Tag Archives: wrath of god

Romans 9:22-24 – Corporate Purpose of Election

St_Paul_Preaching

 

Introduction:

Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9 is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

This means a main objective of Paul…

  • Is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah – the vessel for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for them.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable vessel?

  • Last week we finally answered this question.

 

And Paul’s answer was quite jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

We saw two really important things in his answer.

  • (1) God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) And the basics of God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable “the vessels of wrath”.

 

In short –

  • (1) God gives redemptive knowledge of Himself through His action in history.
  • (2) God’s purpose of election is a giving of such knowledge in specific ways, to specific corporate groups of people, for specific reasons.

 

The peoples are the “vessels of wrath”, “vessels of mercy” and Gentiles.

  • The purpose is to “show his wrath”, “…to make known his power…”, “…to make known the riches of his glory…”.

 

Last week we drilled down into the God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal – number 1.

  • Both in the OT generally…
  • And then specifically in the coming destruction of the Temple in 70.

 

Today we dig into the details of God’s purpose of election – number 2.

  • In other words, the specifics of the peoples and the purposes.

 

 

People and Purpose – Show Wrath to the Dishonorable Vessel:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (verse 22).

 

 

People:

The Jews who rejected the Messiah from their own flesh…

  • Are the Jews God chose to tear off of the lump and make into “vessels of wrath”.

 

We learned way back in Romans 3 how to understand God’s wrath.

  • God’s wrath is best understood as His “judging righteousness.”
  • This is in contrast to God’s “saving righteousness”.

 

This means then, that “vessels of wrath” are:

  • The corporate group of Messiah rejecting Jews…
  • That will come under God’s judging righteousness.

 

This is huge.

  • Paul is now completing his argument.

 

The Jewish rejection of the Messiah was part of God’s purpose of election.

  • It did not catch God by surprise.
  • And it doesn’t compromise the legitimacy of Jesus as Messiah.

 

And about this wrath…

  • We saw last week that this judging righteousness was the destruction of the Temple.
  • And the resulting fragmentation of the Jewish people.

 

The historian Josephus described the events that accompanied the destruction of the Temple.

  • Speaking about the Jewish rebels, “…so they were first whipped, and then tormented with all sorts of tortures before they died, and were then crucified before the wall of the city”.
  • And about the crucifixions, “…the soldiers out of the wrath and hatred they bore the Jews, nailed those they caught, one after one way, and another after another, to the crosses, by way of jest; when their multitude was so great, that room was wanting for the crosses, and crosses wanting for the bodies.”

 

Judaism would never be the same again.

 

Paul wants us to see, however, that God “endured with much patience” Jewish unbelief (vs. 22).

  • The idea here with “endured” is that God literally “put up with” them (BDAG).
  • Meaning that God choose to withhold His wrath (show them mercy) until the time (70 AD) of His choosing.

 

 

Purpose:

And what was the purpose for this judging righteousness upon the Jews who rejected their Messiah?

  • make known His power” (vs. 22)
  • make known His glory” (vs. 23)

 

Make known to whom?

  • the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23)
  • the Gentiles” (vs. 24)

 

Paul already hinted at all of this with his allusion to Malachi’s handling of Jacob and Esau.

  • Malachi 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 but Esau I have hated. I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” 4 If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’ Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, ‘Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!” – Malachi 1:5.

 

And we he referenced Pharaoh.

  • “But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” – Exodus 9:16.

 

So God used His judging action against unbelieving Jews for the benefit of two other peoples.

  • And to them we now turn.

 

 

People and Purpose – Make Known Power and Glory to Remnant Jews and the Gentiles:

…even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (vs. 24)

 

This is a remarkable text.

  • Paul says there are a people on a different purpose-trajectory than that of the Messiah-Rejecting Jews…
  • And these are a people Paul calls “us”.

 

The “us” Paul speaks of are:

  • Messiah believing Jews – “a remnant” (vs. 27).
  • And “Gentiles” (vs. 24).

 

It is these – the remnant and the believing Gentiles –

  • Who are the beneficiaries of the God’s purpose-of-election-use of the unbelieving Jews.
  • It is they who know God’s power and glory as a result of this use.

 

Paul cites a number of OT texts to make this point.

  • We will deal with those shortly.

 

 

The Us:

Before we do, we need to emphasize something that will help us solve a puzzle later.

  • When Paul says, “even us whom he has called”…
  • He is being controversial!

 

Paul is not making a distinction between believing Jews and Gentiles.

  • Paul is not making a distinction between the Church and believing Israel.

 

He is doing the opposite.

  • Paul is deliberately redefining believing Israel!
  • And its definition has nothing to do with ethnicity or religion.

 

Believing Israel is now anyone – Jew or Gentile who submits to Jesus the Messiah.

  • Specifically, in context of Romans 9…
  • Believing Israel is anyone who is called by God through His purpose-of-election-use of the non-believing Jews.

 

Here is why this is so controversial.

  • Paul has added the Gentiles to the lump of clay that is Israel.

 

And even more controversial:

  • Paul says they are part of the lump of clay that God worked into “vessels of mercy” – not “vessels of wrath”.

 

Perriman and Bird help punctuate this point:

  • “God choosesnow to destroy and disgrace the larger part of the lump of the descendants of Abraham and to preserve and glorify a smaller part, to which Gentiles have been addedin order that his name and power might be made known to the nations” – Andrew Perriman.
  • “God is not replacing Israel with the church. Instead, God is preserving a remnant within Israel and then expanding it to include Gentiles as well” – Michael Bird.

 

Knowing this hugely important fact…

  • We can continue.

 

 

OT Allusions – Believing Gentiles:

As indeed he says in Hosea, “Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’ and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’ ” 26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”

 

Here Paul seeks to reinforce his point about Gentile inclusion in God’s purpose of election.

  • Believing Gentiles are to be God’s people – “sons of the living God” (vs. 26).
  • And this was something God had always planned.

 

We need to see how Paul uses Hosea to reinforce this point.

  • Hosea is speaking of a time when God will bring remedy to a rebellious Israel (as opposed to Judah).
  • An Israel that God says is “not my people”.

 

The remedy (Hosea 2) comes from the “God’s-Action=God-Knowing” principal we hit on last week.

  • I will remove…
  • I will make…
  • I will abolish…
  • I will betroth…

 

The result of these actions:

  • And you shall know the Lord

 

Specifically, the results of these actions as cited by Paul are:

  • They were “not my people” and are now called “my people”.
  • They were “not beloved” and are now called “beloved”.
  • And, from Hosea 1:9, they are now “called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

So Paul’s point is that Gentiles, like Israel in Hosea, had a certain status.

  • They were “not my people”.

 

And by God’s action through the Messiah-Rejecting Jews, the believing Gentiles are now…

  • my people”.
  • beloved”.
  • called ‘sons of the living God.’

 

The oddity with this allusion to Hosea is this:

  • Hosea’s text has nothing to do with Gentiles.

 

So how does Paul’s interpretation here actually work?

  • It appears the solution must have something to do with the “us” we just discussed.

 

In other words, the “us” is so fundamental to God’s “purpose of election”…

  • Paul recognizes its existence within God’s purposes even though not explicitly stated in Hosea.

 

Also, Paul knows his OT – where there are many OT texts that do speak to this:

  • Genesis 12:2–3 (ESV) — 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
  • Isaiah 2:2–3 (ESV) — 2 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, 3 and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

 

Not to mention Paul knows this first hand!

 

Paul’s own ministry was part of God’s purpose of election for the Gentiles.

  • Acts 13:46–47 (ESV) — 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you [Jews]. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “ ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”

 

So given what Paul has been teaching in Romans 9…

  • And the OT teaching on God’s desire to include the nations…
  • Paul seems to be, under inspiration, showing us just how deep the “us” thread runs.

 

OT Allusions – Believing Jews:

Then after alluding to the OT to emphasize how the believing Gentiles were part of God’s purpose of election.

  • He does the same for the believing Jews – the remnant.

 

He does this by quoting Isaiah 10:22-23 and Isaiah 1:9.

  • “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.

 

These allusions are straightforward.

  • God always purposed to pull off from the lump that is Israel a believing remnant.
  • A remnant that would be known by its belief in God’s Messiah.
  • This remnant is the “vessel of mercy”.

 

Paul, through Isaiah, refers to them as:

  • a remnant” who “will be saved
  • And an “offspring” that would not have existed if God had not purposed it.
  • Paul is such a “remnant” and “offspring”.

 

The remnant, like the believing Gentiles…

  • Were always part of God’s purpose of election.

 

So there was never a time when the entirety of Israel was in jeopardy.

  • God’s purpose of election took care of that.

 

 

Conclusion:

So with this we have concluded Paul’s main thought in Romans 9.

  • We now understand how the Jews who rejected the Messiah were part of God’s purpose of election.
  • We now understand what this purpose of election was.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Include believing Gentiles with believing Jews.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Preserve a remnant of believing Jews to which the believing Gentiles would be joined.
  • And mold them into “vessels of mercy”.

 

God had always purposed to:

  • Use his judging righteousness against the unbelieving Jews to facilitate Gentile inclusion.

 

Romans 9:21-24 – God’s Action Equals Our Knowing

Introduction:

Last week we unpacked verses 19-21.

  • In these verses, Paul was answering the charge that God’s “purpose of election” was unfair.
  • If God is doing all the choosing, how is anybody responsible?

 

Paul gave a two-pronged answer to this charge.

  • (1) The Jobian Beatdown.
  • (2) An Answer to a Better Question.

 

See last week for the details of the above.

  • For now, we need to know that an important element of Paul’s answer was this:
  • The lumps aren’t individuals – they are corporate Israel.

 

With that in mind, we need to dive deeper into verse 19.

 

 

Honorable and Dishonorable Use:

Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

 

As with Paul’s previous arguments in Romans 9…

  • Here too, he alludes to the OT.

 

One allusion is to the prophet Jeremiah.

  • Jeremiah 18:3–6 (ESV) — 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4 And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

 

God has always reserved the right to mold Israel, as He sees fit.

  • And Paul is telling us that this is happening right now – as he writes.

 

In fact, Paul makes a shocking claim.

  • One lump would be for honorable use.
  • One lump would be for dishonorable use.

 

Michael Bird says this of Paul’s claim:

“God has decided to create from one ‘lump of clay,’ that is, from ‘Israel,’ one group for special purposes like a wine decanter (i.e., a remnant of Christ-believing Jews) and another group selected for lesser ends like a chamber pot (i.e., the remainder of ethnic Jews). The choice is rooted in divine purposes and in the freedom of the divine prerogative” – Michael Bird.

 

So what exactly are these two uses, honorable use and dishonorable use?

  • How do they relate to or reveal God’s “purpose of election”?

 

We noted last week that answering these questions…

  • Would finally lead us to Paul’s explanation of how to understand God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Which would, in turn, explain why God’s chosen people rejected the Messiah.

 

Michael Bird already provided some clues for their meaning.

  • A special use, “like a wine decanter”
  • An ordinary use, “like a chamber pot”.

 

His phrases capture how the Israelites may have taken Paul’s words.

  • They convey how scandalous and shocking Paul’s words are.
  • A lump of Israel would be molded into something akin to a chamber pot!
  • But they don’t really tell us what Paul means.

 

Greek Lexicons will help steer us toward the answer.

  • The BDAG says these words concern, “the use to which [the lumps] are put”.
  • Similarly, the TDNT says they concern, “the use for which [the lumps] are destined”.

 

So from this we can see where Paul is headed.

  • Each lump has always been destined for a specific use in God’s “purpose of election”.
  • Something Jeremiah tells us has always been God’s prerogative.

 

So the meaning of what Paul means by “honorable” and “dishonorable”…

  • Is tied directly to the specific use of each lump.

 

 

Purpose-of-Election-Use:

So what is the destined use of the Israelite lumps for God’s purpose of election?

 

Paul’s introduction to the answer is found in verses 22-24.

  • Before we unpack it, we need to remind ourselves of Paul’s main point thus far in Romans 9.

 

Paul’s main point thus far is:

  • God’s purpose of election explains why God’s chosen rejected their Messiah.

 

With this in mind, we need to be aware that:

  • Paul’s aim is to zero in on the Jews who have rejected their Messiah.
  • The lump made for dishonorable use.
  • And to tell us exactly what God’s purpose-of-election-use is for this dishonorable lump.

 

So what is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

  • What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

 

His answer is pretty jarring.

  • desiring to show his wrath…
  • “…to make known his power…
  • “…to make known the riches of his glory…”

 

There are two really important things going on here.

  • (1) An incredibly important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained – God’s-Action=God-Knowing.
  • (2) The details of the purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump – “the vessels of wrath”.

 

For the remainder of this lesson…

  • We will contend with the first.
  • Next week, we will contend with the second.

 

But, we do need to appreciate that Paul has finally given us the answer to our question.

  • What is God’s purpose-of-election-use for the dishonorable lump?

 

His answer is that this lump – the lump that has rejected their Messiah…

  • Has done so in order that God’s power and glory are made known via their judgment.
  • Again, we will unpack this next week.

 

For now, lets wrestle with the important principal on how knowledge of God is obtained.

 

 

God’s-Action = God-Knowing:

So why does what Paul just told us make any sense at all?

  • How is it that His wrath upon “vessels of wrath” leads to knowledge of Him, His power, and His glory?

 

We need to be aware that, as usual, this is nothing new.

  • Israel’s knowledge of God has always been experiential, not just propositional.

 

And interestingly:

  • In the OT we find actions that were beneficial and detrimental to Israel.
  • Both of which served to make Him known.

 

Let’s look at some beneficial actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 6:7 (ESV) — 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
  • Joshua 3:10 (ESV) — 10 And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
  • 1 Kings 20:13 (ESV) — 13 And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
  • Isaiah 49:26 (ESV) — 26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine. Then all flesh shall know that I am the Lord your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

 

Let’s look at some detrimental actions of God that made Him known:

  • Exodus 7:5 (ESV) — 5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.”
  • Exodus 14:18 (ESV) — 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
  • Ezekiel 6:14 (ESV) — 14 And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land desolate and waste, in all their dwelling places, from the wilderness to Riblah. Then they will know that I am the Lord.”
  • Ezekiel 7:4 (ESV) — 4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity, but I will punish you for your ways, while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the Lord.
  • Ezekiel 15:7 (ESV) — 7 And I will set my face against them. Though they escape from the fire, the fire shall yet consume them, and you will know that I am the Lord, when I set my face against them.

 

So God’s merciful action toward Israel made God known.

  • And God’s judgment upon the wicked of Israel made God known.

 

How so?

 

It appears that in the ancient Near East a particular mindset was in operation.

  • The history and destiny of peoples and nations was in control of the gods.
  • This was obviously true of Israel as well – they were Yahweh’s inheritance, His people.

 

This dynamic meant that when Yahweh exercised control over the fate of other nations – in real time history…

  • He demonstrated His unique and superior “Godness” for all to see – Israel and the Nations.

 

Likewise, when Yahweh judged his own people for their wickedness…

  • He demonstrated his holiness and justice for all to see – Israel and the Nations.
  • He was not a capricious god like the gods of the nations who could be bribed.

 

To put another way:

  • Yahweh’s actions within the history of Israel and the Nations brought order to chaos.
  • The wicked oppression of Israel by Egypt was chaos.
  • The sin of His very own inheritance, Israel, was chaos.

 

Both, God’s historical actions of deliverance, and judgment were restoring order.

  • So, His universal actions on all these fronts demonstrated to all that He was God over all.

 

Now we can come back to Paul in Romans 9.

  • The same God’s-Action=God-Knowing principal applies.

 

Andrew Perriman gets at the details for us.

“There is a crucial premise to grasp here, which is that Paul believed that the God of Israel was about to reveal himself to the Greek-Roman world, about to demonstrate his power, concretely, historically, and imminently, through the judgment and restoration of his people. To this end, he has chosento destroy the ‘vessels of wrath’, with which his patience has run out, and to glorify the ‘vessels of mercy’”.

 

In other words, what we need to get here is that Paul isn’t talking theology.

  • Paul is talking history – imminent history.
  • God is about to act through the dishonorable lump, at their expense, and make Himself known.
  • Just as He had done in the past.

 

What action was God about to bring upon the dishonorable lump of Israel to make Himself known?

  • Mark 13:1–2 (ESV) — 1 And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” 2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

 

And this action in history by God is evident today!

temple

Romans 1:18 – Wrath of God

Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

 

The remainder of Romans 1 deals with how God’s wrath is revealed against the unrighteousness of man.

  • “Verse 18 changes the tone of [Paul’s] argument, for Paul shifts from speaking of the revelation of God’s saving righteousness to the revelation of God’s wrath” – Schreiner.

 

This means, right away, we have a huge matzo ball hanging out there.

  • What is the wrath of God?
  • We need to know before we can dig into the remaining verses.

 

 

1) THE STAKES:

What are the stakes?

  • Before we grapple with the wrath of God, I want us to consider the stakes.
  • Factions of modern, western Christianity (especially) have huge problems with both how God’s wrath is revealed (something Paul is about to get into in detail) and even wrath’s existence (they simply redefine it altogether).

 

 

Intellectual Honesty Moment – Atonement:

There does exist debate, usually based on textual and linguistic grounds, on the relationship between Christ and God’s wrath on the Cross.

  • The debate centers on the Greek word “hilasterion” and its cognates.

 

The Greek word most famously appears in the following:

  • Romans 3:25 (ESV) — 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
  • 1 John 4:10 (ESV) — 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

 

“Biblical scholars debate whether the Greek terms deriving from hilaskomai should be translated as propitiation or expiation” – PDTT.

  • What’s the difference?

 

Propitiation – Denotes “the turning away of divine wrath” – PDTT.

  • “Christ’s death appeased divine wrath called forth by sin” – DPL.
  • “If those who receive the righteousness of God through faith in Christ are saved from the wrath of God, it must be because Christ has appeased that wrath through his death for them” – DPL.
  • This is the idea that Christ bore the wrath of God in our stead while on the cross, thereby paying the penalty for our sins.

 

Expiation – This is “the belief that sin is canceled out by being covered over” – PDTT.

  • On this view, “Christ did not die to satisfy God’s wrath as the precondition for reconciliation. Rather, Christ’s atoning death itself accomplished reconciliation: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2 Cor. 5:18)’” – DPL.
  • Expiation sees the cross as “God’s own gracious initiative in love toward the ungodly as well as God’s judgment against sin” – DPL.
    • Not as an outpouring of God’s wrath upon Jesus.

 

 

Way Beyond That:

But many modern scholars/pastors go way beyond this exegetical debate.

 

The logic usually goes as follows:

  • Jesus is God.
  • In Jesus we come to truly know who God is and who God is not.
  • Therefore, if it can’t be said about the Jesus of the Gospels, it can’t be said about God.

 

Tony Jones, author of “Did God Kill Jesus” plays this out…

  • “If Jesus tells us anything about God, it’s that God is love—not wrath or anger or vengeance, but pure love” – Tony Jones.

 

Adam Ericksen, in agreement with Jones, sums up Jones’ view:

“On the cross, Jesus reveals that God has nothing to do with wrath. A wrathful god is a mere projection of our own wrath. The true God is the God who leads us to forgive and to love our enemies as we love ourselves” – Adam Ericksen.

 

 

Needed Correction:

As just demonstrated, the wrath of God has been toned down or dismissed all together.

  • The reason, says Douglas Moo, is likely that, “the idea that God would inflict wrath on people has been rejected as incompatible with an enlightened understanding of the deity” – Douglas Moo.
  • In other words, we should be too smart and too enlightened to embrace the antiquated notion of a wrathful god.

 

We need to cast off any baggage that makes the wrath of God seem something foreign to God.

  • We need to stop treating “the biblical doctrine of the wrath of God…as the Victorians treated sex. It is there, but it must never be alluded to because it is in an undefined way shameful” – R.P.C. Hanson.

 

 

2) GOD’S WRATH:

So what is God’s wrath?

  • Why is it so important?

 

 

Wrath Defined:

John Murray spells it out well:

“Wrath is the holy revulsion of God’s being against that which is the contradiction of his holiness. The reality of God’s wrath in this specific character is shown by the fact that it is ‘revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’” – John Murray.

  • Wrath is the “punitive righteousness of God by which He maintains His moral order, which demands justice and retribution for injustice” – HIBD.
  • Wrath is “The free, subjective and holy response of God to sin and to the evil and wickedness exhibited by creatures in opposition to God” – PDTT.

 

We must understand that God’s love and His wrath are not mutually exclusive.

  • In fact, “God’s wrath must be understood in relation to his love. Wrath is not a permanent attribute of God. For whereas love and holiness are part of his essential nature, wrath is contingent upon human sin: if there were no sin there would be no wrath” – AYBD.

 

And more than that:

  • “Divine wrath is never divorced from God’s essential righteousness” – TDNT.
  • Something we will see next week when we dig into Paul’s text.

 

What of the intention of God’s wrath?

“The aim of divine wrath is the establishment of the divine rule of holiness” – TDNT.

 

So, like God’s righteousness, wrath is a divine activity.

  • In seeking to establish the age to come – a divine rule of holiness – God acts righteously, as in the case of the Gospel, or God acts in wrath.

 

And, like God’s righteousness, His wrath has a past, present and future expression.

“Paul speaks of wrath as a present reality under which people outside Christ stand, and often, following the OT prophets, predicts the outpouring of God’s wrath on the future day of judgment” – Douglas Moo.

 

For example, Paul’s words in Romans 1 speak of the present unveiling of God’s wrath.

  • But Revelation 6 speaks of a future advent of God’s wrath.
  • Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

God’s Wrath is Necessary:

Shockingly, God’s wrath is also necessary.

“God’s wrath is necessary to the biblical conception of God: ‘As long as God is God, He cannot behold with indifference that His creation is destroyed and His holy will trodden underfoot. Therefore He meets sin with His mighty and annihilating reaction’” – Douglas Moo (quoting Nygren).

 

There are at least 4 reasons why God’s wrath might be necessary.

 

Reason 1:

“The whole burden of human life after the fall is in itself an expression of divine wrath (cf. Gen. 3; 4; 6–8; 11). As Job 14:1ff. vividly puts it (cf. Ps. 90:7), all human life stands under the constant operation of the wrath of God” – TDNT.

  • In other words, the Bible teaches that the wrath of God is the default experience of God by the fallen world.
  • This is not to say that God’s grace and love are not manifested in many ways to a fallen world.
  • But that without action by God to mitigate His wrath, His wrath is the norm.

 

The Gospel of John puts it so clearly:

  • John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
  • It doesn’t come upon “him” but “remains on him”.

 

Reason 2:

The NT is clear that God’s wrath is a current and real divine activity of God.

  • It was not replaced or displaced by God’s love.

 

Some NT examples:

  • Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • Romans 5:9 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
  • 1 Thessalonians 2:16 (ESV) — 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (ESV) — 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Reason 3:

Jesus has been appointed to be an instrument of wrath to the unrighteous.

  • This is Jesus’ part in inaugurating the “divine role of holiness” or the age to come.
  • Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

Reason 4:

Tim Keller argues that God without wrath is a less loving God.

“If you get rid of a God who has wrath and Hell, you’ve got a god who loves us in general, but that’s not as loving as the God of the Bible, the God of Jesus Christ, who loves us with a costlylove” – Tim Keller.

  • In other words, if you dilute & diminish God’s wrath, you dilute & diminish His love.
  • Both must be fiercely advocated.
  • They are examples of G.K. Chesterton called “furious opposites”.

 

In fact, as Keller says, the more fierce God’s wrath is, the more incredible is Jesus’ love for us.

  • The thing that shields us from the fierceness of God’s wrath – and it is fierce –
  • Is the equally fierce costliness of God’s love – His brutal death on the cross.

 

Christ doesn’t replace God’s ho-hum OT wrath with a “groovy kind of love”.

  • It is better than that.
  • His fierce love provides salvation from His fierce wrath.

 

 

3) WRATH – A CASE STUDY FROM JOSHUA 7:

In the beginning of Joshua 7 we learn that Achan disobeyed God by stealing from Jericho after its destruction.

  • As a result of this, all of Israel was found guilty of “breaking faith”.
  • Verse 10 says, “Israel has sinned” and “they have transgressed my covenant”.
  • As a result, Israel was “devoted for destruction” by God – just as Jericho was.
  • The Israelite army was defeated at the battle of Ai.

 

The solution to their being devoted to destruction was to “destroy the devoted things from among you”.

  • The principal for this is found in Leviticus 16.
  • There we found the principal of the sacrificial goat and the separation goat.
  • The separation goat was symbolically sent outside the sacred area of Israel’s camp into the wilderness.
  • And for Achan, this separation principal would cost him his life.

 

Importantly, this separation and condemnation of Achan are expressions of God’s wrath.

 

 

Separation Ordered:

Joshua 7:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’ ”

 

The time has come to deal with Achan’s sin and Israel’s guilt.

  • The reason for this is clear – “You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things form among you” (vs. 13).
  • “When Achan sinned, the blessing of God stopped for the people corporately; when judgment was applied, blessing returned and victory followed” – James Boice.

 

BTW – This edict by Yahweh is consistent with His words to Joshua in Joshua 1.

  • There He made it clear that their inheritance of the Promised Land was conditional.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

 

The solution to the problem is severe – an expression of God’s wrath.

  • Like Jericho and its inhabitants, Achan will be devoted to destruction.
  • Because he has transgressed the covenant” and “done an outrageous thing” he “shall be burned with fire” (vs. 15).
  • “He in effect had become a Canaanite by his actions” – David Howard.

 

The stark contrast between Rahab the Canaanite and Achan the Israelite is significant.

  • Rahab, by her confession, had been ushered into the elect of Israel.
  • Achan, by his covenant sin, had been devoted to destruction as a Canaanite.
  • What lessons can be learned from this contrast?

 

We need to take notice of two things in these verses about God’s wrath.

 

(1) It Can Be Patient

  • Yahweh does not immediately do what He has a right to do – devote all the Israelites to destruction.
  • (A) In fact, He identifies the problem for Joshua.
    • Act of covenant faithfulness and grace?
  • (B) And He also identifies the solution to the problem.
    • The separation and destruction of the responsible party.

 

In other words, by identifying these two things God provides opportunity for restoration.

  • “Behind such unwelcome disclosure shines the clear desire of God to restore his people to his favour” – Dale Davis.

 

(2) It Is Not Flippant

  • God expressing His wrath is not like a man throwing a rage-filled, angry tantrum.
  • It flows from His holiness.
  • It flows from His moral law.
  • It flows from His covenant faithfulness.

 

 

Confession Made:

Joshua 7:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

 

Remarkably, Achan confesses all he has done.

  • This confession of his transgression praises and glorifies God – according to Joshua.
  • The fact that Achan confessed makes what happens next all the more startling.

 

 

Wrath Expressed:

Joshua 7:22–26 (ESV) — 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

 

Are you serious?

  • They “took Achan”, the treasure ANDhis sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep” (vs. 24).
  • And then “burned them with fire and stoned the with stones” (vs. 25)

 

In spite of Achan’s confession, God orders his death.

  • But as strange as this may seem, God also orders the death of his entire family.
  • This almost seems blood thirsty and over reaching.
  • This was the destruction of Achan and his entire family line.
  • He and his family would not longer be part of God’s call to Israel to be fruitful and multiply.

 

What are we to make of this?

  • We can say at least two things.

 

(1) We know that God spoke over and over of the consequences of covenant sin.

  • Deuteronomy 17:2–5 (ESV) — 2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.

 

(2) We know that Israel was a theocracy.

  • Meaning, among other things, that God was the judicial system, the Supreme Court.
  • Justice was meted out through Him.
  • His holiness was the standard of innocence.
  • If He condemned He was justified to do so.

 

But we are still left emotionally traumatized.

  • Especially with the death sentence on his children.

 

Was it that his children, perhaps knowing about the hidden treasure, were also seen as responsible for the profaning of Israel’s camp?

  • That seems a stretch.
  • We just don’t know.
    • Some argue that they weren’t killed.
  • The bottom line is that our modern sensibilities will not find satisfactory resolution to this question.

 

Note of Hope – There is an interesting note on the Valley of Achor (trouble).

  • We can’t forget that God is in the transformation business.
  • A business that involves not only His wrath but also His grace.
  • Hosea 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

 

 

Conclusion – Our Need for Christ:

Here are some final words from Jonathan Edwards.

“The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood” – Jonathan Edwards.

 

 

Joshua 7:13-26 – Wrath of God Is Necessary

Last week we tried to understand why God would hold Israel responsible for the actions of one individual.

  • In the process, we outlined 3 aspects to Achan’s sin.
    • Inward
    • Outward
    • Covenantal

 

We found that the covenantal aspect of Achan’s sin was our best lead.

  • For it was there that we found a deep connection within God’s elect between the individual and the group.
    • A connection, we discovered, that still exists for NT believers.
  • This deep connection meant that the covenantal sin of Achan actually corrupted the group.

 

We then found that the only solution to this corruption was to separate it from the group.

  • We looked to Leviticus 16 for this principal.
  • There we found the principal of the sacrificial goat and the separation goat.
  • The separation goat was symbolically sent outside the sacred area of Israel’s camp into the wilderness.
  • And for Achan, this separation principal would cost him his life.

 

Importantly, the separation and the condemnation that follows are expressions of God’s wrath.

  • And it is God’s wrath that we will contend with throughout this lesson.
    • Especially section four – the necessity of God’s wrath.
  • Wrath being, the “punitive righteousness of God by which He maintains His moral order, which demands justice and retribution for injustice” – HIBD.

 

 

1) SEPARATION ORDERED

 

Joshua 7:13–15 (ESV) — 13 Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clan that the Lord takes shall come near by households. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. 15 And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel.’ ”

 

The time has come to deal with Achan’s sin and Israel’s guilt.

  • The reason for this is clear – “You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things form among you” (vs. 13).
    • “When Achan sinned, the blessing of God stopped for the people corporately; when judgment was applied, blessing returned and victory followed” – James Boice.
  • This edict by Yahweh is consistent with His words to Joshua in Joshua 1.
  • There He made it clear that their inheritance of the Promised Land was conditional.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.

 

The solution to the problem is severe – an expression of God’s wrath.

  • Yahweh commands that the one responsible for Israel’s guilt will himself become part of the “cherem” that Yahweh put on Jericho.
  • In other words, like Jericho and its inhabitants, Achan will be devoted to destruction.
  • Because he has transgressed the covenant” and “done an outrageous thing” he “shall be burned with fire” (vs. 15).
  • “He in effect had become a Canaanite by his actions” – David Howard.

 

The stark contrast between Rahab the Canaanite and Achan the Israelite is significant.

  • Rahab, by her confession, had been ushered into the elect of Israel.
  • Achan, by his covenant sin, had been devoted to destruction as a Canaanite.
  • What lessons can be learned from this contrast?

 

We need to take notice of two things in these verses about God’s wrath.

 

(1) It Can Be Patient

  • Yahweh does not immediately do what He has a right to do – devote all the Israelites to destruction.
  • (A) In fact, He identifies the problem for Joshua.
    • Act of covenant faithfulness?
  • (B) And He also identifies the solution to the problem.
    • The separation and destruction of the responsible party.

 

In other words, by identifying these two things God provides opportunity for restoration.

  • “Behind such unwelcome disclosure shines the clear desire of God to restore his people to his favour” – Dale Davis.

 

(2) It Is Not Flippant

  • God expressing His wrath is not like a man throwing a rage-filled, angry tantrum.
  • It flows from His holiness.
  • It flows from His moral law.
  • It flows from His covenant faithfulness.

 

It’s expression is logical, deliberate and thought out – not irrational anger.

  • Get up
  • Consecrate yourselves
  • Devoted things in your midst
  • He has transgressed the covenant of the Lord

 

“Yahweh’s [wrath] is significantly different from the often passionate and sometimes petty tirades of other ancient Near Eastern deities” – AYBD.

  • We can only begin to understand it within these contexts.

 

 

2) CONFESSION MADE

 

Joshua 7:19–21 (ESV) — 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

 

We dealt with Joshua’s confession in our last lesson.

  • But Joshua’s request and Achan’s confession give an example of how to glorify God.
  • Something in which we need all the help we can get.

 

“Joshua was not instructing Achan to indulge in a disengaged act of glorifying and praising God and then to confess his sin; rather, by his very confession, he was glorifying God” – David Howard.

  • In other words, when the elect speak the truth they glorify God.
  • And our confessions before a holy God are a specific example of God glorifying truth telling.

 

 

3) WRATH EXPRESSED

 

Joshua 7:22–26 (ESV) — 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

 

Are you serious?

  • They “took Achan”, the treasure ANDhis sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep” (vs. 24).
  • And then “burned them with fire and stoned the with stones” (vs. 25)

 

I think we can intellectually understand the theological foundation behind God’s death sentence on Achan.

  • But emotionally, the death of his entire family is tough.
  • It feels blood thirsty and over reaching.
  • This was the destruction of Achan’s entire family line.
  • So not only his life, and his children’s lives, but also his family name was done – “They gone”.
    • A serious problem in aNE culture.

 

What are we to make of this?

  • Before we try and answer this question, let’s look at a couple of other things.

 

They laid them down before the Lord” (vs. 23).

The word used here (yṣr – “laid them down”) is significant, since it is translated most commonly as ‘poured out,’ referring to the use of oil in anointing and other religious contexts. The stolen items were ‘poured out’ before the Lord, returning to him what belonged to him”  – David Howard.

  • Achan stole what was devoted to God and Joshua “re-devoted” it.
  • Only this time it was a devotion to destruction, not to tabernacle use.

 

Great heap of stones that remains to this day” (vs. 26)

  • This is the second memorial we have encountered in Joshua.
    • The other was after crossing of the Jordan.
  • The first a reminder of God’s power and presence.
  • This second a reminder of God’s wrath; His “burning anger”.

 

There is an interesting note on the Valley of Achor (trouble).

  • We can’t forget that God is in the transformation business.
  • A business that involves not only His wrath but also His grace.
  • Hosea 2:14–15 (ESV) — 14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15 And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

 

Now back to our question.

  • We can say at least two things.

 

(1) We know that God spoke over and over of the consequences of covenant sin.

  • Deuteronomy 17:2–5 (ESV) — 2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.

 

(2) We know that Israel was a theocracy.

  • Meaning, among other things, that God was the judicial system, the Supreme Court.
  • Justice was meted out through Him.
  • His holiness was the standard of innocence.
  • If He condemned He was justified to do so.

 

But we are still left emotionally traumatized.

  • Especially with the death sentence on his children.
  • Was it that his children, perhaps knowing about the hidden treasure, were also seen as responsible for the profaning of Israel’s camp?
    • That seems a stretch.
  • We just don’t know.
    • Some argue that they weren’t killed.
  • The bottom line is that our modern sensibilities will not find satisfactory resolution to this question.

 

 

4) NECESSITY OF GOD’S WRATH

 

We have a problem with God’s wrath.

  • We have to be honest.
  • Our modern sensibilities see it as harsh, unfair and over the top.

“Our problem here is—sinners that we are—we don’t think breaking Yahweh’s covenant is all that big a deal. We really cannot understand God’s wrath because sin does not bother us much” – Dale Davis.

 

This flaw in our thinking leads us into error –

“The problem with evangelicals is that they treat Scripture as if all of it were equal in emphasis about things like God’s character. …the harsh language in the OT is akin to our sometimes harsh and blunt words to infants when they do something wrong. It isn’t that God is really like that, but because of our infancy; he speaks to us in those terms. Once Christ has come and we have fully matured in faith, it is the language of love that dominates. Yes the NT does also speak of punishment because sometimes we are all immature. But anyone who reads the Gospel accounts and thinks this is really what Jesus is like is missing the point. It’s a conservative evangelical pathology to be fixated on God’s wrath. Pure and simple” – Simon (commenting on Gospel Coalition post).

  • In other words, Jesus came and showed us that “it isn’t that God is really like that”.
  • Say what?

 

This is just complete nonsense.

  • Not only is God like that, but Jesus is also like that.
  • And in fact, on this side of the new creation, God’s wrath is necessary.
  • We will look quickly at four reasons for this necessity.

 

Reason 1:

“The whole burden of human life after the fall is in itself an expression of divine wrath (cf. Gen. 3; 4; 6–8; 11). As Job 14:1ff. vividly puts it (cf. Ps. 90:7), all human life stands under the constant operation of the wrath of God” – TDNT.

  • In other words, the Bible teaches that the wrath of God is the default experience of God by the fallen world.
  • This is not to say that God’s grace is not manifested in many ways to a fallen world.
  • But that without action by God to mitigate His wrath, His wrath is the norm.

 

The Gospel of John puts it so clearly:

  • John 3:36 (ESV) — 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
  • It doesn’t come upon “him” but “remains on him”.

 

Reason 2:

The NT is clear that God’s wrath is a current and real attribute of God.

  • It was not replaced or displaced by God’s love.
  • It is not only for the “stupid” OT folks.

 

Some NT examples:

  • Romans 1:18 (ESV) — 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
  • Romans 5:9 (ESV) — 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
  • Romans 11:22 (ESV) — 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (ESV) — 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:9 (ESV) — 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

Reason 3:

All those outside of Christ will experience Him as God’s wrath.

  • Yes, Jesus Himself will manifest the wrath of God to unbelievers.
  • Revelation 6:15–17 (ESV) — 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

 

Did you see that?!

  • The “wrath of the Lamb”.
  • This is an awesome and profound phrase.
  • Yet it seems strangely contradictory.
  • And it hints at the 4th reason why God’s wrath is necessary.

 

Reason 4:

If God’s wrath is diluted & diminished, God’s love is diluted & diminished.

  • We can’t paint over God’s wrath with His love without changing His love in the process.

 

G.K. Chesterton puts it like this:

“Being a mixture of two things, it is a dilution of two things; neither is present in its full strength or contributes its full colour” – G.K. Chesterton.

  • And Christianity, unlike the world, always retains its full, undiluted & undiminished colors.
    • The world prefers to dilute and diminish.
  • Christianity “got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious” – Chesterton.
    • Like “wrath of the Lamb

 

He says this is seen clearly with the imagery of the lion and the lamb.

  • There is nothing significant about this concept if the lion loses its fierceness or the lamb loses its innocence.

Typically we think, “that when the lion lies down with the lamb the lion becomes lamb-like. But that is brutal annexation and imperialism on the part of the lamb. That is simply the lamb absorbing the lion instead of the lion eating the lamb. The real problem is–Can the lion lie down with the lamb and still retain his royal ferocity? THAT is the problem [Christianity] attempted; THAT is the miracle she achieved” – Chesterton.

 

Tim Keller, perhaps influenced by Chesterton, makes the same point:

  • His take used to be, “I can’t believe in Hell and wrath because I want a more loving God” – Keller.
  • But he “came to realize…that if you get rid of the idea of Hell and wrath, you have a less loving God” – Keller.
  • “If you get rid of a God who has wrath and Hell, you’ve got a god who loves us in general, but that’s not as loving as the God of the Bible, the God of Jesus Christ, who loves us with a costly love” – Tim Keller.
    • In other words, like Chesterton, if you dilute & diminish God’s wrath, you dilute & diminish His love.

 

And for the Christian:

  • The thing that shields us from the fierceness of God’s wrath – and it is fierce –
  • Is the equally fierce costliness of God’s love.

 

In Revelation 6:15-17 (from above), sinners call on the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the “wrath of the lamb”.

  • Jesus’ wrath is so fierce they hope death can hide them from it.
  • But the only thing that can hide us from the “wrath of the lamb” is our union with Christ.
  • Christ doesn’t replace God’s ho-hum OT wrath with a “groovy kind of love”.
  • It is better than that.
  • His fierce love provides salvation from His fierce wrath.

 

 

Joshua 7:1-9 – Yahweh’s Conquest Favor Removed

Joshua 6 ends with a wonderfully optimistic tone.

  • Joshua 6:27 (ESV) — 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
  • No doubt this is a reflection on and implication of the unorthodox defeat of Jericho that preceded it.
  • How so?

 

Yahweh through the presence of the Ark and the Divine Warrior took the lead in victory.

  • Why?
  • One reason is because of Joshua’s own covenant faithfulness up to this point.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
  • As we discussed at that time, the conditional formula for a successful Conquest was simply –  Obedience = Success.

 

So things are looking good.

  • However, this all changes with a “but”.

 

Our Text:

Joshua 7:1 (ESV) — 1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

 

This “but”, pivotal to the coming battle, is something that Joshua does not yet know.

  • Unbeknownst to Joshua, at some point between Jericho and 7:1, Yahweh removed His “Conquest Favor” from the nation of Israel.

 

How do we know this?

  • There are at least two reasons.

 

(1) The first reason is obvious and found in verse 4 and 5 – Israel loses the first battle of Ai.

 

(2) The second reason is found in verse 1.

  • The text makes clear that Achan acted in disobedience to God.
    • He broke the covenant with God.
  • One would think, then, that Achan would be an isolated problem for God to deal with.
  • However, look carefully at the text.
  • By God’s reckoning, “Israel broke faith”.
  • And God’s reaction to this is that – “the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel”.
    • Not just against Achan, but against Israel!

 

Anger of the Lord:

Being the object of the anger of the Lord is not something one wants to be.

  • In virtually every case where Israel was the object of this anger, two things were sure to come.
  • God’s wrath
  • God’s judgment

 

Some other Biblical examples make this clear.

  • Judges 2:14 (ESV) — 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
  • Psalm 106:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.
  • Isaiah 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

 

We need to dig much deeper into why an individual’s sin would bring God’s judgment and wrath upon Israel.

  • And in my next lesson we will do so.
  • Now, I want to deal with the rest of our text.

 

Our Text:

Joshua 7:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

 

This scene takes place in ignorance of Achan’s actions and Israel’s guilt.

  • Joshua and the spies do not yet know that Yahweh’s anger burns against Israel.
  • We learn later that what Achan did, he did in secret.
    • He hid the treasure.

 

Joshua’s ignorance of God’s anger raises a question about Joshua’s actions.

  • Do these verses show that Joshua went ahead of the Lord?
  • Surely, God would have wanted Joshua to not assault Ai given these circumstances?
    • Maybe…

 

Two of the most well known commentators on Joshua – Hess, Howard – answer this question in the affirmative.

  • They think Joshua went ahead of the Lord.
  • David Howard says that in this first battle of Ai, “God was not part of the equation at all”.
  • Richard Hess says that this text shows Israel “lacked faith” and put too much stock in its own power.
  • Essentially, they suggest that Joshua’s problem was lack of prayer and overconfidence.

 

They rule out that God might have withheld the info in verse 1 on purpose.

  • However, Woudstra, Dale Davis and James Boice have a different take.

 

Woudstra puts it like this:

  • “Possibly Joshua himself should have consulted the divine will more explicitly, but the account does not say” – Woudstra.
    • In other words, we don’t know if he did or not.

What the text does says is that, “Joshua’s first serious attempt to master the country which the Lord said had been give to Israel is doomed to fail…by God’s righteous anger, caused by the people’s concrete sin. God’s promise was based on covenant obedience, and this obedience had been withheld” – Woudstra.

 

Dale puts it as follows:

“While the peril of overconfidence and the neglect of prayer are very preachable, they cannot be preached with authority from this text. The text says that God’s people failed because they were under God’s wrath” – Dale Davis.

 

So, Israel was defeated at Ai not because of Joshua’s getting ahead of God or his flawed military strategy, but because of God’s anger and its concomitant judgment and wrath.

  • Because of sin God removed His “Conquest Favor” from Israel and they lost.

 

This fact forces us to take a hard look at a very important point.

  • The right focus of the text is the seriousness of man’s sin and the extent of God’s wrath that this sin incurs, not Joshua’s going ahead of God.
  • This is incredibly important to grasp.
  • Israel was unfaithful and God judged them.
  • And profoundly, His judgment was an act of covenant faithfulness on His part.
  • Why?

 

James Boice quotes Francis Schaeffer at length to make this point.

This simple yet profound process explains all the rest of the Old Testament. It explains the period of the judges, the period of kings, the captivities under Assyria and Babylon, the Jews’ return from Babylon and the Jews’ dispersion in a.d. 70 under Titus. It explains Romans 9–11, which speaks of the Jews turning away from God and yet at the future day coming back to God and once more, as a nation, being the people of God. First comes blessing, then sin enters, then comes judgment. If the people of God return to him after the judgment, the blessing begins again and flows on.

 

This process is as much a universal as any continuity we have studied so far. [Here comes the answer to our why question] It is the principle of God’s judgment of his people. It is unchanging throughout Scripture because God really is there. God is a holy God, God loves his people, and God deals with his people consistently.

 

Apologetic Insight:

The defeat at Ai and the revelation that God, in anger, foiled the efforts of his chosen leader and people are quite different from other ANE war literature.

 

John Walton puts it this way:

For Israel’s neighbors, “The intention of the preserved records is not to serve the reader, but to serve the king. The recorder is trying to provide answers to the question: “Why should you consider this king to be a good and successful king?” In most cases it cannot be determined whether concealment and/ or disinformation are part of the strategy, but negative information is uniformly lacking. We do receive negative assessments of some kings, but, as we might expect, they come from later dynasties seeking to enhance their own reputations. Royal inscriptions are therefore working from a predetermined outcome: that the gods favor the king. Therefore all events are presented in a way that will support that predetermined outcome” – John Walton.

 

Remember, Joshua 6 ended by saying “the Lord was with Joshua”.

  • Joshua 7 sure has a funny way of showing this.
  • What does this tell us about the OT as literature?

 

The Text:

Joshua 7:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

 

Joshua is still unaware of the sin of Achan.

  • And, btw, there is no hint here that he sees the defeat as symptomatic of his going ahead of God.
  • In fact, he demonstrates quite an opposite grasp of the situation.
  • He recognizes that God’s will was just done.
    • why have you…to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?
    • In part, the answer is yes.
    • He just doesn’t know why, yet.

 

In fact, Joshua goes on to rightly extol the “great name” of the Lord.

  • He asks God, if it would not have been better for Israel to have stayed across the Jordan.
  • The fact that Israel was defeated and “turned their backs before the enemies” will embolden the Canaanites.
    • And “turned” here is a vivid expression of being shamed (Howard).
  • He fears that they will be overrun and that they will “cut off our name from the earth”.
    • An allusion to being “cut off” from covenant with God.
  • The end result being that God’s “great name” is offended.

 

There is debate about how this prayer reflects on Joshua.

  • Did he forget that God had already “given” them the Promised Land?
  • Did he forget that God asked him to “be strong and courageous”?
  • Was his concern really more for himself?

 

Dales Davis takes the optimistic approach.

“These are words of despair, not unbelief. Joshua complains to God in prayer; complaining to God is not the same as complaining about God (Israel’s wilderness practice)…If Israel perishes it will reflect on Yahweh’s reputation.” – Dale Davis.

 

Richard Hess agrees:

  • Joshua’s concern for God’s “great name” “transforms the complaint from a self-serving whine, such as occurred in Numbers, to a concern for the honour of God”.

 

And to get a flavor for just how significant the name of God is, Jesus also spoke highly of it.

  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
  • John 17:11–12 (ESV) — 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.

 

So what is the name that Joshua and Jesus were so in awe of?

 

Most commentators argue that Jesus is using “name” as a reference to God’s attributes.

  • “What Jesus reveals to them is God’s ‘name,’ which enshrines who God is in his character, his essential nature; because his name is glorious, God wants it to be made known” – Andreas Kostenberger.
  • “…Jesus revealed God’s ‘name,’ i.e., his nature, his character” – Beasley-Murray.
  • “The concept of God’s ‘name’ encompasses all that He is: His character, nature, and attributes” – John MacArthur.
  • “‘The name of God’ is a Semitic phrase for speaking about God’s attributes. To make the name known is to reveal the God who possesses those attributes” – James Boice.

 

And this leads us back to Achan’s sin.

  • The reason for the defeat that has put Joshua in this state of mourning and grief.
  • What are we to make of the fact that because of Achan’s sin all of Israel was guilty?
  • What are the implications of this principal?
  • I will cover this in my next lesson.