A Backsliding People
Taught October 15, 2023
Table of Contents
Watch & Listen
Our lesson this week is the second lesson in a unit of lessons that takes a look at disobedience and failure. Scripture makes it very clear that you cannot live in disobedience to God’s instructions and expect for Him to bless you. Obedience to the Lord and His instructions is what assures us of receiving our promised blessings and prospering.
The Disobedience of Israel
Our lesson this week takes us back to the book of Judges. Though we have had a couple of lessons from the book of Judges already, I always feel the need to speak about the period of the Judges. The book of Judges shows a cycle of Israel repeatedly having moments of enjoying peace after being obedient and then suffering because of their disobedience.
Near the end of his life, Joshua had encouraged the children of Israel to serve the Lord and not serve idols (Josh. 24:14-16). Sadly, Joshua’s words were not heeded by Israel. Scripture tells us that after the death of Joshua and the generation that came with him into the Promised Land, a generation of Israel rose up that did not know the Lord and what He had done for Israel (Judg. 2:10).
So, because this generation rose up and did not know the Lord, they did evil in God’s eyes (Josh. 2:11). What this means is that they were disobedient; they forsook the Lord and followed other gods (Josh. 2:12-13). Because of their disobedience, scripture tells us that wherever Israel went out, the hand of God was against them for calamity (Josh. 2:15).
The mercy of God
Our lesson opens by telling us that regardless of wicked ways of Israel, the Lord was still with them. God raised up judges, as we have seen in some of our recent lessons, who He used to deliver Israel from their oppressors (v.16).
Sadly, Israel did not listen to their judges as scripture tells us that they played the harlot with other gods (v.17). As we saw in earlier scripture in this chapter of Judges, the generation that did not know God worshiped and served Baal and Ashtoreths. The worship of Baal was a struggle for those of Israel even throughout the divided kingdom years when Ahab reigned with Jezebel.
Yet, again, the Lord raised up the judges to deliver Israel out of the hand of their enemies (v.18). As I said before, there was a repeated cycle throughout the book of Judges with Israel living in oppression and then being brought out of oppression. You may wonder why this cycle kept repeating itself throughout the book of Judges?
The answer to this question is actually very important because the answer plays a role in our life. Many of us may not realize this but the harsh truth is that most of us live in this same cycle today. You see, none of us are without flaws, are we? None of us are perfect.
So, the Lord would constantly raise up judges during this period because, as scripture states, He was moved to pity by their groanings. Pity: sympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distresses, or unhappy. As we saw in our lessons with Ehud and Gideon, God never forsook Israel. As we saw with Israel when they were in bondage in Egypt, the Lord heard their cries.
So, even when this generation forsook the Lord, He was merciful. As I explained in a lesson last quarter, we must understand there’s a difference between mercy and forgiveness. You see, forgiveness is being relieved of debt – the debt is forgotten. Mercy, on the other hand, is a second chance – another opportunity – to correct one’s direction.
God was merciful to this generation of Israel by continuing to raise up judges. You see, Israel’s “reward” for their disobedience was oppression. However, their punishment was not an eternal punishment. Think about this, when all people sin today, whether they pray for God to be merciful or not, the Lord is merciful.
God’s eternal judgment of sin will not come until after this world passes away. So, until the Day of the Lord, God continues to give mankind chance after chance. Israel, during their period of the judges, continued to live because of God’s mercy.
So, how do you think Israel should have conducted themselves because of God’s mercy? Should they have continued to live wickedly or should they have corrected themselves? God shows us mercy so that we can correct ourselves!
God doesn’t want you to continue to lie wickedly. God did not want this generation of Israel to continue to live wickedly. God, we must remember, desires for all of us to live prosperous lives – He desires for His children to be blessed (Jer. 29:11).
Wasting God’s mercy
Sadly, scripture tells us that time would pass, a judge would pass away, and Israel would revert and behave wickedly again (v.19). Because they wasted God’s mercy, the Lord was angry with Israel and allowed the nations that Israel did not drive out the land to remain in the land (vss.21-22).
Let me tell you something, these final verses are very significant. Why so? Because this verse, in a manner of speaking, speaks to God’s final judgment of sin; it speaks to wasting His love and mercy. How so? Well, those that waste God’s mercy today and desire to live in sin, Paul wrote about how the Lord will give them over to a debased mind and let them dwell in sin.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer of Hebrews wrote that it is impossible for one who has become a partaker of the Holy Spirit, but fell away back into sin to be renewed again (Heb. 6:4-6). So, you may wonder, what does this mean?
Well the writer is speaking of one that had supposedly become a child of God through “faith” in His only begotten Son. However, this person fell away from faith. They, initially, took advantage of their second chance and did the right thing but then, somewhere along the way, they stopped listening to the Holy Spirit; they wandered from the way of faith and simply did not come back.
So, in a manner of speaking, one that does this is like those that were of Israel that lived during the period of the judges; they wasted God’s grace and mercy. There are many today who live and don’t believe whatsoever; they are also wasting God’s mercy. The Lord raises up ministers to share their testimonies and the word of God, and like those of Israel that lived during the days of the judges, they refuse to correct themselves.
Those that waste God’s grace and mercy today, eventually suffer the punishment of their disobedience as their sin remains. The Lord does not look kindly on sin. Yes, God is merciful but eventually our time runs out with wasting God’s mercy.
So, what we should learn from our lesson this week is to be grateful for God’s mercy and don’t waste it away. If we are grateful for His mercy then we will learn to walk in obedience to His word, and when we do this, we will be rewarded. However, if you choose to waste God’s mercy, understand that the Lord will not be pleased.