Key verse: Judges 2:10
Big idea: Cycles of sin begin with neglect.
The book of Judges picks up around 1375 BC, roughly the same time as the reign of Tutankhamen in Egypt. It feels like a remarkable step backward: after wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the Israelites finally moved forward to victory and settled the land. But now, in the period of the Judges, the Israelites were stuck again. For the next 200 years, they lived in the same basic cycle described in this chapter. The people sinned, God sent an enemy to judge them, the people cried out, God raised up a deliverer to rescue them, and the people sinned again but worse than their fathers. It was a slowly descending spiral, falling further and further from God's blessing.
How did it start? Judges 2:10 is horrifying. The generation that knew Joshua died, and the next generation "knew not the LORD, not yet the world which he had done for Israel." They did not know God (personally) and did not know what He had done (intellectually and in faith). Their parents had neglected to carry out the instruction of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 of diligently teaching their children about who God was and what He had done, and so in a single generation the truth was lost and wicked behavior followed. God has no grandchildren, so each generation needed to come to trust Him anew personally, and they did not.
There are probably almost no Christian parents who deliberately teach their children to live lives far from God. Instead, they neglect. They talk about sports and politics more than the Bible. They skip church for sporting events, show greater pride in grades than spiritual maturity, and make a career the supreme goal of life. Maybe they are too proud to admit their own failings and how God has helped them. And so they raise a generation that does not know the Lord. Should we be surprised when that generation lives in rebellion? Even in our own lives, no one sets out the wander (what people used to call backsliding). Instead, we neglect the truth, forget God's works, forget God, and then fall into sin.
Discussion idea: What areas of your walk with God are you neglecting? How can you remind yourself of who He is and what He has done?
Prayer focus: Lord, start a cycle in my heart that will lead to growth and holiness: knowing You more deeply, obeying You, and coming to know You better.
Key verse: Acts 2:47
Big Idea: The Church of Jesus is built by Jesus.
If we were to trace the story of the Church of Jesus we would need to begin with John the Baptist. All of Jesus' first disciples - and Jesus - submitted to John's baptism. From those raw materials, Jesus assembled a group of disciples and promised that He was building an institution against which the Gates of Hell would never prevail. Indeed, His own death could not stop His assembly from being salt and light! He took His life up again on the third day to be her eternal head. In Acts 1, we saw Jesus ascend up to be enthroned in Heaven, no longer physically in our midst. But the Church He established to be His body persisted, although she waited in Jerusalem until the promise of the Father was fulfilled. I imagine this church almost like Frankenstein, assembled and waiting on the power to spring into action.
At the beginning of our chapter, the Church that Jesus built was plugged into the ultimate power source: the Holy Spirit. Now she was empowered to fulfill her Great Commission - taking the gospel and its implications to all nations. They spoke in other languages they had never learned as a sign that God was now building an assembly not of physical ancestry, but of faith (Isaiah 28:11). Peter preached a simple sermon about what Jesus did for us and how He fulfilled the promise of the Old Testament. Thousands felt their hearts pricked and turned to Christ in faith.
But, it was still Jesus building His church, just as surely as when He looked Peter in the eye and said: "Follow me." They did not win people by their powerful oratory (they were fishermen), fancy buildings (they met in homes, no Christian church buildings would exist for centuries), or the promise of popularity and wealth (they faced persecution instead). They simply had Jesus, both His resurrection and the change He made in their lives. It was enough because building the church was not their job - it was His. It was the Lord who added to them daily those who had been saved, and they baptized them as an echo of what God had already decreed.
Discussion Idea: How did Jesus place you in your church? What circumstances or individuals did He use to get you into the local body that He intended for you?
Prayer Focus: Pray for God to keep adding people through our obedience and that we would have the same kind of unity that amazed the people in Jerusalem back in the first century.