Lost in Sin . . . Found in Grace

4th Sunday in Lent

Lost in Sin . . . Found in Grace

Text:  Judges 10:6-16

After all that God had done for his people!  If you read the Bible books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua straight through, you will be impressed with a time period when God miraculously intervened more than any other time in Israel’s history.  The accounts of God’s interactions with the Israelites during the days of Moses and Joshua are truly amazing.

You may be able to do a quick survey of stories in your head.  First God sent the 10 Plagues on Egypt so that Pharaoh would let his people go.  Then he led two million people out of Egypt and through the middle of the Red Sea on dry ground—the same sea he used to destroy their enemies.

While in the desert the Israelites whined and complained and moaned and groaned.  Yet God provided water for them, sometimes miraculously turning bitter water sweet or bursting water out of a rock for them.  He dropped bread called manna and birds called quail out of the heavens for them to eat every day.  He revealed his glory and might on Mt. Sinai.  He defeated countless enemies.  He brought them to the Promised Land of Canaan that did not belong to them and defeated all those enemies.  He made the impenetrable walls of Jericho fall down when Israel marched around them and even made the sun stand still for a day so general Joshua and Israel had more time to rout the enemy. 

There is hardly any other time period in the Bible when God interacted more frequently with his people than the days of Moses and Joshua.  He constantly forgave their sins with patience and continually showed his awesome power, all as he brought them to and gave them a land that didn’t belong to them.  The Lord had done so much for his people!

Then you get to the book of Judges.  Reading Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Judges is like stuffing your face with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner.  Reading Judges is like the bellyache you have the next day.  Here’s what we are told at the beginning of Judges:  After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither knew the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”  We are told more than once in Judges that this was a time when, Everyone did as he saw fit.”  Arrogantly, the Israelites chose to do whatever felt good and right to them.  They worshiped other, false gods.  They were greedy.  They were violent.  They added adultery to their idolatry.  Imagine that!  The same Israelite people that God led through the Red Sea on dry ground were now indulging in adultery with multiple partners during their worship rituals for false gods!

So God left them to their sin and allowed enemies to conquer and oppress them.  Then the Israelites came crawling back to God in repentance.  Then he sent a judge, a leader, to deliver them.  Then they fell back into their old sinful habits again.  Then God allowed them to be conquered again.  Then the crawled back to God again.  Then he delivered them again.  Seven times this cycle happened in the book of Judges!

That brings us to chapter 10 today.  Like a shamefully broken record, we hear:  Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines.  And because the Israelites forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them.”  For 18 years then the people of Israel were shattered, crushed, and oppressed by their enemies.

After all that God had done for his people!  How could they do that in return?  How could they be so lost in sin?

How could we be so much like Israel?

There is hardly any other time period in the history of the world when God has blessed his people more than he has blessed us right now.  No, we are not walking through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on dry ground.  No, the sun hasn’t stood still for a day so we can surf and golf longer.  No, he hasn’t made the walls of Al-Qaeda come tumbling done.

But have people ever been blessed physically in this world as much as we have?  Have people ever lived in this world with more comfort and luxury than we do?  Think about it.

We drive our own personal car—not a horse, or donkey, or camel— home and park it safely in a garage next to the other one or two or more vehicles we own.  We walk inside our large house—not a cave or a tent or a hut.  We turn off our security system.  We turn up the air conditioning to ensure it is just the right temperature so that we are comfortable.  We go to get a glass of fresh, ice-cold water from our stainless steel refrigerator—not from a sink or a well.  We sit down on our comfortable, plush couch—not a stone or a bench and certainly not the floor—and we grab our iPad our iPhone or laptop.  We make sure we are connected with all the latest news on our high-speed internet.  We send a few Emails or Facebook messages to friends we haven’t seen in a while (a while being like three hours in cyberspace).  Then, without budging one inch, we order and pay for a pizza and have it delivered right to our door.

To make sure we can properly relax we turn on our big screen, flat screen TV and tune in to the episode of American Idol that we DVRed from last night, fast forward to skip those pesky commercials, and then catch some highlights on ESPN because March Madness basketball is just starting.

And beyond these incredible, lavish riches and countless material blessings we have, we of course have the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ.  We even our blessed to live in a time period after the Messiah so that we actually know who it is.  Unlike Israel looking forward to the Messiah, we look backward at the accurate records of Scripture and know exactly what God has done for us.  We even live in a time of religious freedom when we can worship wherever we want whenever we want.

Yet after all that God has done for us, like the Israelites wandering in the desert, we whine and complain and moan and groan.  “My house isn’t big enough.”  “I don’t make enough money.”  “I don’t have as much as he does.”  “How come my life isn’t as good as hers?”

But we don’t stop there.  Why would we stop with whining and complaining?  Next we look for happiness and gratification elsewhere.  Maybe if we buy more junk we’ll be happy.  Maybe if we make more money or save more money or spend more money we’ll be happy.  Maybe if we buy our kids every frivolous toy and give them everything they want at any expense we’ll be happy.  Maybe if we smoke a little bit of this or drink a lot of that we’ll be happy.  Maybe if we have a whole lot of sex we’ll be happy.  Maybe if we just do whatever we see fit we’ll be happy.

Tell me, what of our lifestyles and actions doesn’t sound exactly like the prodigal, lost son in Jesus’ parable today?  What of our lifestyles and actions doesn’t sound exactly like Israel during the period of the Judges?  Couldn’t we substitute ourselves into the lesson?  “Again, the American Christians did evil in the eyes of the Lord.  They served the internet, the almighty dollar, sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.  And because the American Christians forsook the Lord and no longer served him, he became angry with them.”

Should Israel have been surprised when God gave them an 18 year wake-up call at the hands of their enemies?  Should we be surprised that God has allowed us to flounder financially in a pathetic economy?  Or should we be surprised that he is allowing atheist enemies in our own country our Muslim enemies outside of our country to shatter, crush, and oppress us?

So like the prodigal son, we come running back home to our heavenly Father.  Like Israel, we crawl back to the Lord and cry out, We have sinned against you, forsaking our God and serving the Baals.”

Here’s what God said to Israel:  The Lord replied, ‘When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands?  But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you.  Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen.  Let them save you when you are in trouble!’”

What might God say to us?  “Haven’t I always been there for you?  Haven’t I delivered you from the Great Depression and World War I and World War II and Vietnam and the Gulf War and Osama bin Laden?  Haven’t I provided for you every day?  Haven’t I given you more than you could ever need?  Haven’t I even given you my own Son?  Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods.  Go and cry out to your bank accounts.  Go google some help.  Go vote for some politician to help you.  Let them save you when you are in trouble!”

How did Israel respond then?  What would they do when God’s crushing anger exposed their shameful sin?  How would they react to their holy God who saw them so lost in sin?  Verse 15:  But the Israelites said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned.  Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now.’  Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the Lord.”  They recognized their sin.  They repented of their sin.  They turned back to the Lord.  They changed their ways.

How will we respond then?  What will we do when God’s crushing anger exposes our shameful sin?  How will we react to our holy God who sees us so lost in sin?  The same way!

At the beginning of the service we said this:  Holy and merciful Father, I confess that I am by nature sinful and that I have disobeyed you in my thoughts, words, and actions.  I have done what is evil and failed to do what is good.  For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity. But I am truly sorry for my sins, and trusting in my Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray:  Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.  We recognize our sin.  We repented of our sin.  We turned back to the Lord.  We will change our ways.

How would God respond to Israel’s repentance?  Would he ignore them?  Would he destroy them?  The last sentence of the lesson tells us:  And he could bear Israel’s misery no longer.”  God couldn’t take his people suffering any longer.  He couldn’t bear the trouble of his people.  They were lost in sin, but once again they were found by God’s grace.  He delivered them from their enemies.  He saved his people.

How would God respond to our repentance?  Would he ignore us?  Would he destroy us?  We sang with sorrow:  Lord, have mercy on us.  Christ, have mercy on us.  Lord, have mercy on us.  This is what you heard in response:  God, our heavenly Father, has been merciful to us and has given his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Therefore, as a called servant of Christ and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Then we prayed this together:  Almighty God, we confess that we deserve to be punished for our evil deeds.  But we ask you graciously to cleanse us from all sin and to comfort us with your salvation; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Then we sang in Psalm 32:  Remember your mercy, O Lord; remember your mercy and love.  Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered . . . I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Then we heard from James in the second lesson that sinners can wash their hands and purify their hearts in the Lord.  Then we heard in the Verse of the Day that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  Then we heard Jesus explain his heavenly Father’s love in the parable where the father welcomed back his lost, prodigal son with open and loving arms.  So we sang, Praise be to you, O Christ!  Then we just sang:  Jesus sinners does receive.  Even I have been forgiven.

In minutes the Lord is about to offer to our own lips his very own body and blood for the forgiveness of all of our sins.  And in the most fitting and summarizing conclusion of all, we are going to sing at the end:  Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—that saved a wretch like me!  I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

This is the amazing grace of our God.  From Adam and Eve to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to Moses and Joshua to the time period of the Judges even to us today—our God has been patient, merciful, loving, gracious, and forgiving.

Turn from your sin.  Turn back to God.  See his open and loving arms.  Find free and full forgiveness.  Give him thanks and praise.  Now and forever.

AMEN

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About Pastor Phil Huebner

Pastor. Missionary. Principal. Husband. Father. Serving in love as each. http://www.ctkpalmcoast.com

Posted on March 11, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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