SDA Sabbath School Lessons
May 25, 1996
#8 Repentance and Rashness
Read for this week's study:
Judges 10:16, RSV
When God's people repent and return to His covenant, He can provide for them as He has wanted to do all along. Zeal for God's cause is an inspiring and motivating force, but rashness is destructive.
Promises, Promises. A father promises his son an outing but does not mark the promise in his appointment book. Responsibilities come up. The father forgets his promise. But the son does not.
A bride vows to "love, honor, and cherish" until death. But down deep she knows that if things don't go as well as she hopes, she can be divorced and marry someone else.
While he is partying, a king promises with an oath to give his daughter whatever she wishes. Prompted by her mother, she asks for the head of a preacher on a platter. "The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in prison" (Matt. 14:9, 10, NIV).
Promises are a problem! We are in trouble if we don't keep them, but sometimes we are also in trouble if we do keep them. Making a rash promise, which should not have been made in the first place, can result in a no-win situation. This was the predicament in which Jephthah found himself. He vowed, but it never occurred to him that his daughter's future was at stake!
- Sunday May 19: Repentance (Judges 10:6-16).
- They did it again! The Israelites forsook the Lord. Their worship turned into a veritable United Nations of pagan gods from Syria, Sidon, Moab, Ammon, and Philistia (Judges 10:6). So the Lord "sold them" into the power of the Philistines and the Ammonites (verse 7).
- Why do you think the Lord permitted the Philistines and Ammonites to oppress Israel?
Which of the following best answers the question?
- The Philistines were from the west, and the Ammonites were from the east, so the Israelites would get a double dose of oppression, from both sides.
- Allowing the Israelites to suffer at the hands of the Philistines and Ammonites, whose gods they worshiped, is another example of the Lord's tailoring punishment to fit a crime.
- By this means, the Lord could make the gods of the Philistines and Ammonites odious to the Israelites.
- Another answer:
- All the above.
- In Judges 10:10-16, the Lord directly confronts the Israelites with their apostasy. Compare this with earlier passages that are similar: Judges 2:1-5; 6:7-10. What similarities and differences do you notice regarding (1) the identity of the one speaking to the people, (2) the indictment, referring to past history and present disloyalty, (3) opportunity for hope (or lack of it), and (4) the reaction of the people?
- In Judges 10:14, the Lord made it clear that because the people had abandoned Him, He had justly abandoned them. But the people did not give up. They fully admitted their guilt and the right of God to punish them (verse 15). And they did something to demonstrate their sincerity: They rid themselves of their foreign gods and began to serve the Lord. Because they had responded positively, the Lord was able to help them (verse 16).
- How can you rid yourself of those things that stand between you and the Lord?
- Monday May 20: Jephthah (Judges 10:17-11:11).
- After the Israelites had turned again to the Lord, the Ammonite oppressors showed up again. The Israelites were now looking for a deliverer to lead the battle.
- Jephthah was an illegitimate son of a prostitute (Judges 11:1). How did circumstances arising from this social handicap result in his being chosen as leader? Judges 11:2, 3.
- The legitimate sons of Jephthah's father forced him into exile so that they could keep any share he may have had in his father's inheritance. Fending for himself in the land of Tob, he became a leader of a raiding party . Thus, when an experienced military leader was needed for the impending battle against the Ammonites, Jephthah was the logical candidate (Judges 11:4-6
- How did the elders of Gilead persuade Jephthah to lead the Israelites into battle? Judges 11:6-11.
- He agreed to those terms and made a covenant with them, which was solemnized before the Lord at Mizpah.
- Consider other Bible characters for whom God turned disadvantages into advantages. In what ways has God done this for you? Reviewing your experience, why do you think the Lord blessed you in this manner?
Tuesday May 21: Words Before War
- Rather than immediately rushing into battle, Jephthah tried to avoid war through diplomacy. The Ammonites king argued that when the Israelites came out of Egypt, they took the land between the Arnon and Jabbok rivers from the Ammonites. He demanded it back.
- What elements of truth and inaccuracy were contained in the demand of the king of Ammon? Judges 11:13-22; Num. 21:21-30.
- Even if the Ammonite king could legitimately represent the Moabites, who at one time had owned the land, Jephthah argued that the Israelites had taken it from Sihon, king of the Amorites, not from the Ammonites (Judges 11:14-23).
- What did Jephthah mean by saying, "Should you not possess what your god Chemosh gives you to possess? And should we not be the ones to possess everything that the Lord our God has conquered for our benefit" (Judges 11:24
- There was no United Nations to arbitrate such disputes, so Jephthah appealed to divine justice (verse 27) in accordance with the principle that God had established the boundaries of the Israelites in relation to other nations (Deut. 32:8). When they came out of Egypt, God had guided them by that principle when He forbade them to fight against their relatives, the Moabites and Ammonites (Deut. 2:9, 19).
- Jephthah may or may not have understood the sovereignty of God over all nations, but in any case, he stated his case in a way that the foreign ruler could understand. Chemosh was the god of the Moabites (Num. 21:29), so Jephthah was addressing the Ammonite king as the ruler of Moab.
- What efforts does Satan continually make to reclaim "territory" in our lives that has been taken over by the Holy Spirit? What is the answer to Satan's claims?
- Wednesday May 22: Vow for Victory
- Since the Ammonite king did not accept Jephthah's reasoning, Jephthah went into action, motivated by the Spirit of the Lord. Like Gideon, he attacked the enemy before they attacked him.
- Why did Jephthah make the vow that he did? Judges 11:30, 31.
- Jephthah valued the security of promises made before God. Perhaps his unstable background had made him particularly sensitive to human unreliability and the need for security that only God could provide.
- What was the result of his vow? Judges 11:34-40.
- To his dismay, Jephthah was met by his only child, a daughter. God had fulfilled his condition by giving him victory. Now he felt obligated to fulfill his vow. Heroically, his daughter did not protest (compare Gen. 22:9), but she asked to live for two more months.
- When is an oath rash, and when is it a commitment to display the victories faith has wrought in our lives? Matt. 5:33-37.
- Thursday May 23: Friends Who Became Enemies
- Just as the Ephraimites had given Gideon trouble after he defeated the Midianites (Judges 8:1), so a later generation of these fellow Israelites harassed Jephthah after he defeated the Ammonites.
- Compare the trouble the Ephraimites gave Gideon and the trouble they gave Jephthah. What similarities and what differences do you see between the two situations?
- In both situations "the tribe of Ephriam is presented in an unfavorable light. They were passive in time of oppression, and arrogant when others had taken the initiative and won the victory."--SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 379. Whereas the Ephraimites disputed with Gideon's call once the Midianites were on the run (Judges 7:24, 25), they did not help Jephthah at all (Judges 12:2). The Ephraimites disputed with Gideon (Judges 8:1), but they assembled their troops against Jephthah (Judges 12:1). The Ephraimites backed off when Gideon spoke to them (Judges 8:3), but they taunted Jephthah (Judges 12:4).
- Why did Jephthah fight? Judges 12:4-6.
Which of the following best answers the above question?
- The provocation was too severe to go unpunished.
- Jephthah had just suffered an intense personal tragedy owing to his vow regarding his daughter. Aside from losing her, which was terrible enough, he would be deprived of descendants. His tolerance for nonsense from the Ephraimites would be at an all-time low.
- Since the Ephraimites were about to attack him and his fellow Gileadites, Jephthah led an effective defense.
- Another answer:
- All of the above.
- Civil war! Intertribal problems grew from apathy to contention and finally, to war. The Israelites had become their own enemies!
- How can we avoid strife among ourselves?
- Friday May 24:
Further study: On the topic of respect for oaths, read Joshua 9, describing the circumstances surrounding a treaty that the Israelites made with Gibeonites. Read Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, "The Earlier Judges," pp. 557-559.
- "The Gibeonites had pledged themselves to renounce idolatry, and accept the worship of Jehovah; and the preservation of their lives was not a violation of God's command to destroy the idolatrous Canaanites. Hence the Hebrews had not by their oath pledged themselves to commit sin. And though the oath had been secured by deception, it was not to be disregarded. The obligation to which one's word is pledged--if it does not bind him to perform a wrong act--should be held sacred. No consideration of gain, of revenge, or of self-interest, can in any way affect the inviolability of an oath or pledge. 'Lying lips are abomination to the Lord.' Proverbs 12:22. He that 'shall ascend into the hill of the Lord,' and stand in His holy place,' is 'he that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.' Psalms 24:3, 15:4."--Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 506.
- Discussion Questions:
- What are the implications of the above statement (especially "if it does not bind him to perform a wrong act") for Jephthah's decision to sacrifice his daughter (Judges 11:35)?
- Do "moral dilemmas" really exist? In other words, is it ever true that keeping one of God's requirements necessarily results in breaking another of His requirements?
- Do you keep your promises faithfully? What is the difference between ordinary promises on the one hand and vows, oaths, or pledges on the other hand?
- What issues regarding vows are addressed in Numbers 30?
When the Israelites turned again to God, putting away those things that came between themselves and Him, He forgave them and mercifully turned again to help them. To deliver them from the Ammonites, God raised up Jephthah as their leader. Jephthah was zealous for the Lord, but at a highly stressful time, he sought assurance from God in an unwise way, which was not consistent with faith. Rash vows that dishonor God should not be kept.
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Last updated on May 20, 1996.