We have this way of looking at our own world as the most messed up and decadent. We often look at past generations and think “Things were so much better then.”
As I read through the book of Judges and make my way into the book of Ruth in the bible, I’m getting this really interesting picture. Things, for the Israelites, they just get worse and worse.
There are occasional bright spotds. The judges bring about times of peace and prosperity. But these times are increasingly rare. The last of the judges finds himself in this compromised position where he is seeking revenge after being betrayed by the woman who loves him. He dies a blind prisoner.
From here, things go from bad to worse. Scripture takes up the refrain, “In those days there was no king and people did as they saw fit.” The end of the book of Judges would give Hostel or Saw a run for its money in terms of how grizzly things can get: a women is raped and then chopped up. The pieces of her are sent all over the country as a way to rally the troops. Genocide, ensues. The book ends with the remaining women being snuck up upon and basically abducted at swords’ point to become the wives of this other nation.
The book of Ruth takes place in the middle of all this. It is this really amazing story of two womens’ friendship and struggle to survive. The central figures of this book are incredibly moral people. Yet, Ruth is forced to encourage her widowed daughter in law to go sleep with a rich man for them to survive.
The whole thing has me increasingly convinced that sin can be collective and systemic. Societies can sink so low that people are left with no choice but to do things God is not pleased with. But God’s displeasure, it does not only sit on the people who are forced into these decisions. God’s displeasure lands on all those who are a part of these corrupt systems.
Wow, it sure is a good thing that there is no corrupt system today, forcing people to make immoral decisions! (He said sarcastically.)