[This sermon was preached on Judges chapters 1 and 2 on Sunday, December 3, 2017, at Christ Church Paarl by William King. The audio version can be found here.]
Every now and again we come to a sign post in Scripture that forces us to a standstill. This is where we need to consider in more detail what the text is telling us. In this introductory section of Judges our text we are looking at, is such a sign post. In the previous chapter we are told that the life of Israel in their new land was one of falling into sin, followed by God’s judgement. After this the people would repent and God called a judge to free them from oppression. When the judge died, this cycle repeated itself. In chapter 2 the main reason for this was idolatry. Chapter 2:3:
“… and their gods shall be a snare to you.”
In chapter 3 the focus shifts from a general mention of idolatry to a specific clash of worldviews. Living among the other nations brought about this battle of the views. And sadly, Israel would constantly bow before the other religions.
In verse 6 the text takes this one level up. It is like focussing with your camera. Through your zoom lens you come ever closer to the object you want to snap. You get to see much more focussed detail when zoomed in. Likewise, we move from the general cause called idolatry, through an awareness of a battle of worldviews, to where we are in verse 6. Listen to the text:
And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.
And this is where we need to stop for a moment. This is the sign post that we must consider in this morning, because this caused the downfall of God’s people. We see the 2 reasons here, namely
- The twisting of the most precious relationship, and
- The redefining of God.
1. Twisting the most precious relationship
Israel gave their daughters to the heathen nations in marriage while enjoying the same favour in return. It is easy to turn this into a political or racial argument, but this is not the purpose of the text. This has got nothing to do with these ideologies. On the contrary, this has got everything to do with God’s creative and covenantal purpose as well as His relationship with them.
In creation, God purposed the relationship between man and woman to be a unique expression of His glory. Consider Genesis 1:26-28. The Triune God determines to create humans in His own image:
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …”
This was in order for them to fill the earth and subdue it. Furthermore, the perfect and ultimate expression of this would be the unique relationship between man and woman, this relationship we call marriage.
The purpose of God with marriage in creation was that man would be second only to Himself. Humanity were to rule in freedom over all things made, being accountable to God, loving and respecting each other, taking care of His creation.
There is also a covenantal view on marriage. A covenant implies a shared purpose and commitment. It imitates the love of God, as revealed in Christ, towards each other. There is trust and faithfulness. There is no place for another party in this relationship. That would be seen as adultery and unfaithfulness. In Malachi God tackles the marital unfaithfulness of Israel, and shows them why He regards the marriage as such an important institution:
Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. (Malachi 2:15)
God purposed a godly offspring who would reflect His glory and be a testimony to His covenantal love and grace towards His people.
There is also the spiritual metaphor attached to marriage. The marital relationship in Scripture is used to describe the spiritual union between God and His people. This is not only a New Testament teaching (Ephesians 5), but one found in the Old Testament. In Judges 2 we read that Israel “whored” after the other Gods (2:17). That implies that God saw Israel as His bride. Ezekiel describes this in chapter 17. Let us consider verses 5-8:
No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born. “And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine.
Compared to the view of marriage held by the heathen nations, it is now wonder that the writer was urged to show that what happened with Israel was the root cause of their idolatry. To the heathen nations marriage had nothing to do with a relationship with a god. More often the women in marriages were viewed as possessions, and furthermore as object to satisfy their sexual desires. This is clear from Leviticus 18 and 19. In 18:3 God explicitly warns:
You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes.
Exchanging daughters with their heathen neighbours, would mean a twisting at the least, even a denial of the view God gave them of marriage.
Looking at the condition of the Church in our country today, we cannot but see a correlation to what happened to Israel when they abandoned God’s view of marriage. There is a major thrust to accept alternative views on marriage, and in so doing, the church is in effect denying the biblical view of marriage. We need only to look at the recent history and decisions regarding same-sex relationships within mainstream churches in South Africa. What is alarming is not only that those decisions are made by those in power, but it is accepted, even embraced with open arms by the members of churches. And this is the bombshell: they use the Bible to validate this massive jump into the corrupt, anti-biblical worldview.
The crux of the matter is the holding to God’s design and purpose of this lifelong relationship. Be it giving their daughters in marriage to the heathen nations, or accepting their daughters for their sons, or accepting marriages between same sexes, or just staying together because marriage is ancient, it all boils down to this.
2. God Redefined!
We can rightly as the question: Have we completely lost our minds? The answer is: Yes, but we have lost more through this. We have lost our God! Just like Israel did. Have a look at the end of verse 6:
“… and they [Israel] served their [the nations] gods.”
This is a major shift. To make this jump in worldview, you have to redefine God. There is no way that Israel could throw away their high view of marriage without redefining who their God is. After all, Israel held that marriage was instituted by God. A radical step like this, calls for a radically different god. And this brings us to the heart of idolatry. It is not the idol you make to remind you of your god. It is who and what you believe your god is and living a life becoming of that god. Marriage was a reminder to Israel that God is their Creator and that as a couple in relationship, they were both, husband and wife, accountable to Him. It also meant that they were building an offspring that would in their time live God honouring lives. It also meant they were attached in a spiritual union to the God that took them to be His bride.
Their idolatry therefore was characterized by an independence from God. They became accountable only to themselves. God was degraded to the level of creaturedom, resembling themselves rather than being totally different from them. The creator-creature distinction was torn down. And when you cross this boundary, you have full power and authority over your marriage – however you define that!
Children were the result of their sexual pleasures, and therefore to sacrifice them was easy. In today’s context this would easily translate into abortion. They were not meant to carry the honour of their Creator and Lord.
They were also cut loose from their spiritual union with their God – and this in favour of some dark union with the gods of the nations. Their view of a good, loving and graceful God, would have change to define Him as strict, imposing too much laws and constraint. He needed to be replaced by more playful one, one who would give more freedom, even one who is more like themselves. And this is usually where it ends – worshipping yourself!
Is this not what Paul in his day wrote about this?
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!
Ultimately idolatry violates God and degrades those trapped in it to slaves of their own broken and twisted ideologies. Therefore, we should not take these words of verse 6 very lightly. We live in time when verse 6 is not so foreign to us.
Thankfully, God does not slumber, nor does He sleep. He will not be defeated by the sinful, corrupt human nature. He will not abandon His eternal plan in creating man and female in His own image. He will not be dethroned as the Creator of heavens and earth. In His eternal plan, He also planned His Son as the solution, the exact and perfect Image of God, to step into this corrupt world to restore His own unto Himself and daily sanctify them more and more into His likeness. He came to give His life for His bride.