This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for July 10) is written by Rick Walston, senior minister at Marion Church of Christ, Rochester, Minnesota, and adjunct professor at Crossroads College.
Listen to God’s Judges (Judges 2:11-19)
By Rick Walston
Today’s lesson begins a new Old Testament book as we move from the conquest of the peoples in the promised land during Joshua’s lifetime to the challenging period of the judges. This unit, “Listening for God in Changing Times,” finds Israel in that inglorious period following the death of Joshua and his generation. Joshua’s generation “had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel” (Judges 2:7). However, the next generation “knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel” (2:10).
They may have heard about God’s deeds from their parents, but they did not see them with their own eyes. They did not experience the victories the Lord gave, but merely took for granted their settled life in the promised land. In their prosperity, they forgot the Lord. All was well, so they did not need him.
They were not unlike second-generation business owners who reap the profits of the founders without enduring the sacrifice of long hours and lean times. And they resemble some second-generation Christians who do not take their faith seriously because they have never known what it is like not to be a Christian.
The failure to take God seriously leads to a recurring pattern in the book of Judges: (1) sin/disobedience, (2) servitude/discipline, (3) supplication/despair, and (4) salvation/deliverance. The cycle is repeated at least six times in the period of the judges, under the leadership of 12 judges spanning a period of more than 300 years.
Sin (Judges 2:11-13)
The Israelites were guilty of the most serious of sins, idolatry, which violated the first and fundamental commandment (Deuteronomy 6:4, 5; Matthew 22:37, 38). How can one hope to obey God in other areas if one does not first recognize him as the only true God? “They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt” (Judges 2:12).
To us, it appears inconceivable the Israelites in the course of two generations could forget the 10 plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of food, and the visible presence of God in cloud and fire. How could they forget how God stopped the flow of the Jordan and crumbled the walls of Jericho? How could they forget the Lord who gave them their land and made them into a people? We are quick to judge them, and yet, how can we forget the Lord who sent his only Son to die for our sin?
The Israelites served the Baals, Ashtoreths, and other various gods of the peoples around them. God wanted Israel to be different from their neighbors, a testimony to his own differentness from the other gods. Instead, they wanted to be just like them. The gods of the surrounding nations were fertility gods. In an agricultural society, it is not unusual that people’s imaginations would lead them to worship the spirits of land, water, sun, and sky. Israel, however, knew better—the Lord God had created all things in the beginning by his powerful word.
It seems that people always want to substitute the worship of the Creator with the worship of created things (Romans 1:18-25; Isaiah 44:9-20). Serving these gods led to all sorts of immoral practices, further violating the commands of the Lord.
Servitude (Judges 2:14, 15)
One of the ways the Lord brought punishment on Israel corporately was by delivering them to their enemies. Just as he provided the land for them, he also could take it away. Ultimately, after 800 years of disobedience, God permitted the Babylonians to take Israel into exile, and though they were eventually allowed to return, things were never the same again. During the conquest of Canaan, the children of Israel learned they were victorious when the Lord fought for them, but when he was against them, they could not prevail.
In Christ, we can know freedom from the power and consequence of sin. However, if we choose to sin, we realize the bondage it brings to our lives. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, we are trapped and held captive.
Supplication & Salvation (Judges 2:16-18)
The Lord is compassionate. He rescues those who cry out to him. He forgives those who repent. He shows his mercy to those who do not deserve it. How many times did he patiently wait for Israel to return to him? How many chances did he give them before bringing captivity to them? Over and over, he elevated great leaders like Moses, kings like David, and prophets like Elijah.
In today’s text, he raises up judges. We think of judges in the sense of establishing justice by making legal decisions. God’s judges dispensed justice by action, punishing evildoers and protecting the righteous. They were a combination of prophet, king, and military leader.
The Cycle Continues (Judges 2:19)
Peace and prosperity led to complacency, which led to sin, and the cycle repeated itself. When each judge died, the people returned to their wicked ways, becoming increasingly more corrupt.
What do we learn about our human nature from the Israelites? How do we avoid their mistakes? How can we pass along our faith to the next generation?
What do we learn about God’s character from his provision of the judges? What voices of warning and what calls to repentance do we need today?
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|July 4: Exodus 23:20-33|
|July 5: Joshua 24:19-27|
|July 6: 1 Samuel 15:17-23|
|July 7: Ephesians 5:6-20|
|July 8: Judges 2:1-10|
|July 9: Psalm 78:1-8|
|July 10: Judges 2:11-19|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Rick Walston serves as senior minister with Marion Church of Christ, Rochester, Minnesota, and adjunct professor at Crossroads College.