Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in the August 2020 issue of Christian Standard + The Lookout. (Subscribe to our print edition.)
Lesson Aim: When God disciplines, repent.
By Mark Scott
Judges may well be the ugliest book in the Bible. Perpetual sin was creating a union with death among God’s people. “There was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, English Standard Version; cf. 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). The constant cycle of sin, servitude, supplication, salvation, and silence created a downward spiral for Israel. The only way this trend was reversed was for a judge to show up occasionally and “save” God’s people. Our lesson text effectively summarizes Judges.
Joshua had died (Joshua 24:29-31; Judges 1:1; 2:8, 9), and the tribe of the Messiah (Judah) led the way for the rest of the conquest (Judges 1:2). But the conquest was compromised by the tribes of Israel not driving out all the nations that were living there (Judges 1:3-36). These lingering nations would become a thorn in Israel’s side (Judges 2:3).
Francis Chan wrote a book on the Holy Spirit entitled Forgotten God. He suggested the church in the West has forgotten the Holy Spirit. Israel was worse. They had spiritual amnesia for the whole Trinity. Generation W (wilderness) was gathered to their ancestors (died). The young people who took their place did not “know” God or the stories of God. In short, they had no intimate knowledge of the creator.
This deficit knowledge of God led to evil behavior. There is always a connection between belief and behavior. God’s people served the Baals (the word means “lord” or “husband,” and referred to a Syrian god named Hadad who was the god of storms or war). Israel forsook (abandoned or neglected . . . mentioned twice here) the Lord. Israel followed (walked) and worshiped (bowed down) the gods of the people of the land. God’s people being in the world isn’t the problem; instead, it’s the world being in God’s people. In addition to this, they served the Ashtoreths (goddess of the Canaanites; essentially it was a fertility cult). God can be forgotten in one generation.
Disciplined by God
Judges 2:14, 15
God can get angry, but his anger, which is more like grief (Genesis 6:5-7; Matthew 23:37-39), is motivated by love (Hebrews 12:5-11). The God of the Bible is a gentleman of the highest order. He will not stay where he is not wanted. Hell essentially will be a place where everyone does his or her own thing. That is total anarchy and chaos. People can choose poorly for so long that God will give them over to their choices (Romans 1:24-32) and send on them a delusion to believe what is false (2 Thessalonians 2:11).
That is what God did with Israel. He gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them (literally, “plunderers who plundered” them). These nations stole them and their spoils. God sold Israel into the hands of their foes, and Israel was not able to resist (stand against) them. Whenever Israel would try to fight their enemies, the “Ai syndrome” set in (Joshua 7:2-5). Israel was defeated and in great distress.
Saved by God
But God’s anger does not last forever (Hosea 6:1-3), and his mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). God relented (comforted or was moved to pity) because the people cried out about their oppressors. So God raised up judges (defenders and deliverers; someone who cares about justice). Some of them were tricky (Judges 3:15-23), and some were brave (4:9). Some of them were timid (6:12-15) but later became arrogant (8:31; Abimelech means “my father is king”), and some were presumptuous (11:29-40). Some were immoral (e.g. Samson, Judges 13–16), but all functioned as saviors of sorts. (The word saved is the root for Jesus’ name.) In this sense, they were “types” of the coming Messiah.
Sometimes people who are drowning will panic and fight off the lifeguards dispatched to save them. That is what Israel did. They would not listen to (hear) the judges. Instead they prostituted (went whoring) themselves and worshiped other gods. They turned (repented) from the ways of their ancestors. When the people did turn to God, their repentance would last only as long as the judge was alive. Then they would return to ways even more corrupt than before. They had hard hearts and stubborn wills (Acts 7:51-53; Revelation 9:20, 21).
The verses that follow our lesson text indicated that God would leverage this rebellion/redemption arch to “test” Israel, i.e., to see if Israel would walk in the ways of their ancestors (Judges 2:19-23). But alas, instead of reversing the trend, they continued the downward spiral.
Lesson study ©2019, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on the scope and sequence, ©2019 by Christian Standard Media. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.