The Judges Cycle
I have been reading in the book of Judges over the last few weeks in my Bible reading plan. It’s a book I have always enjoyed, both for its Old Testament narrative feel and the profound lesson it teaches us about God’s overwhelming steadfastness, longsuffering nature, and unstoppable grace. This display of God’s character is what many scholars and commentators call “The Judges Cycle.”
This cycle refers to the process of 1) Israel turning from God to serve other gods, 2) God removing His hand of blessing, which allowed other pagan nations to overtake and subdue Israel, 3) Israel repenting and turning back to God, 4) God raising up a judge to deliver Israel, and 5) Israel being restored to their independence and serving their God as they were designed to do. This 5-step process is repeated ENDLESSLY through the book of Judges—thus the need for so many judges who were raised up to deliver Israel.
What struck me in my reading last week was not the cycle, which I have become familiar with in the Judges narrative and in my own walk with Christ, but the moment that follows the repentance of Israel in chapter 10. Read below how God responds at the sound of Israel’s repentance.
And the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against You, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to Me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” 15 And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to You. Only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and He became impatient over the misery of Israel. (Judges 10:11-15)
What we see here is the Lord doing something that I think we need to heed in our ongoing interactions with our Savior. God runs His own little cycle with Israel as He walks them forward. Starting in verse 11, He does not spare Israel from the truth but strongly affirms that they are correct in their assessment of the situation. He also reminds them of His strong history of deliverance for them going back to the original example of Egypt, which was an entrenched and century aged slavery that the nation was unlikely to ever overcome without the intervention of the Almighty.
During the next step in the cycle, God allows Israel to sit in the consequence of their decision for a moment, effectively telling them “Hey, you all wanted the small ‘g’ gods of this land—you got ‘em. Shoot them a line and see if they answer.” In this, God is simply allowing Israel to feel the powerlessness of those deities that they have put their faith and hope in.
“Hey, you all wanted the small ‘g’ gods of this land—you got ‘em. Shoot them a line and see if they answer.”
Lastly, we see God move, as He always does in His profound power and grace. He grows “impatient” over the misery of His people, which spurs a move back into their deliverance.
In reflecting on this cycle within a cycle, I came to a wonderful little conclusion for my own life. God does the same thing with me. I am persistently falling into the Judges Cycle in my walk with Christ. My sanctification is filled with turning moments, both to and from the Lord—both conscience and unconscious decisions to go my own way and then back again to His loving side.
Once I read through God’s response, I saw my Heavenly Father’s loving, corrective hand more clearly. 1) He never spares me from the truth. 2) He always lets me feel my consequences in part or in whole. 3) He lets me look at the hopelessness of earthly or spurious emotional things to ever provide me the deep intimacy that I long for with Him, and 4) He delivers me back to His side where we begin to flourish again.
Here’s the point in all of this for us today: In our walks with Christ, our circumstances are very often of our own making, and at times, God in His goodness lets us feel the overwhelming pressure and isolation of a life without Him. He is good all the time, and all the time, He is good. Even when it hurts.
SHEA CAMPUS PASTOR & TEACHING PASTOR