Forgetting God: Historical Revisionism and Paganism – Judges 3:7
Open your Bibles to Judges 3:7. Judges is the 7th book sandwiched between Joshua and Ruth, which is really sort of an appendix to Judges in the Hebrew. What we have seen by way of review is that when Israel entered into the Promised Land, under the command of Joshua, under the high command generalship of the angel of the Lord, they conquered the major strongholds in the land and then it was time for a mopping up operation. Judges 1 describes that mopping up operation and the failures that came as a result of the Jews inability or failure to trust God consistently as time went by, and as year turned into year they began to compromise more and more with the culture surrounding them, until by the end of the 1st chapter we see the indictment given in the description of what happened in Dan; not only in the northern territory of Dan did they coexist with the Canaanites in the land and failed to annihilate them as God had commanded, but they were now defeated, the first tribe to be defeated by the Canaanites. So we see this decline in the nation.
In the 2nd chapter we see God's indictment and explanation of these events; in the first five verses we see the announcement from the angel of the Lord who is the preincarnate Jesus Christ, and we saw in the following verses that there would be a cycle that would take place in this book. The first two chapters, really down to 3:6, is the introduction setting the theme of the book of Judges. As we look at the outline of Judges we see that there are three basic divisions. The first is from the beginning of the book to 3:6; the second is the main body of the book, 3:7 to 16:31; and the third is the last four chapters, 17-21.
In the first section, the introduction, we see the theme of the book laid out and the outline of the cycles of deliverance, that the Jews would disobey God and then they would come under divine discipline and God would send a nation that would defeat them and would enslave them and then they would cry out for deliverance and God would, in His grace, send a deliverer. This is developed in the main body of the book and there we see the breakdown of the leadership of the nation, and as we go through this study progressively I will begin to develop Biblical principles of leadership that can be applied, whether it's in terms of business, in terms of political leadership, national leadership, military leadership or leadership in the home. So principles of leadership work across any category, whatever the field might be. We see the breakdown of the leadership in the nation and then in the final four chapters the breakdown or spiritual failure of the people.
This is not written in chronological order so that the last four chapters describe events that take place during chapters 3:7-16:31 showing that the failure, the spiritual failure of the nation involves not only the people but also the leaders and the leaders were unable to break the spiritual negative volition of the people and they were a product of the people so as we go through this we're going to see a continuous decline among the judges. The first is Othniel, the second is Ehud, then Barak, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson, and then there is this continuous decline among the leaders so by the time we get to the 6th cycle of discipline and deliverance with Samson we see for the first time the people don't cry out to the Lord and Samson is such a degenerate himself that he is virtually undistinguishable from the pagan society around him because of the way he thinks and his behavior.
And that really leads us to the theme of this whole book and that is that at this time "there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in their own eyes." And there's sort of a double entendre and in that initial statement, "there was no king in Israel," it's written about the time the monarchy begins as an explanation as to why it was necessary to move to a strong centralized government and the strong centralized government is established in 1 Samuel 8 when the people finally voice their complete objection to God and His theocratic rule. If you remember, under the Mosaic Covenant God established a theocracy; there was no executive branch of government, there was no king or president or someone of that type, there is God in the place of any human leader. Because of that and because of the Mosaic Law was laid out it was clear that the people had in that context, and we studied the historical context, the greatest level of personal freedom in the ancient world.
They're situated as a nation on the crossroads of the ancient world, so that all the travelers, all the merchants, all of the tradesmen in caravans that were traveling from nation to nation would come through Israel and when they did they would see something that they saw nowhere else, and that was personal freedom. There was no tyrant at the head of government, not like in Egypt where the Pharaoh was identified with God and so everyone was indeed a slave to Pharaoh; or the strong kings in the tyrannical governments in the Mesopotamian region and down in the fertile crescent. So of all of these nations they all had strong power authority structures where the people had little freedom. And yet when you would come to Israel there was this light shining in the darkness; there was a nation where the people had true personal freedom, they could accumulate wealth, they had possessions, they possessed their land, not the king, not the state. It was seen as the individual possession; there was taxation but taxation was limited because it was recognized that what people earned was theirs, it was not the property of the state.
And what happens by 1 Samuel 8 when the people have rejected God as the king there is literally a shift, it's almost like a minor dispensational shift from the theocracy to monarchy, and at that time God warns them, since you have rejected Me, you have opted for a king, and he is going to increase the burden of taxation upon you and he is going to take away many of your personal freedoms. That was the warning. And this is what always happens when there is spiritual decline in the nation, there is a consequent loss of capacity for freedom; there is a search for security from the state as opposed to from God, and so the state is looked to as the source of security and financial blessing. And as a result of that, because when a people get in that situation they exchange spiritual values and absolutes for relativism, they exchange spiritual values for material prosperity and they begin to invest in their view of government the concept of deity. So the state becomes the solution to all of man's problems rather than God and with that individual freedom is reduced and individual responsibility is rejected. All of that is a result of people thinking like a pagan instead of like a Christian.
When I use the word "pagan" I'm not using that as some sort of insulting pejorative term. It's a very technical term and it refers to anyone who does not think like the Bible says we ought to think. That is the concept of paganism. It refers to any culture, no matter how intelligent, no matter how educated of sophisticated, their thinking might be, if it does not align with Scripture then the technical term for that is that it is pagan thought. And what we see in Judges is a nation that enters the land operating on divine viewpoint principles and trusting God which enables them to conquer the enemies and by the end of the book of Judges they don't look any different from the surrounding nations. They have completely absorbed the thinking, the values, the lifestyle of the cultures in the land and they have become no different from the unbelievers and they do not think any differently from the unbelievers and the result is that the nation becomes paganized, they lose their freedoms and they become enslaved time and time again.
So we see that this process continues and as we came to the end of the introduction we saw that they failed to drive out all of the nations that were left when Joshua died, and so God established these nations in the land, allowed them, He caused them to continue their possession within the borders of Israel for the purpose of testing Israel. We spent the last 3 weeks going over the doctrine of testing and how this relates and is analogous to our spiritual life today. But one aspect that I did not go into was covered in Judges 3:2, "Only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel," these are those that came after Joshua, these are those who did not experience, they did not have the direct empirical knowledge of God's ability to give them victory in warfare, so God left the nations as enemies in their midst in order "to teach them war."
Now I want you to pay attention to that because modern pagan thought has a lot of problems with that. What happens in pagan thought is you develop your standards, your morals, your values autonomously, you derive them from your own experience, your own intuition or your own reason and then you try to impose that upon the Scriptures. And one of the things that has come along is the whole idea of pacifism. And pacifism is typical of pagan thought; it does not have its root in Biblical Christianity.
First of all I want to observe that this warfare is not warfare for the sake of warfare; God is not developing a nation like the Spartans later on in Greece, He is not developing a warrior class. That is not the purpose; the purpose is a recognition of the fact that living in the devil's world there will always be those nations who succumb to a power lust and want to take away the freedom of others and the only way to secure that freedom is through military victory. Therefore it is incumbent on any nation that desires to maintain their freedoms to have a strong military, not for the purpose of going out and acquiring more territory and defeating other peoples but for the purpose of self-defense. So this is not warfare for the sake of warfare but warfare for the purpose of being able to defend and preserve their national freedoms.
The second observation, as long as we live in the devil's world before Jesus Christ returns there will be war and rumors of war; we will never have world peace during this time. There will never be world peace until Jesus Christ returns and so all attempts by the United Nations and any other group like that to try to bring about world peace will always be frustrated because man is inherently sinful. This is the basic issue, is that modern man wants to operate on the concept that man is basically good, whereas the Bible operates on the presupposition that man is basically evil, that every one of us is born with a sin nature, and that sin nature, whether it is an Adolph Hitler or Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, or whether it is in you sweet little wonderful newborn child is just as wicked and evil. What activates that sin nature is the volition and what makes the difference between the evil that one person commits and the evil another person commits is not only the volition but it's also depending on the trends in that individual sin nature. You see some people trend toward antinomianism and licentiousness and immorality and all that goes with that and other people have sin natures that trend toward morality, toward legalism, toward structure and control as part of power lust.
So as long as we live in the devil's world because man is inherently sinful there is always going to be the threat of unjust violence and warfare. Therefore it's necessary for a nation as well as individuals to be ready to protect themselves at any time and not to somehow give that authority and self-protection to someone else, like the government. That's one reason people should have the freedom to bear arms. The founding fathers of this nation recognized that principle, that we have the right to possess firearms and to protect ourselves, especially against the tyranny of a government. And once government starts taking note of where everybody has firearms and who has what, then the next step in the plan and agenda is to take away all of those firearms. This is exactly what has happened in the last couple of years in Australia and also in Canada, and what has happened there has been terrible; it happened earlier in England and that is the agenda and if you don't believe that's the agenda I hate to insult you but you have your head buried deep in the sand. That is the agenda of the entire gun control lobby, and that is their purpose. So it is ultimately to take away personal freedoms and personal protection from the individual citizen and it's a failure to recognize the fact that we live in the devil's world and there will always be the threat of criminality and world violence.
The third observation is that pacifism is one aspect of the devil's cosmic thinking that has infiltrated not only modern society but the modern church and it comes from two sources. The first is a pacifistic doctrine that was generated in a form of Christianity that misunderstood and misinterpreted certain New Testament passages; passages like love your enemy as yourself and turn the other cheek. Passages like that were misapplied in terms of military application. That is not Biblical and there is much in the Bible that argues against that. For example, we've looked at the passage in Luke 22, when Jesus took the disciples to Gethsemane with Him he wanted to make sure they were armed. They had two swords with them and He said that was enough. Now the purpose for the arming of the disciples when they went to Gethsemane was because Jesus wanted to make sure that no one was going to interfere with God's plan which was for Him to die on the cross. He needed someone there who was armed to protect Him in case one of the Roman soldiers or temple guards got carried away and decided to assassinate Him on the spot. So there was a purpose for protecting Him and for carrying weapons in the garden. So the Bible obviously does not have a presupposition that all violence is necessarily wrong. That is the presupposition governing modern thought. Just watch anything on TV, any of the major news channels and editorials and their pundits and their basic presupposition is that violence per se is in and of itself wrong. That is a false concept and don't be taken in by it.
The problem is, in terms of the fourth observation, is that human viewpoint paganism always assumes that nonviolence is an absolute standard. They have assumed the nonviolence is an absolute standard and therefore violence is inherently wrong. But if that's true, then number one, God would not have authorized capital punishment in the Noahic Covenant; He not only authorized capital punishment but mandated capital punishment. He authorized and mandated holy war when the Israelites went into the land of Canaan he told them to kill every man, woman and child and to completely wipe out the Canaanite society because of their evil. God was using Israel to discipline the Canaanites for their rejection of Him. God also authorized various military advances of the nation Israel in the Old Testament. In the New Testament you have the example of Jesus having the disciples carry swords and there's nothing in the New Testament, in fact Jesus recognized in a couple of passages that it would be necessary to protect yourself through weaponry. In Romans 13 the national entity, national government is authorized the power of the sword which is a metaphor for life and death decisions, which would include both domestic protection in terms of having a sound police department as well as external protection, foreign protection, having a military as well as carrying out the judicial decision of capital punishment. So God authorizes violence at certain times; violence is not inherently wrong in and of itself.
Now an analogy that we looked at from the testing is that just as God left these nations to live in the land, to test the people, because they were going to be able…subsequent generations were going to learn things about God's ability to give them victory over these enemies that they would have learned any other way. So in the same way God has left the believer with a sin nature. At the point of salvation you did not have your sin nature removed, wiped away, you still had the same old sin nature and it's just as wicked, just as vile, just as evil and just as powerful; it doesn't control your life but it still has tremendous influence in your life, you're no longer a slave to the sin nature which Romans 6 tells us but it still has power if we give it to the sin nature. So the issue comes down to volition. God has left that sin nature in us because we need to grow spiritually and the only way we can grow spiritually is by learning to apply doctrine in the tests that we receive from the sin.
In the doctrine of testing that we covered we saw that there are always external circumstances. Now the test is not inherently in that external circumstance. There may be a loss of a family member, there may be financial disaster, there may be some weather disaster; on the other hand there may be some tremendous prosperity that comes your way. That is simply the occasion of the test; the real test is how you respond to it in your soul and that depends on your volition, whether or not you're going to apply doctrine to the situation and trust the Lord and handle the situation in terms of divine viewpoint thinking or whether you are going to reject divine viewpoint thinking and handle the situation on your own resources based on your own finite frame of reference.
So God has left the sin nature in the believer so that we can learn principles of spiritual warfare and how to trust God in the midst of this testing. And that's where the whole panorama of the ten stress busters comes in and problem solving devices. It begins with confession because whenever we're trying to handle things on our own then the sin nature is operational, we're under control of the sin nature and before we can ever advance spiritually we have to deal with that. So we confess our sins and we're restored to fellowship; we recover the Holy Spirit so that we can begin to apply doctrine. Under the teaching ministry of God the Holy Spirit He begins to fill our soul with doctrine. On the basis of that doctrine, because we know certain things we can trust them, that's the operation of the faith rest drill; we align our thinking to the Word of God, that's doctrinal orientation; we align our thinking to God's grace methodology, which is grace orientation. Then about that time we begin to realize that we're not living just for today but there's an eternal dimension to this called an inheritance so we begin today in light of eternity, not in relation to salvation but in relationship to who and what we're going to be in the kingdom and in heaven because God has certain rewards and certain blessings for us in eternity and they are on reserve depending upon how we advance in the spiritual life during our life on earth.
So that is the personal sense of our eternal destiny and that moves us into spiritual adulthood where we begin to learn about personal love for God as the prime motivation in the spiritual life, and that, because we have a personal love for God, enables us to love one another unconditionally and impersonally. By impersonal I mean that you don't have to know someone or have a personal relationship with them in order to demonstrate the kind of love that God has mandated for us in the Church Age. So we have the love triplex: personal love for God the Father; impersonal love for all mankind, and then occupation with Christ. As a result of all of that we can then have the joy of the Lord that Jesus Christ bequeathed to us which is an inner stability, inner happiness, and inner tranquility that is far beyond anything that we can ever imagine. That is the outline of the spiritual life and that is our spiritual fortification. When we have mastered the ten stress busters then we have erected in our soul what the Bible calls edification, a structure, a strengthening of the soul that is our fortress. I call it soul fortress based upon the grace of God and when we are applying all of those stress busters then we are living in that soul fortress and we can handle any problem, any adversity, any difficulty because we are relying on the power and provision of God. But when we disobey God we are outside of that fortress and we are then in enemy territory. We are surrounded by cosmic thinking in the world system and we have no resources to defend ourselves against that and the longer we stay out there the more catastrophic it becomes.
If you can remember that analogy as we go through the first judgeship then it will help you to understand why this is significant. We will get into a lot of interesting detail, but if you don't keep your eye on the ball you'll lose sight of where we're going. And the ball is our spiritual life because it all relates to our spiritual life and the Holy Spirit has particularly crafted the explanation in verses 7-11 specifically so that we will understand certain things about how He operates. So what we saw at the conclusion last time, in Judges 3:5-6, is that the Israelites were surrounded by cultural diversity. I thought I would bring it into a little modern terminology. They were surrounded by cultural diversity and they have caved into the cosmic system thought of multi-culturalism and their form of situational ethics and they have become moral relativists.
This is described in Judges 3:5-6, "And the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites," they were supposed to destroy them but now they are coexisting with them and cohabiting with them, "the sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and Jebusites;  And they took their daughters to themselves as wives," they are no longer living independently or distinctly, having a separate life style that categorizes them as living on divine viewpoint, they are not coexisting with and taking as their wives the Canaanites and adopting their entire system of thinking. "And they took their daughters to themselves as wives and gave their own daughters to their sons and served their God." Principle: when they began to coexist with their enemies and quit thinking of them as enemies, then they began to… there are various stages here, they began to justify it, they're really not that bad, you know they put on their pants one leg at a time just like we do, they have the same problems we have in their families, they deal with the same struggles in terms of agricultural fertility and problems that we do. So they're really not that bad, in fact the guy next door is really rather a nice guy, he's got a wonderful personality and a great sense of humor and he's always willing to help me out in the fields when I need a little help. So I don't know why we ought to kill the guy, or wipe out his family or destroy his children.
So they began to enter into a little justification of their enemies. That led to accepting their values, they're not so bad so maybe the way they think isn't so bad. So they began to accept their value system and their standards of operation and that led to the next step of not just moving beyond what we used to call tolerance, to what they now call tolerance. If you're not aware of that then you need to realize that the term tolerance has changed its meaning in the last 10 or 15 years. Tolerance used to mean you allowed someone the freedom to disagree with you but that did not mean you necessarily approved it or affirmed it. Today tolerance means that you have to not only to allow them to have a difference of opinion or a different lifestyle, but you have to approve of that lifestyle and if you do not approve of that lifestyle and affirm that lifestyle, whether it's homosexuality or whether it's alcoholism or no matter what it might be, whether it involves a different religious practice, if you don't approve of it then you are intolerant; that's how the meaning has changed. So if you think that you have the only way to heaven, then by definition in modern society you are intolerant and the way some people think you are guilty of a hate crime. That's why you have to be very careful in watching how they define this hate crime legislation because in some places they are beginning to make hate crime legislation anyone who tries to convince someone that their religion is wrong and they need to convert to another religion. So in some countries where they have passed such legislation that means that missionaries are guilty of hate crimes. So we have to watch how modern man has redefined tolerance.
That's exactly what was happening in Israel; they went from justifying their neighbors to affirming and approving the values of the Canaanites, which then led to the inevitable step of accepting their religious practices and accepting all of their values and standards so there was no discernable difference between the way they, the Israelites, thought and lived and the way the Canaanites thought and lived. And that is exactly what we see going on today in the context of post-modernism. Under the banner of cultural diversity modern man has elevated all cultures to the same level of values. It doesn't matter whether you're a Zulu from South Africa or whether you are Chinese or Japanese or whether you are western European, whether you are a Christian or a Muslim or a Hindu or a Buddhist, all systems have the same value because we have to affirm the humanity of every single individual. So we all have the same value. See, it's hidden, its [can't understand word] with all kinds of false assumptions that all truth is ultimately equal and therefore there is no overriding truth by which you can judge and evaluate everything.
Now this involves, at its very core, a logical fallacy. You see what has happened is we have shifted in the way we think. I keep coming back to how we think; you have to constantly evaluate this. We've shifted in how we think in western civilization in the last 20 years, we've shifted from a post-enlightenment rationalism to an anti-rationalism and mysticism, therefore logic doesn't matter. See at the core of post-modernism what they are saying is that there is no such thing as absolute truth. The question is, is that an absolute truth. Now you see the contradiction; you say there is no such thing as absolutes and you have just said there's at least one absolute that there are no absolutes. Now you're involved in a logical fallacy and you're just circling around on yourself. So that is the basic problem but modern man doesn't care about logical correctness; they only care about justifying their own sinful rejection of God and their own autonomy.
What has happened by using the analogy from Romans 1 is that God has established a distinction, I'm going to draw this line like this, a thick line, this is a solid wall showing that there is a major distinction between God as the Creator on the one hand and below the wall is all of creation, including every creature. Now what happens is when you come along and you reject absolutes and the source of absolutes, and you do away with that which is above the line, the Creator, then the creation and the creature becomes the source of all meaning and all value and all significance. So definition and meaning in life comes from within and not from outside. Put another way, what we have done by removing a Creator is destroy the source, any objective source of truth, knowledge, value or absolutes. Once you destroy objective reality then all that you are left with is subjectivism. So meaning, then, is determined in many cases by how it makes you feel. And that is why we've entered into a society where the most important thing is how you feel about things instead of how you think about things, because true thought is dependent upon objectivity and when you're in subjectivism there is no such thing as objectivity any more. So now in modern society because there is no objective truth we have rejected as intolerant any notion that there is an objective absolute criterion outside of man. So once you have destroyed the Creator up above what you've really done is create a vacuum and into that vacuum comes whatever the creature determines should fill that vacuum.
Now the analogy here is that in the life of the believer the war is always between the absolute standards of the Word of God, the objective eternal absolutes of the Word of God and the moral relativism that is promoted by the sin nature. See, the sin nature is either going to drag you or push you toward licentiousness and antinomianism, antinomianism is from a Greek word meaning against law, that there are no absolutes, I can do whatever I want, I'm the ultimate source of determining right and wrong, or it goes toward self-righteousness. Those are the two trends in the sin nature. We have our sin nature diagram; the sin nature is driven by the core values of lust, either trending towards self-righteousness on the one hand, legalism, asceticism or towards licentiousness and antinomianism on the other hand.
Now one of the interesting things that not only does this apply individually but collectively it can apply to an entire generation and what we see in this chapter is that an entire generation can be characterized spiritually and that's exactly what God does time and time again in Judges. So even though there are members of each generation that may be positive and follow the Lord or maybe the majority of the generation is positive and there are a few that are negative you can characterize legitimately an entire generation. What we've seen in our own lifetime, for those of you who are over 40, is that back in the 60s we had a cultural trend among the baby boomers toward licentiousness and antinomianism, free love, do away with marriage, everything goes, let's just have a good time, the whole drug culture was a move toward licentiousness and antinomianism.
But just like an individual's life and experience there's often a swing from one to the other because something doesn't work so you go the other way, our culture has not swung towards a self-righteousness legalism but it is not a self-righteousness legalism based upon a moral absolute from Scriptures. It is a self-righteousness legalism and arrogance based upon new cultural values, and the new cultural value is multi-culturalism and tolerance, and tolerance as I said earlier must be defined as an affirmation and approval. So the legalistic self-righteousness of our age is that if you are not tolerant of the homosexuals, if you are not tolerant of those who are engaged in all sorts of immorality, if you are not tolerant of that then you are intolerant and that's the great sin and we're going to squash you like a bug. That's how this swings back and forth from antinomianism to self-righteousness and you can just see it in anything that you watch on the news these days in any kind of cultural analysis.
So we come to looking at this in terms of looking at the argument of Judges and what we see is that when you have an apostate society, a society that has rejected the absolutes of God, where the majority of the individuals are functioning with extreme negative volition towards God and the principles given by God in Scriptures, then even the great leaders that God provides are unable to change that society. That's the argument, that's what we're going to see. God supplied some tremendous leaders, there are tremendous victories that God gives in each of these cycles, but it just deteriorates from one to the other because the people have failed to be positive to God. And the issue isn't even whether or not the people are believers are not; the issue may be whether or not they are willing to function according to the laws of divine establishments, the absolutes of Scripture which were given for unbeliever and believer alike. The Ten Commandments were not given just for believers in the nation Israel; they were given for believers and unbelievers. The entire Mosaic Law was for believers as well as unbelievers in the nation. It was not a way of salvation but it was a law code that would guarantee absolute freedom within that nation. And what Judges is showing us is the decline from that generation to the generation in 1 Samuel 8 where a centralized power is introduced called the kingship of Israel and God has warned them about that. God warns them about the dangers of that later on.
Now we come to Judges 3:7, "And the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God, and they served the Baals and the Ashtaroth." In order to understand what's going on here we need to break it down into a phrase by phrase analysis to get the gist and the impact of what's happening here. We see the phrase that "the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD," and this is stated six times in the book of Judges in relation to each of the six major cycles of disobedience. In Judges 3:7, verse 12; Judges 4:1; Judges 6:1 and Judges 10:6 you have these references to the fact that the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
Now we should ask a question here: what does it mean that they did what was evil? Does that mean that they just committed a lot of sin? Does that mean that they were just involved in, let's say sexual immorality or what exactly does it mean? If you do a contextual study of this phrase, doing what was evil throughout the Old Testament, it is used in a majority of cases to describe idolatry. This is not just some general statement in reference to sinfulness. It is talking specifically about idolatry. Now why would that be? Those of you who were here for the Old Testament series that we just completed will remember that the Mosaic Covenant is a covenant that was expressed in terms of an ancient contract form or ancient treaty form called a suzerain vassal treaty.
The way this took place in the ancient world is that you would have a king or an emperor of a great nation, for example, a Hittite king and we have several examples of this that we've discovered in archeological digs from the Hittite Empire about this time, you would have a king of an empire and he would go out and he would conquer various nations. These nations would be set up something like client nations to this great king and they were called vassal nations, and he would enter into a contract with them. As part of that contract he would outline all of the positive things that he would do for that vassal king as long as they were loyal to him. They were, in a sense, enslaved to that king but they still had a measure of personal freedom as long as they were obedient to the terms of the contract. But once they disobeyed the contract then the king would also outline various negative things that would happen; I'm going to come in with my army and I'm going to rape, pillage and plunder and I'm going to steal all of your crops and leave you impoverished for the next year, it would be expressed along lines like that.
So God used this same contract form to express His will for the nation in terms of the Mosaic Covenant and we have the… we call them the blessings and the cursings given in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30, we have the expressing of the blessing and cursing aspects of the Mosaic Covenant. And what God is saying to Israel is I am the great King, I am the great Lord, I own you because I purchased you from slavery in Egypt; you are Mine, I have redeemed you out from Egypt and you are My vassal kingdom in the world. You are My representative; it's analogous to the New Testament doctrine of the ambassadorship of the believer. You are My vassal and as long as you are obedient to Me, if you obey Me… see this contract is unconditional, God is saying I am going to do this unconditionally, I'm either going to bless you unconditionally or if you disobey me I'm going to curse you unconditionally but you can count on it, I'm not going to walk away from the contract. But it's a temporary contract, that's why I'm moving towards that terminology instead of the permanent/temporary versus unconditional/conditional that we normally use to describe those covenants. But nevertheless, what you have is God defining the blessings and the cursings because He's got a mission and a plan for Israel as a missionary nation in the world and He says if you disobey Me and you violate the contract, the terms of the contract, then I'm going to come in and…[tape turns]
We have five cycles of discipline, five stages of disciplinary action that God would take against the nation Israel as a covenant nation, and the fifth and final form was that God would remove them from the land that He had promised them and that He gave them and scatter them among the nations. But even then God had a promise in the midst of Leviticus 26 and also as well as it's repeated in Deuteronomy 4 that when that happened, and that happened twice in history, it happened in 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar came in and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and it happened again in 70 AD when the Romans went in and destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and the Jews were scattered throughout the world. God said I will bring you back to the land and I will bless you, so there's that ultimate promise, even in the Mosaic code that God would restore Israel to the land and fulfill all of the Abrahamic blessings.
So the background to understanding the dynamics here is this suzerain vassal treaty because God is the suzerain and what they are doing in idolatry is they are rebelling, they are rejecting God as their king and they're setting up these false gods, the idols that the Baals and the Ashtaroth as their suzerain. It is an act of political and spiritual rebellion against God. So God as their true king is going to come in and discipline them in line with the promises that He made in the Mosaic Covenant. "They did what was evil," they rejected their true king and substituted another king.
The next phrase that we look at is "in the sight," literally in the Hebrew it is "in the eyes of the LORD." Notice, they didn't do what was evil in the eyes of the Canaanites; it doesn't say they did what was evil in their own eyes, it doesn't say they did what was evil in the eyes of the Egyptians or the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Mesopotamians, it says "they did what was evil in the sight of the LORD." The implication here is that there is an absolute; we have to go back to our understanding of the Creator/creature distinction and they saw that there was a distinction, the Bible is teaching that there is a distinction, that values do not come from below that line; values and standards are not generated by man on the basis of rationalism, empiricism or intuition, mysticism, but that values are imposed upon the creation by its Creator and that is His right and that is His privilege. So this emphasizes the fact that there are absolute standards that exist outside the realm of human experience and that God holds us accountable to them.
So, "the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Yahweh," and the emphasis there by using the Tetragrammaton, which is translated with all caps, and that indicates that in the original Hebrew it is the name "Yahweh" which was transliterated by some as "Jehovah," it's originally just four consonants, YHWH, there were no vowels, the Jews never read or pronounced the name of God out of respect. What they did instead, whenever they would read the text they would pronounce the name, the generic name lord, Adonai. And so in the Hebrew text they inserted the vowel points, the Hebrew vowel points for Adonai under the consonants for Yahweh and then when you put that together you get something that was translated Jehovah. So Jehovah is never found anywhere in the Bible, it is merely a compound word based upon that Hebrew technique for reminding the reader that he should not pronounce the name Yahweh but just pronounce Adonai instead. But it is the personal name of God; it is the name of God associated with His covenant with Israel. So what God is saying here is they did evil in the sight of their covenanted God, the One who had redeemed them and purchased them as a nation for Himself out of bondage in Egypt.
"…and they forgot the LORD their God," here we have the qal perfect of the Hebrew word shakach which should not be translated with such a weak pusillanimous term as "forget." It looks like this in the Hebrew, shakach, and it does not mean to temporarily neglect something, to have momentary amnesia like, oh God, where did I put the car keys this morning, or oh, I forgot to mail in that bill yesterday, I'd better remember to mail it in tomorrow. That's not the idea here; they just didn't temporarily overlook the presence of God. The word here refers to something much more intentional and insidious. It is related to the stronger verb used back in Judges 2:11; you have almost a parallel statement in 2:11, "And the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and served the Baals." Verse 12, "And they forsook the LORD God," and there you have the qal perfect of the word 'azav, now here you have two parallel statements and when that happens that second more precise verb helps you understand the exact nuance of the other verb. So this should be written with an apostrophe, 'azav and that's a soft b without the dagesh so it's transliterated like a "v," and 'azav means to depart, to abandon, to forsake or to reject. So back there we see that they departed from God, they abandoned God, they forsook God, they rejected God, so when we come so shakach down here in verse 7, "they forgot the LORD their God," it means that they intentionally disregarded Him; shakach also has the meaning to seek into oblivion, so as far as they were concerned God is completely removed from their thinking, He has been consigned to oblivion. It means to disdain, to disregard, and to reject.
So we could translate that "the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of their covenant God, Yahweh, and they rejected and disdained the LORD their God, and they served…" and here we have the word 'abad which means not only to serve but to worship. It is always used in these kinds of contexts for worship. The interesting thing is, when I talk about the first covenant in Eden, the requirement that God put on man in the Garden of Eden, it's usually translated to serve and to guard or serve and to work in the Garden. But that word for serve is this word here, it is 'abad, it is not merely to work, although in certain contexts that's all it means. But when it's used in a religious context, as it is here, it means to worship. And so they are worshiping and putting themselves in a subservient role to the Baals. Now who are they supposed to be subservient to? To God who purchased them from slavery in Egypt. He is the One who has entered into a contract with them and to it is an act of political and spiritual rebellion.
This does not go unpunished. It is going to develop the anger of the Lord in verse 8. But before we go on I want to bring out something else that is part and parcel of the act of "forgetting the LORD their God." Not only is this a volitional act, it is emphasizing the fact of personal responsibility, they have made a choice. And the issue in life is always volition; sometimes that volition may be uncertain, we may not be sure of what it is, we may not be conscious of our volitional act but it is always our volition.
Now, they have intentionally chosen Baal and this is viewed an act of treason towards God, it's punishable by extreme measures. In order to do this certain things must happen mentally or psychologically in the nation. What must happen? Remember, the time that we are talking about is just after the death of Joshua and the death of the elders who came in with Joshua. Joshua was a young man, probably in his 20s or 30s at the time of the Exodus in 1446 BC. He lived through the forty years of the wilderness discipline because he and Caleb were the only two that were willing to trust God to go into the land, so he's approximately 70 to 80 years of age when he goes into the land so he didn't survive a whole lot longer. The conquest of the land is usually put somewhere between 1405 BC to about 1398-1399 BC. So you add another ten of fifteen years onto that and he dies probably around 1370 BC and this is taking place just subsequent to that, give another ten years or so for all the elders in that generation to die off and it's around 1360.
Now think about this; 1360 BC is only forty years removed from the conquest, from all that God did at Jericho, at Ai, the campaigns in the south and the campaign in the north, it's only forty years removed from God parting the River Jordan so that all twelve tribes can walk across on dry land. Forty years! It's been fifty-five years since the end of World War II. That puts it in context. They've forgotten everything about it, just as we are already beginning to hear of historical revisionism to rewrite the history of World War II. I was reminded of a statement by a friend of mine when we were in Normandy, we got the opportunity to walk Omaha Beach and a friend of mine is firmly committed to the principle that every American ought to have to walk Omaha Beach and walk through the cemetery there before they're allowed to vote. I said that to one person and their comment was well, maybe we wouldn't go to war any more; totally missed the point. The point is that our freedoms were purchased through the sacrifice of hundreds, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the last two hundred years and we need to be appreciative of that.
But when you get into paganism history doesn't matter any more. So you begin to rewrite and reshape history and history loses objectivity. Why? Because in paganism you no longer have that Creator/creature distinction. Once you remove the Creator, you lose objectivity, there's no longer objective facts so history is no longer objective facts with reality and meaning, it is simply things that have happened that you can rearrange to fit whatever your own meaning is that you assign to it because all meaning now comes from below that level from the creature and in subjectivity he applies his own meaning. So thus history now becomes a tool and you see this in history, throughout history where totalitarian regimes have always reshaped history in order to promote their own agenda. You saw it with Hitler, with the communists and the Soviets and their history, you saw that they did many things to rewrite history, you saw it even in the ancient world among the Egyptians and the Hittites and the Canaanites. They had no concept of history; in fact, all they had was legend and you had the historical objectivity of what happened at the flood when God destroyed the entire antediluvian civilization at the time of Noah, and only 8 people survived, Noah's three sons went on to be the progenitors of all subsequent civilizations and within just a few generations you have the episode, the tower of Babel; they have once again forgotten God and they are rewriting history. What happened back then? You know, we had this memory of something, oh well, you know the gods just had a big party and they got drunk and decided to punish man. And that's exactly what you find if you read the Gilgamesh epic that was produced by the Babylonians to explain the flood. Objective history is lost and it deteriorates into legend and myth. And that's always the procedure.
And yet what happened with history and the understanding of history in the last 200 years in America is that history has been consistently attacked by the liberal, by both the philosophical and the political and the religious liberal because if you destroy the objectivity of history then you destroy the meaning of history and the One who gives meaning to history, which is God. And if history is meaningless and Jesus Christ did not have to come to the cross to die and it's not a historical issue, and how that has affected most Christians is that when they present the gospel they don't present the gospel in terms of a historical reality; they present it as a psychological benefit. You know, invite Jesus into your life to solve your problems, I invited Jesus into my life and now everything is wonderful. You see, it's subjectivity, subjectivity, subjectivity. It's all what about me, me, me, me and how Jesus is going to make me do better and it's not anything about the fact that on a particular date in space/time history the eternal Second Person of the Trinity was crucified on a cross; God the Father poured out on Him the sins of the entire world and because Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins you are now free from eternal condemnation and have a relationship with God. That's the gospel. It is not invite Jesus into your heart to solve your problems; that's a false gospel and has nothing to do with the historical reality of Scripture. But you see, what happens is liberalism comes along and says history really doesn't matter, and so we no longer present a historical Jesus, we present a psychological Jesus and in doing so we present a very subtle but false gospel.
Now we still have three great verses to get into and we don't have time to do that so we'll wait until next time where we'll pick up in verse 8.