THINK: How well do you follow instructions? When you get a new gadget, do you read the manual, or do you just try to figure it out on the fly? When someone is describing a process do you tend to tune out and disregard the details? While this may seem like no big deal, passing off instructions can leads to big problems. When it comes to God's guidelines, failing to follow through can have disastrous consequences. Partial obedience usually leads to complete chaos and repeated rebellion brings persistent problems and eventual punishment.
RESPOND: Who were the judges, when did they serve and how did God use them? (See 1:1 and 2:16 notes.) Why did the victorious Israelites cut off King Adoni-Bezek's thumbs and big toes? (See 1:6 note.) Why did the king himself recognize this as a fitting punishment (1:7)? Why do people's own actions often determine the judgment they experience? Why do you think the Israelites were able to drive out most, but not all, of the Canaanites (1:19,21,27,29,31)? What advantage did the Israelites seem to get from allowing some Canaanites to remain in the land (1:28,30,33)? How did this apparent advantage eventually lead to the Israelites downfall? (See 1:28 note.) In order to enjoy the benefits of God's covenant, what were the Israelites supposed to do and not do in regard to the Canaanites (2:2)? How did the Israelites respond to these commands, and what happened as a result? (See 2:1; 2:2 and 2:3 notes.) How can failing to rid our lives of questionable things lead to trouble down the road? (See 2:3 note.) When one generation compromises their relationship with God and fails to follow Him wholeheartedly, what typically happens with the next generation? (See 2:10 note.) What factors caused Israel to repeatedly turn from God? (See 2:17 note.) Why do you think God's people throughout history have had difficulty remaining faithful? (See 2:19 second note.) What do you think makes the difference between those who turn from God and those who stay true to Him?
PRAY: Pray for God's help in carrying out His plans completely, not partially. Give God thanks for His mercy, and commit to not abusing that mercy by taking it for granted and repeatedly neglecting God's instructions.
ACT: Do your attitudes, conversations, behaviors and activities set a good example for younger generations or anyone who may get their view of a Christian from what they see in you? Make a conscious effort to give people an accurate impression of Jesus, whether or not you actually talk about spiritual issues. Also, do something practical to encourage a younger Christian's faith or encourage his or her ministry involvement.
THINK: Do you typically learn from your mistakes - or are you more prone to repeat them? While all of us make some mistakes more than once, hopefully you haven't gotten into the habit of doing the same faulty things time after time. One definition of foolishness could be this: doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. After the Israelites were pretty much settled in the promised land, during the time of the judges, they fell into a turbulent cycle of rebellion. They defied God, suffered the consequences, cried out to the Lord, got rescued - then fell right back into their rebellious ways. Time after time - generation after generation - they refused to break that stubborn pattern. How about you? Have you been quicker to trust God and learn your lessons?
RESPOND: If we chose to defy God or compromise our relationship with Him by holding on to certain things, why will God allow these things to remain in our lives without immediate judgment (3:1,4)? In this case, how can we prove our faithfulness and obedience to God? How many major cycles of rebellion did the Israelites go through during the time of the judges, and what spiritual truths are revealed by this destructive pattern? (See 3:7 note.) What consequences did Israel experience during these times (3:8,12-14; 4:1-2)? What consequences might we experience if we rebel? Why were the judges able to successfully rescue God's people? (See 3:10 note.) In what ways did Deborah lead Israel and why was she effective? (See 4:4 note.) Why and in what ways do people sometimes "get ahead" of God while trying to follow His plans, and why is it vital to follow His lead? (See 4:14 note.)
PRAY: Pray for someone you know who is living in rebellion against God. If this describes you in any way, ask God to forgive you as you humbly resubmit yourself to God and His purposes.
ACT: If you've been following the annual FBSE reading track, you've already encountered challenges to rid your life of questionable things that could lead to spiritual downfall. If any of these things still remain - or if you have allowed some of them back into your life - deal with the issues once and for all so you can move on in your walk with God.