International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 10, 2011
Purpose: To discern how steadfastness and resolve during trying times bring glory to God
Scripture Text: Judges 2:11-19
Judges 2:11-19 (NRSV)
(110Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshiped the Baals; (12)and they abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were all around them, and bowed down to them; and they provoked the LORD to anger. (13)They abandoned the LORD, and worshiped Baal and the Astartes. (14)So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them, and he sold them into the power of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. (15)Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them to bring misfortune, as the LORD had warned them and sworn to them; and they were in great distress. (16)Then the LORD raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them. (17)Yet they did not listen even to their judges; for they lusted after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their ancestors had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD; they did not follow their example. (18)Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he delivered them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the LORD would be moved to pity by their groaning because of those who persecuted and oppressed them. (19)But whenever the judge died, they would relapse and behave worse than their ancestors, following other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They would not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Isn't it amazing how soon we can forget? Just a generation ago the Israelites were a victorious nation of people, with the help of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Joshua. In today's text they are a lost nation, again seeking to worship the very god's that those they defeated trusted in. You would think they would stay on the side of the God that had given them the victory over the other nations and gods.
The gods mentioned in our text, Baal and Astarte, were fertility gods worshiped by the Phoenicians and Canaanites; Baal being the male god of fertility, Astarte being the female god of fertility and sexual love, corresponding to the Egyptian god Isis, or the Greek god Aphrodite. The worship of these idols promoted the very opposite of God's law handed down by Moses. Starting with the first commandment, “no other gods before you” and going on to “adultery,” “covetousness” “murder,” (because human sacrifice was part of worshiping Baal), and “worshiping carved images.” Practicing the worship of Baal and Astarte allowed for all sorts of sexual exploits and a life of undisciplined self gratification, maybe similar to those that worshiped “love” (the age of Aquarius) in the generation of the 60s and 70's.
In the late 1940's according to Gallup polling 91% of all Americans considered themselves Christian, in the latest Gallup poll 82% now identify with Christianity, however, only about 63% will admit to attending church even on a “seldom” basis (which includes weddings and funerals). Back in 1957 -- during the halcyon days of the Eisenhower administration -- 69% of Americans said religion was increasing its influence, it is just 32% today
If we read and study today's text and do not apply it to our own apathy and disregard for God's commandments I think we are missing a valuable lesson. The other lesson we can learn is that God will go to great lengths to draw us back to Him. In the case of the Israelites He raised up Judges at various times to lead a group back to worshiping God as their forefathers had done, judges such as Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, and Samson.
The good news for us is that God has always listened for the cry of His people and has always responded by rising up someone that would lead them out of their misery and sinfulness. As long as we chase after the things that we want, and not after the things that God desires for us, we will find ourselves estranged from God. However, we can be assured that God is always waiting for us to wake up and realize real joy comes from serving and obeying the God who continues to love us in spite of our wanderings.
We too have a choice, we can continue in our stubbornness, ignoring God and seeking pleasures, or repent our lustful idolatry worship and seek to follow Him who loves us the most. Obedience is the response God expects for the love and grace He has given to each of us.