International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday July 31, 2011
Purpose: To remind us that the salvation God provides follows genuine repentance
Scripture Text: Judges 10:10-18
Recommended Background Reading: Judges 10 & 11, 21:25
Judges 10:10-18 (NRSV)
(10)So the Israelites cried to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have abandoned our God and have worshiped the Baals.” (11)And the LORD said to the Israelites, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? (12)The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites, and the Maonites, oppressed you; and you cried to me, and I delivered you out of their hand. (13)Yet you have abandoned me and worshiped other gods; therefore I will deliver you no more. (14)Go and cry to the gods whom you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” (15)And the Israelites said to the LORD, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you; but deliver us this day!” (16)So they put away the foreign gods from among them and worshiped the LORD; and he could no longer bear to see Israel suffer. (17)Then the Ammonites were called to arms, and they encamped in Gilead; and the Israelites came together, and they encamped at Mizpah. (18)The commanders of the people of Gilead said to one another, “Who will begin the fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The Old Testament records a continual series of rejection and repentance, today's lesson records such a story. Throughout the Book of Judges we see a people that had been given victory after victory and who had been given a land they had no claim to, except for God's promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You would think they would continue to worship the God that had been so gracious to them and delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
Once again our lesson begins “So the Israelites cried to the LORD.” In the history of this new nation this seems to occur every few years. God hears the cry and delivers them only to find after a few years they return to worshiping false gods and idols.
This time God lets them dangle and quickly tells them, if they are unhappy maybe they ought to try and get help from those false gods they insist on worshiping. The amazing part is the Israelites understood what God was saying and agreed with Him. And for the first time in the Book of Judges there appears to be genuine repentance and they destroy the foreign gods they had been worshiping. That act, up to this point in the Book of Judges, had not been recorded, there was always the crying out, but repentance was not recorded, so this is a first. And that act of repentance tugs on God's heart of love, and as He always does, He gave the nation of Israel another opportunity to prove themselves worthy of His love and forgiveness.
In this present age “easy believe-ism” is more of the norm. We want a God that works for us but also one that does not require anything in response. We want redemption without repentance, we want security without responsibility. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German pastor and theologian coined the phrase, “cheap grace,” in his book “The Cost of Discipleship,” In defining cheap grace, Bonhoeffer said, “It is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without contrition. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the Cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Today, we are told if we do not include all of the false and foreign gods, into our acceptance, we are elitist, closed minded, self-righteous bigots. But, when we make exceptions for God's grace we are proclaiming a false gospel. A life that is touched by God's grace ought to be a transformed life. God's forgiveness should be followed by repentance and contrition on our part. As much as we would like to incorporate every religion and god into a plan for redemption, our God chose to proclaim, that salvation comes through accepting Him alone as our God. In the Acts of the Apostles 4.12: it says, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”