We have noted that the overall trend of Israel’s history after the days of Joshua was a downward spiral. The people went through the same basic cycle over and over again–gradually becoming more and more corrupt (Jud. 2:19). Each cycle had four basic stages, and we discussed three of them yesterday. First, God blesses the people richly. Second, God’s people forget Him and embrace a life of sin. Third, God punishes them for their rebellion. This leads us naturally to the final step.
4. GOD’S PEOPLE SUFFER FOR THEIR SINS AND ARE BROUGHT TO REPENTANCE.
When God punishes anyone, there will be suffering. Sometimes such leads to godly sorrow and then to repentance (II Cor. 7:10). On many occasions, God raised up a judge for Israel to deliver them from their enemies, “for the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them” (Jud. 2:18).
After each deliverance, the cycle was completed and began anew as they enjoyed the Lord’s blessings again. However, when good leaders were no longer in place, the nation typically “reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way” (Jud. 2:19).
A study of the entire book of Judges reveals that God’s children went through this same basic cycle seven times during the period of the judges! Then, on top of that, the cycle is seen yet again during the period of the kings in both nations (Israel and Judah). For the most part, the people didn’t learn from the mistakes of their ancestors. Sadly, many today do not learn any better!
This four-step cycle can be seen on the individual level also. God’s people today are Christians, and He loves to bless them abundantly (Eph. 1:3). Sometimes, however, children of God forget the Lord. They squeeze Him out of their lives to make room for other pursuits. Others allow their faith to crumble when adversity manifests itself (cf. Matt. 13:20-22). Still others embrace sin with open arms and rebel against the divine will–even though they know better. When one forsakes Almighty God, he very well may be punished in this life. God may try to shake the person up, so to speak, and get him to reflect upon the direction he is heading spiritually. This is what the Lord did to the Israelites by allowing them to suffer at the hands of other nations. God does not desire that any perish but that all come to their senses and penitently follow His way of life (II Pet. 3:9). When repentance is manifested, the Lord forgives His children. This is one of the comforting truths of the Scriptures.
I affirm that every believer is found in one of these four steps. Dear friends, where are you spiritually? Are you serving the Lord faithfully and enjoying His bountiful blessings? Or, have you forgotten the Lord, rebelled against Him, and enslaved yourself to sin once again (cf. II Pet. 2:20-22)? If so, do not remain in that state of condemnation any longer! Decide to turn back to the way of righteousness. Grieve over your transgressions, repent, confess to the Father, and walk in the light again (cf. I John 1:7-9). The Lord will take you back as His own! Learn from your mistakes and learn from those things that “were written before” (Rom. 15:4).