After Israel was founded, they went through this period described in Judges. During this time, Israel goes through this whole cycle about 6 times: they mess up, they are taken over, they cry out to God, a judge is called by God to lead them into peace, they do good for a while, but eventually they mess up and the whole thing starts again.
I find it quite ridiculous, that they go through this so many times. Until I look at my own life. And realize I’ve gone through this much more than six times.
I discovered today that I never really paid attention to how long Israel spent opressed in comparison to how long they enjoyed peace and good leadership. I always assumed it must have been little tiny durations of joy punctuating these long periods of despair.
But that’s not right.
With one exception, the period of peace and prosperity were always longer than the periods of darkness. Early on, the difference was much more pronounced; eight years of being opressed followed by 80 years of self-rule. There are a few periods that we don’t get a number expressed in years for. Interestingly, several times the number 40 pops up, which has quite a lot of biblical significance. On the whole, 111 years are described as ones which God is not protecting the Is Israelites; for 316 years he does.
This cycle stops during the last couple chapters in the bible. This is where the refrain begins, “In those days, Israel had no king. And the people did as they wished.” For my money, some of the most horrible, heart-breaking occurences in the whole bible occur in these chapters. (I posted some responses to Pastor Marty’s sermon series on these chapters. Both my responses and his sermons had the title “The Worst Story Ever Told)
If the back-and-forth cycle of Israel is relevant to my life, certainly these observations are, too: God will not operate on a tit-for-tat basis but will always “err” on the side of genorousity, kindness, and love. As I continue to need direction in a certain direction, though, this excess of love will slowly decrease, eventually ending in a time of quite significant darkness.
This is all somewhere between scary and comforting.