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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.