The Warning Angel
August 30th, 1970 @ 8:15 AM
THE WARNING ANGEL
Dr. W.A. Criswell
8-30-70 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are listening and sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing an exposition of the second chapter of [Judges], and the message is entitled The Warning Angel. In the seventh verse of the second chapter of [Judges] we are told that the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works that God had done for Israel [Judges 2:7]. Then the eighth verse says that Joshua died. The servant of the Lord, at an age of a hundred and ten years, and they buried him in the border of his inheritance [Judges 2:8-9]. And then all the elders, who had seen the great works of the Lord and who outlived Joshua, died. Then the sentence, "And there arose another generation who knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which the Lord had done for Israel" [Judges 2:10]. Then the next sentence, "And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forsook the Lord God of their fathers" [Judges 2:11-12].
That is a sorry story, isn’t it? And yet, how true, and that is the exposition of the text this morning. As long as Joshua lived, and as long as the elders, the patriarchs, who knew Joshua and had seen the mighty works of God, as long as they lived, the people served the Lord. But when Joshua died and when the elders who knew the Lord died, the people forgot about God – like a magnet when it is taken away, the iron filings tumble back inert to the earth. So when Joshua died and the elders of Israel died, these men who knew God, the whole fabric of the faith collapsed. You cannot live on tradition. You cannot build your personal faith on somebody else’s experience. And you cannot be courageous just remembering the story of what other people have done and seen. Faith has to be personal. You have got to experience it, and you have to see it. It has to be something that moves and lives in your soul.
And there arose a generation after Joshua died, and after the elders who were by the side of Joshua died, there arose another generation who didn’t know the Lord [Judges 2:10]. And they forsook God and did evil in His sight [Judges 2:11]. I say that’s a sorry sentence, isn’t it? That’s a sorry come to pass. You feel penniless. You feel historically impoverished when you read it. A generation like that is the weight that time must carry. A generation like that is the burden of the ages. A generation like that lets history die. And they forgot and forsook the God of their fathers [Judges 2:12]. They forgot about Abraham. They forgot about Israel, Jacob. They forgot about Moses. They forgot about Joshua. And they forsook the Lord. It’s a sorry sentence, isn’t it? And it’s a sorry generation.
No wonder they fell into apostasy, and into skepticism, and into unbelief, and into endemic powerlessness. For religion is historically conditioned and connected. It happens in a time, and in a place, and in a day, and in a year. It’s not something philosophical, or metaphysical, or peripheral, or intangible, but it is actual, and real, and it happens. And when we forget the past, we’re unfit for the present or the future. The real faith, the real religion of God binds us to the past in order that we may be ready for the future. And no generation of people can forget their past and be worthy of any kind of a future. And that is precisely and exactly what is happening today in America. We have a generation rising up who says, "That is old hat. This is the old establishment. Let’s blot it out." And they live as though time and life were just now. And they are forgetting our forefathers and the God of our people. Consequently, they have no other choice but to give themselves to sensuality, and promiscuity, and pleasure. It is a sorry generation, a cheap one, for no people who forget their past is worthy of any kind of a future.
That’s this generation, and when I read it I feel poor, and penniless, and impoverished. Well, it continues. And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers [Judges 2:12], "and the anger of the Lord burned hot against Israel" [Judges 2:14]. "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, men of God, and they delivered them from the hands of those that spoiled them" [Judges 2:16]. If I were to call this Book of [Judges] by any other name, I mean this Book of Judges, have I been saying Joshua? Dear me. Isn’t it wonderful to know the pastor is not infallible? Ah, thinking about Joshua. This is Judges, the second chapter of the Book of Judges. If I were to call the Book of Judges by a name patterned after the New Testament, I would call it the Acts of the Old Testament.
In the pages of the Book of Judges you have seven declensions and seven revivals. And it follows that format. It’s like an overture to an opera, like the overture to a wonderful oratorio. It will repeat the themes, the songs of the whole production. So these verses here in the second chapter of the Book of Judges, it repeats the pattern and the theme of the whole four hundred years of history. And it follows that format. There is forgetfulness, then there is repentance, then there is the mercy of God. Well, in this instance, in the second chapter, there is a great convocation of the people in a place near Bethel. And while the tribes are gathered there near Bethel, there is a messenger of the Lord, called here the Angel, an angel of the Lord suddenly appears [Judges 2:1]. Can you imagine the electric intensity of that hour when all those tribes are gathered there for some kind of an unnamed convocation and suddenly there appears a spiritual voice? A messenger from heaven called an Angel of the Lord; He had appeared to Joshua at Gilgal, and the Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal.
Do you remember that story? I think it’s in the [fifth] chapter of the Book of Joshua. While Joshua was out by himself, away from the army and away from the people, there suddenly stood before him a glorious figure, and He was standing over against Jericho, toward Jericho with a sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went up to Him and said, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" And the Angel replied, "Nay; but as the Captain of the host of the Lord am I come. Take off your shoes from off your feet, for the place whereon you stand is holy ground" [Joshua 5:13-15]. And Joshua bowed himself to the earth and removed his shoes as he listened to the orders from heaven delivered by that Messenger from God.
Now that Angel, that Messenger from the courts of glory, comes from Gilgal to this convocation near Bethel. And He says, "Why have not My orders been obeyed? For I made command to you that you were not to not make a covenant or a treaty with the people of the land, and that you were to worship their gods. Why have not My orders been obeyed?" [Judges 2:2]. And then the Messenger says, "I will not drive out the people before you. You will not have victory now." Then He says, "And they will stay here as thorns in your sides and a snare to you every day of your life" [Judges 2:3]. And when the Angel of the Lord spake these words, the people lifted up their voice and wept [Judges 2:4], and they called the name of the place Bochim; Bochim, weeping. And they offered sacrifices, sin offerings unto the Lord [Judges 2:5].
Now you tell me, wouldn’t you have thought after that that there would’ve been a great turning, and a great repenting, and a great getting right? Wouldn’t you have thought that? The people dried their tears, and hardened their hearts, and went out to serve other gods, and to make treaties with heathen people, whom the Lord had set aside for judgment and eradication [Judges 2:11-13]. You never hear of Bochim again. It’s never mentioned in the Scriptures. Now isn’t that amazing? A high spiritual experience, a glorious Messenger from heaven, and the people weep, then they dry their tears, and harden their hearts, and turn themselves to worship the little deities and divinities of the land, and to make a league with the abominable, unspeakable Canaanites.
Why, it says here in the first chapter of the Book of Judges [Judges 1:27-33], "Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean." Then it says here, "And they put the Canaanites to tribute." It was profitable to use them. They made money off of them. "Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer. Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron. Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho. Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh; but they put those inhabitants of Bethshemesh and Bethanath to tribute."
So the Lord said, "They will stay there. And they will be a snare to you" [Judges 2:3]. And they worshipped the gods of the Canaanites [Judges 2:11-13]. Did you know I can’t tell you how they worshipped because it wouldn’t be fitting to say it in public, the abomination of Canaanitish worship.
Well, you know you and I have a tendency when we read this, we say, "My, what monsters of ingratitude and backsliding are these Israelites, worshipping the deities of the land! What monstrous things!" Would you like to look around you? Would you like to look around the area of this church and the few miles that would be the circumference of this city? Would you like? Would you? He’s not an idolater only who bows down before graven image. He is an idolater who gives his heart to anything less than God. That is idolatry! Would you like to look around you? Would you like to see people worshipping the little deities of the social world, and of the entertainment world, and of the sensual world, and of the business world? Would you like to see people who make money first in their lives, who make social advancement and preferment first in their lives? Would you like to see people who put sensuality and promiscuity first in their lives? Would you like to see people who put entertainment and drunkenness first in their lives? Would you? Then just walk around with me on any day, and I’ll show you hordes of people. We say, "What monstrous backsliders these are." We’re no different; everywhere you see men offering on the altars of a Molech, or of a Baal, their children, and their families, and their own lives, and their own destinies, just like that.
Then that inevitable word, "And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel" [Judges 2:20]. The heavens burned them, and the horizon scorched them, and the earth withered them up. I want you to know that all the effete, maudlin, sentimental blather of modern theology and modern preaching does not hide away the verse that you all left out of your Scripture reading, "Our God is a consuming fire" [Hebrews 12:29]. Why didn’t you read that verse, the last verse of the passage? Go down to that verse and then leave it off: "For our God is a consuming fire." The Lord is as true to His threats as He is to His promises. He is a God of judgment, of visitation, of wrath, of condemnation, and it is inescapable. "And the anger of the Lord waxed hot against Israel" [Judges 2:14]. There is no such thing as one escaping the visitation from heaven. All of the maudlin sentiment in this world cannot deny those tremendous stories of the Deluge, and of the curses of God in the wilderness, and of the visitation of the Lord upon the house of David, and the judgment of God upon Judas. These things are a part of the judgments of Almighty God.
Did you know that sin and punishment stem from the same branch? They grow together. Punishment is the unseen and unconscious fruit in every concealed flower of iniquity. The harvest is hid in the seed. The effect is hid in the cause. And they both grow together. Put that phone down. Put it down. When I’m preaching, you’re not to talk on the phone. Those things grow together. The harvest in the seed, the effect in the cause, they are together. And there is no escaping the judgment of God in our lives. And it was so in the development of the life of Israel. When they left those altars there, those altars demanded sacrifice. And when they left those deities there, those deities demanded worship. And when we leave evil in our lives, the sin itself is a punishment. It is an invitation to other sin, a part of the retribution of God is the visitation of the sin itself.
We let liquor stay in our midst, and the thing itself becomes an enticement, and a punishment, and a judgment for more sin, and more drinking, and more liquor. And it feeds on itself. And they are calling on us today to stand up and to oppose this new legislation of liquor by the drink. There was a time when the social order of our political life, and our cultural life, and our moral life said, "We are going to take away the saloon. We’re going to eradicate it. There will be no longer an open saloon." And the people by political government and by political life washed it out of the land. They closed every saloon door. But we left the liquor here and coming back, and coming back, and coming back, and coming back until it is becoming a veritable flood tide.
And now you are going to have, if the polls are correct, and if the legislators are moving in the direction that apparently they are, you are going to have a saloon in every restaurant that has a liquor license. And you’re going to have an open saloon in every club, and our youngsters are going to be subjected to it by day and by night. And you haven’t seen anything like the slaughter on the highways of America as it’s going to be when this thing rolls, and it continues, and it gets larger and more people share in it. That is a part of the judgment and the retribution of Almighty God. When you leave evil and you don’t eradicate it, the presence of the evil itself is a judgment and a retribution from God.
When you succumb to temptation in your life, God leaves the temptation there. And you will find your life more and more seeing it, needing it, giving yourself to it until finally you find yourself helpless before it. This is a part of the punishment and the judgment of the Lord. If you do not face the sin in your life openly and courageously, and with the help and the power of God, you’re going to find God leaves the temptation in your heart, and in your presence, and in your life. And you will find yourself swept away by it, buried by it, overcome by it, overwhelmed by it. "And the anger of the Lord waxed hot against Israel" [Judges 2:14].
This would be indeed a tragic come to pass and a sorrowful outlook. Not only for Israel here, but for ourselves, for all of us know and experience that awesome and tragic visitation and punishment from God. There’s no one of us that escapes it. I couldn’t with any kind of justice have any member of this congregation stand up here this morning and place on a screen right back of you all of the thoughts in your heart, and all of the deeds of your life, and all of the things in which you have shared. I couldn’t do it. We all confront that awesome monster of temptation and of enticement, and if you don’t meet it, and if you don’t have God with you, and if you don’t have the strength of heaven to eradicate it, you’re going to find that enticement and that temptation more and more and more in your life, and finally you will be helpless before it. And nothing left but tears, heartache, and trial, and punishment, and judgment, and lost opportunity; sometimes destroyed homes, destroyed lives, destroyed children – Ah, the judgments of Almighty God!
Nevertheless, it would indeed be a tragic, tragic come to pass were it not that the Lord is merciful. "Nevertheless the Lord raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them" [Judges 2:16]. And when the people hearkened to those judges, they found forgiveness, and mercy, and blessing from heaven. And we’re that way. When we come to God with our sins and lay before Him in great honesty our transgressions, somehow the Lord is able to blind His eyes to our derelictions and our transgressions. God says, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be destroyed" [Jonah 3:4]. But when Nineveh turns God spares her [Jonah 3:5-10]. Saul will say, "Yet, I found mercy" [1 Timothy 1:16], though he had wasted the church of the Lord. Had Judas Iscariot himself come to Jesus and asked for forgiveness, God would have forgiven him. Somehow "Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound" [Romans 5:20].
And when we come to God with our sins, and our transgressions, and our derelictions, and our short comings, somehow there is a greater mercy in God and a greater overwhelming forgiveness in God than even the depth of our transgression. And that’s why I can be saved. That’s why you can be delivered. That’s why all of us can be forgiven. There is forgiveness, and there is mercy in the Lord. Do you know that forgiveness? Do you? Have you taken your sins to Jesus? Have you? Have you asked God to be merciful to you? Have you? Have you asked Jesus to wash your sins away? Have you? Have you accepted Him in your heart? Have you? Have you looked in faith saying to Him, "Lord, in my life there is transgression, the page is stained, there is sin. Lord, wash me, and cleanse me, and forgive me. Please, Lord." Have you done that? If you haven’t, you’re lost. You’re without God, and you’re without hope in the world. If you come to the Lord in confession and in repentance, you’ll find forgiveness, and mercy, and salvation.
Do it today. "Here I am, pastor, and here I come. I want to take Jesus as my Savior. I want to give my life to the Lord, and I’m coming now." In the balcony round, somebody you, on this lower floor, somebody you, down one of these stairwells or into the aisle and here to the front, do it now. Make it now. A family you to put your life in the fellowship of the church, "Here are my wife and my children. We’re all coming, pastor, all of us today." While we make appeal, while we sing this song, make that decision now and come. On the first note of the first stanza, come now, do it now and God bless you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.
THE WARNING ANGEL
Dr. W.A. Criswell
I. Acts of the Old Testament is great declinations and great revivals
II. The generation after Joshua that knew not the Lord and His works
1. They worshipped other gods
2. Cannot live on traditions, you must know God for yourself
3. Forgetting history, the generations die
III. Israel warned by the angel of God
IV. They follow the gods of the people around them
V. Certain and terrible retribution of God
1. Hot anger of God
2. Sin and punishment grow out of the same stem
3. The United States is just like the children of Israel who forsook God
VI. God delivers those who confess and turn humbly to Him