The Cycle Of Misery
THE CYCLE OF MISERY
Despicable people do deplorable things. This pretty much sums up the book of Judges.
Why would the Bible even contain such trashy tales about dysfunctional characters? The enemies and even the heroes are involved in violent and abusive acts.
Who can love people who maltreat others?
Who would care about people who complicate and sabotage their lives and then refuse the hope offered them?
Who would have patience with people who refuse to learn from their mistakes but instead pass them on as a legacy to the next generation?
The answer is that God could care about such creatures such as these.
The book of Judges is not really about the judges who held court in Israel
It is about the God of mercy and patience who loves even the most dysfunctional and resistant among us.
The book of Judges covers the history of Israel between the death of Joshua and the appearance of Samuel. For Israel this was a time without formal government. The people were supposed to look to God for leadership, but when they failed to do so, they where doomed to a continuing cycle of disobedience, suffering, cries for help and deliverance.
What will we learn from the study of Judges?
We will learn of the great depth of God’s love and mercy as you see it continually offered to people who do not deserve or appreciate it.
We will hopefully learn from the mistakes of others. Hopefully we will be able to break cycles of dysfunction which persists in our lives and homes.
Most of all, the study of Judges should help us to hand the throne of our life over to God, the true King.
The writer of Judges often uses the phrase “in those days Israel had no king.” Without the God reigning in our hearts, our lives are destined to become as disastrous as the characters of this book.
What will we benefit from the study of the book of Judges?
We will benefit from our study a proper understanding of who God is.
We will understand that the story of Judges is not about the Judges of Israel. The Judges used by God to save Israel where depraved and fallen creatures. The point the author wants to make through these stories is not the character qualities of the judges but the fact that God works through people such as these. The only true hero of this book is God.
It is important to note we are to be cautious in our judgment concerning characters of this book. In that we don’t become smug in our own enlightenment. Because we will encounter characters who treat women as possessions and who settle arguments with angry outbursts of violence.
These are stories of people in a much more primitive time who where struggling to understand God, themselves and forgiveness. Although they acted out in a much more dramatic and childish way, their passions and their rebellion against God were the same as yours and mine.
So as you read this book, look for the sins you have in common with the character and ask yourself what would happen if you were to give full reign to every passion.
The Cycle defined Judges 2:18-19
18 Whenever the LORD raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the LORD had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. 19 But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
In these two verses we find the pattern for the entire book- a pattern of sin, bondage and repentance that would last for nearly 350 years. (Table on screen)
Now, if you look up the starting scripture for each of those passages, you will notice that the same phrase is used to begin each section, and it is this – “then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD…”
In other words there was a repeated cycle throughout the entire book-
1. a cycle of sin
5. Followed by sin and bondage again. (It is more of a vortex than a cycle- each successive rebellion is deeper; it consequences are longer lived and more difficult to counteract)
The sin in our lives that we fail to conquer will eventually conquer us. The people of Israel found themselves enslaved to one pagan nation after another as the Lord kept His word and chastened His people. Consider the sins of that new generation.
They forgot what the Lord had done (vv. 6–10). At that point in Israel’s history, Joshua stood next to Moses as a great hero, and yet the new generation didn’t recognize who he was or what he had done. In his popular novel 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Once they got in control of the present, both Hitler and Stalin rewrote past history so they could control future events; and for a time it worked. How important it is for each new generation to recognize and appreciate the great men and women who helped to build and protect their nation! It’s disturbing when “revisionist” historians debunk the heroes and heroines of the past and almost make them criminals.
They forsook what the Lord had said (vv. 11–13). Had they remembered Joshua, they would have known his “farewell speeches” given to the leaders and the people of Israel (Josh. 23–24). Had they known those speeches, they would have known the Law of Moses; for in his final messages, Joshua emphasized the covenant God had made with Israel and the responsibility Israel had to keep it. When you forget the Word of God, you are in danger of forsaking the God of the Word, which explains why Israel turned to the vile and vicious worship of Baal.
They forfeited what the Lord had promised (vv. 14–15). When they went out to fight their enemies, Israel was defeated, because the Lord wasn’t with His people. This is what Moses had said would happen (Deut. 28:25–26); but that isn’t all: Israel’s enemies eventually became their masters! God permitted one nation after another to invade the Promised Land and enslave His people, making life so miserable for them that they cried out for help. Had the Jews obeyed the Lord, their armies would have been victorious; but left to themselves, they were defeated and humiliated.
They failed to learn from what the Lord did (vv. 16–23). Whenever Israel turned away from the Lord to worship idols, He chastened them severely; and when in their misery they turned back to Him, He liberated them. But just as soon as they were free and their situation was comfortable again, Israel went right back into the same old sins. “And the Children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord....Therefore the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel, and He sold them into the hand of...” is the oft-repeated statement that records the sad cyclical nature of Israel’s sins (3:7–8, see also v. 12; 4:1–4; 6:1; 10:6–7; 13:1). The people wasted their suffering. They didn’t learn the lessons God wanted them to learn and profit from His chastening.
Did you notice how Israel forgot, forsook, forfeited and failed the Lord; they turned their backs on His goodness and mercy. This is where the cycle of sin gets started, and eventually drags us down into bondage. Unfortunately this cycle of sin is evident in many Christian lives today.
1. OUR WEAKNESSES CAN HOOK US INTO BONDAGE: Maybe its one enemy or a particular area of weakness that consistently drags you down into bondage.
i. Money and materialism; see Matthew 6:24. Underlying this sin is the fundamental belief that utopia exists and that it’s essence is material well-being. In opposition to this approach to life are numerous scriptures Luke 12:15; Heb. 13:5.
1. Materialism with its pursuit of possessions and financial independence and security are probably the biggest obstacles to spiritual advancement.
2. Everything in our culture pushes us towards living more comfort, pleasure and self confidence without any thought of the Creator.
ii. The idol of the self, self is at the center of existence as a god. It is godlike individual autonomy, in self-set goals and boundaries.
1. Our society promotes self over all others. It encourages the pursuit of personal happiness and gratification.
2. It urges ignoring and if necessary dispensing with whatever or whoever stands in our way of personal satisfaction.
3. Self-expression and self-actualization are important themes in this religion, which is evident in our society from the advice columns of newspapers and magazines through to schools, where sometimes the point seems no longer to learn things but to find oneself and to be the best person that one can be.
4. quote “ the narcissistic society, the society that worships the self, is not the ‘good’ or the ‘great society’ but deeply dysfunctional and wicked one”
5. Self- vs. Godly
6. Idols cannot liberate; they can only bring oppression
2. REVIEWING OUR PAST WILL HELP US TO OVERCOME THE CYCLE OF SIN: Looking over your past as a Christian, have you seen this in your own life?
i. Has your Christian walk been a cycle of victory and defeat?
ii. Do you see the cycle occurring in your life?
iii. If we are honest the book of Judges is a wake up call for each of us. It is a warning of what can happen once we become comfortable and begin to compromise with the enemy. It is a sign post and a danger signal of the perils that can lie ahead in our Christian lives. Diagram (See on screen)
3. BREAKING THE CYCLE OF SIN IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES
i. Temptation is a common experience. James 1:13a--When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." TEMPT: "to entice to do wrong by a promise of pleasure or gain" "to seduce, to allure into evil, to persuade" 1 Corinthians 10:13--No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.
ii. Temptation is never initiated by God. James 1:13b--For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
Note the difference between testing and temptation:
Deut. 8:2 - God tested Israel to strengthen them.
Ex. 20:20 - God tested Israel to strengthen them.
Gen. 22:1 - God tested Abraham to strengthen him.
Matt. 4 - Satan tempted Jesus to destroy Him.
It is impossible for God to tempt you.
iii. Temptation follows a regular cycle. James 1:14-15--but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
WHY DO WE FALL? Some examples:
· Fish - bait, hook, net...
· Eve - Gen. 3:6-24
· David - 2 Samuel 11:2ff
d. Temptation feeds on deception.
James 1:16--Don't be deceived, my dear brothers.
· The word deceived means being led down the wrong path.
· We are told that we will be better off for doing it. It will take the pressure off. I’ll do just this once then I’ll quite.
· Don't be played for a fool!
· Don't trust yourself - trust God!
Proverbs 19:3—A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.
e. Temptation can be overcome.
James 1:17-18--Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
· Concentrate on good things/perfect gifts (vs. 17 - also Phil. 4:8)
· Break sins deadly cycle with the Word of Trust (vs. 18 - also John 8:32)
Look at the cycle of sin: Put your own name where Israel is mentioned and see if it is still true. Obviously God doesn’t use Judges today to rescue us like He did for Israel so many years ago. In fact, if you do tend to spend a lot of time dealing with Judges today then I’m sorry, but you need more than this study… possible a lawyer. But God uses Christian friends, leaders and speakers to draw us back to Himself.
Conclusion: The cycle of disobedience, discipline, despair, and deliverance is seen today whenever God’s people turn away from His Word and go their own way. If disobedience isn’t followed by divine discipline, then the person is not truly a child of God; for God chastens all of His children (Heb. 12:3–13). God has great compassion for His people, but He is angry at their sins.
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The Book of Judges is the inspired record of Israel’s failures and God’s faithfulness. But if we study this book only as past history, we’ll miss the message completely. This book is about God’s people today. When the psalmist reviewed the period of the Judges (Ps. 106:40–46), he concluded with a prayer that we need to pray today: “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to Your holy name and glory in Your praise” (Ps. 106:47, NIV).