A Graphic Introduction
This chapter, from verse 15 on, is a hard read. Some of the language is so graphic, I wonder if I would need to give a “trigger warning” before preaching it. But Scripture never holds back on us – it always speaks with appropriate clarity. In our age, we use “less offensive” words, but as G.K. Chesterton said somewhere, it’s the older, more offensive words that retain their moral meaning. And here the words are graphic, offensive and unyielding: if you continue in sin, even the most noble of women will end up hoarding her own after-birth for nourishment, for the awful siege-hunger she and the rest of the nation will find itself in.
Moses the (Not) Monger
Why, oh why, asks the modern mind, does Moses talk this way? Doesn’t he know I have to evangelize to positive, optimistic Californians? Why the emotional manipulation? Why the fear-mongering?
That’s because it’s not fear-mongering. This warning, given by Moses, ended up happening. The chapter ends on an awful note of agonizing futility: if the people continue in rebellion against God, they will end up being carted back to Egypt, asking the Egyptians to take them back as slaves once again. God will be willing to completely undo the Exodus. And that’s exactly what happened. After the last invasion by the Chaldeans, the prophet Jeremiah is said to have been killed by his own people, a band that fled the invaders, and sought refuge . . . in Egypt. It all came true. Moses wasn’t manipulating or mongering or mansplaining; he was truth-telling.
Which of course is what our generation abhors like strong fingernails running down a clean chalkboard. And this is Satan’s doing; this is how he has always worked. He has always deceived, in part, by shielding from our eyes the true effects, the true endgame of sin. So he lures us into a little sin, and that sin has the effect of blinding us from the effects of the next, greater sin, and so on. In his eyes, that’s a virtuous cycle. From God’s perspective, however, we’re circling the drain, in blind insanity.
God is long-suffering, and He is patient. But in the end, He responds in kind to our hearts. As we reject serving Him with joyfulness and gladness of heart (v. 47) – not just without sin, but with joyfulness and gladness of heart – so in the end He will “take delight” in bringing ruin (v. 63). You read that right – God will “take delight” in bringing ruin, to His own people, who by their delight in idols, have become not His people.
Kinds of Judgment
More than one commentator points out that there are two kinds of judgment in this chapter.
The first is external. Yet it is not sudden. It is the kind of thing that we so easily attribute to the stupidity of the other political party, or the randomness of geopolitical interactions, or random chance, or the steady rhythm of the rise and fall of nations. Yet Moses sees it completely differently. Behind all of it is God, acting with purpose, in direct response to the rebellion of His people, and a people. Those judgments come in the form of:
- Turmoil among people
- Illnesses, that cause fevers and death
- Military weakness and war
- Inability to produce fruitful crops and products
Does this sound like any countries you know? Moses is essentially saying, in the end, don’t look at the last 18 months and blame it all on the prior president or the current one, or this country or that, or this governor or that. See where it all really comes from – from the judging hand of God. It is actually part of the blinding after-effects of sin that a people cannot see this – that we would attribute the last 18 months only to human error and malice. If that’s how you or I interpret 2020 and 2021, then we’re showing our need for repentance.
But the second form of judgment is not external, but internal – verses 65-67:
65 And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the LORD will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see.
God sends a dread and a generalized fear among the people. This too is the judgment of sin, that God has built-in to the fabric of this world. Indulge in idolatry, and it will leave us fearful, with a trembling heart, and a languishing soul. Again I ask, sound familiar? Have we not as a people spent a year in the state of verse 65?
Yet there is another endgame possible. And only one. It is one of peace, restoration, and prosperity. But it only comes through repentance.
That repentance must be full-hearted, full-throated, full-bodied. It must learn first to throw itself on the mercy of God completely. God is not mocked. He does not smile at the rainbow flags flowing outside of churches. We must repent. It seems to be that the devil’s choice of the rainbow as the flag of the LGBTQ “movement” is a deliberate choice. What better way to say to God, “In your face!”?
We must repent. Outside the church, and inside. Whatever sins we wrestle with, we must continue wrestling, and some of us must learn to begin fighting anew.
But this begins with learning to interpret the times with God’s eyes, not our own. That’s the first step of repentance. To see that the results of sin are far darker and more terrible than we were told, because the teller did not, in fact, want us to see the truth. The tracks laid out for cows into the slaughterhouse are always smooth and pleasant – just like home.
So we must begin to see with God’s eyes – and in fact, we can’t, so we need to begin by asking Him to give us new eyes, to begin seeing anew. And only then can we see His judgment, that is already being poured out. Pride Month being state’s evidence #1.
But seeing with new eyes also means we begin to see His good hand at work, too. We begin then to give thanks when we previously would have thrown a spiritual temper-tantrum. And then, as we develop this sight for His good hand at work, we will develop the very “joyfulness and gladness of heart” that He wanted from us all along.
This begins by walking to the cross, and finding that all our idolatries have been paid for there. That all of our blindness has been accounted for in judgment – upon the shoulders of Christ, in our place. There is the spot where the New Moses took the punishment that He promised His people would receive:
1 John 1:8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
So we go there first. And then we move, humbly seeking to see all of life with new eyes – the eyes of obedient faith. We move through life, praying and seeking to see everything – literally everything – in light of God and His gospel. All of life, seen through the lens that there is a God, and He amply rewards those who seek him (Heb. 6:4). We must repent, for the dams of men will not forever hold back the flood of God’s judgment. That’s a hard word. But it’s the truth.