February 26, 2012 - Declawing God (Deuteronomy 20:10-18)

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SEE SERMON NOTES BELOW

One benefit of reading through large portions of the Bible is that you are forced to read the whole book, not just your own selected "greatest hits." The whole Bible- not just the Gospels or the Letters- is the account of God magnifying Himself through the saving of mankind.

The whole Bible is worth preaching, too. Pastors- and I'm included in that- love to preach easy-to-preach texts. But God inspired the "hard texts," too. And if we examine them we receive God's blessing as we learn more of God's character.

Today we will take a look at one of the most difficult passages in the Bible: God's command for Israel to wipe out completely seven nations from the face of the earth. Gulp? Trust God on this one. Today you will learn how passages like this explain way more than they confuse. Whatever you do, don't let a certain level of discomfort tempt you to "declaw" God. To paraphrase author CS Lewis- "the Lion of Judah is a good lion, but He's not tame."

In Christ,
Pastor Wade Mobley

 

Declawing God (Deuteronomy 20:10-18), LWFLC, February 26, 2012
Thesis
- In the violent conquest of the Promised Land we see God keeping His promises faithfully and fully.
Corollary- Topics around this uncomfortable subject provide an unparalleled opportunity for affirming the existence & nature of God generally, & Biblical faith in Christ specifically.

1) Paradise Lost: What got us into this mess?
Gen 1:27- God created man in His own image... male and female He created them
Gen 1:31- And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good...
    Gen 3:6- she took of its fruit & ate, & she also gave some to her husband who was w/her, & he ate
Rom 5:12- ...sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin...
    Man now needed saving from eternal death: Scripture is a record of this redemption
    Redemption teaches us something that Adam/Eve/angels didn’t know- God’s grace
Gen 3:15- The offspring of the woman will crush the head of the offspring of the serpent
Next came Noah- For Noah and his family the #1 display of God’s saving work was the ark.

2) The Promises: Out of slavery into a land of rest
Abram- Gen 12:1-3-  God chose to make a great people thru him- Redemption continued
    An eventual land of rest- Gen 15:18- to your offspring I give his land.
    Rom 4:21-... fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised, that is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.
Jacob (Isaac’s son, Abram’s grandson) in Gen 26:3- to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father
12 tribes- Jacob’s family survived in Egypt- God used slavery to save them from famine.
Joseph- to his brothers in Gen 50:24- God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob
Moses- 400 years later God delivered Israel through Moses in the Exodus (6:6-8)- I will deliver you...I will redeem you... I will take you to be my people...I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, & to Jacob
For Israel, the #1 display of God’s saving work was the Exodus and the Passover
But neither the Exodus, nor the conquest to come, was God’s final deliverance”
     Heb 4:8- If Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on...
    1 Cor 5:7- Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed- The conquest points to the CROSS
If you ever wonder how much God hates sin, look to the CROSS
God relocated Adam, saved Noah, called Abram, rescued Isaac, preserved Jacob, and freed Israel all to redeem precious eternal human souls through Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
 But God had promised a land of rest, & He would deliver- Deut 1:8- See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, & to Jacob, to give to them & to their offspring after them.     

3) The Problem: There are giants in the land!
    Deut 1:26- Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the LORD your God
Problem: The promises of God vs. the presence of another people    Read Text
Option 1- God could break His promises- Got caught in a game of musical chairs.
Option 2- God could have made easier promises- undesirable, thus uninhabited Land
    The Promise was to be fulfilled in such a way only God could be responsible:
Deut 6:10-11 When the LORD your God brings you into the land, with great and good cities that you did not build, houses full of all good things that you did not fill, cisterns that you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant...
Deut 7:7- It was not because you were more in number
Deut 8:17- Lest you say in your heart ‘My power & the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth
Option 3A- Slavery (v. 10-11) ask them to leave in such a way as to not cause Israel an undue burden (oh, and leave all your stuff behind for us to use)
    Option 4- The ban (v. 12-15) the  same end by wiping them off the face of the earth
Option 3B- The “ites” (v. 16-17) these specific nations were to be obliterated, period
    Example: Jericho (Joshua 2-6)
This doesn’t sound very... godly! Makes us look for explanations...

4) Convenient Explanations Declaw God
A) Surely, God didn’t mean that!
    Joshua 6:17-19- “Devoted” to the LORD- total destruction ordained by God
    Essentially, Israel was acting as God’s executioner against condemned peoples
B) God doesn’t work that way any more
    Two “gods” in the Bible (Marcion)- by extension, could draw lines anywhere you want
    Bible storybook popular theology- makes God a cozy, impotent Barney-like ball of jelly
    C) Any variety of convenient explanations strip God of every attribute but a man-defined version of “love” so-called, declawing Him who is called the Lion of Judah

5) The Untamed Lion of Judah    
The implication is “How dare God do that! They were innocent!”
God explains explicitly in v. 18- that they may not teach you to do acc to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the LORD your God.
A) They weren’t innocent
Canaanite fertility religion
    Asherim- sexually explicit fertility cult- appease “gods” sexually to benefit crops
        Deuteronomy 12:3- you shall tear down their altars... and burn their Asherim
        1 Kings 14:15- the LORD will strike Israel... b/c they have made their Asherim
    Molech worship- idol with arms extended to hold child sacrifices over fire
         Deuteronomy 12:31- You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
        1 Kings 11:7- Solomon built a high place for ...Molech the abomination of the Ammonites
        Jer 19:5- ...have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal    
Skeptics used to mock this until archaeologists uncovered “Topheth” (as in Jeremiah 19)
How it all played out
   What Israel was to do (v. 18)- Ex 23:33- They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against Me, for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.
   God warned them again- Josh 23:12-13- If you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations...know for certain that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you...
   What they did- Judges 2:2-3- But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? So now I say, I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become thorns in your sides and their gods shall be a snare to you.
   What happened to Israel because of this- 1 Chronicles 5:25- but they broke faith with the God of their fathers, and whored after the gods of the peoples of the land, whom God had destroyed before them.
B) Israel wasn’t innocent, either
The implication is that if they deserved it, surely we must not- we are better than them!
        Deut 9:6- The LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people
        Israel sinned against God, repeatedly- before, during and after the Conquest- especially in times of God’s obvious and miraculous provision and protection
God granted Israel mercy for a reason- God’s choosing is always a missionary work
    Through them God created a “beachhead” to bring about the restoration of all mankind (think D-Day and Normandy)- © Brent Olson
    Not all would be saved, but the purchase of salvation would be made for all.
    To do so God had to bring His Son the Messiah to the earth- used Israel to do it.
The conquest was necessary so as to bring the Messiah to save:
    Necessary for the salvation of all those in Israel who believed the promises of God
    Nec for the salvation of any in those conquered peoples (Rahab) who believed...
    Nec for the salvation of all of you who believe in the promises of God
C) You aren’t innocent, either
The implication- as we use the violence of the conquest to convict God of sin- is that we would certainly never be deserving of that treatment.
In response we create a God who, in the name of love, would never exercise judgment.
In doing so we remove from ourselves- & others- the very means of salvation- 6 pix:
    If He wouldn’t do this (Red Sea pix)
    then He wouldn’t do this (Jericho pix)
    then He can’t do this (CROSS pix)
    or this (Empty tomb pix)
    to make atonement for sin (Garden pix)
    And rescue you from this (hell)
    
Conclusion- Takeaways
1) Settle this- I deserve what the Egyptians and the Canaanites got- death and judgment
2) Let God speak through the “hard passages.” He breathed them out. My notes online
3) God has explained so much about Himself in this “hard passage”
    The depth of his mercy, the purity of His holiness and our freedom from condemnation
    I will be referencing this topic both next week and on March 18

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