Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sunday School Lesson: Seeking Deliverance

Purpose: To recognize that although humankind is unfaithful to God’s covenant, God remains faithful to us.

Scripture: Judges 2:10-23

Tell me what you think:

Why do bad things happen to bad people?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

This weeks study is from the Book of Judges. During the life of Joshua, the Israelites had experienced great (although not complete) success in their takeover of the land of Canaan. In Joshua, the Israelites had a strong charismatic leader who kept the people focused on their goal and their God.

Following Joshua’s death, the Israelites suffered a 300 year period of cyclical successes and failures.

The New Interpreter’s Bible begins its introduction to the Book of Judges with this passage:
"The book of Judges is one of the most exciting, colorful, and disturbing books of the Bible. It combines stories of political intrigue and assassination, lies and deception, rape and murder, courage and fear, great faith and idolatry, power and greed, sex and suicide, love and death, military victory and civil war."

That sounds like prime time tv doesn’t it?

Judges tells of the chaotic period following the competent leadership of Moses and Joshua up to the time of the monarchs. This was a time when the Israelite tribes were just a loose confederation with no centralized leadership. The great leadership that the people had enjoyed under Moses and Joshua was replaced by relatively ineffectual localized tribal judges.

The name Judges and the title of "judge" as used in this book can be misleading. The meaning of "judge" in the Old Testament is not the same as our contemporary meaning. The judges were neither kings nor prophets nor "judges" in the judicial sense. The judges were men (and one woman) who were raised up by God to lead His people through a specific trial or time of crisis. The title of "judge" refers more to a political or military leader than to a spiritual or judicial leader.

The time of the judges is best summarized by the final verse of the Book of Judges:

Jdg 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

The 300 year period of the judges was cyclical. The cycle usually followed this pattern:

1. The Israelites would fall into sin, usually worshiping the gods of the surrounding peoples.

2. The Israelites would end up in bondage, oppression, or servitude to the surrounding peoples as punishment for and consequence of their sin.

3. The Israelites would beg God for forgiveness and deliverance.

4. God would raise up a deliverer or judge to rescue His people.

This cycle begins with today’s scripture passage and repeats throughout the Book of Judges.

Jdg 2:10 ESV
(10b) ... And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.

One of our greatest responsibilities is to pass on our faith to the next generations. This is also one of our most difficult responsibilities. Without the strong uniting leadership of a Joshua or a Moses the Israelites slipped into the belief systems of the people in the world around them.

When people get to the state of "doing what is right in their own eyes" they have taken their eyes away from the One who defines all that is right.

Can you see any parallels between this time in Israel’s history and our present?

What false gods do you see our generation chasing after?

Are we making God angry?

Is it fair to say that we are all idolaters at some level?

One of the greatest parallels is that we live in a world filled with people who would love for us to deny our faith and follow their gods. The god of this world is the god of self. "Whatever feels good, do it." "There is no absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong." "The ends justify the means." "The Bible is a nice history, but has little relevance for me." "Jesus was a great teacher of morals, but not the Son of God." The list could go on and on.

We Christians, like these early Israelites, are very prone to adapt the lifestyles and practices of the culture around us. We tend to buy into whatever is popular or whatever sounds reasonable, regardless of whether what we buy into reflects the image of Christ or that of the enemy.

Our challenge is to remain faithful regardless the temptations that face us.

How good a job of passing our faith to the next generation do you think we are doing?

What are we doing right?

What are we doing wrong?

How could we do a better job of passing our faith on to the next generation?

The more genuinely we practice our faith, the more likely our children will recognize its value and truth and adopt it as their own. If our children see in us a tendency to treat church as a social club, they will recognize that our faith does nothing to change us and will be less likely to commit themselves to it. Faith that does not change us is no different than no faith at all.

Jdg 2:16-23 ESV
(16) Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
(17) Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so.
(18) Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them.
(19) But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
(20) So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he said, "Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice,
(21) I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died,
(22) in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not."
(23) So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.

What is the relationship between our moral behavior and the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

Bad behavior very often brings bad results in our lives.

Do bad things happen only to bad people?

We can all cite many examples where good things happen to bad people and dreadful things happen to faithful Christians.

From Adult Bible Studies:

"God did not so much actively punish the people of Israel, as God allowed the truth to be revealed. God did not raise a hand against them; God simply withdrew his protection" from them.

What is the difference between God actively punishing Israel and God simply withdrawing His protection?

Are there times that we use the same tactics on our children? Do we in certain circumstances actively punish wrongdoing and in other circumstances allow our children to "learn from their mistakes"?

How did God show mercy toward Israel even when the people were being unfaithful?

He gave them judges.

Does the cycle continue? Have there been examples in all times of falling into sin and bondage, followed by prayer and repentance, and concluded with rescue?

Where is our society right now in the cycle?

Repentance begins with a change in heart and attitude. Following a change in heart and attitude, what specific steps of repentance can individuals, churches, or even nations take to seek God’s mercy?

Do the steps of repentance change from generation to generations and if so how?

What can we do to help our children’s generation and following generations avoid the cycle of idolatry and repentance?

What can happen to the Body of Christ if we neglect our duty to the coming generations?

It has been said that the Church is always one generation away from extinction.

What does it take to build and maintain faith?

Jdg 2:7 ESV
(7) And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.

Why do you think that Israel was faithful only as long as someone like Joshua was around?

What is important about the influence and responsibility that Christian leaders have in the church?

As long as there were people among them who could testify to the amazing things that God had done in liberating them from Egypt, the people kept their faith. But then came a drastic change:

Jdg 2:10-12 ESV
(10) And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.
(11) And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals.
(12) And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger.

What happened?

Complete the following statements:

1. If they did not know the Lord, the blame must certainly lie with.........

2. If they did not know what God had done for Israel, then __________ had not done what they needed to do.

3. Choosing false gods above the true God was a sure sign that..........

Does it take seeing "great things" to develop and maintain faith?

If so, what type of "great things" does it take?

What are the "great things" that God has done for Christians?

How well are we communicating those things to the next generation?

The Bible is an account of God’s continual pursuit of His lost children. The Bible is also an account of his children’s continual flight from Him in search of their own personal gods. Idolatry was not confined to Old Testament times. We probably witness (and practice) more idolatry than any generation in history. We worship sports and entertainment. We openly embrace all technology and materialism. We continually search for the "next great thing". The Bible tells us that such vain pursuits are all idolatry.

What are the results of idolatry?

1. God is angered.

2. God withdraws His protection.

Where do we look for help when we need deliverance from our desperate situations?

How would you describe the battle that Christians are in today?

How can a Christian’s response to bad experiences be different than that of non-Christians?

Why do you think the presence of evil in the world keeps some people from embracing Christianity?

What role did peer pressure play to Israel?

What role does peer pressure play in our lives and in the way we live our faith?

What does this story tell us about why bad things happen to believers?

What can we learn from this story about the importance of remembering the good things that God has done for us?

How can we say thank you for the compassion that God has shown us?

What can we do this week to encourage a leader in the church?