The Warning Angel of God
February 21st, 1960 @ 8:15 AM
THE WARNING ANGEL OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-21-60 8:15 a.m.
You who listen on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Warning Angel of God. At this service next Sunday morning, the title of the message will be The Terrible Meek. It is a message on the first three judges; Othniel, Ehud, and Shamgar; The Terrible Meek. The sermon this morning is The Warning Angel of God.
If you will turn to the Book of Judges, you can easily follow the message, and it will mean more to you as the pastor delivers it. In the Book of Judges, chapter 2, verse 7, the Book of Judges chapter 2, verse 7:
And 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 of the Lord, that He did for Israel. And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord died.
Now, verse 10:
And there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel.
That is one of the saddest verses in the book; "And there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord."
In the lifetime of Joshua, in the lifetime of all of the men who knew Joshua, they served God. But when Joshua died and that generation died, it was as though a great magnet had been taken away and the loose filings fell down in a heap and a mess. For some reason, it is impossible for any generation to live off of the devotion and the religious experience of a previous generation. Religion is of all things personal. And prayer means nothing at all if all that prayer means is that our grandfathers prayed or our forefathers believed in the efficacy of beseeching God. Conversion is nothing at all if all we know about it is that our grandfathers were converted or our forefathers believed in the power of regeneration. The presence and the miracle working power of God is nothing if all we know about it is that our grandfathers experienced the presence of the Lord and our forefathers knew about the miracle working power of God.
Religion can never be – not for long – religion can never be, can never exist, as long as it lives upon tradition or hearsay or somebody else’s experience. For it to have any meaning, any pertinency at all, it must be felt by us. If prayer means anything at all, it has to mean that to you. If the presence of God means anything at all, it has to mean that to you. All of those things that happened in the days of Joshua were great things, but when this generation rose up who knew not the works of the Lord, those things in the life and ministry of Joshua were just hearsay, they were just stories, they were just traditions, they were just things of some other day and some other generation and some other yesteryear.
So when you come down to this verse, "The people served the Lord all the days of Joshua…" and "there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord," you cannot help but experience in just reading that the poverty of spirit of that generation that knew not the Lord. They are bankrupt. They are the weight that the ages must carry. They are the burdens of the centuries. History dies in them.
Isn’t that one of the saddest circumstances you could ever see described here in the Book? "And there arose another generation after them who knew not the Lord." Great days here when George Truitt was pastor, but penniless, bankrupt days now. Great, marvelous, spiritual times in Texas when B. H. Carroll preached the gospel, but poverty of spirit and bankruptcy of soul now. Marvelous revivals in the days of Finney and of Moody, but all of God’s people now have even forgot the tremendous surging power of the Lord.
Wouldn’t those be pitiful things to say about us? In the days of Joshua, they served the Lord, but there arose another generation who knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel. You know, we read about marvelous things. And my library is filled with them. I have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books out there that describe incomparable things God has done in days past. All of that is just like fiction, it’s just like myth, it’s just like tradition and legend, unless we are able to recreate those same things in our day and in our time and in our generation.
There ought to be witness down here in the front of this sacred place every Sunday. There ought to be witness, marvelous conversions every Lord’s Day. There ought to be in our time and in our generation marvelous spiritual revivals. There ought to be answers to prayer every day of our lives. If we were to have a testimony service here at this church, there ought to be ten thousand of our members able to stand up every week and say, "I have had an experience with God, and this is what God has done for me." Instead, I would think that most of us would have to stand up and say, "I’ve heard about a great experience over there." And "I’ve read about a marvelous outpouring of God’s presence back yonder, but I haven’t seen it in my day. I haven’t seen it in my life. I don’t know what it is to be touched by the great moving presence and power of God." A spiritually bankrupt generation.
Isn’t it I say one of the saddest verses in the Bible? "And there arose another generation after them, who knew not the Lord, nor the works which He had done for Israel." Now what would you expect to follow? If you didn’t know, if you hadn’t read the Book of Judges, if you’d never heard anybody speak of it, what would you expect to follow after that? Exactly what does follow? It began a generation of skepticism. It became a generation of unbelief. It became a generation of compromise and finally of gross idolatry and iniquity.
Why, I would be surprised to read anything else after that verse. I’d be amazed if, after I read that verse, I came upon great revelations from God and great marvelous spiritual experiences. Why, the generation is filled from the beginning with all of those emptinesses in which the demons of darkness delight to live in, to move in, to possess. This generation that knew not the Lord and forgot the works which He had done for Israel, why, I expect to read of terrible declensions and awful skepticism and doubt and unbelief and backslidings. I expect to read about a bankrupt people.
When I turn to the Book of Judges, it is exactly as you might expect. Now, those things do not happen without a warning from God. Will you turn now to the first of the second chapter of the Book of Judges? See what God does. Before God bares His arm to strike, He always warns, always. "And the Angel of the Lord," the Angel of the Lord, "came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt," this is the Lord, the second Person of the Trinity. When He was incarnate, He had a name: Jesus. This is the second Person of the Trinity: the Angel of the covenant.
The Angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal… and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt. I have brought you into the land … and I said… ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars…why have ye not obeyed My voice? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive out from before you these who are to be thorns in your sides, and their gods – a stumbling block and – a snare unto you. And it came to pass, when the Angel of the Lord spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim – the Weepers – and they offered sin offerings, sacrifices, there unto the Lord
God never fails to do that, never. Before the Lord’s hand is bared and His arm stretched, before God extends Himself to strike, He always, always, always, warns and warns and warns.
For example, these Canaanites, whom the Lord sent Israel to exterminate – Israel was in God’s hand the instrument of extermination and of judgment – it was God doing it. That seems like a heavy penalty. But, ah! You don’t read about God without reading about the severity of the judgments of God. And these Canaanites, the Lord gave them respite for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they didn’t change. And the Lord sent them an awesome warning in the judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah. And the Lord gave them great godly examples in Abraham and in Melchizedek. But those Canaanites refused the warning of the Lord. And the day came when the iniquity of the Amorite was full, and God sent these Israelites as the messengers of the execution of the judgment of God upon the iniquity of the land.
They are having a great convocation of all of the tribes of Israel at a place near Bethel. And suddenly, there appears before all of the household of Jacob, before all those assembled tribes, there appears a startling voice, a startling messenger. And He says, "I am the Captain of the hosts that gave you the commandments what to do when I appeared unto Joshua at Gilgal. Why is it that ye have not obeyed My voice and carried out My commandments?" And when that Angel, that Messenger of the covenant, when that Angel of the Lord spake unto the tribes assembled near Bethel, they were stricken in their hearts. They saw the error of their way. And they "lifted up their voice and wept. And they called the name of that place Bochim" the Weepers. "And there they offered sin sacrifices unto God" [Judges 2:4-5]. And they dried their eyes, and hardened their hearts and forgot it.
I’d like for you to find anywhere in the Bible this place Bochim. I’d like for you to find on any map of Israel that place, Bochim. It is never mentioned again, nor does anybody to this day know where it was. They dried their eyes, they stopped their ears. They turned from that sacrifice, that sin offering, they hardened their hearts, and they went back into the same recalcitrant, incorrigible, obstreperous, unbelief and unrepentance. Now, what do you expect? What?
Now would you turn with me to the fourteenth verse of this same chapter? This is exactly what you would look for. The fourteenth verse of chapter 2: "And the anger of the Lord," isn’t that an unusual thing, the anger of the Lord? You don’t ever hear about that nowadays. It’s always the love of God, always the sweetness of God, always the graciousness and mercy of God. I don’t hear anybody nowadays writing, speaking, or referring to the severity of God, and the judgments of God, and the anger of God. But it’s in the Bible, and it’s on every page. Judges 2:14, "And the anger of the Lord burned, flamed, was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies."
Why, the liquored crowd ran over them as though they were molehills, and vice and the sins of the day mocked and laughed at them. They couldn’t stand before their enemies. "Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed" [Judges 2:15].
The heavens scorched them. The horizon burned them. And the very earth withered them away. Wherever they turned and whatever they did, there they met defeat. Ah, the severity of the judgments of God! God is as true to His threats as He is to His promises. When the Angel at Bochim appeared, He didn’t smite, He just warned. But those warnings are always followed by the terrible judgments of God.
I tell you, I cannot conceive of the vapid sentiment that can blind itself to what is writ large in this Book and on the pages of all history. How are you going to escape the story of the Flood, when because of the vile iniquity and wickedness of men, God destroyed the whole earth except righteous Noah? [Genesis chapters 6-8]. How are you going to explain away the judgment of God upon Sodom and Gomorrah? [Genesis 19:24-29]. How are you going to do it? What are you going to say about the plagues in the wilderness that devoured the household of Israel? [Hebrews 3:17]. What are you going to say about the Babylonian captivity when God Himself said the place shall be plowed up into heaps, and the women and the children will be taken away into slavery, and the men will be slain with the edge of the sword? [Micah 3:12; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21].
What are you going to say when Goehring in Germany stands before a vile and fanatical crowd of Nazis and says, "We are destroying Coventry and we are bombing London. We are slaying innocent children and women and households by the thousands. But no bomb will ever drop upon the Federleicht!" All you have to do is just to open the Book and to read from the page and find out that in God’s time and in God’s day he who rains death upon Coventry and on London shall live to see that hour when lurid death rains from the sky on the Federleicht. God isn’t dead.
And these great visitations from heaven know no respect of persons. If the judgment of God fell upon His chosen people Israel, and upon the city that He loved, and upon the very house where He said "And My name shall be there" [2 Chronicles 7:16], what do you think will fall upon us as a people, as a nation, as a family, as an individual, you? When these people turned and forgot, that story just follows after because they all grow on the same stem. Sin and punishment are on the same plant. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens in the flower of the pleasure that conceals it, that wraps it ’round about. Punishment is inherent in the sin. They are together. The fruit is in the seed, and the harvest is in the sowing. You don’t separate them. God put it there.
It wasn’t any biochemist that put the harvest in the sowing. It wasn’t any unusual scientific genius that was able to put the fruit in the seed. God put it there. No man could do it, nor could any man disassociate it. The fruit is in that seed. God made it that way. And the punishment for sin is in the sin itself. It is carried along, it is a concomitant, it is a corollary, it is inherent, it is constituent! It is the presence of God! He welded that link together: sin and punishment, sin and death, sin and the judgment of God. They are together.
And it starts right where it begins. They left those heathen altars in the land when God said they were to be thrown down. And those heathen altars demanded sacrifice. They left those heathen idols in the land [Judges 2:2]. They refused to cast them down according to the word of God. And those heathen gods demanded worship. And when they were left in the land by the choice of Israel – "We like these little divinities. We like these little gods of the day. We’re going to leave them, yea. We’re going to associate with them, yea. We’re going to intermarry with them" – then they became party to a life and a fate they could not control.
I’m not talking about these Israelites who lived one thousand three hundred years before Jesus. I’m talking about us! For, within the radius of this pulpit in this city, there are uncounted thousands and thousands that worship at the shrine of the divinities of the day. And they offer sacrifice unto the gods of expediency and of this world. And the judgment of God falls. It falls upon the soul; it falls upon the heart. It falls upon the children. It falls upon the city. It falls upon the nation. We live in the imponderables of God.
Ah! It makes you to tremble, to tremble, to tremble. Like last Sunday morning, we’re not going to leave it like that. Will you turn with me just… No man should ever paint a picture of a forest without a road out. No man should ever preach a sermon, ever, no man should ever preach a sermon about the judgment of God and the warning Angel of the Lord without preaching also the mercy and the forgiveness of Jehovah.
Will you turn with me to [Judges] chapter 10? Will you look at verse 10 and follow? In verse 8 it says, "And the Philistines oppressed the children of God eighteen years." That’s a long time to live under the thumb of a bitter, unbelieving, uncircumcised Philistine. Eighteen years! Now, verse 10:
And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord, saying, We have sinned against Thee, both because we have forsaken our God, and served Baalim. And the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Did not I deliver you from the Egyptians, and from the Amorites, from the children of Ammon, and from the Philistines? The Zidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, did oppress you; and ye cried to Me, and I delivered you out of their hand. Yet, yet ye have forsaken Me, and sacrificed and served other gods: wherefore I will deliver you no more. Go, cry unto the gods whom ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation. And the children of Israel said unto the Lord, We have sinned: do Thou unto us whatsoever seemeth good unto Thee; deliver us only, we pray Thee, deliver us this day. And they put away the strange gods from among them, and served the Lord: and God’s soul was grieved for the misery of Israel
And you have the story again of the forgiveness and the deliverance of the Lord. And it’s always that way, always. That’s God. The thief enters Paradise today. The thief is with Jesus [Luke 23:42-43]. Paul, the persecutor, is forgiven, he obtains mercy [1 Timothy 1:13-15]. And the children of Israel are taken back into the forgiveness and love and mercy of God. And when the Lord looked on their misery, and on their tears, and on their repentance, and upon their beseeching and crying: "O God! Be with us! Whatever pleaseth Thee, only, only Lord, remember us! Look on our misery!" And God so was grieved, grieved for the agony of Israel.
That’s my only answer to this question: why doesn’t God destroy the evil world in which we live when whole governments blaspheme His name? Why doesn’t God destroy the iniquity of our own people and our own nation? And why doesn’t God destroy us? That’s the answer – maybe somebody will turn and repent. Maybe somebody will be saved. And the longsuffering of God waits and appeals and makes invitation. And the Lord looks and He waits, maybe somebody will turn and be saved. Ah! How a man can but feel the goodness of God! That He loves us when we’re unlovely, waits for us when our backs are turned to Him, hopes against hope, appeals against appeal, maybe somebody will turn and be saved.
Wouldn’t it be great this morning hour if somebody did, if somebody turned this day and said, "This day, this hour, I do open my heart to God. His Spirit welcome within my soul, my life now not my own but His!" Wouldn’t it be wonderful is somebody did? If you’ve listened on the radio, maybe today, you’d bow your head, humble your heart and say, "Lord God, today I turn toward Thee." Maybe in this great throng of people at this hour, somebody you would give his heart to Jesus? Is there a family this morning to put their life with us in the church, as the Spirit of God shall open the way and make the appeal, would you make it now? Would you make it this morning? On the first note of that first stanza, is there somebody here who ought to come? Would you make it now, 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