SDA Sabbath School Lessons
April 13, 1996
#2 Ups and Downs
Read for this week's study: Judges 2:6-3:6.
Memory text: Judges
During the period of the "judges," God's people fell into
a repeated pattern of apostasy, suffering at the hands of their enemies,
deliverance through a "judge" sent by their merciful Lord, followed
by worse apostasy.
The beginning of a roller-coaster ride isn't bad. There's a gentle clickety-clack
as the mechanism pulls you smoothly up. The view becomes better. Soon you
can see the whole park, and then the whole surrounding countryside. You
can see just about everything--everything, that is except the track. Where's
the track? Oh no! There it is . . . wayyyyy down there! Before
you can decide whether to have a cardiac arrest or to sink into a deep
coma, down you go. You won't remember any thoughts after that, because
there aren't any; just a long, horrifying feeling as you go down, up, down,
"Roller-coaster religion" has a lot of ups and downs, but
it always ends on the down side. A roller-coaster ride takes only a few
minutes, but "roller-coaster religion" lasts a lot longer. The
Israelites had a chronic case of it for hundreds of years. (See Judges
- Sunday April 7: The Faithful Generation ( Judges
- The book of Judges begins with the words "after the death of Joshua"
1:1), but Judges
2:6 goes back to the time when Joshua was still alive.
- Why isn't the information given in Judges
2:6-9 placed at the beginning of the book, according to the order in
which events happened?
- Since the book of Judges is about the time after Joshua's death, it
is appropriate for it to begin where it does. The account of military events
1 leads up to the pronouncement of the Angel of the Lord in Judges
2:1-5, which may be regarded as the overall theme of the book. Before
describing the faithlessness of the generations after Joshua ( 2:
10-3:6), it is fitting to mention Joshua and the faithful who entered
Canaan with him ( 2:6-9
- Why was the generation of Joshua faithful? Judges
2:7; compare verse
- Those who entered Canaan with Joshua saw special miracles wrought by
the Lord, such as the parting of the Jordan River ( Joshua
3:14-17) and the fall of Jericho's walls ( Joshua
6:20). But of those who entered the Promised Land, only Caleb and Joshua
belonged to the older generation who had witnessed the plagues of Egypt
7-12), the crossing of the Red Sea ( Exodus
14), and the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai ( Exodus
20). Those who entered the land were faithful, not simply because they
saw what the Lord did for them, but because they chose to trust Him wholly.
14:8, 9, 14.) The same motivation applies to us. We follow Jesus because
of what He did for us ( Phil.
- Have you seen God work for you? How did this experience affect you?
- Monday April 8: The Unfaithful Generation (Judges
- In Judges 2:10, the words "another generation grew up after them,
who did not know the Lord" (NRSV) remind us of Exodus 1:8: "Now
a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph" (NRSV). God
had delivered the Israelites from Pharaoh. Just as Pharaoh recognized no
need for loyalty to the family of Joseph, so the Israelites after Joshua
saw no need for loyalty to God. Ignorance is often the basis for foolish
- Why didn't the generation of Israelites, who were enjoying the Promised
Land, recognize God, who had given them the land? Deut.
- When the Israelites were comfortable in the land and occupied with
their material well-being, they took their blessings for granted and forgot
about God, turning to the gods of the Canaanites ( Judges
2:11-13). Forgetting has various meanings and consequences, depending
on the situation. Where relationships are concerned, forgetting can be
a symptom of lack of concern for someone. Forgetting God shows lack of
concern for Him, in spite of the fact that He is the Creator and Redeemer.
God commands His people to remember Him on His Sabbath day once a week
- What provisions had God made to prevent the people from forgetting
about Him? Deut.
4:9, 10; 6:4-9.
Why did God's plan to carry faithfulness from one generation to another
- What are we doing to educate our children to follow God? What are we
teaching them by our example? What negative influences must we counteract
to ensure that they will constantly be encouraged to serve the Lord?
- Tuesday April 9: From Disobedience to Distress
dges 2:14, 15).
- When the Israelites forsook the Lord and worshiped the gods of the
Canaanites, they not only could not drive the Canaanites out of the land;
the balance of power shifted in favor of the Canaanites and other enemies,
who plundered and oppressed the Israelites. At the beginning of the book
of Judges, the Lord gave the enemies of the Israelites into their hands
). Now "the hand of the Lord was against them to bring misfortune,
as the Lord had warned them and sworn to them"
(Judges 2:15, NRSV). Before the Israelites had entered the land, God
had promised blessings for obedience and warned of punishments for disobedience.
- Why were the Israelites miserable when they disobeyed God? If they
didn't want to serve Him, why didn't He respect their choice and just leave
them alone? Heb.
- Which of the following provides the best answer?
How do you react to what you think might be discipline from God? Do
you accept it as given in love for your own good, or do you become angry
- When the Israelites sinned, God was completely just in punishing them.
- God wanted them to see the connection between blessing and obedience.
- God's punishment involved withholding His protection, which was conditional
upon obedience. Without Him, the Israelites suffered the consequences of
- The Israelites belonged to God in a special way because of His covenant
with them at Sinai
) and His earlier covenant with their ancestor, Abraham
). His discipline demonstrated that He loved them as His children ( Heb.
- God did not immediately take "no" for an answer, because
He knew that they did not understand the full implications of what they
were doing. He respected their freedom of choice but gave them an opportunity
to taste the consequences of their decisions so they could choose more
wisely in the future.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
Wednesday April 10: Not Learning From Mistakes (Ju
dges 2:16, 19).
- Why did the Lord raise up judges to save the Israelites from their
does not go on forever, or it becomes destruction. Discipline is not merely
punishment; discipline is designed to redeem and transform. God wanted
to rehabilitate His people, not destroy them. So when they realized the
folly of what they had done, He sent deliverers. But their repentance did
not last. Before the Israelites entered the land, God promised that while
they followed Him, they would be upwardly mobile--as we may be if we allow
Christ to rule in our hearts (
). They would excel and be the head rather than the tail (
. 28:13, 14
). This implies that disobedience would result in going down and being
the tail. The Israelites went up and down through cycle after cycle of
faithfulness and disobedience, with each period of disobedience taking
them lower than the preceding one (
). This was "roller-coaster religion."
- Why didn't the Israelites learn from their mistakes?
How could the downward trend have been stopped?
- When Peter was walking on water, he became distracted by his surroundings
and lost his focus upon Christ. Beginning to sink, "he cried out,
'Lord save me!' Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him,
'You of little faith, why did you doubt?' "
(Matt. 14:30, 31, NRSV). Peter was aware when he began to sink. Maintaining
a connection with upward power is the key to preventing a spiritual downturn.
Jesus made it clear to Peter that faith in Him was that connection
- Are you having an up-and-down religious experience in your life? What
causes you to slip? (See 2
Cor. 13:5 .) What can you do to maintain a constant pattern of spiritual
growth? What is the relationship between your efforts and Christ's power
in the process of overcoming?
Thursday April 11: Failing God's Test
- As announced by the Angel of the Lord, because of the disobedience
of the Israelites, God did not give them the ability to drive out the Canaanites
who were left. (
- Why hadn't God given the faithful Israelites under Joshua the ability
to drive out all the Canaanites at once?
odus 23:29, 30.
- The remaining Canaanites became a means by which God could test the
faithfulness of the Israelites
). Total dependence upon the Lord in conflict with the wicked Canaanites
was an important part of the test (
s 3:1, 2
). The Israelites failed the test (
s 3:5, 6
- Why had God forbidden intermarriage with the Canaanites?
odus 34:15, 16.
How does this apply to us? See
- Jesus said: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses
its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for
anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (Matt. 5:13,
NIV). Salt is valuable for its flavor enhancement and as a preservative.
Just so, God's people make a contribution when they are spiritually distinct
and influential--in the world but not of the world ( John
). When they assimilate worldly ways and attitudes, they have nothing
- How can we maintain our distinctness and influence as Christians, rather
than being absorbed into the environment of unbelievers? Should we withdraw
from the company of unbelievers? How can we be part of our society, yet
Friday April 12: Further study: To illustrate the lesson, study
in Scripture the up-and-down experience of the following people: Solomon,
Peter, Judas, Mary Magdalene. On the beginning of the period of the judges,
read Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Earlier
Judges," (chapter 53), p545. On depending upon Christ, read Ellen
G. White, The Desire of Ages, "A Night on the Lake," pp.
- "At the present day, as in ancient times, the people of God .
. . need to be constantly reaching upward to lay hold on the divine arm,
lest they stumble and fall. They can walk safely, only as they fear God,
and obey His voice."--Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, July
- Discussion Questions:
- Review Ju
and list as many explanations as you can for the failure of the Israelites.
Then answer the following questions: Are there connections between these
explanations? Which appear to be the most important? Which are surface
factors, and which are underlying causes? How could each of these factors
have been prevented?
- Review your own life, and list reasons for your successes and your
failures. Then answer the four questions given above under 1. With regard
to the last question, consider especially the role of your daily devotional
- How can we tactfully help others in our religious communities to progress
The Israelites had an up-and-down experience because they failed to
maintain a steady relationship with God, to learn from their mistakes,
and to learn from God's leading in the past. In spite of their failures,
God mercifully delivered them from the distresses that they had brought
upon themselves. We can learn from their story and have a steady experience
by maintaining our faith connection with Christ each day.
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Last updated on April 21, 1996.