What’s gone wrong with America? That question keeps gnawing away at me today as I look at the news. There is rage and hate in our cities; people battling over COVID; formerly trusted institutions no longer trusted; schools and churches closed while abortion continues unabated; more extravagance and less satisfaction; we are a nation divided against itself. What has gone wrong with our country?
Mark Twain said, “History does not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Reading today’s news makes me think American history rhymes with that of ancient Israel recorded in the Old Testament book of Judges. There we see Israel forgetting God followed by the breakdown of civility, leading to war among the tribes.
The period of the Judges runs from Israel’s settlement in the Promised Land around 1380 B. C. to the beginning of the Monarchy in 1050 B. C. It is a heartbreaking and monotonous record of people forgetting God that is summarized in Judges 2:10-11:
Moreover, that whole generation was gathered to their ancestors, and another generation grew up after them who did not know the LORD or the work he had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and worshipped the Baals; and they abandoned the LORD, the God of their ancestors, who brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods.Judges 2:10-11
The tragic post-mortem of this stage of Israel’s history is recorded for future generations in the last words of Judges: “all the people did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Thomas Constable describes this period of Israel’s history in his commentary on Judges:
“Three characteristics marked the social chaos in Israel during the period of the judges: Lawlessness characterized national life. People were afraid to go out in public, and traveled the byways rather than the highways of the land. People committed violent crimes without fear of punishment (chapter 19). Blindness (spiritual and mental) also characterized the people. They were blind to what was happening in their midst, namely, God using discipline after apostasy to bring them to repentance and deliverance. They were also blind to God’s dealings with their ancestors in the past. Third, immorality marked Israel’s social life. Even Samson, one of he judges, was a victim of this cancer.”(Thomas Constable, Judges)
Throughout this period of Israel’s history, there is a repeated Sin Cycle summarized in Judges 2:10-23. These verses serve as a commentary on the entire book as we see the following stages played out again and again:
- The people forget the Lord’s blessings and past deliverances and begin worshipping other gods.
- The Lord turns the people over to their enemies.
- The people cry out to the Lord for deliverance.
- In response to the people’s repentance and cry, the Lord raises up a charismatic leader (Hebrew: shophet – “judge”) to deliver them.
- When the leader dies, the people turn again to other gods.
But we see in Judges a consistent pattern seen in Egypt when the people cry out to the Lord for deliverance. No matter how far they have turned from the Lord when they repent and turn to Him the Lord hears and delivers.
I am praying that Mark Twain was right; maybe history doesn’t repeat itself, but it may rhyme. I pray that for our country! Let’s turn to the Lord and cry to Him!
We humbly beseech Thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of your Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in Thy mercy, and evermore to serve Thee in holiness and pureness of living, to Thy honor and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.(The Book of Common Prayer)
A fellow traveler,