Nevertheless, The Lord

adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 4 Sep 2009

“Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them” (Judges 2.16).

The book of Judges is a historical book that describes the situation in the nation of Israel after the conquest of Canaan and the establishment of monarchy. It was a time of great confusion in the land because there was no strong leadership recognised by all the tribes.

As a result, we are told that every man did what was right in his own eyes. At first sight this seems to be the theme of this book. It is first stated in full in chapter 17:6, and then it is repeated at the very last verse of the book:

Judg 17:6; 21:25— In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

But I will put it to you, that this is not really the theme of this book. It describes the historical situation that the people were in. But it is not what the most important thing that the Holy Spirit would have us to take away from this book.

What would the Holy Spirit want us to take away from this book? I believe He would have us take away an implied promise found in this book which can be found in Judges 2:16—

Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.” (Jdg 2:16)

This verse provides us the real theme for this book. You see the book of Judges is not only about disorders, dangers, superstitions, rebellion and apostasy within a fluctuating and unsettled nation.

It is also about the mercy and longsuffering of the Lord against this background. Thus, our text informs us…

Nevertheless— Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges…

The Lord raised up judges despite the apostasy and rebellion of the people. It is a pattern repeated over and over again in this book. God blessed His people with peace as well as a godly leader. But soon the judge dies (v. 19) and people forget. They stray from the LORD and sin against Him. The Lord chastises them. They are afflicted by foreign powers. They cry by reason of the oppression and the Lord shows them mercy and compassion and raises another judge to lead those who were willing to follow (v. 18).

What is the promise implied? The promise is that God will not abandon His people. Justice demands that God deals with sin. But God is also compassionate and merciful; He is ever ready to hear the cries of His people for the sake of His Son.

Let us apply this promise to ourselves under three heads: First, let us consider how we are prone to backsliding like Israel of old. Secondly, let us remind ourselves that God will chastise us when we stray from Him. Thirdly, let us remind ourselves that God is compassionate. He will always hear our cries….                   

1. We are Bent on

When we read the history of God’s people in the book of Judges, we cannot but feel a sense of sadness and astonishment that God’s people could veer so far away from the Lord. We want to shake our heads and cry in our hearts.

But at the same time, we wonder if we were the historian for our nation or our church, we would write all those shameful details of what happened.

But God’s Word is not intended for political purposes. God is not interested to portray a good public image for His people even though His name is tied to them. God is concerned rather that future generations of His people learn from the past mistakes of their fathers that they may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

And what would the Lord have us learn from the mistakes our fathers in the days of the Judges? I think the most obvious lesson is that God’s people are bent on backsliding. “My people are bent to backsliding from me” says the LORD during Hosea’s days (Hos 11:7).

The people of Israel during the days of the Judges were not of a different nature from us, nor from any other period in the history of God’s people. Man’s nature has not changed. The nature of the church is pretty much the same.

The people of God were bent on backsliding in Hosea’s days as they were also bent on backsliding in the days of Judges. Today even though the Holy Spirit has been poured out in great measure, God’s people is still bent on backsliding. This is obvious not only from our own observations but from the fact that so early after the New Testament church was established, we had the Lord warning His people against leaving their first love (Rev 2:4-5), tolerating false teachers (Rev 2:20), remaining in lukewarmness (Rev 3:16) etc.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul warned that the time will come when many professing Christians will not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3); and will rather have a form of godliness while denying the power thereof (2 Tim 3:5). The writer of Hebrews warn against being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 4:13). If these are not warnings against backsliding, I don’t know what they are.

Point is: Let us take heed lest we fall. Let us realise that we can easily backslide if we have not already backslidden. And if history is anything to go by, our backsliding can be as severe as in the days of the Judges even though the Spirit has been given in a much greater measure today.

You see, the church will comprise wheat and tares, good and bad fishes, wise and foolish virgins etc. And so there is already a formula for backsliding for there will be some who are already hardened in their hearts who will not submit to the Word of God.

But not only so, for in those who are the elect, who are regenerated, there is also a remnant of corruption. They can be tempted to sin, and they can be tempted to stray from the Lord, to take the easy path at least temporarily.

So if you look at the church corporately, it is hard to conclude anything but that we are bent on backsliding.

Let us therefore not fail to watch. Watch and pray. Watch for the coming of the Lord. Watch to see where we stand that we may repent when it is revealed to us that we have backslidden whether individually or corporately.

And let us also realise that since we are bent on backsliding,…

2. God Will Chastise us
When we Stray

When Israel of old backslided, God allowed them to be spoiled by their enemies. There were the Canaanites, Hitties, Amorites etc during the early days. Then there were the Mesopotamians who rule eight years during the time of Othniel; the Ammonites and Moabites who ruled for 18 year; there were the Philistines during the time of Shamgar and Deborah; and the Midianites during the days of Gideon, etc.

Sin has consequences; and God wants us to be clear about that. For this reason, He does not generally simply deliver us out of our backsliding. Instead, He would have us learn through chastisement.

This was true in Old Testament days. This continues to be true today. The writer of Hebrews reminded the Jewish Christians who were suffering under Emperor Nero—

4 Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. 5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:4-6).

Beloved brethren and children, let us understand this basic truth. Because we are God’s people, God will chastise us when we stray. We must not despise the chastening of the Lord. Neither should we allow ourselves to be numb to it.

We must never get use to unhappy circumstances in our lives—whether as individual, as families or as a church. We must consider if we are being chastised by the Lord for our sins —whether particular or general, whether sin of commission or sin of omission. Job was chastised, but not for any particular sin, so we must no think that we should be able to identify a particular sin when we are chastised.

The Lord chastised the children of Israel by allowing them to be tormented by foreign powers. What about us? How does He chastise us today? Well, let me suggest that persecution is one way though we would hardly be persecuted if we blend in with the world. Physical afflictions are also a means of chastisement. And so are economic hardships; and relationship pains.

Beloved brethren and children, are you suffering in any way? Is your family as a whole hurting? Is this church going through a rough patch as a whole?

Could it be that the Lord is chastising you for backsliding? Could it be that the Lord is chastising us for backsliding?

Do not look at others—whether they have backslidden. Let us look at our own hearts and see if we need repentance.

And remember, thirdly,…

3. God is Compassionate
to Restore

A very important word in our text is the word ‘nevertheless’ in our translation. In the Hebrew the word is simply a conjunction (waw) which may be translated as ‘and’ or ‘then’. But I believe our translation give us the correct sense of the word intended in the context.

The point is God is compassionate to restore His people despite of their rebellion against Him and His anger against them. Although the people did not deserve it, God raise judges to deliver them out of their afflictions.

Notice how God’s compassion is portrayed in our text in verse 18—

“And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them” (Jdg 2:18).

Notice how our text does not really say that the people repented, only that the people groan by reason of their oppression.

Now, this is remarkable, for does it not show us the great compassion of the Lord. He does not deal with us after our sin, nor reward us according to our iniquity. Even His chastisement against us is moderated.

Beloved brethren and children, do not take the LORD’s compassion for granted. The Lord is a just judge. He cannot simply overlook sin, for that would impinge on His holiness and righteousness.

The only reason why He can show us compassion despite our great sin against Him is that He had poured out His fury against us upon His Son.

For our Lord Jesus came as our covenant representative. He lived to keep the covenant of works for us where Adam our father failed. And He suffered and died to pay for our sin—both Adam’s and ours.

There on the Cross, our Lord suffered the pains of hell for us. Such was the torment He experienced that He cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me.”

The Son of God suffered the infinite, unmitigated wrath of God for three hours that the sons of God may be spared the measured wrath of God for all eternity.

The only reason why God could show compassion to the Israelite of Old despite their half-hearted repentance if it is repentance at all is because of His Son.

For this same reason, the Lord will show us compassion if we cry out to Him—even though our repentance may not be perfect. Remember it is not about how good or perfect we are. It is about God’s compassion and mercy in Christ.


Beloved brethren and children, let us serve the Lord with gratitude in our hearts. Let us walk with Him with an awareness of our tendency of backsliding. Let us remind ourselves that the chastisements that He sends in our way are for our good. Let us not despise the chastisement nor murmur and grumble under it. Let us rather cry out to the Lord; and especially let us repent of our sins and shortfalls as the Lord reveals them to us.

The Lord is compassionate and slow to anger. He will hear our cries. He will restore us despite our failures and despite the fact that our repentance may not be perfect. But let us beloved brethren not take advantage of our Lord’s compassion toward us for Christ’s sake, but rather to seek the Lord’s help to walk in holiness as He is holy. Amen.

—JJ Lim