Date: June 5, 2022
Speaker: Trent Thompson
Series: How Christians Respond To Violence
Good morning church? It’s good to see been enjoying good weather. Good. You got a Bible. Turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter 20. Now, can I let you on a little secret? First service is usually more responsive than second service. I don’t know why. But I need you to interact with me today. All right. Because here’s what Wow. All right. That’s the first service person that came late today. Not Not really, I’m getting getting booed off the stage. This is a bad idea. Here’s why I say that. We are going to tackle a tough subject today. I told you last week that we’re going to take a break from our first and second King series, because I want to spend some time reflecting on this question with you. Here’s the question we’re gonna reflect on today. Is how do we react to and condemn actions of violence like we’ve seen in our country over the last couple of weeks? You know, shootings? How is it that we can say that is evil, that is wicked, and condemn it? Then rightly, I hope you recognize that the first step that we should always take as believers when we see those kinds of actions is is grief and lament. Always the right first action before we try and teach or before we try to give answers. We want to weep with those who weep. Romans 12 tells us to do that, would we agree that’s the right first activity of the church, we put those who weep. Don’t try to offer answers. But coming back this week than I said, what I wanted to do is to try and help you as believers, because we’ve also been studying in first and second Kings, we’ve seen these places where God Himself commands certain acts of violence. Someone might ask the question, How is it that you can look at God commanding those kinds of violent things in the Old Testament? And how am I supposed to make sense of you then saying, or what right? Do you have to say that you would condemn an act of violence? Now, some might argue there’s some hypocrisy in that. Do you see the tension there church? So I want to try and give you some tools there. Because we believe in the priesthood of all believers, that means you should never say, Well, Pastor has the answers, right? You need to have the answers to represent God into the world. So I want to try and offer some thoughts about how we chew on that, if you want to frame that question differently. Right? So I’m framing it for you saying, How is it that we can condemn those acts of violence in light of the violence that we see in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament? How do we wrestle with it, you might frame it this way to? How does the violence of God in the Old Testament fit with the revelation of God and Jesus in the New Testament? How is it that we wrestle through that tension? Now, I’m going to tell you now, there’s no easy answers to that. But I want to give you some helpful content. Now, there’s always an element in preaching, when we come together. There’s always an element of teaching in preaching, right now there’s a, you know, sort of a, like, we’re trying to help you get content, we’re gonna be real strong on the teaching side today. All right, so I need you to track with me, I need you to let me know if you’re tracking by giving me some feedback as we go, all right, because we’re going to cover a lot of ground, I’m gonna try and get off the ground pretty quick. If you did not grab the sermon notes on your way in, feel free to get up, I will not be bothered by get up, grab them, pull out your phone, whatever device you take notes on, because today would be a day to take some notes, and to be thinking about some pretty weighty content.
All right, so have we framed our question helpfully? Yes? How do we fit? How do we deal with the tension in between these two things that violence we see in the Old Testament that Jesus we see in the New Testament, or houses that we find ourselves going in the name of Jesus, we’ve condemned that act of violence that we’ve just seen, or acts of violence, as we’ve seen them, in light of what we’ve seen in first and second Kings. I feel that tension for you, because we’ve been studying and we haven’t, hit it head on. So that’s what I want to do today, that’s want to hit that head on with you. We sung the right song to come into it, which is How great thou art, to remind ourselves that all of this is not an effort in just trying to make some apologetic arguments. It’s an effort in wanting to know God, as he’s revealed Himself to us. That’s our that’s our agenda, to know him for all that he is now recognized church family, that for those of you who are in the faith, these kinds of questions create tension, because we’re not always sure what to do with them, how to handle them, how to make sense of some of this different, you know, activity that we see of God. Recognize to that for those of you who are not followers of Jesus, and I know the majority here probably those who profess faith in Christ, but there’s always some I know who do not. I wonder if you might feel like a little bit like Richard Dawkins, who sort of famously dismisses the existence of God. But Richard Dawkins says this, because Oregon is this. This is like one of those questions. It’s a roadblock to faith for a lot of folks. Right. So listen to Richard Dawkins when he says, The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant thing character in all of fiction. For him the scriptures are fiction. A vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser a misogynistic, homophobic, racist infanticide, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. Now, as I read that, for instance, what I want to recognize, here’s our job as believers, he’s scoffing at our God and at us, our job is not to scoff back. It’s to respond with gentleness and humility, okay? Our job is not to scoff, but he is wrong. And he is defaming our God, that does make me angry. But my job is not to scoff in return. My job is to meet my enemy with love. It’s my job. We’re going to talk about then how is it that when we encounter our neighbors who feel like Mr. Dawkins does. How do we respond to that? How do we answer that? How do we speak to that? Because we recognize for some, maybe not in his quite a scoffing of a way, it’s a real roadblock to face this question. Would you agree with that? We want to help with that. So I want to offer you for needs that we have as we try to answer that question, that question of what do we do with this tension that we feel? Now let me say, before I get going, I’m not going to go so broad as to answer some of the some of the questions around Christians and war, like just war versus pacifism, we’re not going to go there that subject unto itself, okay, so I’m not going to get into the Christians role within government and bearing the sword. I’m not going to get into capital punishment, and whether that’s an appropriate expression of the government bearings, I do believe Christians can rightly disagree about those things, and still be brothers and sisters in the faith. I’m not going to tackle what I think are the best arguments for each of those, I’m gonna try and stay pretty narrow on this question of the violence in the Old Testament. Then what do we do with it in light of who we see God reveal himself to be in Jesus, and the mercy and love of God that we see there. So here’s our first thing we’re going to do for them.
Here’s the first one, we need to distinguish between the types of violence we see in Scripture. Now, let me just walk you through this. There’s four types of violence that we see in the Scriptures. The reason we need to discern between them is because we offer different responses to each of them. I’ll walk you through probably from least problematic to most problematic for people. So the first type of violence we see in Scripture is a type of violence that is described, but not affirmed, described but not affirmed. One of the realities of living in a world where sin is taken root and taking hold. Where civil authority does not rightly, confront or check the effects of sin in the world is that violence is going to happen. Often you see that described in the Bible. But when it’s described, it’s not God affirming that he’s describing a circumstance that happens. That’s a lot of the violence we see in Scripture. He describes a circumstance taking place, he does not say, I warranted this, or I put my stamp of approval on this as an example of that, Judges, chapter 11, Judges chapter 11, which is the story of Jephthah. Now, let me just remind you the story of Jephthah, we’re gonna hit a lot of Scripture today. Some of it, I’ll summarize for you. A lot of it I’m gonna read for you. This one I’m just gonna summarize. In Judges chapter 11 Jephthah, who is one of the judges, if you know the Book of Judges that goes through these people that God raises up to deliver his people from foreign oppressors. Jephthah is one of those judges in that line. And he is raised up and he defeats a group of people in the Ammonites. And in defeating them, he makes a really wrongheaded vow where he says to God, if you’ll give me victory, when I come back, whatever comes out of my door, first, I will sacrifice to you, I will offer it to you. And what comes out of his house first, or who comes out of his house is his only daughter. And he proceeds to sacrifice her to the Lord believing that the Lord would want that. Now, I know a lot of folks get confused by that when they read it. Can I just tell you, God hated the action of Jephthah in that moment? Do you know how we know that because the story of the book of Judges is the story of a group of people who have dismissed have no king, and they do what is right in their own eyes, and each judge gets progressively worse. The story of judges is the story of God’s people, even those raise up to lead, who in the mercy of God he uses to deliver his people who don’t know God’s word, don’t know that he said, Do not make human sacrifices, who said I don’t want you to make that vow to me. Who then proceeds to do foolish things and godless things in light of their lack of knowledge of who God is and doing what is right in their own eyes. So as we read do that that’s an example of a type of violence we see in the scripture that is described, but not affirmed by God. And there’s quite often those types of examples. Alright. Does that make sense? Yes. That’s it. That’s awesome. Good job wait to be back better than I’ve ever seen.
All right. So then the second type of violence we’ve seen in Scripture, the Scripture is violence, that violent acts that God does himself. And again, these can be challenging. I’m going to I want to answer why God has the right to do that. All right, in just a moment, but usually there is people have less problem with this when they still might find it problematic like, like, you know, Dr. Dawkins would certainly find that problem as part of what he’s critiquing, in that long list of things, he accuses god of being, but like Genesis, chapter six, when Genesis in Genesis chapter six, verse 13, God says, to know, I’m going to destroy the Earth, I looked down on the earth, I see such wickedness, I see such evil, I have determined that other than your family, I’m going to destroy all the earth. Now that’s not done by human hands. It’s also not something that is just described as something that God Himself says I am doing. But quite often, the average person will recognize, hey, if you know if there is such a being as God, he would certainly hold the rights over life and death, that would seem to be part and parcel to the idea of being God. Therefore, if he’s going to directly do something as an act of judgment, even though I might not understand it, it certainly seems to fall within the realm or within the role of the idea of being God.
So there are certain activities like in Genesis, chapter six, that’s another type of violence where God Himself is the one doing that activity. Yes. Here’s the thing, again, we’re working from least problematic to typically most problematic. The one that gives us the most trouble quite often, is when God commands acts of violence to be done by people. Those are the ones that are tough. Now, there are two types of that. So this is type three and type four of our types of violence, when he does it within his own family, within his own people, and when he commands His people to do it to those who are not His people. The last one is usually the most challenging for folks. So let me give you examples. I’m just gonna try and give you one of each, right? We’ve been setting First and Second Kings. Do you remember in First Kings 21, where God says to Ahab and Jezebel, who are the epitome of wickedness, ruling over his people, and they have done themselves tremendous acts of violence that are sinful against his people, they killed a man named knave off because they wanted his vineyard, you remember that story. And so God sends Elijah and he says, I’m going to destroy your whole family, because of what you’ve done as punishment for your sin as an act of judgment upon you for all your evil for all your wickedness for leading the people in the idol worship. I’m going to destroy your whole family, like no one will remain. That’s within the people of God, there is that sort of activity, but he raises up a man named Jehu and we see that there was a long time given, and we presumed, so that there could be repentance. Remember, the Ahab showed just like the smallest little hint of repentance, and God’s at all delay my judgment because of your repentance. He meets it with mercy. But the family continues into wickedness. Eventually, in Second Kings 9-10. following, Jehu, who is raised up and carries out, we just studied it a few weeks ago, he does kill all of Ahab’s family. So there’s that act of judgment. Now. That is challenging, often. But as we look at it, I think most people go Okay, so there are these wicked people, and God within his own people pass judgment on them, he caused their life to end because of their evil deeds. It was a punishment for the crime.
The last one, which is usually the hardest, and it’s where we’re going to be in Deuteronomy chapter 20. So if you have a Bible, I don’t know if I said that already or not, you can open up to Deuteronomy chapter 20. Here’s where we see what we call the Canaanite conquest. Now, this same orders are given by God and Deuteronomy chapter 20. And in Deuteronomy, chapter seven, verses one through about five. Here’s where we see God saying to His people, Israel, I want you to go into the land that I’m giving to you and I want you to destroy every living thing, everything that breathes. So we’re going to speak to each one of those types of violence and why or how we would interact with them, but that I would say the last one, would you agree the last one represents kind of the hardest one to wrestle with? What do we do with that? I mean, gosh, didn’t we don’t we hear Jesus said love your enemy. I mean, don’t even hear God in the in the 10 Commandments in Exodus chapter 28. Do not murder. Yet here we find him giving this command to actually go in and to destroy everything that breathes. Alright, so we to read you from those here in just a moment. But that’s our first need is to distinguish between the types, because you can see that we would give different responses biblically to each type of violence. That makes sense. Yes. All right, great. So then the second thing, the second need that we have all right, so that was point one. Now, here’s point to the second need that we have is we need to affirm God’s right to judge. Now, before we ever get to any other need, before we ever get to any response about the tension that we feel, the first thing I want to make sure that I say to you, is having seen those types of violence in particular, when God Himself is the one doing the activity, like the Noah, Genesis six type, do not begin follower of Jesus in any other place than this. God is the one with the right to judge. Always, always, always, you get into a heap of trouble, when you start putting yourself in the place of determining whether God’s activities are right or wrong.
Because you put yourself in a place, I mean, let’s just let’s really back up and ask ourselves, do I really believe about myself, that when I look at the activity of God, and what he would choose to do or not choose to do? I say, I want to say God didn’t do that. Because I don’t like what that represents. If God is that way, I don’t like who that is. Do I really believe what I’m saying at that moment, I have more knowledge, more understanding, more insight than God himself to determine. I sit over and above him in determining whether his activities are right or wrong. It really does friends boil down to whether we believe in a doctrine of Revelation where God has revealed something to us about himself, or whether we believe we can make God in our own image? That is the brass tacks of that question. Now, I’m not saying that relieves the emotional tension that we feel of sometimes going, Wow, God, I don’t understand how what you did was just, I’m not suggesting you and I will always understand that God, why God’s activity is just I am suggesting that you and I need to begin from the place of believing that if God has done it, then God is just to have done it. Understand this friends throughout the history of the world, God has never done anything to anyone that was unjust. Ever. All God’s ways are right. All God’s ways are good. Now I want to I want to help you with a couple things. I mean, listen to Genesis chapter 18, this is Abram, talking to God, anything, don’t destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if you find even 10 righteous people, please like you remember this story? If you’re familiar with the Old Testament, right? He starts to like 50 and the works if you find 50 Don’t do it. If you find this many I mean, he’s kind of keeps having this dialogue with God and God in His mercy. It’s okay if I find even 10 I won’t destroy the here’s here are the words, then? Abram speaks back to God. He says, Far be it from you to do such a thing to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fair as the wicked, far be that from you? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just now there when Abram is asking that it’s an assumed? Yes. Right, that he’s affirming that this is who God is not asking, Are you this way? Or are you not that way? Job chapter eight, verse three, remember, Job has lost his family and hear these words in the Book of Job? Does God pervert justice? Or does the almighty pervert the right? The presumed answer there is not yes, but no. Right? So we have to begin from the place of believing that God is the only righteous judge, he has a right to judge, and he never wrongs anyone in doing so whether I understand how it’s just or not. Now, listen, I want to say two more things. Then I want to quickly move on. I want you to remember a church that you cannot interact with God. And let me say to those of you who don’t believe this, maybe this is helpful to you to understand, we believe that God exists as a different type of being than you and I, you and I, often in order to be loving will sacrifice justice or in order to be just will sacrifice love, because we do not carry those things out perfectly well together. But you and I need to remember and understand and operate from this understanding that God is not like us in this way. He is perfectly loving and perfectly just in everything that he does. He never lays down one of his attributes in order to practice another. There is never a moment where God says, I’m gonna have to just slip out of my love a little bit. In order to be just, I’m just gonna have to stop being just just to touch in order to be loving. No friends, you cannot let that sink into your thinking about God. You have to stretch your minds, because he is different than we are. He never stops being all that he is. He is never less than perfect in every one of those attributes. Always just always loving we may not understand or comprehend by he is. Now let me remind us that a biblical worldview includes the truth that we have inherited a sinful nature. We are not just ones who commit sin. Because of that nature, we are born into the guilt of that sin. Adams guilt is our guilt, Romans five tells us, and if that is true, and we believe that it is, then we recognize that every single one of us deserves death, and separation for eternity from God. That is what we are we that was what we are owed.
And the fact that you and I breathe in and breathe out the fact that our neighbors breathe in and breathe out is always an only an act of mercy on the part of God. It is his common grace given to believers and unbelievers. So that when we see God bring about judgment, it is only a removal of the mercy that he’s been allowing us to operate in it is not less than we deserve. It’s what we’ve deserved all along. And yet he has withheld. When he at certain moments, and in certain places, and in certain ways, chooses to bring that judgment, He has not wronged the person upon whom that judgment falls, he has only given them what we all deserve. Now, that is a very different way of thinking for a Christian than the way probably if you’re not a follower of Jesus, then you think about what humans are owed and deserved. But you need to understand, that’s the worldview that we as Christians come from, and what it should do church is make us deeply humble, and deeply forgiving, and deeply full of grace, because we know how much forgiveness we’ve been given how much grace we’ve been shown, go back again and again and again to that truth, that God is forbearing and patient with you. Now, let me speak to a couple of unhelpful approaches. Okay, I want to so not a sidebar, as much as a, under this idea of God having the right to judge here’s where some of our brothers and sisters, I want to say well meaning, but they take some approaches that that genuinely I don’t believe help, because I genuinely don’t believe they’re biblical. I want to sort of help you guard against those. Now, they all there’s a, there’s a litany of them, but they probably all boiled down into, into kind of a general idea that essentially says, when I look at Jesus, and who he is, and how he reveals God to be, and I look at these violent acts in the Old Testament, I cannot there’s too much tension between the two. Therefore I have to, in light of who I believe Jesus has shown us God is in love and mercy, I have to then reject these activities of judgment. They can’t possibly represent who God really is. Then in order to reject those acts of judgment, we do a couple of things. It depends on who you’re talking to. But essentially, I’m asking you, they’re saying, that didn’t actually happen. It’s just written about, but it’s not real. So it’s, it’s more of a metaphor in the Old Testament than it is an actual historical event. Or it is a historical event. But it was God allowing Israel to do something that they didn’t understand he didn’t want them to do. Of course, the difficulty is in the Scripture, we see that it’s actually commanded. So all of those views amount to a couple of things that amount to one dismissing the authority of the Old Testament and making it lesser than the New Testament. So one of the questions we have to ask is that how Jesus related to the Old Testament, that Jesus, look at the Old Testament go, You know what, you’re right. Some of that stuff is not real. Some of that stuff didn’t happen. Some of that stuff is not what God meant. Now, again, we already recognized there is a category of things. When we don’t see in the Scriptures, God commanding it, or God saying this is good or right, we recognize there are times where he is just describing something that was wrong. Yes. But when we see him commanding it, then in order to get out from underneath that we have to either say the writers said he commanded it when he never really did. Immediately what that does is it makes me go or I’d say it didn’t actually that wasn’t a historical event. Do you understand that? It’s very hard to hold the resurrection as a historical event, as testified to by the Bible. While we say the other events the Bible calls historical art didn’t actually happen. How can I pick which ones were historical and which ones we’re not? I either choose to receive the Word of God as the revealed word of God in some total, or I put myself over it and say, I’ll pick and choose which parts I like. Which parts I build. Need to represent God. Now let’s just go to Jesus. Let’s ask this question, did Jesus interact with the Old Testament as if it wasn’t wholly God’s word? Then let’s ask, is the Jesus that we think is so different than these Old Testament acts of judgment? Truly the Jesus, the Gospels show us. So let’s look at Jesus. Again, I’m only gonna give you one because we got so much ground to cover, okay? But look at who what Jesus says in Luke 16-17. When he says this, he says it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one.of the law to become void. Do you see what Jesus saying there? When he’s gonna say I’m the fulfillment of the law come to fulfill the law, not to abolish it. But the thing I want you to see there is that Jesus treats the Old Testament as the authoritative word of God. When he interacts with it, he says, This is God’s word, it is true. There’s no place in the scripture where Jesus finds his going, Yeah, you know, that crossing the Red Sea thing that was a metaphor, that didn’t happen. You know, when God did this, he didn’t really do that. That’s not the way Jesus interacts with the Old Testament, He treats it as authoritative. That’s what I need you to see. The second thing is recognize that Jesus actually spent plenty of time talking about judgment, both temporal and eternal, in His ministry, so sometimes I think, where our brothers and sisters may go wrong, or where I think they do go wrong, is while they rightly want to make Jesus the center of the interpretation of the scriptures, that’s right to say, Jesus is the central, interpretive key to all of Scripture Old and New Testament, what God is doing the lead to him and what he’s doing to point back to him 100% Correct. But the assumption then, that Jesus is somehow in opposition to are different than the judging acts of God and the Old Testament is, I just think, a misreading of the gospel. So let’s just use one example here, Matthew, chapter 11, verses 21 and 24. Now, keep in mind that right after he says, what I’m about to read to you, is going to be those famous verses where Jesus come to me all who are weary and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Okay, my he’s about to say that in about three verses, okay? But look what he says in verses 21 through 24. Whoa, do you Chorazin Woe to you Bethsaida. for if the mighty works done in you had been done entire inside, and they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. You could earn them, will you be exalted to heaven, you will be brought down to Hades. for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom. So go back to the Old Testament destruction of Sodom, it would have remained until this day. In other words, even the wicked people of Sodom would have seen what Jesus was doing and would have repented if they had seen it. He sang Chorazin, but say to Capernaum, you have seen the very revelation of God and me and you have not responded correctly. And then what did he say? That I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the Day of Judgment for the land of Sodom than for you. Now, does that sound like judgment? Yes, what Jesus is acknowledging is that God is right to judge and does bring judgment. So there’s just a couple of examples there in terms of understanding that, that need that we have to recognize that God is has a right to judge that no one else has right now, need number three. Need number three, we need to understand more about the context of a violent act.
So now let’s get into that Deuteronomy 20 activity. So hopefully, you see that when we say we need to affirm that God has the right to judge and let me just say there, by the way, sometimes when we have these conversations or dialogues, I get the sense that Christians feel like they need to make excuses for God, can I just be very clear, I need not make any excuse for God. I’ve already said it, but I’ll say it again. I’m not trying to make you feel placated or better about something God does. It’s not my job. I would never want to do that. Because all that God does is right. What I want you to do is treasure God as He is revealed to you in His Word, and everything that is and not to feel shy, or like you have to make excuses for him. Sometimes that’s the vibe that I get in these conversations of apologetics is like, well, we better figure out how to make some excuses for God as to why he did what he did. I don’t want to make any excuses for him. He doesn’t need them. He is perfectly righteous. But what I want to help you do is understand His ways. Okay? That makes sense. So then we need to recognize if if point two there needing to recognize that he has a right to judge is meant to speak to that question of like, well, what about a Genesis six and the Noah and God destroying the earth like, it’s his right to do that. I know that doesn’t necessarily make you go, Oh, I feel warm and fuzzy about that. So my aim. Now let’s start answering some of those other questions. Let’s really get down to brass tacks at the end, when we ask the question, how is it that I can definitively say that if someone were to say today, and if you if someone were to walk in and say, you know, God has called me and given me a command to go harm someone who’s not a believer, in order to spread His glory into the earth? How can we definitively say, in light of what we see in Scripture, absolutely not, that is false, and it is not of the Lord? Because we’d all agree that’s evil and wicked, right?
How can we do that in light of what we’re about to read, and I want to help you think through that, okay, so we need to understand more about the context of a violent acts. So go to Deuteronomy, chapter 20. Let’s look at verses 16 through 18. And like I said, the same command is given in Deuteronomy, chapter seven, the first five verses of that chapter, but here are these verses says, but in the cities of these peoples, this is Israel getting ready to go into the Promised Land. And this is God’s commanded them. But in the cities of these peoples, that the Lord your God has given you for an inheritance, you shall save alive, nothing that breathes. But you shall devote them that word is a Hebrew word called herem, H E. R, E. M, herem. It means to ban something, right? I’ll we’ll get into that in a second. But you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and Jebusites, as Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all that their abominable practices, to do all their abdominal practices that they have done for their gods. And so you sin against the LORD your God. All right. So, I want to help you understand the context of why God would command that, at that moment. Now, I want you to recognize that for some, one of the one of the ways to try and deal with is to say, well, when God says herem, this is like William Lane Craig, who is a dear brother and really great apologist, but I actually disagree with him here. He suggests that when God use that word, herem just means ban, like get them out of the land, it doesn’t actually mean destroy them. But when you see the usage of this word, the vast majority of time, it doesn’t just mean to send someone away it, it does mean to destroy them to take violent action against them. I don’t think we’re dealing honestly with the word there. When we try and skirt around it by just saying, Well, God is not commanding destruction. He’s just commanding removal from the land. It does seem that God is commanding in this moment, destruction. Now, so we got to get a little context here. So Genesis, chapter 15, verses 13 through 16. Say this, this is God. Hundreds of years before the moment I just read in Deuteronomy, chapter 20, God speaks to Abram, and he’s going to make a promise to him, to create a people from him, that’s the people of Israel. And here, listen to what he says, After making that promise. Then the Lord said to Abram, know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs, and will be servants there. They will be afflicted for 400 years. That’s the Egyptian slavery for the people of Israel. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterwards, they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your father’s in peace, you shall be buried in a good old age. They shall come back here in the fourth generation. Here’s the key sentence, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete. So 400 years, even more than 400 years before God gave the command to go in and destroy the people who were living in the land that God had promised Israel, he had said to Abram, I’m going to make a people from you, but the the sins of the people that I’m going to punish through Israel, I’m gonna raise up Israel and I’m going to use them as my weapon of punishment and judgment upon this group of people, they have not their sins have not come to full completion. Yet, it is not the time for judgment yet. Now again, whenever you see God delaying judgment, what is always inferred in that delay is an opportunity for repentance. God delays 400 years before commanding the destruction of these seven groups of people in the Promised Land. That’s a significant amount of patience, would you agree? He waits for 100 years and gives opportunity for repentance, but there is no repentance. When you study the background of these nations, one of the things you recognize and I won’t go into the details but it’s gory and horrific, that is a debauched society, they sacrifice children alive on the altar to false gods, they commit gross acts of violence and injustice constantly again and again. And therefore God has sought to bring are determined to bring judgment upon them. And he uses Israel as the vehicle of that judgment. Now, that’s one piece of context, that 400 years of waiting. Now, when you see God declare that there’s two things going on there, he says that their wickedness is not yet complete, or the sins have not yet been fulfilled. He is both in His sovereignty, speaking, a recognition that those sins will become complete, he is aware that that will happen because he is aware of past present and future at all times. He knows that, and yet also in His sovereignty, we recognize that that 400 years always within scripture represents a time and an opportunity for repentance, to which God responds with mercy. Now, the second thing we need to understand about the context is not just the patience with which God waited to bring that judgment. But often, this action gets declared ethnic cleansing or genocide. Let me tell you that that is absolutely not the case. And there’s a couple of reasons we know that number one is just right before in chapter 20, verses 10 and 11, God actually commands the nation of Israel, not to destroy certain other groups of people. He’s not saying, I only love Israel, and I want to destroy all these other ethnic groups, because he says specifically that other ethnic group living outside the land, even though they’re full of wickedness, do not destroy them. I’m only using you to judge this group of people. So he doesn’t pass through and not destroy this these groups of people. Furthermore, God determines here’s the really fascinating thing is, God gives a reason why he wants to use Israel to judge them and to send them out of the land through destruction. That reason is that if the Canaanites continue to live around the people of Israel, it will cause the people of Israel to begin to become like them, they will begin to walk in sin and God wants to protect the purity of his people. That is part of his reason for destruction. Now, they do not keep his command. They don’t actually follow what he says to do in Deuteronomy, chapter 20. The result is that they begin to become canonized. They become like the Canaanites. And as a result, then, who does God judge next? them? And who does he use to judge them? pagan nations, Babylon and Assyria. So his judgment, whether it’s removal from the land as it is with Israel, or whether its destruction at it, as it is with the Ammonites, and the parasites and the Canaanites, his judgment falls on all who practice wickedness. Listen to what he says in Deuteronomy, chapter nine, before he sends them into judge, this is what he says to Israel. Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you it is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land. Whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you not because of your righteousness, or the brightness of your heart, are you going to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God is driving them out from before you that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. So Israel is not righteous, but they are at this moment in history, God’s tool for judgment. Now, the last thing to point out about context here and understanding this particular activity, is that repentance does lead to salvation. There’s a question that comes up because there’s one family, one Canaanite family that is not destroyed. Actually, when I said they didn’t keep the command, but in the first movement into the Promised Land, when they take over Jericho, there’s a very famous person in the scriptures, her name is Rahab. She becomes the great I don’t know how many greats grandmother of Jesus Himself, the book of James and the book of Hebrews both personify her as a person of faith. So the question becomes, well, did they disobey by not destroying Rahab and her family? But the answer is no, they obeyed in the Scriptures, the New Testament affirms that they didn’t destroy her under the harem under the band. The reason is because she demonstrated what faith that the God of Israel was the true God, and she hid the spies in the land. In so doing, she saved her entire family and became the epitome of faith. This Canaanite woman, this woman who had been raised in this debauch society, shows faith in the One True God and is rescued as a result and rescues how beautifully her whole family from destruction because of it. So, friends, here’s what I want you to see in this idea of the context, right? God does not give Israel a license to kill indiscriminately. He wants to use them at this one moment in history as his NASS is his people who at this moment have a national identity. He wants to use them to exercise judgment on a specific group of people at a specific time. He never invites them to do that at another point, or in other ways, he limits them very much within a certain scope, in order to bring a judgement that he is determined is right and good to bring at that moment. Now, does that make sense? So that’s the context of the Canaanite conquest. I want you to understand that because again, for some folks, they look at that and they say, God is just all about violent activity. They fail to recognize one the patience of God to the righteousness of God and judging people who are incredibly wicked. Three, that it was a specific moment in time instruction, not one that was sort of supposed to be the normal operating mode of the nation of Israel.
Alright, then the last thing we need. Last point today is that we need to see the bigger picture of God’s plan, we need to see the bigger picture of God’s plan. So here’s what I mean by that. We just looked at this Deuteronomy 20 moment where God is setting up Israel in the land. But I don’t want you to just see the context of why God is inviting judgment on the people of Canaan and using Israel to do that, in that point in time interaction, I want you to see even bigger than that, because here’s what God is doing. God is at work to redeem not just one nation, but people from every nation, through Jesus and His cross. So the story of God’s redemptive history is that he makes a promise to a man named Abraham to make a nation from him. That nation is Israel. The people of God in the Old Testament are the nation of Israel. It is a physical nation that represents the people of God, He gives them a law, he continues to protect them, He gives them a land, he judges them when they rebel against him. But he interacts with them as His people. The reason he chose Israel was not because of their righteousness or their goodness, but because he wanted us in the Savior of the world through a people who he called his own. Then once he sent that Savior into the world, all those whether they be Jew or Gentile, whether they be Canaanite or Israelite, who would call upon the name of God, through the sacrifice of Jesus, become His people. So now, under the New Covenant, the people of God is no longer a national people, there is no national identity to the people of God, there is now a spiritual people that are his people, a people purchased by the blood of Jesus and through His cross. Therefore, as a result, what we understand is that while he used Israel to do certain acts of judgment, under the Old Covenant, as a way of for them coming to land, protecting their purity, and their holiness, to keep his redemptive plan on track, right to then keep them alive, and a remnant ultimately alive when he sends them into exile in Babylon. Keep a remnant alive so that the Savior of the world could come so that ultimately he would save people from every nation. Here’s the thing that you and I need to see all of that is leading to a cross, which is the most violent act in human history, because it’s committed against the only righteous person who’s ever lived. That’s how he saved us. That’s how he saved people from every nation, through bringing the violence that you and I deserve from him in judgment upon us, but placing upon his son. As we see, yes, there was a temporal act of judgment against a group of people under the Old Covenant. But that was all in order to keep his plan moving forward, to bring about the opportunity for salvation for people from every nation, not one nation, every nation, and instead of bringing judgment upon all of us who are rightly deserving of it, he has put that judgment upon Jesus, so that all who believe in Him could have life. So we do not call God unjust, because he has shown such mercy to save us to bringing the judgment that we deserve upon him now, how do we apply that today? So let me just get right to the final kind of like, let’s let’s close up with answering very directly some of those questions. Number one, we should marvel at the mercy of God towards us. We should marvel that you and I are breathing in and out right now is the mercy of God.
Why is it that we can know then that if someone were to stand up here and say, Hey, we should do what Israel did to the Canaanites? That’s what we should do that still applies today. How is that we can know that that is not of the Lord. The answer is very simple. That God used Israel, a national people with a national identity in the Old Covenant. They were his people. He used them to bring judgment At one moment at one point of time against a group of people whom he determined it was right to judge at that moment. But that was never intended to be a pattern offered to God’s people. Now, the church under the New Covenant does not serve as God’s instrument of judgment against anyone. Now, the call to God’s people under the new covenant is not to spread our faith through destruction of others, but to be willing to die ourselves, to spread our faith, to love our enemy, and to pray for those who persecute us to turn the other cheek when we are struck. That is the call of the people of God now, and it’s why anyone from any religion who says God has commanded me to commit an act of violence against someone else to spread my faith or take more territory to my faith is doing something that displeases God and is evil and wicked. You follow me? We never have a command to be God’s instrument of judgment in the world today, because of God’s redemptive plan and where we sit within that plan. We are not Israel, we are not a national people. We are now the people of God under the New Covenant, who spread our faith and bring glory to God through suffering violence, not committing violence. Now, the second question then is okay, how do we then think about it within we said, violence among the people of God? Because that answers the question of like, well, why wouldn’t we go out and attack someone who’s not a believer? What about within ours? What if I committed egregious sin? Should you put me to death? Why is it that we would suggest that it is inappropriate for God’s people to commit acts of violence within house here, among ourselves, even for very egregious sin. There’s two reasons number one is, my sin has been paid for by Jesus, the penalty for that sin has been taken, it’s on him. Now, that does not mean that there is not right discipline within the church. But that discipline exists to restore not to destroy. So all disciplinary action taken among the people of God is always restorative. Even when it’s hard, it’s restorative, not destructive. That is a key difference between Old Covenant, New Covenant now as we think about how we discipline, but the second reason goes back to the US not having a national identity. We are an international people with a spiritual identity, people from every tribe, tongue and nation, and we live within nations, and God has determined at this moment in history, that he does not call the church to have the right to bear the sword. It is not our place to determine when life should be given and taken, he has given that to governments and the governmental authorities. That’s what Romans 13 tells us. And so were you to say Trent’s committed a sin, we’re going to kill him, What would our government do, rightly prosecute you for doing that? Because government is the one with the right to bear the sword. Then, like I said, we’re not going to address capital punishment, and all those kinds of things, what’s the right expression of government bearing the sword, Christians can disagree about what they think is the best version of a government’s activity within the world about how they bear the sword. The point I want you to see is the church does not bear the sword and is not called to bear it. So when we bring about discipline, it’s never destructive, and death, it is always restorative in that nature. The last thing I’m gonna point you back to, as well, I’ve tried to make the encapsulating statement of this whole time is to say that our job that the right application for us is to treasure God for all that he is to treasure God for all that he is the things you understand and love and the things that are harder to comprehend. All of it, if it is revealed to us in the scriptures, is God’s gift to us. God is right in all his ways, and righteous and all his actions, and does justice always at all times and never fails to execute it perfectly. And so we remember that and we worship him accordingly. So it’s appropriate ushers, if you want to come servers if you want to come to appropriate that we come to the table now.
To reflect upon, as I said, the greatest act of violence ever committed in human history which resulted in salvation for all who come to Jesus by faith. So church family when we come to the table of the Lord, want to remind us of a couple of things. One, we are invited to reflect upon our lives and to examine ourselves, to invite God’s Spirit to examine us and to not partake of His table lightly and what that means is that we don’t partake of these elements which we recognize represent the sacrifice of Christ to us. We’re gonna hold them and take them and then say I intend to continue right forward in my sin in all the same ways that I was sitting before i This means nothing to me, we are called to examine. So, as part of our time now we do that having reflected on God’s word and sung His praises, we come down to the table to reflect upon that. We also rightly want to recognize for our friends, we call your friends who are not followers of Jesus, we’re just going to invite you to let these elements pass us this time to reflect upon the invitation of Jesus to you, to make his body and his blood, his sacrifice on your behalf. Just trust in that, to take away your sin, to grant you reconciliation to the Father, and eternal life with Him. It would be our joy for you to know that and to trust it, and to come to faith in him. But until that day comes we’re going to invite you to let these elements pass because we would not want you to proclaim in the partaking of them that you believe in something which you have not come to believe. So we’ll invite you into that faith we invite you to consider and we are glad that you are here and wrestling through these things with us keep coming. You always got a spot here we’re glad. So church family knows the service. Come on, invite you to receive the elements and we’ll take them together.