Israel Turns Away From God

Judges 1-3

Talking about the Israelites in Canaan can help us in many ways. We can see how much good leaders can mean to their people. As long as Joshua lived - - or other men like Caleb and the high priest Eleazar who had seen the great works of God were alive - - Israel was faithful to God. The next group of boys and girls, however, grew up without knowing the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. Soon they turned away from God and even worshipped idols of the Canaanites. The Bible says everyone began “doing what was right in his own eyes.” That means they no longer cared about God’s commands. They did exactly what they wanted to do, whether it was right or not - - something that could happen today, too.

It’s frightening to think how quickly the Israelites forgot God! Why did this happen? Certainly the younger people could not have seen wonderful miracles that happened before they were born. There was a way, though, they could have known about Him.

Adults who had been alive then should have taught the children - - all about how God parted the Red Sea, how He came down on Mt. Sinai and gave the law of Moses, how He rolled back the raging Jordan River and, later, how He helped them sweep through Canaan to take the promised land. How sad to think their parents did not show them God’s way to be happy in this life and have His blessings after death!

There was another reason why the new generation started to worship idols instead of the living God. At first their fathers obeyed the Lord and started out breaking down the altars and destroying the wicked Canaanites. Both Moses and Joshua had warned against leaving the heathen nations there and making treaties with them. If they were left to live among them, it would be easy to make friends with them. Soon their sons and daughters would marry into Israel.

The people did not finish driving out the wicked Canaanites, though. Soon what Moses and Joshua had foretold did happen. God’s own people began bowing down themselves to the idol god Baal and the goddess Ashtoreth. How sad to think Israel could forget His wonderful blessings!

How do you think God felt when He saw what was happening? Of course, He was very angry. He spoke through His Angel at Bochim to declare He would no longer help them, saying, “I will not drive them out before you; but they shall be thorns in your side and their gods shall be a snare to you.” When the people heard this, they all wept and offered a sacrifice. But things had gone too far - - they would have to suffer the consequences of what they had done. Before long, they saw God meant what He said.

Now God let the nations who were supposed to be their friends overcome them. The Israelites became slaves again, just as their fathers had been in Egypt. After they had suffered for many years, however, they remembered God and cried out for help. And he raised up a special judge to deliver them. This did not happen just once - - it happened over and over, for about 300 years. The book of Judges tells about these sad times for God’s people.

The first judge was a man named Othneil, a nephew of Caleb who delivered Israel from the Mesopatamians. After 40 year of peace, though, Israel sinned again. This time the Moabites captured them.

Next God raised up Ehud to fight against Eglon, the fat king of Moab. One day when Ehud was delivering tax money to King Eglon, he said he had a secret for the king. Ehud was left-handed and Eglon did not know he had a dagger hidden under his coat. When they were alone, Ehud came near and said, “I have a message from God for you,” quickly shoving the dagger into Eglon’s fat stomach. Then Ehud escaped through the porch and locked the door after him.

God used Ehud that day to throw off the rule of Moab. And there was peace in the land for 80 years.

Talking it Over:

1. Talk about people forgetting God is the One Who blesses them when things go well. What will we do when we truly understand everything we have comes from God?
2. How does the knowledge of God help young people avoid a lot of problems other young people without faith have?
3. Talk about how foolish people were to think a statue of a person, bird, fish or other animal which they themselves made could help them. What are some other things people depend on today to make them happy instead of God?

Memory Verse:
“These words which I command you today shall be in your hearts; and you shall teach them diligently to your children” Deuteronomy 6:6-7
Read the rest of verse seven, then talk about what it all means.

Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.