June 25, 2010

Examining The Scripture XXXVIII: Pattern Recognition

In Judges 3 we begin to see a spiritual pattern in Israel that begins to take on a foreboding significance in the future after the time of Joshua. It is most pronounced and first outlined in Judges 3:7-11 during the period of the judge Othniel, Caleb's nephew. The truth is it is a pattern we can see before this but it is not as pronounced, repetitive and obvious as we will see in later chapters of Judges and the Old Testament as a whole.

"The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD; they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. The anger of the LORD burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim, to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. But when they cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, who saved them. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, so that he became Israel's judge and went to war. The LORD gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died." Judges 3:7-11

We go to the very next verse during the period of the judge Ehud and we see Israel backslide...

"Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel." Judges 3:12

God tries to give Israel a chance to see their sin Judge after Judge. Israel's continued to be unfaithful to the Lord. The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth and abandoned the God who had done all these wonderful things on their behalf up to this point in their history. They went after other gods from among the peoples who were around them. Spirituality and religion abhors a vacuum, man needs a religion and when they don’t have the real God they chase false ones. More than likely the people they were told to totally destroy upon entering the land. We could take a lesson from this today. Our secular society's push to remove Christianity from everything, government, schools, etc under the guise of "separation of church and state" is creating a vacuum. It is a vacuum that will not stay empty for long. We see this in Europe and we will eventually see it here. In the absence of Christianity in Europe after its secularization we now see a massive influx of Islam and Eastern religions and they are happily filling the void.

We also see this today in people that do not know Jesus Christ, they chase a myriad of other gods, some of which do not even have names because their "religions" are a disembodied spirituality.

Invariably, like Canaan religion and the Israelites and also like sin that isn’t totally gotten rid of, it continues to resurface in a person’s life only to haunt them later like a bad habit. This caused continued disobedience and provoked the Lord to anger in the case of Israel. The Lord in due course gives them over to their plunderers who plunder them and he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies (slavery), so that they could no longer withstand their enemies (diminished their numbers so greatly they could muster and adequate fighting force or resistance force). Whenever they went out, the Lord was actually against them as He had warned.

The Lord would then raise up Judges who saved them from those who plundered them. But as usual the Israelites were a stiff-necked lot of people and they did not listen to their judges and they “whore after other gods”. The Lord used and worked through judges and saved them from their enemies because He pitied them and had mercy on them and grace. The judge would die and they immediately reverted back to abominable behavior.

In Chapter 3 we see the pattern shift. Israel sold into slavery to Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia and Israel served him eight years. Again Israel cried out to God and He raise up a deliverer/judge Othniel, Caleb’s nephew. Like all the judges the Lord’s spirit came upon him, he judged Israel and went to war and delivered Israel from Chushanrishathaim. The age of the Judges had begun.

So the basic pattern for Israel forms: Obedience-Disobedience (did what was right in his own eyes)-Punishment-Repentance-Obedience-Disobedience-Punishment-Repentance [repeat ad-nauseum]. It is a downward spiral though they take 1 step up and 2 back eventually totally apostatizing.

It is clear no one back then heard of the term/phrase "pattern recognition" other than God or those close to Him (Ezra, Nehemiah, prophets). The aforementioned pattern began occurring so often and so regular that you could practically set your watch by it. By the time you are halfway through the Old Testament as reader, you begin to get sick of it or you are sick of it.

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