How to Break the Cycle

Fr Tom Simmons, 24 Pentecost, 11/19/2017, Judges 2

 

Have you ever read the instructions on a shampoo bottle? 

Like we need instructions, right? For shampoo…

Ever notice how they typically end with “Rinse and repeat”?

So you wash your hair, get a good lather going up there, rinse it all down the drain…and REPEAT?!

Now how many of you DO THAT?

When do you stop?

No one does the Rinse-and-Repeat.  But I’ll tell you what…read the book of Judges and you’ll realize ISRAEL DID. 

They got themselves caught in a loop, a cyclical behavior pattern. 

They kept doing the same stupid stuff, round and round, wearing a rut in the ground. 

  1. God settled them in the land and life was good.
  2. Then they wandered.  They let go of God and grasped after other things.
  3. God said “Ouch. Ok…” and let them go down that road to ruin.
  4. At some point they think “This is horrible” and cry out, he had mercy on them, raises up a leader that helps them overcome their problems.

And life was good.

And then they wandered.  Rinse and repeat. 

Over and over again.  Round and around wearing a rut in the ground. 

You ever see similar cycle in your life?  Caught in the recurring behavior pattern?

è Let’s understand that cycle and see how to break it. 

To understand the Rinse and Repeat Cycle…

…let’s focus on the four phases: Settled Phase, Abandonment Phase, Consequence Phase, Mercy Phase.

  1. We see the Settled Phase in v 6:

“When Joshua dismissed the people, the Israelites all went to their own inheritances to take possession of the land. The people worshiped the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua,”

Life is good…until the kids took over.  Ah that younger generation!

They didn’t go to Sunday school and youth group, they went off to college and got indoctrinated by a bunch of Marxists and when they took control it all went off the rails.

They Abandoned God.

  1. The Abandonment Phase.

They thought the pagan gods were super cool.  So colorful.  So practical.  So exciting compared to boring old Yahweh up there…out there…somewhere…

See that in v11-13

“Then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and worshiped the Baals; 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; they followed other gods.”

All the smart people, the beautiful people, the powerful and prestigious people are into Baal, Astoreth and Moloch. 

You ever do that? 

What are your God-substitutes?  It’s whatever you can’t say “no” to. 

You just gotta get more wealth,

gotta win that argument or that election

gotta be popular with that group of people

gotta have that “look”

gotta be in control

gotta get revenge

gotta get laid

gotta have another drink

gotta protect yourself.

gotta get that acorn! 

Acorn?!  you know the saber-toothed squirrel in Ice Age?

gotta have the acorn. 

“Thanks God, that’s great, but I’ve got something I’ve gotta do over here…”

That brings us to the….

  1. Consequences Phase.

Our rejection hurts God because God loves us…deeply. 

You know how it feels.

Someone makes you feel un-loved, disrespected, powerless,

Hurt, we blame.  “You did this to me,” and respond with anger, the impulse to punish.

Our problem is our blame is always tainted with sin.  We aren’t just judges, but self-centered, blind, self-righteous, impulsive, bitter.

God’s not.  His blame is always accurate, his anger always justified, and his consequences are always proportionate. 

So God honors their abandonment by granting their wish to wander outside of his supernatural protection and empowerment. 

See that in v 14-15: “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers who plundered them.”

He “gives them over” to their own devices. 

“Consequences” … but with a redemptive purpose.  Its called…

  1. The Mercy Phase.  It’s called the Mercy Phase, because God is merciful.

See that in v16-18: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who delivered them out of the power of those who plundered them.”

God really, REALLY likes us, so he’s easily moved to mercy.  He feels great sympathy for our pain, when we’re down and hurt, he comes running to our aid. 

He raised up a leader to rally the people and chase off their misfortune. 

God settled them again…which got the cycle going again. Rinse and repeat. 

God raises up Othniel.  Rinse and repeat. 

Then Ehud. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Shamgar. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Deborah and Barak. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Gideon. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Tola and Jair. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Jepthah. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Samson. Rinse and repeat. 

Then Micah. Rinse and repeat. 

Round and round wearing a path in the ground.

Will it go on forever?  No.

Spoiler alert: David’s coming.  Then great David’s greater Son: Jesus. 

He’s going to break the cycle like no one else has done. 

It’s the ultimate Mercy Phase.

Let’s bring this home.  Let’s talk about our cycles and how to break them. 

We all …or most of us anyway…experience cycles like these. 

I’m sure some of you are here this morning because you’re in the Mercy phase of the cycle. 

You wandered, and paid a price, and now you want to get back to stable. 

And…what are the chances you’ll get over it, and end up in trouble again?

What keeps drawing you into the cycle?  What’s your acorn…gotta have it?!

How would be if THIS was the last time you go round that bend? 

Would you like that? 

Let’s talk about how. 

Tapping into Jesus’ mercy is the secret to breaking the cycle.  He broke the cycle by changing each phase in a critical way. 

He took our consequences. 

Paul said in Romans 8 “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.”

He’s hanging there saying “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”

He entered our abandonment, so we can get his standing with the Father.

He took the heat and can feel your pain. 

He intensified the mercy.

As he’s hanging there he’s praying for us with such compassion: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This mercy reaches everyone in their most extreme need. 

He looks at you with those kind, all-seeing eyes. 

He settled the Spirit inside us to draw our hearts

He’s inside, rewiring the motivational drive so we are most strongly drawn to the love of Jesus.  So we don’t stray as far as we might have.  So we are called back to the light.

This weakens the draw of abandonment.

So to break the cycle we’ve got to Rinse and Repeat the mercy. 

Got to make Christ’s mercy as real to you – MORE REAL – as the acorn.

Most of us make a habit of washing our hair every day or so.  Rinse and repeat.

We’ve got to do the same with Christ’s mercy. 

A habit of praying.

A habit of reading the Bible.

The best ways to build those is in a small group with others. Let’s pray.

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