Explore the Bible Study: Judges

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Spiritual drift is something every believer and every individual church must always monitor and protect against. The Explore the Bible Study: Judges, reveals the spiritual drift taking place with God’s chosen people in the Old Testament.  It should cause us to realize that spiritual drift has always been a constant challenge for all people and is catastrophic to those who claim to be followers of Christ. 

God called Jeremiah to proclaim repentance and judgment to Israel. Israel had drifted so far away from God, and they were going to face unprecedented discipline and judgment from God unless they repented. These were God’s chosen people, and God desired for them to correct their course. Even though God knew they would not repent, He still sent Jeremiah with the twofold message—judgment and discipline are coming, but you can still renew your relationship with God through repentance.

Before we examine Jeremiah 2:1-13, let’s go back and look at God’s calling to Jeremiah again from Jeremiah 1.

When God called Jeremiah to join Him in fulfilling His plan for judgment and redemption for Israel, Jeremiah responded with reservations and excuses. God reminded Jeremiah that he had been chosen for this task way before he was even born. Then God revealed His plans to Jeremiah and assured him that He would prepare and instruct Jeremiah as he obeyed God. (Jeremiah 1:4-19). The Lord challenged His prophet to “get ready. Stand up and tell them everything that I command you.” (Jeremiah 1:17). Jeremiah’s life of obedience to God’s plans was not a cakewalk. Jeremiah faced faithless kings and opposition from Judah’s governmental and religious leaders, as well as the general population. Jeremiah could not have imagined all that lay ahead of him, just as we cannot when we serve God.

Now we come to Jeremiah 2 where God instructs Jeremiah on exactly what to tell the people of Israel. The Lord’s words to Jeremiah begin by recalling the way things were when the people of God were excited about their relationship with the Lord. You will see how the relationship started out so well.

Things started out so well. —Jeremiah 2:1-3

"The Lord remembered" does not mean He had forgotten those early days when Israel was faithful and loyal, and loved Him as a bride and groom love each other during those early seasons of their marriage. It simply means He recalled those days because they were special. 

Israel’s loyalty and love was demonstrated in their trust as they journeyed through the unknown wilderness enroute to the Promised Land.  Jeremiah affirmed that at that time, Israel was holy to the Lord. While they weren’t perfect and they certainly had times when they struggled, they were still set apart as God’s “firstfruits” of His harvest. They were the firstfruits of His grand salvation plan that would eventually be available to all through Jesus Christ. Because of this special relationship, those who came against Israel (“ate of it”) as they moved toward and entered the Promised Land would realize their guilt. This guilt resulted in disaster if they did not honor Israel’s unique relationship with the Lord God Almighty.

Today we are also the fruit of God’s harvest if we are believers, and we are part of God’s church (the bride of Christ). When God remembers when you, or His church as a whole, were most loyal, trusting, loving, obedient, and were being the light and salt that reveal man’s guilt and his need for salvation, then those are special times for the Lord and for us as well.

How do you, as a believer, protect your love for Christ? In what ways can you strengthen your loyalty to Him? How can you remain obedient in a world that challenges your beliefs? How can you remain the salt and light to the lost world?

God remembered how this great relationship began, but now the Lord reveals what happened to the relationship.

What happened to the relationship? —Jeremiah 2:4-8

God speaks first to the Israelites in this passage. Then He turns His attention to the leaders of the people—the priests, the experts in the law, the rulers, and the prophets.

First, the people abandoned the Lord and “followed worthless idols” that only led to them becoming “worthless themselves.” 

The Lord asks, much like someone who has been betrayed by a spouse might ask, “what fault did you find in me? After all I did for you and the fact that you were the firstfruits, why would you choose to distance yourself from me?” God’s question implied Israel’s ancestors found no fault in Him; yet they pursued idols to their own ruin. God said that when they did that, they “became worthless themselves”—These idols didn’t help them become better or feel better about themselves.

What “faults” might people claim God has today in order to justify their reasons for turning from God? What do people pursue today other than God that only leads to feeling more worthless?

We see this pattern repeated time and time again because we live in a broken world. Man continually defaults to a view that God can't do for him what man can do for himself. We pursue things we feel are better than God’s plans. These paths only lead to more brokenness, pain, problems, and questions. When man thinks he has figured it out, another problem surfaces that reminds him that the only path to peace is through a growing and loving relationship with the one that “brought us out of the land of Egypt”—who offers redemption through Jesus Christ.

Second, they stopped asking about the one true God.  The first step always leads to the second step. 

Exodus 13:14 reminds us of the priority God placed on His followers asking questions: “In the future, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘By the strength of his hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the place of slavery.” Questions are opportunities for God's people to tell God's story. But if we quit asking questions, there will be no need to answer questions, therefore there will be no need to learn about the works of God.

In Deuteronomy 6:6-9 God emphasized the importance of passing the history of God's work down to other generations: “6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead.  9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your city gates.” Many times this was done through the process of asking questions and by telling the stories of God's work, especially to the children.

God had commanded the Israelites to always talk about God’s deliverance to their children. Much of this was done through a question-answer dialogue. The parents would ask questions and help the children answer the questions. But, the adults had to first be walking with God so they would know how to ask and answer the questions. Sadly, the entire Israelite system of sharing about God to future generations, broke down because the adults traded their intimate relationship with God for “worthless idols.” 

Third, turning to worthless idols and not “asking” about God eventually corrupted the entire spiritual fabric of the community:

  • The priests also stopped asking, “Where is the Lord?” The priests served as mediators between God and His people and were called to guide Israel in spiritual matters. But they stopped seeking God, which encouraged the people to stop seeking Him even more. 
  • “The experts in the law no longer knew me.” – This left man to create laws and make moral decisions based on their own preferences and desires.
  • The “rulers rebelled against me.” The leaders pursued dishonest gain, and their corruption was an affront to Him. 
  • The “prophets prophesied by Baal” instead of prophesying in the Lord’s name. 

What warning signs might indicate that we are headed down the same path as a society, church, or individual believer? 

The Lord remembered how great things were, He identified what happened, and now He decrees what happens next.

What happens now? –Jeremiah 2:9-13

God determined the time was right to execute the judgment He had promised. “Your children’s children” highlights how the sin of God’s people had continued for generations.

God was about to ask His people an important question that they needed to ponder seriously. He invited them to visit the surrounding pagan nations to find out if anything like this had ever happened.  These nations worshipped false gods, but they loyally followed those they worshiped. They didn’t swap their god for new ones. Yet, Israel, who worshipped the Lord God Almighty, willingly, and readily swapped Him for false idols.

Jeremiah was suggesting that if someone had asked Cyprus and Kedar to comment on Judah’s spiritual situation, these countries would have responded with amazement.

How might an atheist evaluate our commitment to Christ compared to their set of beliefs? How might a Muslim evaluate our commitment to Christ in the same manner? How might a Jew view our commitment to Christ? How might our lost family or neighbors evaluate our commitment to Christ? How might a community evaluate our churches' commitment to Christ compared to their set of values and beliefs?

Ironically, God’s people knew the one and only true God, but they had switched their loyalty to useless idols. They exchanged what was real for a cheap and worthless imitation. In fact, that was God’s primary indictment: they had exchanged their Glory for idols. In Him, God’s people had more than they ever needed. However, they settled for something useless. 

God’s indictment doesn’t stop with the nations. He then turns His focus to the heavens. Heaven and earth provided reliable witnesses to what God and His people had done, for they were present for all of it (Deuteronomy 30:19; Isaiah 1:2). God further commanded the heavens to be shocked and utterly desolated. 

Finally, God accused Judah of a double evil.

The expression s"living water" refers to water that came from underground channels. He had given them pure water for their thirst, but they had rejected His provision for water and gathered other water in cracked cisterns that cannot hold water, thus committing a double evil.

A cistern was a reservoir that collected precipitation during Israel’s winter rainy season. Cisterns not only collect rainwater, but also dirt, debris, and anything else that washes in. Consequently, cistern water was not as pure as spring water and, therefore, less desired. 

The idols were the equivalent of cracked cisterns. Jeremiah’s application was clear. God was living water to Judah. He would provide the best for them. However, the idols to which they had turned left them with only mud and muck.

What are the cracked cisterns people would rather drink from today?

What Would God Say Today?

Israel had experienced so much of God’s blessings, grace, and power. They started out with a relationship with Him that was amazing, but, over time, that relationship was compromised and ignored, which eventually led to impending judgment.

The Bible teaches that a Christian’s salvation is secure through faith in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Nevertheless, it also teaches that if we are not faithful to God, we may miss out on many of the blessings He has for us, and we will be disciplined for our rebellion.

Believers must guard against drifting away from God. If we have strayed God will most definitely discipline us, but God stands ready and willing restore us when we repent.

If Jeremiah were sent to the church today, what would God instruct him to say? Would it be the same message? What else might he be instructed to say?

If Jeremiah were sent to speak to you, what would God instruct him to say? Would it be the same message or something different, or might it be something affirming?

What can you learn from God’s words to Israel that could help you avoid spiritual drift and rebellion?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

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LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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