1. GUILTY BEFORE GOD
a. In the settlement of Canaan, what did Israel neglect to do? Judges 1:28–33.
“The Lord had faithfully fulfilled, on His part, the promises made to Israel; Joshua had broken the power of the Canaanites, and had distributed the land to the tribes. It only remained for them, trusting in the assurance of divine aid, to complete the work of dispossessing the inhabitants of the land. But this they failed to do. By entering into league with the Canaanites they directly transgressed the command of God, and thus failed to fulfill the condition on which He had promised to place them in possession of Canaan.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 543.
b. What shows that this was a very serious matter? Exodus 23:24, 25.
“From the very first communication of God with them at Sinai, [Israel] had been warned against idolatry. . . .
“But regardless of their high destiny, they chose the course of ease and self-indulgence; they let slip their opportunities for completing the conquest of the land.”—Ibid., pp. 543, 544.
2. THE HIGH COST OF NEGLIGENCE
a. By failing to do their duty before God, what happened to Israel, and how was this a fulfilment of prophecy? Psalm 106:35–40; Numbers 33:55.
“Until the generation that had received instruction from Joshua became extinct, idolatry made little headway; but the parents had prepared the way for the apostasy of their children. The disregard of the Lord’s restrictions on the part of those who came in possession of Canaan sowed seed of evil that continued to bring forth bitter fruit for many generations. The simple habits of the Hebrews had secured them physical health; but association with the heathen led to the indulgence of appetite and passion, which gradually lessened physical strength and enfeebled the mental and moral powers. By their sins the Israelites were separated from God; His strength was removed from them, and they could no longer prevail against their enemies. Thus they were brought into subjection to the very nations that through God they might have subdued.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 544, 545.
b. What step was the Lord finally compelled to take, and why should we take this matter seriously in our day? Judges 2:12; Psalm 78:58, 60, 61.
“The most grievous sin of idolatry exists in the church. Anything that interposes between the Christian and the wholehearted service to God, takes the form of an idol, and the most grievous sin of idolatry is idolatry itself.”—The Paulson Collection, p. 343.
“Like ancient Israel the church has dishonored her God by departing from the light, neglecting her duties, and abusing her high and exalted privilege of being peculiar and holy in character. Her members have violated their covenant to live for God and Him only. They have joined with the selfish and world-loving.”—Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 441, 442.
“God classes as idolaters those who trust in their own wisdom, their own devising, depending for success on their riches and power, striving to strengthen themselves by alliance with men whom the world calls great, but who fail to discern the binding claims of His law.”—The Review and Herald, March 15, 1906.
3. FLEEING IDOLATRY
a. What appeals are made in the Christian era regarding idolatry? 1 Corinthians 10:14; Galatians 5:19–21. Describe the startling vision shown to Lord’s messenger about the perils of this evil.
“A large company of heathen idolaters bore a black banner, upon which were figures of the sun, moon, and stars. This company seemed to be very fierce and angry. I was then shown another company bearing a pure white banner, upon which was written, ‘Purity and holiness unto the Lord.’ Their countenances were marked with firmness and heavenly resignation. I saw the heathen idolaters approach them, and there was a great slaughter. The Christians melted away before them; and yet the Christian company pressed the more closely together, and held the banner more firmly. As many fell, others rallied around the banner and filled their places.
“I saw the company of idolaters consulting together. Failing to make the Christians yield, they agreed to another plan. I saw them lower their banner and then approach that firm Christian company and make propositions to them. At first their propositions were utterly refused. Then I saw the Christian company consulting together. Some said that they would lower the banner, accept the propositions, and save their lives, and at last they could gain strength to raise their banner among the heathen. A few, however, would not yield to this plan, but firmly chose to die holding their banner rather than to lower it. Then I saw many lower the banner and unite with the heathen; but the firm and steadfast would again seize it and bear it on high. I saw that persons were continually leaving the company of those who bore the pure banner, and were uniting with the idolaters under the black banner, to persecute those bearing the white banner. Many were slain, yet the white banner was held high, and believers were raised up to rally around it.”—Early Writings, pp. 211, 212.
b. Name another common form of idolatry to be shunned. Colossians 3:5, 6.
“All covetousness is condemned as idolatry. All selfish indulgence is an offense in God’s sight.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 261.
4. A DELIVERER NEEDED
a. What bitter consequences followed Israel’s idolatry during the time of the judges? Judges 6:1–5.
“The wild, fierce inhabitants of the desert, ‘as locusts for multitude’ (Judges 6:5, R.V.), came swarming into the land, with their flocks and herds. Like a devouring plague they spread over the country, from the river Jordan to the Philistine plain. They came as soon as the harvests began to ripen, and remained until the last fruits of the earth had been gathered. They stripped the fields of their increase and robbed and maltreated the inhabitants and then returned to the deserts. Thus the Israelites dwelling in the open country were forced to abandon their homes, and to congregate in walled towns, to seek refuge in fortresses, or even to find shelter in caves and rocky fastnesses among the mountains.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 546.
b. What did the Israelites finally do, and what merciful response did they receive? Judges 6:6–10.
“As the people in their distress gave heed to the Lord’s reproof, and confessed their sins, God again raised up a helper for them.”—Ibid.
c. Whom did God raise up as the man of the hour? Why? Judges 6:11–14; Proverbs 4:26; Haggai 1:7.
“As Gideon labored in secrecy and silence, he sadly pondered upon the condition of Israel and considered how the oppressor’s yoke might be broken from off his people.”—Ibid.
“He whose mind is opened to the Word of God will prayerfully consider every way of his feet, so that he may honor God and keep the way of the Lord.”—That I May Know Him, p. 251.
5. A HUMBLE MAN OF ACTION
a. What attitude should we learn from the spirit of Gideon when addressed by the Messenger of heaven? Judges 6:15, 22, 23.
“When God sent His angels anciently to minister or communicate to individuals, and these persons learned that they had seen and talked with an angel, they were struck with awe and were afraid that they should die. They had so exalted views of the terrible majesty and power of God that they thought it would destroy them to be brought into close connection with one direct from His holy presence.”—Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 410.
b. What important requirement did Gideon perform that was highly essential in order to begin the work of reformation among his people? Judges 6:24–27.
“The deliverance of Israel was to be preceded by a solemn protest against the worship of Baal. Gideon must declare war upon idolatry before going out to battle with the enemies of his people.
“The divine direction was faithfully carried out. Knowing that he would be opposed if it were attempted openly, Gideon performed the work in secret; with the aid of his servants, accomplishing the whole in one night.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 547.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Why is it important to separate from known sources of temptation?
2. What specific sins caused the oppression from the Midianites?
3. Which is more dangerous—persecution from evil or compromise with evil?
4. At the crisis hour, what reveals the amazing mercy of our God?
5. What steps do I need to take in order to make a real reformation in my life?