Week One: The Consequences of Disobedience
Light for Living
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve . . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua in Joshua 24:15 (NASB)
As a mother, I found disciplining my children to be less than fun and often painful. At times I chose to simply ignore the problem, but that didn’t help train godly, polite, kind, and forgiving children. Although I didn’t enjoy dealing with disobedience and sass, imposing consequences on my children often affected their long-term behavior.
This week we’ll see that God is a great and good Father who may discipline his children by letting them live with consequences.
The book of Genesis records the story of Abraham, whom God called out of an idol-worshipping family into a relationship with him by faith. God gave him three great promises: a nation, a land, and a blessing to the world; yet, these promises weren’t fulfilled in Abraham’s lifetime. He lived to see Isaac, the son of promise and his two sons, not much of a nation; he wandered as a nomad in the land; and he never saw the blessing, which wasn’t fulfilled until approximately two thousand years later through Jesus.
Genesis goes on to record God’s sovereign plan to save Abraham’s descendants from famine by sending them to Egypt where there was food (Genesis 37, 39-47 and 50:15-21). There they were enslaved for four hundred years and yet grew into a nation numbering in the millions. Under the leadership of God’s chosen man Moses, God freed them to return to the land promised to Abraham (the book of Exodus). After forty years of wandering in the wilderness because of their lack of faith, God gave their army victory after victory under Joshua (the book of Joshua).
When we believe that God is good and merciful, it’s very difficult to understand his instructions for conquering this land long promised to Abraham’s descendants:
When God, your God, brings you into the country that you are about to enter and take over, he will clear out the superpowers that were there before you: the Hittite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite. Those seven nations are all bigger and stronger than you are. God, your God, will turn them over to you and you will conquer them. You must completely destroy them, offering them up as a holy destruction to God.
Don’t make a treaty with them.
Don’t let them off in any way.
Don’t marry them: Don’t give your daughters to their sons and don’t take their daughters for your sons— before you know it they’d involve you in worshiping their gods, and God would explode in anger, putting a quick end to you.
Here’s what you are to do: Tear apart their altars stone by stone, smash their phallic pillars, chop down their sex-and-religion Asherah groves, set fire to their carved god-images.
Do this because you are a people set apart as holy to God, your God. God, your God, chose you out of all the people on Earth for himself as a cherished, personal treasure (Deuteronomy 7:1-6, MSG).
Why would God ask them to destroy the people who lived in the land? K. Lawson Younger, Jr. summarizes three reasons: “judgment of the Canaanites, protection of the Israelites from Canaanite religious influence, and fulfillment of the patriarchal promises concerning the land.”1
*** Read what your Bible resources or commentaries say about God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 7:1-6. Write down anything that helps you understand this.
This is arguably the toughest command in the Bible, but these people were evil to the point of sacrificing their children to their gods. I can understand that such evil is like a terrible, infectious disease which threatens God’s people, but it’s hard to accept nevertheless. Yet, when I consider the lengths to which I would go to protect my own family from a threat, it’s easier to understand that God knew what had to be done.
For me, the issue comes back to Jesus. A God who would become man and live among us, accepting hatred, abuse and a horrible death on the cross to overcome evil for our sake, is a God who loves the people of the world, whether I understand his command to destroy these nations or not.
I identify with Peter’s response when Jesus’s hard teachings caused many of his followers to desert him. When Jesus asked the twelve if they would also abandon him, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69, NIV).
Part One Study
The Era of the Judges begins with Joshua’s death and ends with Saul’s anointing as the first King of Israel. During this period God was their King, and the people were expected to listen to and obey him. What happened in reality was a far cry from that vision, however. A repeated theme in the book is found in two places, 17:6 and 21:25 (ESV): “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Seven times we read this repeated statement: “The descendants of Israel did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD and served the Baals” (2:11; 3:7, 12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1).2 Repeated ideas point to major themes in the book, so keep them in mind as you read.
Judges has three main sections: introduction (Judges 1:1-3:6), stories of the judges (Judges 3:7-16:31), and finally a double conclusion containing two stories of moral decay (Judges 17:1-21:25). You may want to read more background information about this book and time period in the Appendix on p. 55.
Before you read the introductory section, it’s important to understand that it’s not completely chronological. And there’s a double introduction: the first (Judges 1:1-2:5) presents the people’s perspective, and the second (Judges 2:6-3:6) reveals God’s point-of-view.3
Under Joshua’s leadership the Israelites defeated the major kings of Canaan in a series of battles, detailed in the book of Joshua. Then, the land was divided among the tribes, and each tribe was to complete the conquest of their allotted land.
Read Judges 1:1-2:5, the first introduction. (FYI—The tribes of Israel are referred to as if they are individuals here. For example, Judah is a tribe, not a person.) Then, write down your thoughts as you consider these questions:
- Describe your reaction to God’s instructions to totally wipe out these people. (See the Background section of this lesson if you skipped it.) How well did the various tribes obey that command according to Judges 1? And how did they explain it?
- What does God’s response to their disobedience reveal about him?
- The response of God’s people to the messenger’s announcement in Judges 2:1-3 reminds me of 2 Corinthians 7:9-10. Read those verses and write down your thoughts about the correlation.
- As you read the quote at the top of the next page in light of what you’ve seen in God’s Word, what is God saying about destructive patterns in your own life that have brought consequences? How have you, much like the Israelites, excused your disobedience and compromise?
“If we examine our lives, the bulk of our failures—especially in spiritual matters, but not exclusively—are the results of outright disobedience to God’s explicit, straightforward commandments, or of attempting to live in such a way that we blend into the world.”4
Part Two Study
The second introduction to the book of Judges is found in Judges 2:6-3:6. While the first introduction provides the Israelites’ point-of-view, this one reveals God’s perspective on the same events.
Read Judges 2:6-3:6, the second introduction.
(To be sure that you understand this, Judges 2:6 flashes back to Joshua 24. It isn’t chronological after 2:5, but instead these events occurred before Judges 1:1.)
- Fill in the chart below with a summary of what happens over and over in the Judges’ Era.5 Draw the chart below if you’re using an online study. What does the cycle reveal about God? What is he like?
- Compare this second introduction to the first one that you read in Judges 1:1-2:5. What differences do you see in the two points-of-view?
Read Joshua 24:1-29, Joshua’s farewell address to the nation. (Remember that Joshua 24:28 is the flashback point of Judges 2:6.)
- As you think of God’s character and what the people did during the time of the judges, how does Joshua’s message explain the cycle? (Note the name LORD written in all caps in the Old Testament. This is YHWH, God’s personal name for himself based on the root meaning “I AM,” and is probably pronounced Yahweh.)
*** Yahweh describes himself as a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24). The Old Testament prophets used marriage terminology to depict the covenant relationship between God and Israel, which involved describing Israel as unfaithful, a wife who prostituted herself (e.g. Jeremiah 3:6-12; Hosea 2:2-17). In the New Testament the church is Christ’s bride (Revelation 19:6-8), so James calls those who love the world adulterers (James 4:4). Read these references and note your thoughts about the positive role that jealousy plays in marriage and how it relates to the cycle of the Judges.
- How is God speaking to you today?
Part Three Study
Reread Judges 3:1-6.
We see in v.4 that God used the consequences of disobedience for a positive purpose: “They were left to test Israel, so the Lord would know if his people would obey the commands he gave their ancestors through Moses.”
God allows temptation/testing/consequences in our lives for similar reasons—to reveal what’s really in us, not for his sake since he already knows, but for us so that we repent and bring him glory. Peter explains: “. . . you may have to suffer for a short time in various trials. Such trials show the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – gold that is tested by fire, even though it is passing away – and will bring praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Applying Judges isn’t about focusing on sins common to people outside the church: sexual sins, murder, stealing, etc. When my focus is there, I feel pretty good and righteous. The sin of God’s people in Judges is idolatry, lack of trust in their God. Just as Adam and Eve sinned by trying to become like God, so we too bow to idols to get what we want. God expects each of us to focus on uncovering the idols of our own hearts, not pointing the finger at the culture.
“This is the right response to oppression: to see how God’s hand is working behind and through it, and look honestly at ourselves, and to cry out to the LORD for revival.”6
Journal your thoughts about these questions:
- Applying Judges 3:1-6 and 1 Peter 1:6-7 (quoted on the previous page), in what ways might God be using our present culture and world in your life? What does this reveal about God?
- In John 17, Jesus intercedes for his followers as our great High Priest. Read vv. 14-23 and comment on how his prayer for the church connects to the situation in the Era of the Judges.
- How has God spoken to you through his Word this week?
*** I’m left with questions for myself and the church at large as to how we respond to the testing that comes from living in our culture. Journal your answers to questions I’m asking myself: Do I really put God and his kingdom first, or do I show more concern about idols like prosperity, entertainment, nationalism, ease, comfort and safety? Do I trust God or the powers of this world for tomorrow? When my idols are threatened, do I act like those who don’t know God instead of like Jesus?
At my workplace, I had an eyesore bookshelf that took up the whole wall of my office. It was an open-faced bookcase that just seemed to gather old manuals, office supplies, and dust all the time. I needed a new file cabinet in my office, and I needed the bookcase removed so that I could rearrange my office.
For two months I asked my boss to remove the bookcase. I sent him e-mails and verbally told him that I would like to fix up my office and the bookcase had to go. I stated that if he did not remove the bookcase I would tear it down. My boss let me know that if I tore down the bookcase, I would be fired.
After two months of patiently waiting (or what I thought was patiently waiting), I sent him an e-mail stating that I wanted the bookshelf gone by Friday. Nothing happened, so I tore the shelving down. Consequently, my boss wrote me up for insubordination and put me on probation. This action also changed the working relationship I had with my boss.
The lesson God taught me through this experience is how much this is like my relationship with God. I wait for God to answer me within my time frame not his. I think I’m being patient, and when God does not act, I react. In doing so, I do not receive God’s best and usually have to deal with the consequences of my actions.
As you consider Marla’s story, do you identify any idols? How do her actions ring true in your life?
1 K. Lawson Younger, Jr., NIV Application Commentary: Judges/Ruth, Terry Muck, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), 2002, 28-29.
2 “Baal is the Canaanite word for ‘lord.’” Timothy Keller, Judges for You: Edited from the Study by Tim Keller (India: The Good Book Company, 2013), 30.
3 Younger, 61.
4 Younger, 79.
5 For answers to the blanks on the chart, see the Appendix page 58.
6 Keller, 44.
Related Topics: Discipline