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When God Grieved–Judges 10:6-16
Steven Long 4/18/13




This is the transcript of the sermon preached at Albemarle Reformed Church on Sunday, April 14, 2013.
Does God ever grieve over the plight of His people? Indeed, He does! I'm afraid that we are all to often so zealous for doctrinal purity that we ourselves forget to stop and ponder the pure, raw emotions of God. That is not to say that we should not contend for pure and true doctrine. But let us not forget all of what that doctrine says.
This passage is scattered with the Almighty's emotions. God is the God of emotions; and not just that of what any one person would say He is. Here, we are told of God's anger, His apathy, and His sadness and impatience at the sin and misery of His people. The author uses words and phrases such as 'His anger was kindled,' and 'His soul was grieved.' He is, no doubt, trying to convey the idea that God, while being justly angry, was at the same time infinitely merciful.
The book of Judges in its entirety demonstrates the goodness of God almost like no other book of the Bible can. It gives us the story of God's own people, redeemed from a life of misery, continually forsaking His rule over them in order to gratify their own sinful desires. Yet, it also tells us of a God who was infinitely patient, and merciful, and good, and forgiving to His people, even at the knowledge that they would soon slide back into their depravity. God was not gentle in the punishment of His people; Oh, but how tender and merciful He was in the deliverance of them! Though this was the time under the old covenant we could almost compare it to our time today. How many times have we forsaken Yahweh to go after our “foreign” gods; and how many times have we fallen on our knees to repent and found that unending mercy and grace that we so starved for? We must be reminded often that we are just like the Israelites and chime together with the hymn writer.
O, to grace how great a debtor
daily, I'm constrained to be
Let thy goodness, like a fetter
bind my wandering heart to thee
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, now take and seal it
seal it for thy courts above

If it were not for that pure, unearned, unmerited grace we should indeed be as the Israelites. But thanks to God that He has given us His Spirit to forever dwell in our hearts and to guide us into all truth and righteousness. This morning as we examine this text pay close attention to the Israelites' sin and learn from it; but pay closer attention to God's mercy and lean upon it.
Israel returns to the pigpen (vv.6-7)--Israel has had rest for forty-five years under the combined reigns of Tola and Jair. But the same familiar pattern emerges after their death: “Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” The author mentions seven different nations and their gods, some not previously mentioned in earlier apostasies. In the Pulpit Commentary Series on Judges states about this particular verse,
The gods of Syria, i.e. Aram, who are not usually named, but whose worship is spoken of, (2Ch 28:23) and whose altar attracted the attention of Ahaz, (2Ki 16:10) and one of whom was Rimmon; (2Ki 5:18) the gods of the Zidonians, Baal and Ashtoreth, probably with rites somewhat differing from those of Canaan; Chemosh, the god of the Moabites; Milcom or Moloch, the god of the children of Ammon; and Dagon, the god of the Philis-tines all were worshipped, while the service of Jehovah was thrust aside. (see 1Ki 11:5-7)i
Likewise, Keil & Delitzch state,
In the account of the renewed apostasy of the Israelites from the Lord contained in Jdg 10:6, seven heathen deities are mentioned as being served by the Israelites... If we compare the list of these seven deities with Jdg 10:11 and Jdg 10:12, where we find seven nations mentioned out of whose hands Jehovah had delivered Israel, the correspondence between the number seven in these two cases and the significant use of the number are unmistakeable. Israel had balanced the number of divine deliverances by a similar number of idols which it served, so that the measure of the nation's iniquity was filled up in the same proportion as the measure of the delivering grace of Godii
So it seems that Israel's apostasy is greater than all the apostasies. Because of their breech with Yahweh we are told that His anger was 'kindled.' The word means 'to be ablaze.' The idea seems to be much like that of a fire that is hot and bursts its tender into flames.
We see here in this verse the very first emotion of God; this emotion is one of extreme anger towards His people. It also gives us a very candid look into how God feels about sin—especially that of His own people. The equivalent word in the LXX is the word 'thumao' and is used only one time in the New Testament at Matthew 2:16, describing the anger of Herod when he discovers that the magi have tricked him. A comparison of these two words shows that this anger goes beyond that of simply being mad. It indicates and enraging that acts upon its passion. And this is what we see next as we are told that God 'sold' the people into foreign hands. Again, we see some emotion subtly hidden in the word 'sold' as it is a word sometimes used for the price of a bride within that culture. God was in essences, selling his people to be the bride of foreign gods. Since they would not have Him as their husband, he would allow them to choose a husband according to their desires.
The gods of the Canaanites were quite detestable. While Baal and Ashtoreh may be familiar some of the gods of other nations may not be. For example, the god of the Sidonians and Moabites was Chemosh or Molech. This god often required the live sacrifice of children in the fire because he was the god of fire. Dagon was the Philistine fish god and is the same god mentioned in 1Samuel 5 when the ark of the covenant is brought into the temple. If you remember the story the Philistines wake and find their god on his face before Yahweh. And after a couple of days send the ark back so as to appease the one true God. But for the most part foreign idolatry consisted of crude and immoral acts of the flesh.
Israel's severe oppression (vv.8-9)—We now see the consequences of Israel's actions. God sends the Ammonites and the Philistines to war against His people. Both peoples are mentions as the author is getting ready to use this to set up the account of Jephthah and the judges that follow him. While the Amonites are primarily in the South and East the Philistines make their move in the West. Most commentators agree that while the Amonites' oppression only lasts for eighteen years under Jephthah, the Philistines' oppression will last forty years between Samson and Samuel.iii In other words, the judges that follow Jepthah will be contemperaneous with the Philistines that Samson fought, and not to be fully delivered from them until the time of Samuel.
There are four interesting things that I note about this section:
  1. We are told that the Amorites 'crushed and oppressed' the people. The two Hebrew words used here are actually synonyms that come from the same root. This further strengthens the idea that God's judgment was firm.
  2. The main oppression took place on the East side of the Jordan. In all the other accounts of the apostasy it seems that the oppression of the people was localized in Canaan itself. For the first time we see that all of Israel, both East and West of the Jordan is affected.
  3. The Amorites are not content to stay on the East side of the Jordan. The author tells us that they cross the Jordan to fight against the Southern tribes of Israel. This makes the oppression that much worse as now they have the Amorites in the South and the Philistines in the West. Essentially, all of Israel is affected by their own apostasy.
  4. The phrase 'land of the Amorites stands out as particularly interesting. God had promised and given the land to Israel. The East side of the Jordan was where the Israelites had their first victory over Sihon and Og (Numbers 21) on their way to conquer Canaan. Yet the author seems to make it a point that this was the 'land of the Amorites.' We can only surmise that this goes hand-in-hand with the previous verses of God selling His people into their hands and effectively “giving” the land to the people's enemy for a short time.
Israel's cry and God's reply (vv.10-14)--After eighteen long years the Israelites finally cry out to the Lord for deliverance. We are not told in specifics of the oppression of the enemy. But it must have been harsh and cruel as we are told that they were severely distressed. Another colorful Hebrew word is used, yatsar, which means 'to be tightly pressed' or 'narrow.' The implication is to be bound so as to have nowhere to go. Indeed, the Lord made sure that His people were hemmed in from all sides. Another interesting insight into this word is that it is the same word used in Genesis 42:21 when Joseph's brothers describe his distress as he pleaded with them not to kill him. This is the condition of Israel and they, like Joseph, are desperate to be relieved from their pain. And so their pain causes them to cry out to God. But the answer that they received was far from what they wanted to hear.
Apparently, there must have been some kind of mediator in Israel as God sent word back to His people. The author is silent on the means of communication for the message is more important than the messenger. The answer the people receive back is harsh, unloving, and somewhat apathetic. This is the second time in this passage we see God's emotions displayed. He reminds them of the seven previous nations (as mentioned earlier) that He has delivered them from; yet they have continued to forsake Him and go after other gods. His answer is blunt: “I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gos whom you have chosen.”
Could it be that God has finally given up on His people? But what about God's “unending patience,” as we are told today? Does God actually have a point at which He finally “gives up” on someone? Simply put, yes—and no! We are told in Scripture that God is slow to anger and abounding in love, yet it does not mean that He never angers or never witholds his goodness. But it was so in this case. It seems that God had finally reached the end of His patience with His own people. Had the people repented long ago they certainly would not have experienced God's wrath. But their flesh ruled their hearts and now they had to suffer the consequences. But God was not quite through just yet.
When God grieved (vv.15-16)--God does in fact want to show His mercy and goodness. But it can only be imparted under certain conditions. The people of Israel had falsely repented of their idolatry. Time and time again they only cried out of pain for deliverance from their circumstances and consequences rather than their sin. When it served them they obeyed God. But when He delivered them they simply went back to their ways. In verse ten we see Israel's admittance of sin. “We have sinned against you,” they cry. They even “confess” their sin of idolatry. If ever a passage existed in Scripture that God is not impressed with mere admittance and confession, this would be it. Simply admitting your sin is not enough for deliverance.
God expected more from His people and His response told the people this. And so they did what any person should do when confronted with their sin: they showed true repentance. They demonstrated this in two ways:
  1. They were willing to accept any further consequences from God. Note that they cry out for God to do whatever seems best in His eyes. The LXX translation gives a bit of insight into their repentance. It can be read as, “and the sons of Israel said to the Lord, 'We have sinned. You do to us all which is agreeable to your face; only release us on this day.” Can you hear the desperation in that confession.This is a mark of genuine repentance as the person comes face-to-face that God is in absolute control over his life. This was the same estate that the publican came to in Luke 18:13 when he cried, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” and indeed we are told that the hated tax-collector went to his house justified before God. How happy he must have been! Yes, when the sinner comes to the state of accepting God's rule on his life he is truly ready to respond to whatever God tells him next.
  2. Their mouthed repentance was followed by action. This is the second mark of genuine repentance. The Israelites got rid of their foreign gods and served Yahweh. The “put away their other gods from the midst of them,” is the statement used. Here, we see the doing away with the sinful. But is was not just doing away with their sin; they replaced it with the worship of Yahweh, the true God. They were now going back to the covenant relationship which they had previously been brought up out of Egypt for.
And then, we see the third and final time in this passage that speaks of God's emotions: the author tells us that God was grieved by His people's distress. His grief was brought on by the people's repentance. Here, it is shown that Gods' punishment was meant for the good of His people. He is grieved just as a Father is grieved when he must bring affliction to one of his own children. But just as when the child realizes, accepts, and embraces his father's chastisement the father himself is overcome by emotions of grief and joy; grief, for he had to inflict it in the first place, and joy, for the child has realized that it was indeed for his correction and not out of maliciousness. In the same way, God was now grieved and joyed over the people. Now, deliverance could commence. And although this deliverance would not be fully realized until forty years later during the time of Samuel, they could rest assured that Yahweh would indeed fulfill all of His good promised to them.
Brothers and sisters, you may have committed a grievous sin against the Lord between last Lord's day and this Lord's day. And God may have sent a Word to your soul to afflict you this morning. But it is not to harm you or to simply cause you a loss of spirit. It is for your good. Take comfort in this passage that when you truly repent that God stands ready to not only forgive you but to restore you. He is grieved when He causes you affliction. But when you turn from your wickedness and embrace His chastisement as for your own benefit He is joyous, and the fellowship that you once enjoyed with Him can now be yours again!

i. Hervey, Arthur Charles. Judges. Kegan Paul, 1881, p.113

ii. Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. Joshua, Judges, Ruth. T. and T. Clark, 1869, p.374

iii. Expositor's Bible, Gill, Lange

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