Chapter 8 Recap

The nation of Israel had a place to call home at last. Settling into the Promised Land enabled them to leave behind their wandering ways and fulfill one of the key promises to Abraham:  a land for God’s people to occupy.  But, failing to evict the Canaanites from the land, these pagan neighbors became a toxic influence on a nation called to be different.

After the death of Joshua, God’s people felt this pull of worldly culture and a destructive pattern emerged:

  • Israel turned again and again to the worship of pagan gods.
  • God brought divine judgment.
  • Israel cried out for God’s help.
  • God raised up a judge to save them.

This cycle of sin became the pattern of life in Israel for the next 300 years.

Early on, Israel was conquered by the Canaanite king, Jabin. God appointed Deborah, a prophet, judge, and strong leader to deliver her people.  She and her military leader, Barak, defeated the powerful Canaanite army led by Sisera. He escaped and took refuge in the tent of a woman named Jael, who killed him while he slept.  Israel had been delivered for now, but the cycle would continue.

Israel was later oppressed by the Midianites.  God called Gideon out of nowhere to deliver His people. Gideon was pretty sure that God has mistaken him for some well-built four-star Israelite commander, and asked twice for a miraculous sign. God confirmed His intentions, and Gideon gathered 32,000 troops to take on the vast Midianite army.  God, however, trimmed their forces to just 300 men.  He used them to rout the Midianites, and the people enjoyed freedom…for a while.

The cycle continued, and Israel was soon dominated by the Philistines. This time God prepared a deliverer by promising a child to a barren woman. This child, Samson, was to be raised as a Nazirite, who was set apart to God.  His hair was not to be cut and he was to drink no wine. He was well-known for his superhuman strength and less than super character, especially in the company of beautiful women.  His second wife, Delilah, betrayed him by cutting his hair so he would forfeit his advantage and God’s favor.  Samson himself embodied this insidious cycle that had enslaved Israel, with his saw-tooth history of indiscretions and victories.

As a result, the Philistines took him captive and gouged out his eyes. But his hair grew back, and his strength returned.  Samson’s last day was his best one. He was brought into the Philistine temple to entertain their leaders.  He prayed to the LORD, collapsed the pillars of the temple and defeated the Philistines at last.

God is never bashful about His intentions for His people. He never tolerates sin and, at the same time, never breaks His covenant with His people.  Israel may not have fully understood God’s discipline, but over and over He had to bring them to their knees in order to bring them to Himself.

Israel is constantly running from the true God to other false gods.  Make a list of the false gods in our culture today.  Which of them have you trusted?

Here is a map of how the land was divided at this time according to the 12 tribes

The Canaanization of Israel and the Church

How many times have I told you…?  Stay away from them. They are the wrong crowd to hang out with.   They are dangerous to you.  Well, if someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?  Every child has heard them and every parent has spoken them—the warnings not to give into “peer pressure.”

The Perfect Parent gave those same warnings to His people.  The Canaanites were bad news.  They were the drug dealers, the prostitutes and the criminals of their time.  They were the kind of people who any good parent would warn their beloved children to stay away from.  God had warned but the Israelites began to ignore those warnings.  The consequences of covenant disobedience were tragic.

I.       The Call of Israel

A. God had chosen Israel to be a holy nation.

– The Abrahamic covenant had called them to be a blessing to all nations.  They were to represent Him to the world.

– They were given the covenant of the Law to tutor them how to fear God and how to live justly with one another.

– They were to be a kingdom of priestly people (Ex. 19:6).

B. They were the covenantal community of faith.

– They were given the divine gift of revelation from God and expected to believe it by faith.

– They were a people of God’s own possession (Ex. 19:5)

II.    The “Canaanization” of Israel

A. Instead of destroying the Canaanites, Israel joined them.

– They turned away from YHWH, the God of Israel.

– They began to worship Baal, the god of Canaan.

– They participated in the cultic practices of Baal worship including the sexually immoral unions that accompanied the seasonal feasts.

– They participated in their sacrifices.  It is unclear to what degree Israel became like the Canaanites in their sacrifices at this time, but the Canaanites participated in child sacrifice in the fire, and buried children in the foundations of their buildings.  Later Biblical texts, like Jeremiah and 1-2 Kings, give further insight into these atrocities.

– They intermarried with them, which explicitly violated their covenant.

– Israel had become just like their pagan neighbors, the Canaanites.

B. Remember Joshua’s charge, “As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD”? Israel exchanged the One True God for worthless idols which, according to the covenant (Lev. 26, Deut. 28), makes them His enemy.

C. God was furious!

– God’s anger must be understood against the backdrop of His extravagant acts of grace in the past.

– God is passionate and cannot stand by while idolatry snatches his people from Him.

– Nor will he passively accept Israel’s adulterous affairs with other gods

III. The Call of the Church

In much the same way that God called Israel to be a holy people, He calls the Church to a righteous standard. Read or look up these verses that spell out the believer a life that is different.

  • Called as saints
  • Called out of darkness and into light
  • Called not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person (1 Cor. 5:11)
  • Called to freedom to serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
  • Called to walk in a manner worthy of God, with humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance and love for one another, (Eph. 4:1)
  • Called to a new life of righteousness, and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:24)
  • Called not for impurity but for sanctification (1 Thess. 4:7)
  • Called for salvation, sanctification and glory in Christ (2 Thess. 2:13-14)
  • Called for eternal life (1 Tim. 6:12)
  • Called by grace through faith for good works prepared by God (Eph. 2:8-10)
  • Called to be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession to proclaim the gospel (1 Pet. 2:9)
  • Called to be a light to point others to Christ (Matt. 5:16)
  • Called to be a living sacrifice, not conformed to this world, but transformed to live out the will of God (Rom. 12:1-2).

Bottom line:  Called to be God’s hands, feet, and heart on earth; called to be holy and different from the world around us.

Do you think more people try to stand out as believers in this world or spend time fitting in? Why do so many people fear standing out? 

IV. The “Canaanization” of the Church

As the culture goes, so goes the church.  Sadly, the Church in America has become “Canaanized” in much the same way that Israel did during the days of the judges.  According to highly regarded pollsters and researchers such as Barna Group, the Gallup Organization, and others, the lives of American Christians bear far more resemblance to their unbelieving neighbors than they do to the transformed life expected by the New Testament writers.  George Barna concludes, “Every day the church is becoming more like the world it allegedly seeks to change.”  So, how bad is it really?

1. Divorce:  In Aug. 2001, Barna found 33% of born-again Christians to be divorced; 34% of non-born-again Americans (90% of all divorced born-agains were divorced AFTER they became Christian.)

  • In many parts of the Bible belt, the divorce rate is well above the national average.

2. Materialism and the Poor:  A 30-year study by John and Sylvia Ronsvalle showed that the richer we become, the less we give in proportion to our incomes.

  • In 1968, the average church member gave 3.1% of their incomes
  • In 2001, the average church member gave 2.66%
  • Today, on average Christians give about 4%
  • In 2002, Barna discovered that only 9% of Christian adults tithe.
  • 1.2 billion of the world’s poorest people try to live on just $1 a day, and at least 1 billion have never heard the gospel.  If American Christians tithed 10%, they would have another $143 billion dollars per year to help the poor and spread the gospel.
  • One of the most common themes in the Scriptures is that God and His people have a special concern for the poor.

Why do you think this contradiction between belief and practice exists in the Church today?

3. Sexual Disobedience:

  • In the 1990’s, unmarried couples living together rose 72% nationwide.
  • In the Bible belt, it rose even more.    97% in OK, 123% in TN, 125% in AR.
  • Christian teens are only 10% less likely to engage in premarital sex than non-Christian teens.
  • A study by Professor John C. Green of University of Akron found that 26% of traditional evangelicals do not think premarital sex is wrong; 46% say it is morally okay.
  • 13% of traditional Christians say it is okay for married persons to have extramarital sex while 19% of nontraditional Christians think it is morally okay.  It is higher among mainline Protestants and Catholics.
  • Steve Gallagher says that pornography among Christian men is not much different from among the unsaved.

4. Racism:In 1989, Gallup published the results of a survey to determine which groups in the US were least and most likely to object to having black neighbors.

  • 11% of Catholics and nonevangelical Christians objected
  • 16% of mainline Protestants objected
  • 17% of Baptists and evangelicals objected
  • 20% of Southern Baptists objected
  • To say that there is neither Jew nor Greek, black nor white, but not put it into practice, is a blatant disparity between practice and belief.

5. Lifestyle habits:

  • Christians spend 7x more hours each week watching TV than in Bible reading, worship and prayer.
  • Only 9% of Christian adults have a Biblical worldview
  • Only 2% of Christian teens have a Biblical worldview

6. Faithful remnant:

  • A 2001 Pew Center poll showed that those who were highly committed to their faith were 3x more likely to have volunteered with the poor, sick and elderly in the last month.
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  • Barna found that those with a Biblical worldview showed genuinely different behavior.

– 49% had volunteered to help the poor, sick and elderly
– 3x more likely not to use tobacco products
– 9x more likely to avoid adult-only material on the internet
– 5x less likely to report that their “career comes first.”

Bottom line:  Learning to think Biblically and theologically DOES matter.
Why does the Christian church today have such a hard time with these issues?

V.    Applications and implications for us today

  • Although the Church may have become Canaanized in our present culture, the Holy Spirit is still at work in me. I can be different.
  • I should evaluate my life in light of Biblical truth, not the world’s standards.
  • I should guard myself against the gradual slide into cultural relativism.
  • I am to be in the world, but not of it.  But am I being truly transformed?
  • My checkbook reveals my true priorities.  My practices belie my beliefs.
  • God is faithful to forgive me and restore me when I repent and confess my sin.
  • I am an ineffective witness if there is no evidence for change in my life.
  • The incomprehensible privilege of grace compels me to live righteously according to the revealed Word of God.

I know there is a lot of law piled up here right now, but I share this data with you so that you can identify for yourself how culture and the world around us starts to shape who we are and what we are all about.

False gods trigger a cycle:  a web of sin, God’s judgments, crying out for help, and God providing deliverance.  What are some destructive cycles you have seen in your own life?

Do you think that the Israelites did a good job of passing their faith to the next generation?  How can we do this better in the church and in our own families?

Which character in chapter 8 stands out to you and why?  How can you be more like them? Which of their bad qualities would you leave out? 

I hope you have a great week!

Additional Study on one character in chapter 8: Deborah

The period of the Judges is the subject of The Story Chapter 8.  Commentators described the period as “a time of free, unfettered development, in which the nation was to take root in the land presented to it by God” (Keil & Delitzsch,239). The fickle Israelites repeated cycles of “doing evil in the sight of the Lord”; bearing the consequences of that evil as God allowed surrounding nations to pummel them; and finally, penitence with a humble return to faithfulness.    Each time God provided a judge to rein them in; Deborah was one of the most courageous.  Yet, she describes herself as “a mother in Israel” Judges 5:7.

I.   Deborah as a wise judge:  Judges 4:1-5; 5:6-7.

Deborah, the fourth Judge, lived approximately 140 years after Joshua’s death.  She was probably middle-aged at the time of the events described in the Book of Judges.  Yet she had seen and heard enough to be a wise and respected woman whom God used in an extraordinary way.

Describe Deborah’s life as a judge:

1.  Israel fell into evil after Ehud’s death.  From Judges 2:19, what was particularly odious to God?

 

2.  God punished them through Jabin, a Canaanite.   Why was Jabin’s army, under the command of Sisera, a lethal threat, Judges 4:2-3?

 

3.  Describe the severity of this oppression? How long had it lasted?

 

4.  From Deborah’s song, Judges 5:6, describe what life was like for the Israelites.

 

5. To whom did they finally turn for help?

 

6.  Fill in the words to describe Deborah from Judges 4:4.

 

“Deborah  a _________________________, the _____________ of Lappidoth, was _______________

Israel at that time.”

 

7.  How did Deborah serve the Israelites?

 

II.  Deborah as a strong military leader:  Judges 4-5.

1.  What message did God give Deborah for Barak?

 

2.  Who would actually win the battle for the Israelites (4:7, 14)?

 

3.  In your opinion, what did Barak’s response to Deborah’s message reveal?

 

4.  The expressions translated “Go” (4:9), and “Go!”(4:14) in the NIV can carry the meaning of “Get up and go”, and “Stand up and go!” or “Take your stand”.  Knowing that Barak refused to lead his army without Deborah, what is the implication of her use of these words?

 

5.  Should Deborah’s prediction, that a woman would have the honor for the victory, shame Barak? Why or why not?

 

6.  In Deborah’s song we have a poetic description of the battle.  What does it reveal about the 10,000 man army (5:2)?

 

7.  From Judges 4:15 and 5:4-5, why was Sisera on foot and how did God hinder his army?

 

8.  Who was the woman who received the honor for Sisera’s defeat, and how was she able to accomplish it (4:18-21; 5:24-27)?

 

The Kennite women had responsibility for the tents.  Due to the harsh winds and the hard, sunbaked land, “she would had to have been swift and accurate in her use of the tent-peg” (Robinson).

The literal translation of Deborah’s prediction about Jael is “Into the hand of a woman the Lord will sell Sisera” (Fleenor,Ziese 86).  Any reader of Deborah’s story will notice how gender roles play against each other in the account.  Even simple words are implicit.  We understand “the hand that rocks the cradle…” and the gracefulness of a woman’s hands. A woman’s hands driving a tent-peg into a man’s temple just don’t fit the picture.

Key Question for men or women in the church today:  After learning about Deborah, What is happening in your community, your church, or your family that demand your courageous leadership?  Will you step up to the challenge?

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