Revive Our Hearts Radio

The Perfect Justice and Mercy of God

Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss says God knows how to balance justice and mercy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: That is the heart of God. He loves to show mercy. He delights to show mercy. He hates to show judgment, but He will show judgment when He has to. It is not His will that any should perish, but many will perish because they refuse His offer of mercy.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, October 3, 2014.

Nancy's continuing in the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 9): Defeating Your Jericho." 

Nancy: Well, in our last session here on Revive Our Hearts, we took a look at the fall of Jericho, and most of us have known that story since we were very little children. We sing the songs about, “And the walls came a tumblin' down.”

Sometimes, as I said earlier, the danger of knowing these stories so well is that our eyes kind of glaze over, and we don't stop to think about why they're in the Scripture and what application they may have for our lives. So I want us to take a little more time today to reflect on the whole story of Jericho and to deal with some questions that arise out of that story and some applications for our lives as well.

If you're a child of God, you are a part of the army of God. We talked about how the Israelites were God's army. God is the commander of the Lord's hosts, and the Israelites were His army that He commanded.

God is also the commander of the heavenly hosts, that angelic army that works with us in accomplishing God's will here on earth, but as believers today, we are a part of God's army, not in a physical sense. It's not literal arms that we take up to do God's cause in this world, but we're in a spiritual battle.

The enemy, the ultimate enemy, is Satan himself, who is always at work to oppose God and His work in this world, and the enemy has established strongholds. I think of those strongholds when I think of the walls of Jericho. Remember the doublewide walls, one six feet wide, the other twelve feet wide? These walls were high. They were wide. They were strong. The city was powerfully fortified to withstand people like the Israelites, and only God could have brought those walls down the way they came down.

Well, we live in a day where there are lots of strongholds. They're all around us. They're in our culture. You think of the strongholds maybe in your circumstances around your life. Sometimes the hardest strongholds are the ones that are in our own hearts—those stubborn places, those strongholds from our past, from patterns, from sinful habits that we can't get victory over, or don't feel like we can. Some of those patterns, those habits, those strongholds, are pretty well established. They are well fortified, and it doesn't seem like they could ever be conquered. They seems so great.

I've thought about that as I've read some of the headlines this past couple of weeks and just how wicked, wickedness is in our world. You can start to think, “God is so small compared to all that big stuff.” That's a skewed perspective, but that's how we start to feel.

Then we realize that God wants us to take possession of those forces, of those fortified places in our own hearts and in our culture. God wants every part of us to be under His reign and rule—no rebel thoughts, no rebel behavior, no rebel motives.

He wants it all to be under His control, and then, “The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof” (Ps. 24:1). It all belongs to Him, and one day He will exercise His reign and rule over all this earth, bodily, physically. He will be in charge of the whole universe, but how can that happen?

How can it happen in our world? How can it happen in our own hearts that God will win, that He takes control of these fortified places? How can we move in, in the name of Christ and take possession of the Jerichos in our lives and in our culture?

Well, it happens the same way it did for the Children of Israel—by faith, by faith, and in humble, prayerful dependence on the Commander of the Lord's hosts, on the Lord Jesus Himself. It's the power of God that brings down these walls, and we have to do what Joshua did, which is to follow the directions that God has given us in His Word, not to do it the way that makes the most sense to us, not to use the methods and the strategies that seem the most reasonable, but look to God.

His methods often seem strange to worldly eyes and ears, and it's easy for us to look at our situation, to look at our culture, for example, as the church today, and to think that we need some new program. We need some new strategy. We need some novel method to reach the lost people around us.

I think that that's been a temptation for the Evangelical church in our day, to abandon the resources and the weapons that God has given us in His Word and the resources and weapons that have been effectively used by God's people for generations. But to say, “Well, those don't work anymore,” and to toss them out in favor of some new thing, some new program, some new idea, some creativity, novelty, and we think, You can't reach people the way you used to reach them.

I'm not saying you have to go back to flannelgraph boards to teach the gospel. I'm not talking about the specifics--the type of music or the types of programs. I'm just saying that it is not some new program that is going to bring down these walls.

  • Whatever happened to the power of God?
  • Whatever happened to prayer?
  • Whatever happened to the power of the Spirit of God?
  • Whatever happened to believing in the power of the proclaimed Word of God, the power of preaching?

People say today, “That's foolish. People won't listen for more than several minutes. Their attention span is so little.” We get this pressure even in the Christian media world, and I'm saying, “The Word of God is powerful. Let it loose. It will transform lives.”

Now, I think it is a sin to bore people with the Word of God. There's no need to do that. But there's not necessarily a need to dress it up with something fancy, something fun, something entertaining. The Word of God is powerful when it is proclaimed under the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

The battle in our day is not going to be won by more creativity, more innovation, some new kind of church. It's going to be won by the weapons of prayer, faith, dependence on the Spirit, the faithful proclamation of the Word of God, and lifting up the name and the cross of Jesus Christ.

That's always been God's method. It always will be, and that's why Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but [they] have divine power to destroy strongholds” (v.   4).

God's weapons will bring down the walls of Jericho when used in God's way, under God's instruction, and in God's time. God didn't bring down the walls on the first day or the second day or the third, but on the seventh day, He did. God knows when the walls are to come down, and our part is not to bring the walls down. Our part is to faithfully do whatever God has given us to do in the power of His Spirit.

Now, let me address another issue that the whole story of Jericho and the whole book of Joshua raises. Joshua is a book of battles, and we see the Israelites coming into the Promised Land and being told by God to destroy all of the Canaanites, the Amorites, the people in the land.

This is something that bothers a lot of people, the picture of God who would order the destruction of all these quote “innocent people,” and that's where we go wrong because we forget that there are no innocent people.

That's what I want to address for a few moments here. We see in the book of Joshua what seems to be a God of judgment, a God of wrath, and then some people look at this picture and say, “I thought God was a God of mercy. I thought God was a God of love, but He doesn't look like that in the book of Joshua.”

Then some people arrive at this false conclusion, “Well, that must be the God of the Old Testament. He's the God of judgment and wrath, but the God of the New Testament, the God we love, is the God of love and mercy and kindness and grace.”

That is a false dichotomy. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New, and the God of the New has not changed from the Old Testament.

Now what makes the difference between the Old and the New Testament is the cross of Jesus Christ. The wrath and judgment of God was placed on His Son, Jesus Christ, so that God could extend mercy to us. But we see mounds of evidence in the Old Testament of God's incredible mercy, and we see mounds of evidence in the New Testament, starting with the cross itself, of the fact that God is still a God of judgment and righteous wrath. It's the same God. I want us to look at this judgment on Jericho and how the mercy of God plays out here.

In Joshua chapter 6, which is where we find the story of Jericho, we read in verse 17,

And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.

This is translated different in different versions. It is a difficult phrase to translate from the original language. But the ESV says it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. We'll come back to that in a moment.

Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD . . . Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, [if you are using the NASB or NKJV, it says they utterly destroyed] both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword (v. 17, 19, 21)

Go to verse 24,

And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.

Now, this whole concept of things devoted to the Lord for destruction—the Hebrew word there, “devoted to the Lord” is the word “H-E-R-E-M.” Now, I'm no Hebrew scholar, but I'm told the pronunciation is something like, “he-dem,” “he-dem,” (accent on the second syllable) devoted to the Lord for destruction. It means, “set apart as an offering to the Lord to be destroyed.” The NASB says these things shall be "under the ban." The KJV says the are "accursed."

In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, called the Septuagint, the word is “anathema,” cursed. They're under the ban. One commentary says, “These things are doomed to destruction. They are banned.”

The point is that everything in this city was to be given over to the Lord by totally destroying it. Every living thing was to be put to death. The only exception was that some specific, valuable things of silver and gold were to be given to the Lord and put into His treasury.

Now, why? Why did God issue this edict that these things shall be under the herem—they shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction; they shall be banned? Well, several reasons possibly: first is that the firstfruits belong to the Lord.

In the subsequent battles, the Children of Israel would be allowed to keep the spoils of the battle, but this was the firstfruits. So all the loot was given to the Lord, and God said, “I want it destroyed except for the few things that go into the Lord's treasury.”

Then we see that this is a picture of the righteous judgment of God on the nations of Canaan. We looked at that earlier in this series, and we saw that their cup of iniquity was full and overflowing.

For hundreds of years, God had given them opportunity to repent. They had steadfastly refused, and God said, “My cup is full. Your cup is full, and My judgment has got to come.” God would not be righteous if He did not exercise that judgment.

Now, God wanted to bless the world through the nation of Israel, but it was important that Israel, if she was going to be a blessing and bring the Messiah to the world, that Israel not be contaminated by the pagan, debauched religion of the Canaanites.

One commentator said, “In view of the corrupting influence of the Canaanite religion, especially with its religious prostitution,” I'm talking sexual prostitution there, related to their religions—in view of all that, “and the infant sacrifices they offered, it was impossible for pure faith and worship to be maintained in Israel except by the complete elimination of the Canaanites themselves.” So God was judging the Canaanites righteously.

Their cup of iniquity was full, but God was also preserving a holy seed. He didn't want the Israelites to be contaminated by the false religious practices of the Canaanites. God's people had to be separate, holy, separated from that which was unholy.

Now, the destruction of Jericho becomes for us a picture of judgment yet to come and God's promise that one day, this wicked, evil, prodigal, God-hating world and all evildoers in it will be destroyed. As Jericho was burned with fire, that is just a little microcosm of the fact that this old world is going to be destroyed by fire.

We read about this in 2 Peter chapter 3. “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up,” (v. 10 NASB). The heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat.

Jesus talked about this again in the Gospels, Matthew chapter 13. Remember the parable of the wheat and the tares, those who are believers and those who are not? Then He says, "What's the end of this story?”

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (vv. 40–42).

Now, this is not something we hear preached on a great deal. You don't hear a lot of sermons today on hell, on hell-fire, on damnation, on judgment, but it is an important part of God's Word. He has given us stories like the one of Jericho to warn us, to warn unbelievers of the fate that they will meet if they do not repent and cry out to God for mercy.

Now, as we think about the judgment of God, I want us to remember several things. First of all, God does not take delight in the judgment of the wicked. You read this over and over again in the Scripture.

Ezekiel chapter 33, God says, “As I live . . . I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” That's what God wants, so He issues this earnest appeal, “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11). You don't have to be judged. You don't have to die. God pleads with people to repent.

Second Peter chapter 3, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but [He] is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (v. 9).

Ephesians 2 tells us that God is rich in mercy (see v. 4).

Psalm 86, “You, [Oh] Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (v. 5 NKJV). It goes on in that passage to say the Lord is longsuffering. He is abundant in mercy, and Psalm 103—all through the Scripture—but that passage says, “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy” (v. 8).

That is the heart of God. He loves to show mercy. He delights to show mercy. He hates to show judgment, but He will show judgment when He has to. It is not His will that any should perish, but many will perish because they refuse His offer of mercy.

God never judges without warning and without an opportunity to repent. We need to keep that in mind. God gave the people of Canaan forty years to repent after they heard about the crossing of the Red Sea and what God had done.

We know that Rahab had heard all these stories, and she had repented and did exercise faith. God gave the people in Jericho all that time to repent, and they would not repent. They were warned what God did east of the Jericho with Og and Sihon, those kings who were destroyed east of Jordan.

They had heard those stories. They had the opportunity to repent, and isn't it just like God to give them seven more days as the Children of Israel march silently around Jericho? Do you think that if the people in Jericho had repented at any time during those first six days that God would not have shown them mercy?

Isn't that what God did in Nineveh, when Jonah came with the message that said forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed? But the king and the people of Nineveh repented. What did God do? He had mercy. In fact, that's what got Jonah upset at God. “God, I knew You'd show them mercy, those wicked Ninevites,” and Jonah was upset about that.

But God—it's His character to show mercy. I can just imagine that during those days as the Israelites were marching around Jericho, God was just longing in His heart that the people in Jericho would do what Rahab did and repent, but they refused. After the fall of Jericho, other cities in Canaan were warned. They saw this is what is going to happen if you do not repent and believe what God has said, but they refused to repent.

The fact is that all have sinned. There is none righteous in this world. Every person who's ever lived on this planet deserves the wrath and the judgment of God. The majority resist and refuse to receive God's offer of mercy and grace.

There are people who have been listening to this program for weeks, months, or years who have not yet repented of their sin and placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They've heard the Gospel over and over and over again, but they still want it their way. They will not wave the white flag of surrender, and I'm here to say to you, this is serious business.

The story of Jericho is not just a nice, little children's tale. It is a warning that if you do not repent and believe thegospel, you likewise will perish, and God will have been absolutely just in sending that judgment. Now is a day for salvation. Now is a time to repent and to believe. If you're not a child of God, I want to plead with you to repent and believe the gospel.

I got an email last week from a listener who said, "I'm not a believer myself, but I enjoy listening to your show whenever I can catch it in the car. I find your message very practical and uplifting." My heart was so heavy after I read that. I thought, Here is a person who is on her way to destruction and doesn't realize it. I want to warn her. I want to warn you: Now is the day of salvation—repent and believe the gospel.

Then I want to warn you if you are a child of God but there are Jericho walls at different places within your heart, places of your life that you have established and set against God—you've built up walls; you've fortified; you've barricaded off parts of your life from the reign and rule of God—let me just tell you what they learned the hard way in Jericho: Those walls are no match for God. You are no match for God.

God wants to reign and rule in every area of your life, and if you are holding out on surrendering to Him in some area of your life—your heart may be a fortress, like Jericho, just tightly walled and closed off—you need to know, you cannot hold out against God forever. He will win.

He will win, so the call is to wave the white flag of surrender, to say, “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Come in. Control every area of my life. I want to be devoted to You, surrendered to You, to belong to You. Lord, bring down those walls. I surrender.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back to pray. She's been telling us about an amazing God who has the power to judge and the mercy to forgive. We're so grateful for the opportunity to speak to women about important issues like these. We got an email from a listener who sometimes gets discouraged as a stay-at-home mom, but  Revive Our Hearts has been helping her see the value of her calling and serve with joy. She wrote:

With the Lord's help, I'm trying to take joy in the more mundane things in life. I'm trying to watch the words that come out of my mouth or not out of my mouth. Am I honoring our Lord by what I do? Am I honoring our Lord by what I say? Am I respecting my husband? Am I nurturing my children towards the Lord? Thank you for your ministry. I'm so grateful for what it's doing in my life.

I'm thankful for what the Lord is doing in her life. We all need to be encouraged—genuinely encouraged with biblical truth. That’s why we’d like to send you the 2015 Revive Our Hearts Wall Calendar. The theme this year is: Peace in the Storm. Month by month this calendar will encourage you. You’ll read quotes from Nancy Leigh DeMoss and from friends like: Priscilla Shirer, Mary Kassian, and Joni Eareckson Tada. They all know what it’s like to go through storms and to turn toward God for peace in the storm. Artist Timothy Botts interprets these quotes in his beautiful artwork and calligraphy.

We’d like to send you this wall calendar as our thanks when you donate any size to support Revive Our Hearts. Call with your donation of any amount and ask for the "Peace in the Storm" wall calendar. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Do you view prayer as a last resort or a first step? Nancy will explore that question with you Monday. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts. Now let’s pray with Nancy.

Nancy: O Lord, I cry out to You today on behalf of those who are not believers, who have not repented and believed the gospel, and I pray, O God, that while there is still time, before the end comes, before that day when the earth is burned with fire and all evildoers in it will perish, I pray that You will call out, that there will be those who, like Rahab, though she was a prostitute, she repented. She believed the gospel that she knew in her day, and she was saved. She was spared.

Thank You, Lord, that in Your mercy, You call out, You spare a remnant, and I pray that there are those listening today who will be part of that remnant, who will wave that white flag of surrender and say, “Yes, Lord, come into my life. I surrender to You.” O Lord, would You save those who are lost?

Then for those, Lord, many believers listening to my voice today who have parts of their hearts that are walled off; they're barricaded, and they're not willing for You to come into that area of their lives—maybe some secret sin, some relationship, some particular area, maybe their work life or their marriage or their personal thought life—Lord, whatever the area is, their finances, O Lord, I pray that every one of us would say, “Lord, come in. Take over. Take charge. Take control. Have Your way. My heart is Yours, O Lord. Rule and reign in every part of my life.”

For Your glory may You do that in the lives of Your people. I pray in Jesus' name, amen.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

Join the Discussion