“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And do not rely on your own understanding.
Acknowledge him in all your ways,
And he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NET)
Do you ever hear of situations where one bad decision seems to lead to another and another? Maybe you have found yourself in situations that you never expected because of one bad choice. That is the kind of story we have this week! Poor choices end up bringing destruction and civil war. These are things that happen when everyone does what is “right in his own eyes,” the repeated refrain that describes this period of spiritual and moral anarchy. As the second part of the double conclusion, this story exemplifies the moral anarchy and destruction that typifies the time of the judges.
Read Judges 19:1-21.
1. Tell the story as a news report! Add a headline, if you wish.
2. Review what you learned about the responsibility of Levites in last week’s lesson (Num. 3:6-9). Summarize them below.
The Levites were specially set apart for God’s work; yet, this Levite had a concubine. What did that mean?
“Having concubines was an accepted part of Israelite society although this is not what God intended (Gen. 2:24). A concubine had most of the duties but only some of the privileges of a wife. Although she was legally attached to one man, she and her children usually did not have the inheritance rights of the legal wife and legitimate children. Her primary purpose was giving the man sexual pleasure, bearing additional children, and contributing more help to the household or estate.”16
This Levite had accepted the world’s way of living instead of choosing God’s best. He had compromised with the thinking of his culture.
3. What do you learn from Romans 12:1-2 about how to see clearly through the darkness rather than thinking as our culture does?
Read Judges 19:22-30. Because of poor choices, the Levite ended up in a dangerous situation.
4. How did the host and the Levite solve their dilemma?
These solutions seemed right in their own eyes. Their social customs of hospitality involved “protecting a guest at any cost.”17 That seemed right despite the resulting treatment of the women as disposable chattel. They lived in the darkness rather than trusting God and seeing clearly.
Whenever we read stories of real people in the Bible, we must be careful not to infer that God is pleased with their actions or attitudes. Only by cross-referencing to other kinds of books in the Bible, where God clarifies and teaches, can we know how he feels about these things.
The Levite and his host did what was right in their own eyes. They accommodated evil to protect themselves. They took the easy way out of the dilemma. They looked out for Number One. They failed to live godly in an ungodly world but became like the world.
More Light: Read more about Judges 19:22-30 in your resources.
5. Sharing question: In what areas do you tend to protect yourself by not speaking up or compromising with the values of our culture? Give an example.
6. Responding to God: Ask God for the grace to be courageous for his truth and values even when it costs you in friendships or respect. Write your prayer below.
The sad story of rape and accommodation of evil bears further consequences as it progresses.
Read Judges 20:1-11.
7. Summarize what happened at the convocation at Mizpah.
Read Judges 20:12-17.
8. Read Deut. 22:22-27, and explain how knowing God’s word could have helped the tribe of Benjamin see clearly through the darkness rather than doing what they did—what was right in their own eyes.
The tribe of Benjamin treated sin as excusable or at least unimportant by their actions. They failed to understand the seriousness of sin and the holiness of God. His “eyes are too pure to approve evil”; he “cannot look on wickedness with favor” (Hab. 1:13).
9. How did Isaiah respond to the holiness of God according to Isaiah 6:1-7?
More Light: Read definitions of the holiness of God in a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia or perhaps in an online article.
In Exodus 19, God impressed Israel at Mount Sinai with his holiness. Read Exodus 19:10-25; 20:18-21.
10. How did God hope that Israel would respond to his power and greatness (Ex. 20:20)?
We have to be careful to remember that God is God although he loves us. We must respond to God with the proper respect for his holiness and power.
11. Sharing question: If you see yourself clearly, what kinds of sins in your own life do you tend to consider unimportant or excusable?
12. Responding to God: Draw a picture showing yourself putting away that sin or sins in the presence of God’s holiness.
Read Judges 20:18-48.
13. One last time, write a news report summarizing the civil war and its results. And once again, put a headline with itJ
Read Judges 21:1-14.
14. What decision that was right in their own eyes came back to haunt the men of Israel and why?
15. What was their solution to the problem?
This whole thing reminds me of the old saying—two wrongs don’t make a right.
16. What are the two wrongs done here—or even more than two?
More Light: Read in your commentaries about Judges 21:1-14.
17. Sharing question: Perhaps you have firsthand experience with the consequences of not thinking clearly, according to God’s wisdom. Maybe you experienced it in your family or through your own life. Share what you learned through it with your group.
18. Responding to God: Commit to spend time in God’s word so that you don’t forget the light that keeps you from living life in the darkness. Write your prayer below.
Read Judges 21:16-25.
Amazingly, the men of Israel came up with a plan that did not violate the letter of their oath; however, it was not an ethical choice!
19. What was the plan? How was it unethical?
The moral fiber of the country had been lost. The nation followed the letter of the oath and broke the spirit of God’s law.
20. What wisdom would you share with these Israelites if you could travel back in time and speak to them when they first gathered at Shiloh?
More Light: Read your commentaries on Judges 21:16-25.
“This book and the history of the nation that follows serve as eternal testimony to the grim reality that God’s people are often their own worst enemy. It is not the enemies outside who threaten the soul but the Canaanite within.” 18
Daniel I. Block
21. Sharing question: How have you seen this quote to be true in your own life? How do you see the Canaanite within yourself?
22. Sharing question: Read Proverbs 3:5-6, our memory verse this week, and compare it with Judges 21:25. In general, what are you to do differently from what these Israelites did?
23. Responding to God: Ask God to keep the lessons that you have learned in Judges with you so that you never fall into the darkness.
We have spent ten weeks in God’s word learning lessons that can help us see clearly through the darkness. Today we want to look back and consider all that God has spoken to us and done in our lives through this study.
We first touched on the faith of Abraham and then the faithfulness of God to his promises under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. We studied the major judges (those whose stories are detailed)—Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson. We also read of the minor judges—Shamgar, Tola, Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. We covered the double introduction with its emphasis on the cycle of sin and deliverance, as well as the double conclusion with its stories of spiritual and moral anarchy.
24. What message stands out to you as you think through these stories?
25. Sharing question: Who is your favorite judge and why?
26. Sharing question: Review the memory verses from your cards or on the first page of every lesson. Which verse is most meaningful to you and why?
27. Sharing question: What have you changed in your life as you have applied God’s word week after week?
One day during the spring of 1974 while my husband, Dennis, was the tennis coach at Pan American University, he was called into the office of the President. He thought nothing about it as he had requested some adjustments in the program such as having the courts resurfaced and getting a graduate assistant. He had been the coach for over six years and his team had been ranked in the Top Twenty of NCAA Division I. God was blessing! But this particular year, through many uncontrollable circumstances, in the middle of the year, several players had opted to leave school and join the pro tennis circuit. That left him with a greatly weakened team (he had to get his team manager and a person from one of the P.E. classes to fill out his six-man team roster) and yet still playing the very strong schedule that he was already committed to. The year proved to be his greatest spiritually, with many opportunities to share Christ and have some very meaningful discussions with the team members. Upon his arrival in the President’s office, he was shocked when the President said, “Well, Coach, it looks like that we may have to be re-assigning you. It appears that you are just not getting the job done with the tennis program.” Dennis responded that he didn’t realize that one losing season out of six--and the previous ones being ranked in the Top Twenty--was “unsuccessful”. He explained the circumstances and the President said, “You don’t seem to be able to get it done.” Dennis stated that if it meant breaking the recruiting rules or violating any NCAA policies, then, the President was right—he was not the man for the job. He told him that he believed that a coach did not have to cheat or break rules to have a winning program. The President responded, “Well, you go talk to your people and I’ll talk to mineBut I think that we will be re-assigning you; come back and see me next week after I meet with the Board of Regents.”
Dennis showed up at noon (he never came home at noon) and I was in the middle of vacuuming the house. As we sat down to talk and he shared what had just happened, he said, “The only people that we can talk to are our Christian friends who will join us in prayer.” (We regularly met for prayer with a group on Thursday evenings. As we shared with our Christian friends and prayed, God gave us a complete peace about the whole scenario. Three days later, Dennis got a phone call in his office from the Athletic Department Sports Information Director saying, “Dennis, we’ve got it! We’ve got just what you need to convince the President that you are the man!” Dennis asked what he was talking about. Jim told him that it had just come over the wire that Dennis had been selected as the Host/Director for the NCAA National Tennis Championships for June, 1975. The miracle of this is that Dennis had not even applied for the position and was totally taken by surprise. The very next day, the top Canadian tennis player he had been recruiting sent his letter of acceptance to attend PAU in the fall of ‘74. Both of these stories hit the area newspapers and TV stations over the weekend (during the time we were to be “talking to our people”). At the Board of Regents meeting on that Monday night, there was much affirmation of Dennis being “the man”. Two days later, when the President met with Dennis, his line was totally different--”Now, just what can we do for you? Courts need resurfacing? Got it! Need a graduate assistant? Got it! Anything else?”
We had truly seen God turn the heart of the President (Prov. 21:1) and honor (I Sam. 2:30b) Dennis’ commitment to honoring God by not cheating and lying to build a successful tennis program!
In considering the story of the Levite and the civil war in Israel and its application to mothers, I was struck by the tendency we have to compromise with the world and live and look just like everyone else. We do what is easy instead of what is best. This happens to us as mothers, as well. The other mothers are allowing their children to do certain things and we go along although we know in our hearts that it is not best.
I remember being confronted with allowing my daughter to go to certain movies with other children. It amazed me what other Christian families considered okay for their children to see. My choice was to stand on my principles or compromise because it was easy and I could look like everyone else.
As children get older these questions multiply; as a mom you will be confronted with many questions of lifestyle. Just remember that you as a believer are to look differently than the world. The characters in this story were apparently totally oblivious that their moral values were opposed to the Scripture; in contrast, we must be vigilant to stand for what is right without compromise.
It is easier to go along and allow our kids to do what everyone else does. That is the easy way. Life without compromise, a godly life, is difficult and it brings hard consequences sometimes, but we must be willing to stand firm. Otherwise, the consequences may be even more serious in the lives of our children.
In order for us to stand for righteousness and God’s standards with our children, we must be sure that we ourselves are living what we propose to them. Children are the first to pick up on those who live as hypocrites, especially in their own home. We must live what we teach. We cannot expect them to learn honesty if we lie for them about missing school or if we cheat on our taxes. Little eyes are watching and they see!
Pray that you will be a model of integrity, a mom who doesn’t compromise her standards because they are rooted in God himself.
16 Note in Life Application Study Bible, 420.
17 Note in Life Application Study Bible, 241.
18 E. Ray Clendenen, 585.