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First Quarter 2016 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON REBELLION AND REDEMPTION
Week 4: January 16–22
COMMENTARY ON CONFLICT AND CRISIS: THE JUDGES
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This week’s lesson looks briefly at the time of the judges in Israel and attempts to show how the judges played a part in the great controversy. The notion that there is an ongoing great controversy obscures the real facts of sin and judgment and God’s grace and mercy and justice.
The thought questions reveal some of the most clear insights into the great controversy suppositions that underly these lessons. For example, Monday’s lesson ends with these questions: “Why did thigh Lord choose to use fallen humans in the course of this deliverance? That is, could not He Himself have called ‘more than twelve legions of angels’ (Matt. 26:53) to do what was needed for Israel at that time? What role do we, as fallen human beings, have in both the great controversy and the spreading of the gospel?”
This question puts reality upside-down. The supposition behind this question is that fallen humans play a deciding role in whether Satan is proven right, or whether Jesus is proven right to the watching universe. It makes humans the deciding factor that swings the vote either toward Jesus or toward Satan.
This idea is utterly false and gives humans power over God’s reputation and Satan’s reputation.
In reality, there is no controversy raging. Satan has already been disarmed and humiliated; the cross spelled his death sentence, and his resurrection eviscerated the curse of death. Jesus’ blood paid for the sins of the world; Satan can no longer bring any charge against God’s people that will “stick”. Those who believe in the Lord Jesus and have repented of their sins are hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3), and they are covered with and identified by the personal righteousness of Jesus. When the Father looks at them, He sees Jesus, not them with flawed versions of perfection. He sees Jesus. They are completely hidden in His righteousness and credited with His character.
God is not trying to clear His reputation and reveal His character. His divine power and eternal nature are already clearly revealed in what has been made (Rom. 1:18-20), and Satan is merely part of God’s creation. He is not God’s opponent (although he is an enemy). God is His Creator; specifically, Jesus is His Creator. There is no doubt about who Satan is or about whether or not he can be believed.
Who were the judges?
The judges were the men and women God raised up to act as His agents in rescuing Israel from their successive cycles of sin throughout the years following Joshua’s taking the land of Canaan and the anointing of Saul as the first king of Israel. They were normal men and women; they were not particularly noble, well-known, or respected. What set them apart was the fact that they were willing to trust that God would keep His word to them when He called them to action.
The lesson fails to mention that this time is Israel’s history is characterized by the repeated phrase found throughout the book of Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This attitude contributed to the seven cycles of sin that grew successively more intense. In each case, when the enemies of Israel became so oppressive that the Israelites lost all hope, they ultimately remembered God and cried out to Him. He answered them and provided the judges to lead the way to overcoming the enemies.
Even though God used sinful men to lead His battles, however, the battles themselves were won by God. Significantly, the essential message of the judges, that God made weak people strong as they obeyed His call, was eclipsed by the attempts to show that these judges were part of the Great Controversy. Gideon was not helping God’s side win against an assault by Satan. Rather, he was a timid and weak man who nevertheless believed God when God called him to lead an army against Midian. Even though he asked God for signs, he believed God’s promise to him. Ultimately, Gideon demonstrates the kind of faith we need to have when God asks us to do His bidding.
Gideon was not demonstrating what humans can accomplish when they choose God’s side. He was not showing us what we can accomplish by having a role in the great controversy or in spreading the gospel. Rather, he was showing us that when we believe and obey God, He accomplishes His will concurrently with our growth in belief in His word.
It must be noted that Samson, a self-centered physical giant who chose to marry a Philistine woman, was not, as the lesson describes him, someone for whom God’s great plans for him did not work out. Rather, God intended all along for Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman to end in Samson’s having access to the warring Philistines, thus giving him a way to overpower them.
Samson’s immoral tendencies were not unknown to God. He did not thwart God’s plans or cause God to move to a Plan B. Samson and his penchant for Philistine women WAS God’s plan. The lesson does not make the point that God is sovereign over sin. He made Samson and knew his weaknesses, and it was Samson He chose to bring down the Philistines. To be sure, Samson corrupted himself by keeping by keeping bad company; had he chosen to live according to the Israelite law, he undoubtedly could have carried out his calling at far less devastating cost. Nevertheless, God’d plans were not thwarted by Samson.
Even though Samson revealed his secret and thus landed in jail with his eyes put out, he still fulfilled God’s plan. In fact, he killed more Philistines in his death as he pulled down the pagan temple than he had in his life.
In fact, Samson is named in Hebrews 11, the “faith chapter” that lists some of the greatest men of faith in the Bible. Samson ultimately believed God, and he trusted God to destroy the Philistine temple in a collapse that took his own life, too.
Samson’s faith was what made him great. His weak flesh and poor choices were not obstacles around which God tried to work. They were the stuff of God’s plan. Nevertheless, God grew Samson as his story progressed, too. By the tine he died, Samson knew who God was, and he knew that trusting God was his only option. God drew Samson to Himself as he endured the consequences of his self-serving life.
In the account of Ruth the Moabitess, the lesson fails completely to talk about the “hesed”, or Loyal Love that Ruth demonstrated to Naomi. It also failed to mention the central concept of the Kinsman-Redeemer. Ruth was not a player in any great controversy. Rather, she was an example of loyal love, a love that refused to allow a loved one to go. She clung to Naomi and pledged that all that was Naomi’s would be hers as well.
Boaz, on the other hand, is an example of the kinsman-redeemer required under the levitical laws of levirate marriage. When a woman’s sons died and left no heirs, the nearest male relative was required by law to marry the widow and to father a child that would, legally, be considered the son of the death man so as to continue the family name and inheritance. Boaz became the family’s kinsman-redeemer. He married Ruth, the widow of one of Naomi’s dead sons—ironically not a Jew but a Moabite—who had pledged herself to become a Jew, adopting not only Naomi as her mother but adopting her God and her country as well.
Boaz agreed to marry Ruth, and his first child with Ruth, Obed, became Naomi’s child. Boaz redeemed the family from dying out, and baby Obed became a forefather of king David and ultimately of the Lord Jesus.
Samuel is one of the most significant men in the Old Testament. He was the last of the judges, and he ushered in the monarchy. In fact, Samuel, whom God called when he was very young, became the man who judged Israel as the priesthood was becoming extremely corrupt. As Samuel aged, the Israelites were becoming restless, and they demanded a king.
Samuel anointed both Saul and also David before he died. He was the transitional man of God who spanned the gap between the age of the judges and the time of the united monarchy. He suffered as God’s man, but he stayed faithful. He was not, as the lesson states, “a key figure in the developing great controversy.” There is and never has been a great controversy. There is a just and omnipotent God who metes out judgment when evil reaches its full measure; God judges wickedness.
What to do?
The lesson ends with two discussion questions. These state that it’s not always easy to figure out the right thing to do. “Sometimes we aren’t sure just what is the right decision or what is the wrong one; even with moral situations, as well…What are some ways we cans week guidance to help us to make right choices?”
This very question betrays the fact that Adventism does not understand nor teach the true gospel and the reality of the new birth.
Gary Inrig, in his commentary on the book of Judges entitled Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay, writes in his conclusion:
But the book of Judges is also “written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). If Judges tells of strong men made weak by self-confidence it also eloquently describes weak men and women made strong through faith in God and by His work in their lives. Judges is the great Old Testament book on the Holy spirit, and it describes the transforming work of the Spirit in making His people adequate servants of the Old Covenant. There is hope in seeing how the Lord gave weak men and women hearts of iron, and it is reinforced by the glorious truth that the Holy Spirit works in the life of the humblest believer today in a way far surpassing anything Old Covenant believers knew. We serve a crucified, risen Savior. We live by the power of His indwelling Spirit. We old in our hands the complete, inerrant Word of God. Our resources in Christ far outstrip anything the judges knew, and our potential for spiritual victory is far greater than theirs. But at heart, the issue remains the same. There can be no victory apart from a dynamic, obedient fellowship with the Lord Jesus. A distinctive positive life in a difficult secular age is not the product of proper techniques but of a daily walk of faith” (p. 323).
Instead of trying to figure out your proper role in a supposed great controversy, humble yourself under the hand of God and receive Jesus as your Savior and Lord, repenting of sin and acknowledging His shed blood as the full and completed payment for all your sin, past, present, and future.
Only in knowing Jesus is their victory and meaning for life. Satan play no part in our attention. He is a defeated foe whom we must resist—but he is not vying with Jesus for victory.
Jesus is all we need.