows us He is consistent and faithful to His word. And He is faithful to His word because he is faithful to His name, His character, His holiness. When God lays out His Law for His people, starting with the Ten Commandments, the first two commandments are specifically about idolatry, it’s consequences, and His love for His people.
3“You shall have no other gods before me. 4You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:3-6
By being consistent and faithful in His anger God shows His people He does what He says he is going to do. This shouldn’t be undersold. Every earthly relationship has some level of unpredictability where we never quite know how someone is going to react emotionally to different situations or is actually going to follow through with they’ve said the will. God is faithful in His emotions and His actions, meaning we can trust He will be faithful to His promises to love and care for His people because we know he is consistent. God’s character is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But is consistent in anger really that comforting? What about consistently forgiving or consistently happy? In our world we need him to be faithful in anger.
God’s Faithful Anger shows us there is justice in the world and God hates sin and brokenness. Our world is broken, seemingly beyond repair. Most of us avoid the news because we know it’s depressing and rarely shows us anything positive. When we really do pay attention or look deeply at the problems and injustice of the world and in our own lives we are usually moved to sadness, frustration, and anger. God can be angered by the same things that anger us. That is comforting because it reminds us of his justice, that there are consequences for the sins of the world. As Christians we also need to be angry at the things that anger God, and we don’t usually need to look beyond our own sin and idolatry. God’s anger isn’t just against sin and for wrath, it’s a gospel-centered anger that seeks to show the intensity of His passion for us and that he uses in His plans to restore us to relationship with Him.
God’s Faithful Anger comes from His jealousy for us. Countless times though out the Old Testament God tells us His “kindled” anger is a direct result of His jealousy. God goes to great length in scripture to identify Himself and His character with jealousy, even so far as to tell Moses in Exodus 34:13 that His name is Jealous AND He is a jealous God. We hear jealous and our minds instantly defaults to it being a bad quality, because when we’re jealous it’s usually rooted in sins of insecurity, envy, identity, covetousness or pride. Jealousy is how we become clingy, envious, possessive, greedy, and sometimes even abusive to those around us. Because our jealousy comes from our sin America’s Pastor, Oprah Winfrey, says she can’t believe in a big powerful god who is jealous of her. In her pride, she assumes wrongly that she possesses something God want’s but can’t have. To be clear God is not jealous of us (like we are towards other people) he is jealous for us and for His name. God’s motives, including His jealousy, are pure. He’s jealous for His name because God is about God before He is about us. This is for our benefit and joy.
When God uses the word jealousy He is describing His passion for His holy name, a zeal that demands the exclusive devotion of His people. People who he creates, who he provides for, and who he loves. In Deut 6 after laying out all the blessing of the Promised Lands and reminding them of His deliverance, He says,
13 It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the Lord your God in your midst is a jealous God— lest the anger of the Lord your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth. Deuteronomy 6:13-15
He expects nothing less than for us to know Him. He pursues us, He knows that us being with Him is the best thing for us. He is the Creator, He has the power to bless and protect, He is the source of all love and Joy there is to be had. He wants us to be close to Him, because to know HIM, to be in covenant relationship with Him is the greatest thing there is! When we turn from God and pursue idols, when we take even good things and put them in a position of worship, He is jealous for us because he knows they cannot compare to Him. He knows there is nothing in creation that has the capacity satisfy us, protect us, or love us as much the Creator can. Yet we still choose to sell ourselves, our time, our money, our talents, our thoughts, and our passion to worthless idols. In verse 17 it says they whored after other gods, and god is rightly moved to jealousy and anger. Jealousy is God’s love burst into it’s proper flame. (Davis) God’s intense jealousy is the flip side of His love, and it is required where exclusive love is called for. God’s covenant relationship with His people is often compared to a marriage with God as a loving and faithful Husband with His people as His Bride. A husband that is either ok, or worse indifferent, with a wife’s infidelity is NOT a loving husband. Where there is intense passionate love for someone there should be a righteous jealousy and anger when the relationship is rejected for something or someone inferior. To have a God jealous for his people is to have a loving God, who want’s better for us than we even want for ourselves. We experience this all the time with our kids, family members, and friends who cause us to groan in frustration when they willing choose actions and paths that seem light years away from what we know would bring them the most Joy. Our challenge is to remember this is what God experiences with us ALL the time as we live out the cycle of Judges in our daily lives. This difficult and painful cycle is used by God for a purpose.
In Order to Test 2:22-3:6
God’s Faithful Anger shows us he loves us enough to train and disciple us like a Father should. Joshua’s generation failed to train their children to fight sin so God has become the trainer. God is using these cycles to test hearts and train new generations of people to fight against their sin and for righteousness. God is a loving Father to His people. Just like a loving husband is jealous for an unfaithful wife, a caring father disciplines his children. Sometimes judicious punishment, temporary pain, or intentional trail is necessary to prevent or warn about larger, longer, and more painful wrath down the road. We/I want sin, idolatry, and rebellion to hurt because I want that hurt to disciple me, to train me, to grow me, and bring me, sometimes even kicking and screaming back to God. Because He is both gracious and loving, God intends His faithful anger and jealousy to be used for the purpose of reestablishing, retraining, and restoring our relationship with Him. Unfortunately, in Judges we don’t see the peoples’ relationship with God improving, it only gets worse. For the remainder of judges we will see this pattern of idolatry, wrath, grace, idolatry, and wrath repeated over and over, as the people’s rebellion and sin only increase with each cycle. The world, even for God’s people, gets darker and darker. Judges is a tragic, shocking, difficult place to be. It’s a place that cries out for the cycle to be broken and yet we know we are powerless to break it. Pause here, visit here, reflect here, learn here but don’t live here. The story isn’t over; His faithful anger gives us hope in the gospel. God’s anger IS a critical part of the gospel—the good news is that God has loved us by unleashing His anger on someone else. In love, God is no longer angry at us. He poured out all of his anger on His son SO THAT we might experience His love. So, a part of his love was punishing sin comprehensively and decisively! With Christ, the cycle is over…it is finished.
The downward spiral started by faithless fathers and perpetuated by faithless sons is finally broken by the faithful God the Father inserting His perfect Son Jesus into the dark cycle. With no sin of His own to earn wrath, and no wrath to need grace, Jesus willingly and brutally bears the full burden of our idolatry, our ungodliness, our sin up with Him on the cross. On the cross he takes the full punishment and full wrath dying the death we deserve. Because He rises from death, He leaves no doubt that through faith in Him our debt of sin has been paid and we can enjoy eternal grace we did nothing to earn. If you don’t know Jesus you are still trapped in the cycle of Judges that only ends with God’s faithful Anger and your death. I urge you to confess your sin, end your rebellion, cling to the cross, answer the call to follow Jesus, and know you’re no longer condemned. Begin your life as a disciple walking in the hope that for those He saves the cycle stops in eternal grace, love, and mercy of the Lord, through Christ.
I am going to pray, to the one true God that puts all our idols to shame.
We’re going to take communion remembering God’s faithful anger and wrath towards us was poured out on His son Jesus for His Glory and our Joy
We’re going to give our tithes/offerings, not as pagan idolaters hoping to put false gods in our debt, but as joyful worshipers knowing God has cleared our debt of sin in Christ and provides us with all we have.
And we are going to sing praises to the Creator God who is the only one worth singing too!
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, wehave peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and werejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.