SDA Sabbath School Lessons
May 18, 1996
#7 Royalty and Disloyalty
Read for this week's study:
Judges 8:23, KJV
A person's relationship with God is reflected in the way he or she treats other human beings. Thus, loyalty to God as Lord leads to human kindness, but rejection of God as Lord leads to ingratitude, selfish pride, and cruel ruthlessness.
The Cost of Kingship. Ever since Lucifer came up with the idea of being like the Most High (Isa. 14:14) and deceived the human race into accepting his philosophy (see Gen. 3:5--"you shall be as gods"), people have played God and lorded it over others. From earliest times, kingship has been likened to and associated with divine power. The Egyptian pharohs, Mesopotamian kings, and Hittite emperors, to name a few, even demanded and received worship as gods. With their awesome authority, ancient kings claimed to be the "shepherds" of their people, providing for their protection and well-being. But the price was high (1 Sam. 8:10-18).
When Gideon was offered the kingship of Israel, he was not offered the kind of constitutional monarchy that many nations have today. He recognized that to take that position would be to substitute despotic human rule for God's authority, to play God (Judges 8:23). But his son, who did not respect God or people, wanted to be king at all costs. The price to others was high, and in the end, so was the price to him.
- Sunday May 12: The Lord Will Rule Over You (Judges 8:22, 23).
- Gideon had led Israel to victory over kings, and he looked like a king (Judges 8:18). The Israelites were so grateful that they asked him to be their king (verse 22).
- What do the words of the Israelites to Gideon reveal about their attitude toward God? Judges 8:22.
- Where was the Israelites' gratitude to God? They clearly wanted a permanent leadership institution to unite and organize their tribes for protection against their enemies. Their oppressors were ruled by kings, so the wanted a king too. How quickly they had forgotten that the kings who oppressed them had been defeated by divine-human cooperation!
- The offer of a dynastic kingship ("and your son and your grandson also," Judges 8:22 must have been attractive. Once again, as at the time of the crisis with Ephraim (verses 1-3), Gideon showed restraint, wisdom, and humility. Refusing the offer, he exalted the kingship of the Lord as the ideal for Israelite leadership (verse 23).
- Since Israel later had kings, what was wrong with Gideon's becoming king? 1 Sam. 8:7.
- The tribes of Israel were supposed to be united by the Lord, who dwelt in the tabernacle and raised up leaders like Joshua and Gideon. But that plan required too much faith. The people wanted a person who was more permanent, more powerful--someone to whom they could pay taxes. They misread God's power. Instead of seeing God as deliverer, they saw those whom He raised up as the key to freedom and independence. God later let them have a king, but it was a concession because of their lack of faith in Him (1 Sam. 8). After the disastrous reign of Saul, the Lord made the best of kingship by choosing David, "a man after his own heart" (1 Sam. 13:14), with whom He made a special covenant (2 Sam. 7; Psalms 89). But the kings who descended from David destroyed the spiritual life of the nation. The only hope was a retrun to the Lord's leadership. He is the divine "root and the offspring of David" (Rev. 22:16) to whom the kingdom rightfully belongs (Gen. 49:10). His power does not originate in this world (John 18:36).
- Do you enjoy having power or influence over people? If so, why? Are the results positive or negative?
- Monday May 13: Gideon's Mistake (Judges 8:24-28).
- Just after nobly refusing to become king (Judg. 8:23), Gideon made the biggest mistake of his career. He asked for earrings taken from the Midianites (called Ishmaelites in verse 24; compare Gen. 37:25, 27, 28), and from this gold he made an "ephod," a priestly shoulder cape or mantle (verse 24-27).
- Why did Gideon do this?
Which of the following best answers the above question?
- Gideon coveted the gold and relized that the Israelites could make him rich.
- So that Gideon could have the gold and at the same time acknowledge the Lord's rold in the deliverance, he made the gold into a sacred object dedicated to the Lord.
- Since the Angel of the Lord had appeared to him at Ophrah (Judges 6:11-24), Gideon thought that he should establish a center of worship there (Judges 8:27).
- Gideon wanted to establish a worship center in his tribe of Manasseh to make sure that Manasseh would retain a leading political role.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
- What was wrong with what Gideon did, as recorded in Judges 8:24-27?
- By making an ephod containing a lot of gold, like the ephod worn by the Israelite high priest (Exod. 28:6-14), Gideon intended to worship the Lord. But it was wrong for him to set up priestly worship functions that the Lord had not authorized, in competition with the sanctuary. Because the Lord was not present with Gideon's ephod, the ephod itself came to represent God and be worshiped (Judges 8:27). Compare 1 Kings 12:25-33, which describes how Jeroboam set up unauthorized golden calves at Bethel and Dan, in competition with the Lord, who had brought the Israelites out of Egypt. But these material representations were, in fact, idols.
- Does our form of worship follow principles established by God? If not, how should we go about making changes?
Tuesday May 14: Ingratitude
- When Gideon made a golden ephod, his intentions were probably not too bad. But, whereas he had formerly followed God's direction, on this occasion he trusted only in his own reasoning. The results were disastrous, both for his family and for the nation.
- Why did the people turn so quickly to Baal worship as soon as Gideon died? Judges 8:33.
- Gideon's ephod was originally supposed to be used to worship the Lord. But more and more importance was attached to the object itself, so that it came to be worshiped. (Compare 2 Kings 18:4.) Once the object was worshiped in place of the Lord Himself, the Lord was forgotten. Then it was a fairly short step for the Israelites to reconnect their worship with Baal, against whom Gideon (Jerubbaal) had contended (Judges 8:33-35; compare 6:25-32).
- Was there a connection between the fact that the Israelites did not remember the Lord after Gideon's death and the ingratitude that they showed to Gideon's family? Judges 8:33-35
- Deliverance from the Midianites was accomplished by the Lord, working through Gideon. They were a team. When the people of Israel ungratefully "did not remember the Lord their God" (Judges 8:34) and the deliverances He had wrought for Israel, they simultaneously lost sight of the good that deliverers such as Gideon had done to them. Thus, ironically, the apostasy into which Gideon led the people contributed greatly to their subsequent lack of kindness to his family.
- When Judges 8:34 says that the people "did not remember," it does not mean that they had amnesia for which they were not responsible. They were, indeed, responsible for not remembering, that is not cherishing or guarding as precious the significance of what the Lord had done for them. This meaning of the word remember also appears in Exodus 20:8: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." Compare the parallel statement of the same commandment in Deut. 5:12: "Observe [literally "guard" or "keep"] the Sabbath day, to keep it holy".
- Do we cherish the memory of what God and His people have done for us?
- Wednesday May 15: Experiment with Kingship
- Gideon said, "I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you" (Judges 8:23). But after Gideon died, Abimelech persuaded the citizens of Shechem to make him king.
- The name Abimelech, apparently given by Gideon (Judges 8:31), means "my father is king." This name probably referred to the divine heavenly Father as king, in harmony with Gideon's words "the Lord will rule over you" (verse 23). But Abimelech ignored the significance of his own name!
- Why did the citizens of Schechem support Abimelech? Judges 9:1-6
Which of the following best answers the question?
- Abimelech gave the impression, which may have had some basis in reality, that the 70 legitimate sons of Gideon were ruling over the people of Shechem. Abimelech would help to remove this undesirable external authority (Judges 9:2).
- Gideon's other sons were born to wives who lived at Ophrah, Abimelech was born to a concubine from Shechem. Thus, he claimed to be a Shechemite.
- Whereas Gideon and the people of Ophrah belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, the Israelites of Shechem were of the tribe of Ephraim. The proud Ephraimites had earlier chafed under Gideon's leadership (Judges 8:1-3). Now they had an opportunity to become the dominant northern tribe by appointing as their leader a son of Gideon who was also from their territory.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
- What is the point of Jotham's parable, recorded in Judges 9:7-20?
- Jotham's parable is both a searing commentary on the disloyalty and treachery of Abimelech and the Shechemites (Judges 9:1-6) and a prophecy that they would destroy each other. (See verses 23-57
- What dangers are involved in manipulating others to achieve our personal goals? How can we avoid hurting people in our quest for success?
- Thursday May 16: Depravity and Gravity
- Abimelech ruled for three years (Judges 9:22). But the Lord allowed him and the Shechemites to destroy each other (verses 23-57), as foreseen by Jotham (verse 20). The story demonstrates God's justice in making punishment fit a crime. "What goes around comes around" or "what goes up must come down."
- Study the coincidences in this story. Where does conicidence cease and divine intervention begin? What evidence is there that God was in control of these "coincidences"?
Judges 9:23, 24
Compare Judges 9:23 with Judges 7:22;
Compare Judges 9:26-29 with verses 1-3;
Compare Judges 9:32, 34 with verse 25;
Compare Judges 9:34, 43 with Judges 7:16
Compare Judges 9:48, 49 with verse 20;
Compare Judges 9:53 with verse 57.
- Like his father, Abimelech was a courageous and effective military leader (Judges 9:34-49). But his story shows what tragedy can result when (1) people are disloyal and ungrateful to God and to one another, (2) actions are guided by ruthless heman ambition rather than by God and His principles, and (3) a leader is chosen for the wrong reasons.
- Abimelech was the "bramble" Jotham depicted him to be (Judges 9:14, 15). An illegitimate son, he was an illegitimate king as far as God was concerned.
- Can you find other biblical examples of punishments fitting crimes? (See Gen. 4:10-12; Num. 14:26-35.) How have you seen God's justice at work in your lifetime? Why are some wrongs not paid for in this life?
- Friday May 17:
Further study: On God's ultimate punishment of the wicked at the end of time, read:
2 Thess. 1:7-10;
Rev. 20:7-10, 14, 15. Read Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Earlier Judges," pp. 555-557.
- "God had manifested special favor to Gideon, in selecting him as the instrument through whom to deliver Israel. While great responsibilities rested upon him in this important crisis, Gideon's course was marked with humility and faithful obedience. God accepted his work, and crowned his efforts with success. But now Gideon was assailed by temptation in a new form. When the reprover of wrong has done his work, in obedience to God's commands, the period of inactivity which succeeds the struggle, is often the most dangerous. This danger Gideon now experienced. A spirit of unrest was upon him. Hitherto he had been content to execute the commands given him of God; but now, instead of calmly waiting for divine instruction, he began to devise and execute plans for himself."- -Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, June 28, 1881.
- Discussion Questions:
- The above quotations refers to the danger of periods of inactivity following struggles. Have you found this to be true? (Compare 2 Sam. 7:1; 11:1-3.) Explain your answer.
- Consider how this lesson can be used to illustrate the contrast between the kingship of sin in our lives and the rulership of Christ and His righteousness. (See Rom. 6:14-22; Col 1:13, 14.)
- What does gratitude do to relationships? How do you feel when someone expresses gratitude to you, or fails to do so? Do you express gratitude to other people and to God as much as you could?
- Do you see a connection between a person's loyalty to God and his or her loyalty to other human beings? (See Ruth 1:16, 17.) What are the implications of this idea for your relationships with others, especially if you are married?
Gideon was loyal to God when he refused royal honors, but he was disloyal when he set up unauthorized worship. This disloyalty led many Israelites astray, preparing the way for worship of other gods and for disloyalty to his own family. The story of Gideon's son Abimelech illustrates the self-destructiveness of disregard for proper relationships with God and other people
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Last updated on May 8, 1996.