Throughout the book of Judges, we have seen a generation of Israel that rose up, did not know the Lord, and forsook Him by worshiping other gods (Judg. 2:10-11). We know that the Lord allowed them to live in, and suffer, while living in sin. In our lesson this week, we will take a look to see whether or not there is a way out from living in sin.

Israel Cries Out to God

Our lesson this week with Israel, once again in the book of Judges, living under the oppression of another. This time, because they had done evil in the sight of God by serving the Baals and Ashtoreths, the Lord sold them into the hands of the Philistines and the people of Ammon (Judg. 10:6-7).

Severe distress from oppression

Scripture tells us that Israel was oppressed for eighteen years on one side of the Jordan, in Gilead, while on the other side the people of Ammon fought against Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim; Israel was severely distressed (Judg. 10:8-9).

Something that all of us must understand is that while we have free will to choose however we wish to live, there will always be consequences to how we live, especially spiritually.  As we have seen throughout this quarter of lessons, if you choose to live obediently according to the word of God, He will bless you.

However, if you choose to live in disobedience of His word, there is absolutely no way you will receive your blessing from the Lord.  Many of us don’t realize this but the soul of the sinner lives in great distress.  Sin, I want you to understand, chokes the soul; it compromises and corrupts the soul.  So, there are many who are living today with a soul that is under oppression because they choose to live in and indulge in sin.

Getting Out From Spiritual Oppression

With that in mind, Israel cried out from their physical and spiritual suffering due to them choosing to do evil in the sight of God.  Israel cried out, “We have sinned against You, because we have both forsaken our God and served the Baals (v.10)!”  Let’s be clear that this is a prayer not just for God’s mercy but also for His forgiveness.  How am I to tell you this?

God’s rebuke

If we remember Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness, we will remember that there are steps that should be taken (Luke 17:3-4). What are those steps?

Well, if someone sins against you (wrongs you), you should rebuke them – let them know they have wronged you.  Secondly, if the one who has wronged you repents, acknowledges and makes corrections, then we should forgive.  Sadly, many of us won’t rebuke those that have wronged us, they won’t repent, and we will just forgive — this is not proper.

By this point in time, during the period of the judges, the Lord had rebuked Israel on several occasions before and showed them mercy.  In our lesson today, we see that Israel comes to the Lord and acknowledges that they had sinned against the Lord.  You will notice that the people even state exactly what their sin was – they worshiped and served Baal rather than the Lord.

So, one of the steps to forgiveness has been taken, right?  We could even say that two steps have been taken because of how God had already previously rebuked Israel.  The problem, however, is that Israel would never take advantage of God’s mercy; they would never make corrections to be fully forgiven by the Lord.  Honestly, many of us don’t take advantage of God’s mercy today as we will continue to sin rather than make corrections to be fully forgiven of our wrongdoing.

The Lord said to Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites and from the people of Ammon and from the Philistines?  Also the Sidonians and Amalekites and Maonites oppressed you; and you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hand.  Yet you have forsaken Me… (vss.11-13).”

Let’s remember how after Gideon led Israel against the oppression of Midian, the people were immediately ready to do evil in the sight of God by wanting Gideon and his sons to rule over them (Judg. 8:22). So, there is a rebuke here from the Lord where He is essentially telling them that they had not been sincere in the past. In fact, we will even see the Lord say to the people, “I will deliver you no more (v.13).”

God’s test and challenge

So, was the Lord going to let Israel suffer in oppression?  Does the Lord allow us to suffer in sin?  This is an interesting question to answer, especially for us, because there are many people who live under the impression that God allows us to toil in sin.  So, we need to seek an answer to this question so that we can gain knowledge and understanding for ourselves and those around us.

Israel had not been sincere before and we should understand that the Lord was seeking sincerity.  Something that all of us should understand is that the Lord desires sincere (honest) faith.  Many of us get into the habit of praying for God’s mercy and forgiveness, but again, we can be very slow to make corrections; we will pray for forgiveness and go right back out and sin again and again.

Again, let us remember what Paul said about how the Lord will turn us over to a reprobate (debased) mind if all we desire is to live by the lust of our flesh. Now, for the child of God, there is a way out from sin and that way out is by sincere faith. For those who are fully convicted of living in sin, the Lord will let them toil in sin (Rom. 1:28-32).

So, Israel was given the same opportunity that many of us are given today; they needed to show that they were sincere about their cry for forgiveness.  The Lord said to them, “Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress (v.14).”  

Now, if they were being sincere in their prayer of forgiveness to the Lord, then they wouldn’t turn to those gods, but if they weren’t being sincere, they would turn to those gods.  Whether you realize this or not, this was and is God’s show of mercy; it  is the same mercy that the Lord shows us at times as well.  You see, there are a lot of times when we find ourselves having a great struggle, even when we have prayed for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, because we haven’t moved with sincerity after our prayer.

Israel’s sincerity

What would Israel do?  We will see that the children of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray (v.15).”  So, they cried out again, but you will notice that the Lord did not respond after they cried out again.

Why did the Lord not answer them?  God did not respond because the Lord was not looking for words any more — God was looking for actions.  You see, it is not enough for you to speak of your faith and say that you believe!  No, your works (actions) are what the Lord wants to see because your works, as James would say, speaks to your faith.

Rather than turning to the Baals, we’ll see that the children of Israel put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord (v.16).  We may think to ourselves that this was all a spur of the moment, temporary, thing they did but scripture would suggest otherwise.  We are told that God was moved by the people’s sincerity of faith that HE could no longer endure the misery of Israel.

So, to reiterate those steps to forgiveness, we have seen Israel acknowledge they had wronged the Lord, God’s rebuke of their actions, and then Israel moved to correct their ways.  Would you say that Israel had taken the proper steps to be forgiven?  It is clear that the Lord had determined that Israel had earned their forgiveness.  

This is how we should go about earning someone’s forgiveness and how we should forgive others.  Unfortunately, as I have said in the past, we have gone about forgiveness the wrong way and in doing so, we have brought great harm to our soul.  Forgiveness is to be earned!  When forgiveness is given away easily, then people will continue to wrong you.

Our lesson comes to an end with the people of Ammon encamping in Gilead and Israel gathering in Mizpah (v.17).  The people looked to each other and questioned who would lead them against the people of Ammon (v.18).  In the next chapter, outside of our lesson, we will see that the Lord raised up another judge, Jephthah, to lead Israel from the oppression of Ammon.


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