When I was in junior high my family adopted the most adorable yellow lab puppy named Molly. Her only downside (aside from her propensity to steal the sponge off the counter and incite a chase) was her aggravating habit of getting herself tangled into a royal mess when we tied her up to go outside. She was still small enough to slide through the slats of the porch railing, but she failed to recognize the ramifications of such a pastime when tethered.
Inevitably Molly would weave back and forth through the railing slats, blissfully going her own way…until the moment she literally got to the end of her rope. At that point she’d let out the most pitiful whimper you’ve ever heard, begging us to rescue her. We did, all the while admonishing her about common sense and how to avoid such entanglements in the future.
But day after day it was the same: She’d get stuck. She’d whine for help. Ad we’d rescue her. And then the cycle would start all over again the next time we let her out.
As I read the book of Judges, I feel like I’m stuck in a similar cycle. The same pattern repeats itself time after time, for 21 chapters. The people go their own way, utterly forgetting about God. When things get bad enough, they finally call out to him for help. Yet over and over again, God shows them underserved kindness and rescues them. Then as soon as things are going well, they turn their backs on God and do their own thing again.
Whenever the LORD raised up a judge over Israel, he was with that judge and rescued the people from their enemies throughout the judge’s lifetime. For the LORD took pity on his people, who were burdened by oppression and suffering. But when the judge died, the people returned to their corrupt ways, behaving worse than those who had lived before them.
As much as I’d like to think such cyclical problems are reserved for ancient people and puppies, I have to admit I’m the same way. I have a tendency to go my own way, and it’s only when I’ve run out of other options that I’m desperate enough to cry out to God.
Eventually Molly grew out of her rope-tangling habits, if only because she was too big to fit through the railing slats any longer. I hope that I’ll grow up eventually too—that one day I’ll be mature enough to walk consistently with him instead of putting myself through cycle after tireless cycle.
But for now, I stand amazed at his endless patience and grace. Thank you, God, for unraveling me and my tangled mess. And thank you for doing it over and over again.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.