1.The book of Judges shows all too clearly the cycle of apostasy, crisis, repentance, deliverance, and apostasy. Where do you think we are right now in this cycle? Or is it even appropriate to draw a parallel between then and now?
Obviously, there are no simple answers to these questions. For one thing Old Testament Israel was unique in being chosen by God for a specific task: to usher in the Messiah. No modern nation has been chosen by God in this way. Thus we should be careful in drawing parallels.
Second, a nation is a complexity of interrelated parts. There are as many different ideas, individuals, and structures to be considered! Think of all the national and local governmental powers, educational institutions, religious groups, businesses, charities, etc. It may be fair to say that we are experiencing each part of the cycle to some extent. Nonetheless, all cultures and generations have cycles that can be identified broadly. You may find it useful to bring up the latest hot topic on the national scene and which part of the cycle it speaks to.
2.What false gods do you find today’s generation chasing after that make God angry? Is it fair to say that we are all idolaters at some level? Explain.
Certainly, contemporary culture has its fairs hare of seductive temptations: power, fame, sensuality, and entertainment are obvious candidates. But two other major culprits appear to be individualism and money. Rampant individual-ism has led us down a deceptive path to put faith in ourselves rather than in God. That attitude is dangerously close to the temptation presented to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5.
A lust for money and things (covetousness) is called idolatry by Paul (Colossians 3:5). This seems to have been the problem of the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)—the only one of the seven churches in Revelation about which Jesus had nothing good to say. Bottom line: any-thing we place on the throne of our heart instead of God is an idol.
3. Repentance from sin begins with a change in heart and attitude. Following that, what specific steps of repentance can individuals, churches, or even nations take to beseech God’s mercy? How do these steps change from generation to generation—or do they change?
In prayer we can confess to God our sins and pledge to abandon our idols. Yet there must be more than penitent prayers. We must also con-fess our sins to one another (fames 5:16). This is certainly required of individuals, but it can also be beneficial of groups.
We must also demolish our idols and things that lead us into sin. How we go about doing that in practical terms can make for interesting discussion! (Compare Acts 19:19.) Further, repentance can involve restitution where appropriate(Luke 19:8). Finally, we realize that methods of repentance may change from culture to culture. Daniel repented in sackcloth and ashes for the sins of his people (Daniel 9:3), a method that we do not use today.
4.In what ways can we help the next generation avoid the cycle of apostasy and repentance? What could happen to our church and nation if we neglect our duty in this regard?
Try to explore practical methods that could include immediate application. This can include parents praying with their children or encouraging them to memorize important Scriptures, grandparents sharing their testimony with the family on formal occasions, etc. Probe hard here. Push your students to see the seriousness of the consequences if they fail in this. The second question will help your students see how important their legacy is.
5.Share a time in your life when you went through this cycle of apostasy and repentance. What caused your downward spiral, and what or whom did God use to pull you out of it?
This is very personal, and not everyone will be comfortable with this question. But if two or three students could give a brief testimony (per-haps you could arrange this beforehand), it would make this lesson ver3, real. By especially identifying who helped them out of the spiral and how they did so, you can give participants concrete ideas for application in their own lives.