After the terrorist attack the World Trade Center on September 11, the attendance at churches across the United States spiked. For several weeks, all faith communities registered higher than average attendance. Of course, this did not last, but this response to disaster reflects a cycle found in the Book of Judges.
In Judges, we see this cycle play out at least thirteen times: the Israelites become complacent and worship other gods; disaster strikes (usually an attack by raiders who rob, kill, and enslave); they cry out to God for help; God saves the people by sending a strong leader; and the cycle begins all over again as they forget how God has blessed them and they place their priorities and their worship elsewhere.
In our Bible study lesson this week, we considered this cycle and saw how it played out in the account of God’s call of Deborah, a woman judge, to deliver the Israelites. Deborah empowers Barak to fight the aggressor, Sisera. Barak and his army prevail, but it is another woman, Jael, who ends his life. Chapter 5 of Judges is a long hymn of praise to God for this deliverance. Then chapter 6 begins, “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites.” The cycle begins again.
We are not the chosen people, but we can learn a lesson from the Israelites. Practicing one’s devotion to God must be intentional. We fall too easily into patterns of complacency and are surprised and hurt when the hard times come. We neglect our relationship with God until crisis strikes then we recognize the error of our ways.
We break this cycle when we practice the presence of God daily. Each of us decides how to do this. We pray, read scripture, meditate, serve, and purposely chose to follow God rather than other “gods.”
Does this mean that we will never encounter distress, fear, or heartache if we do these things? No, but it does mean that we will be better prepared when the stresses of life come upon us.