The Yo-Yo Principle: Lessons from the Children of Israel

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The Yo-Yo Principle

Lessons from the Children of Israel

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The Children of Israel had a reputation for periods of estrangement with their God. They would remember Him when oppression came, in the form of Moabites, Philistines or perhaps Amorites, but in times of peace they got comfortable and did not think about their Heavenly Father. But God never forgot them; time after time He gave them another chance.

In the book of Judges, God raised up many men and one woman (Deborah in Judges 4) to deliver His people from their self-inflicted oppression. The cycle of Judges breaks down the pattern of Israel, who repeatedly forgot and remembered God throughout history.

The Ambassador Bible Center students learned about this cycle in Former Prophets class. The steps of the cycle are:

1. Peace (Israelites get comfortable and forget God)

2. Evil (accepted and acted out by Israel – usually in the form of idolatry)

3. Punishment (God allows them to be overtaken by an enemy)

4. Cry (Israel pleas to God for help)

5. Deliverer (a savior is provided by God)

6. Redemption (Enemy is defeated by the deliverer)

7. Peace (Israel is free of oppression)

This same pattern can be seen in each account in Judges.

Christy, a current ABC student, said she knew another analogy that describes the conduct of the Israelites.

“In the words of my dad, the Israelites created the world’s first yo-yo,” Christy said. “First they were up in times of peace, then they were down in times of oppression. Up and down they go.”

At the end of Joshua’s life, he warned his people about forgetting God. He knew human nature. He had seen the people forget God so quickly times before; he had seen their faith quiver. The UCG Bible Commentary says Moses was gone on Mt. Sinai for almost a month and a half at the time he received the Ten Commandments and the other laws. When he returned the Israelites had made a golden calf. They had already forgotten the miracles God had shown them including: 10 plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven and a pillar of fire and cloud (Exodus 7-14). Even after seeing those miracles first hand, they lost sight of God and His purpose for them. Joshua remembered this and upon his death, he implored the Israelites to remain faithful to the one true God.

Joshua writes, “Therefore take heed to yourselves, that you love the Lord your God. Or else, if indeed you do go back, and cling to the remnant of these nations—these that remain among you…know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. but they shall be snares and traps to you” (Joshua 23:11-13).

This beloved leader’s farewell address was tragically prophetic. Only three chapters later the book of Judges explains that a generation arose who did not know God or what he had done for their people (Judges 2:5). Though this may seem a weakness of character to us, are we not sometimes guilty of the same thing? Not only over generations do we grow apart from God, but perhaps even in our daily lives.

We can think we have it all together: a balanced life with equal parts of faith, work and fun. But exams, deadlines and game nights get busy and even sleep can seem hard to claim some days (or most days). Does the zeal for the word of God get pushed to the side? Israel got caught up in life and when there wasn’t a pressing threat they forgot to check in daily with God.

“We do the same exact thing,” Christy said. “I mean when we are in trouble we will pray to God and ask Him for help, when we aren’t in trouble we just don’t. Usually we only talk to Him when we need help.”

So how do we avoid our own cycle of Judges? We must break the chain prior to step two. Joshua wrote, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord your God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23). In short: repent and stay close to God.

We must keep ourselves in check constantly, continually striving for moral excellence and passing down a love for the truth to the next generations. We are human and will fall short most of the time. If we remember God daily He will forgive us when we miss the mark and repent, and give us the tools we need to short circuit that ancient cycle before it ensnares us.