The Cycle of Sin
(32) In spite of all this, they continued sinning and did not believe his wondrous works, (33) so he brought their days to an end like a vapor and their years (were spent) in terror. (34) When he killed them, they would seek after him and repent and diligently search for God. (35) They would remember that God (was) their rock, that God Most High (was) their redeemer. (36) Yet, they would flatter him with their mouths and lie to him with their tongues. (37) Their heart was not steadfast toward him. They were not faithful to his covenant. (38) Yet, he, being compassionate, would forgive their iniquity and not destroy them. Often he would restrain his anger and not stir up all his wrath. (39) He would remember that they (were) merely flesh, a wind that passes by and does not return.
While there are no word repetitions to note in this segment apart from the use of God’s name, we should observe that the verb forms in this narrative imply ongoing, characteristic behavior indicated in the translation by the use of the helping verb, “would.” What this reveals is an ongoing pattern of behavior both in the life of the nation and in God’s responses: Israel’s continual sinning (vs. 32) led to God’s chastening (vss. 33 & 34). This in turn would lead to Israel’s often insincere repentance (vss. 34-37) which finally led to God’s compassionate forgiveness (vss. 38 & 39).
I. Israel’s continual sinning led to God’s chastisement. (32-34)
II. God’s chastisement led to Israel's repentance. (34-37)
III. Israel’s repentance led to God’s forgiveness. (38 & 39)
When God’s chastening brings us to repentance, God stands ready to forgive our sins and restore us to fellowship.
The cycle of sin...chastisement...repentance...forgiveness is found repeatedly in Israel’s history. In the Book of Judges we find this same pattern recurring a number of times. As soon as one generation would finally awaken to their need to walk with God, the next generation would forget the lessons learned and repeat the same cycle the previous generation had just undergone.
Each of us needs to determine where we currently stand in this cycle. If we find ourselves in a period of disobedience, we will surely experience the chastening hand of a loving God to bring us to repentance and restore us to fellowship. And just because we have been through the cycle previously does not mean that we will not repeat the same mistakes in the future. How quick we are to fail, and how slow we are to learn!
One crucial truth we need to embrace wherever we find ourselves in our struggle with sin is the promise found in 1 John that can provide great encouragement: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). God's pledge to forgive our sins unconditionally will never be rescinded.