Sermon Sept. 10, 2017 Judges 10:6-16 “Hearing God’s Heartbeat”

Judges 10:6-16       Judges Sermon # 14     

September 10, 2017   “Hearing God’s Heartbeat”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki   Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

     One of the most wondrous things is to hear another person’s heartbeat. Now if you constantly hear your own heartbeat in your own ears…well, that can be an annoying problem. But to hear the heartbeat of someone you love? That’s music to your ears!

Think about hearing the heartbeat of your unborn baby in the womb!

Think about resting your head on your spouse and hearing their heartbeat!

Think about watching as the EMTs do CPR on your loved one, and his heart starts beating again!

But there’s an even more wondrous heartbeat to listen to… I’m talking about hearing the heartbeat of God.  I’m speaking poetically, of course, but you know what I mean. We’re not satisfied just to know God’s commands and promises. We don’t delight in merely knowing God’s Word and God’s works. No. Because we were created for hearing God’s heartbeat. We were redeemed by Christ for hearing God’s heartbeat. In other words, God has so designed us that we want to know Him personally, intimately, warmly, and deeply, so that we want to rest content in His love for us in Jesus. As Augustine put it: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, till we find our rest in You.”

 

I believe that Judges 10:6-16 is one of those passages that gives us an opportunity to hear God’s heartbeat, especially His heart for sinners, such as you and me.

Verse 6 begins with the all too familiar refrain that “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” Despite sending them one judge after another; despite giving them peace from the nations who oppressed them, God’s own precious people again did evil in the eyes of the Lord. And here things have gotten really bad. If you look at vv. 6-7 and then at vv. 11-12, you will notice a pair of seven things: first, the seven idols that Israel served, and second, the seven enemy nations that the Lord had delivered Israel from.

(vv. 6-7) “They served the (1) Baals and the (2) Ashtoreths, and the gods of (3) Aram, the gods of (4) Sidon, the gods of (5) Moab, the gods of the (6) Ammonites and the gods of the (7) Philistines.”   

(vv. 11-12)  The Lord replied, “When the (1) Egyptians, the (2) Amorites, the (3) Ammonites, the (4) Philistines, 12 the (5) Sidonians, the (6) Amalekites and the (7) Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?

So we can see that the sevenfold idolatry of Israel in v. 6 is made even worse against the backdrop of the sevenfold deliverance by the Lord in vv. 11-12. The passage shows us how the oppression which Israel suffered is a result of her choice to forsake the Lord and serve idols.

We might ask: how could God’s redeemed people not hear God’s heartbeat for them? How could those who belonged to Him in a covenant relationship disregard His love for them? How could they forsake the Lord, and serve the false and powerless gods of the nations?  How could they disregard God’s heartbeat for them?

Yet if we are honest, we confess that we often do the same today. The warning of Hebrews 3:15 about not hardening our hearts (and closing our ears) applies to us. We sin against the greater testimony of God’s own Son, against the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and against the complete written revelation of God’s Word.  Lord, have mercy on us!

As we read Judges 10, we ask: “How did God’s heart respond to this blatant idolatry?”

“He became angry with them. He sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who that year shattered and crushed them”

We hear God’s righteous, just, and holy heartbeat against rebellious idolaters. The Lord was justly angry with them. His heart beats with truth, justice, and faithfulness to His perfect ways. He can do no other than be angry with rebels.

Is He also angry with us, the church in America?  Is the Lord selling us, His church, into the hands of the Muslims and the pagans?  Are we seeing His righteous judgement against the church today? Will we be shattered, crushed, and oppressed, as Israel was? Is that the Lord’s heartbeat against us today? I fear we are moving in that direction.

It took the Israelites 18 years (v. 8) before they cried out to the Lord. “We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.” Israel was like an adulterous wife confessing that she had forsaken her husband and slept with many men. Israel had forsaken the Lord (seven times) in spite of His sevenfold deliverance of them!

How long will it take us to really cry out to Him? When the churches of our area hold a day of prayer event, and only 70 people out of perhaps 2,500 congregants (from 8-9 churches) show up to pray for our nation at our local day of prayer event, it tells me that we are not desperate enough yet.  It tells me that we still enjoy our own idols. We are not desperate enough yet.

Notice how God’s heart responded in vv. 13-14: “But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

“You have forsaken me!” In Judges, we often read of Israel forsaking the Lord, again and again. Can you imagine a wife forsaking her husband time after time to go after other lovers, and then return to her husband, expecting that he will take her back?

The Lord wanted His people to reflect on the choices they had made, and to think about the consequences. He is telling His bride, His church: “Don’t come to me, your husband, to save you from your troubles, while you are still sleeping with other men. If you love them more than me, then ask them to help you! What’s that? You say they are powerless to help and save you? Why then are you still with them? Or… are you finally ready to turn from your adulterous ways and come back to me with all your heart?  Can your idols save you? Can they provide you with deep and lasting joy? Can your idols give you perfect peace… or do they actually enslave you and make you miserable?”

Yet even in this hard idea of being forsaken, we hear echoes of the heartbeat of God’s redemptive love for sinners:

Consider Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ God’s Son was forsaken by the Father, on the cross, so that we would never be forsaken by God! On the cross we hear God’s sacrificial heartbeat for sinners.

Or think about Isaiah 49:14-16: Zion felt that the Lord had forsaken her, and what the Lord tell her? “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; I will not forget you!” Christ shows us the nail marks on His open hands, so that we can feel His heartbeat of love for us!

Do you know God’s heart toward you in Christ? Can you hear His heartbeat of mercy and grace?

But we hear another aspect of God’s heart for sinners in Judges 10:14. The Lord tells these idolaters: “Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”   On the surface this may sound like a cruel and vengeful heartbeat, but consider this: the Lord’s tough love requires that people feel the weight of their sinful choices, in order that they turn from sin and turn to God. Analogy: people with cancer need to know the gravity of their situation if they are going to be spurred on to radical treatment.

So even when God seems to turn His back on sinners, it is actually God’s heartbeat of wisdom and compassion for them. As was true for Israel it is true for us: we need to taste the bitter fruit of our sins and idolatry, so that we will hate that taste, and seek after the Lord, with all our heart.

So in Ps. 22, Isa. 49, and Judges 10 there is a juxtaposition of God’s heartbeat. The Lord is justly mocking those who have forsaken Him and have trusted themselves to worthless idols, and yet we hear the grace-filled heartbeat of God, as He takes on our deserved punishment and mocking.

When we abandon Him and to go after idols, He allows us to sink to the bottom and to experience the impotence of what we trusted in. Why? So that we will cry out to Him and He can rescue us. And (A) while God truly desires a heart-felt repentance and trust, (He doesn’t want to bail us out prematurely) yet (B) His heart is grieved by our misery (v. 16), and He will often send relief (a Judge) to deliver us out of the crushing oppression we are under. Analogy: like parents with an adult child who is rebellious, and should be thrown out of the house, and yet the parents’ hearts are fearful of greater harm that may come to their son or daughter if they take that action.

   Look at vv. 15-16:”But the Israelites said to the Lord, “We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.” 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord. And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

What about you and me? When we cry out for the Lord to rescue us from a terrible situation, are we also repenting of our idols, and dying to them? Getting rid of them outwardly and giving them not an inch of space in our hearts and in our minds?  Or do we want God to answer us, while we have simply put our idols in the closet temporarily?

The end of v. 16 reveals the heart of our Lord toward sinners, toward us:

And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.” Dale Davis notes: Hear the Lord’s threats (you can’t play fake repentance games with Him); and see the Lord’s heart (v. 16b). Note that the Lord’s compassion is tied not to Israel’s repentance, but to her misery and suffering. Isa. 63:9: “In all our affliction He is afflicted.” This is why we have this tension between judgement and grace in Scripture, a tension in the character of God, for His holiness demands that he judge His people, yet His heart moves Him to spare His people on the cross.

Listen to God’s heartbeat in Hosea 11:8 “How can I give you up. O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?…My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused.”

Listen to Christ’s heartbeat in Matt. 23:37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

Listen to the Father’s heartbeat in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

God’s heart beats with love, mercy, and grace for us. Hear His heartbeat as He gives us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Hear His heartbeat as works all things for His glory and for our good, in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:28). Hear His heartbeat as Christ came into the world to seek and to save the lost (Lk. 19:10)

May His heartbeat move your heart to faith and love!