The Cycle of Judges for Us

May 23, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments

Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement

The Old Testament book of Judges is well-known for what is called “The Cycle of the Judges.” This cycle refers to a pattern of events, introduced in chapter 2, that occurs over and over again throughout the book. There are five steps in the cycle: 

  1. Israel turns away from serving God.
  2. God allows a foreign nation to rise up and oppress Israel.
  3. The Israelites, typically after an extended period of time, cry out for help.
  4. God empowers a judge to rise up and rescue Israel from the oppressor.
  5. The land experiences a period of rest, typically during the lifetime of the judge. 

This cycle repeats in the book of Judges nearly a dozen times. It’s easy to “judge” Israel for this repeated cycle of defeat. You would think that the people would have learned their lesson after two or three times through the cycle. Doesn’t behavior modification theory have something to say about this (okay, okay… I admit, it’s been nearly twenty years since I had psychology; my memory is a little foggy)? 

If we are honest, though, don’t we fall into similar cycles and patterns, even with sin? Habits are extremely difficult to break and overcome. Sinful habits, when they are minimized, can be even more ensnaring. And so we fall into a cycle that looks something like this: 

  1. In the ease of life, we become negligent of faithfully enjoying God through the gospel.
  2. God allows hardships and trials into our life.
  3. We cry out for help and deliverance; we renew commitments to church and spiritual disciplines.
  4. Through the body of Christ, God ministers to our need and reminds us of the sufficiency of Christ.
  5. We experience a season of Spirit-empowered peace and joy in Christ. 

Can you identify with that cycle? 

What does God want us to learn from the Cycle of the Judges and from our own cycles? 

  1. Sin is deceitful and creeps into our lives. The writer to the Hebrews warns of the “deceitfulness of sin,” and calls the people to “take care” and watch out for one another. The Israelites became lazy and made compromises with sin. We do the same. 
  1. Repentance is the only means of breaking the cycle. We cannot defeat sin on our own. We need God’s help continually. Crying out for help can be a form of repentance. For the Israelites, their cries for help did not proceed from repentance. Therefore the cycles became worse and worse, so that peace was not known in the land. The book of Judges is rather depressing in that sense. But our cycles can be different…only through repentance (turning away from sin and clinging all the more closely to our Savior). 
  1. God ministers to us through the body of Christ. The oppression and deliverance cycle in Judges was a corporate experience for Israel. God has established the church as the means of extending the grace of Christ to his people. Salvation is experienced in and through the church. 
  1. God is more committed to our spiritual success than we are. Israel turned away from the living God to worship Baal. Yet, in his mercy and kindness, God gains their attention (through oppression) and provides a deliverer. If God did not intervene, Israel would have been lost. The same is true for us. We become spiritually neglectful. If God does not intervene on our behalf, we would be completely lost. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:4-5). This is not true only for our “conversion” but for our whole life with Christ.




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