Avoiding A Ride On An Ancient Cycle

Neal Pollard

It has been called “The Dark Ages Of The Old Testament.” During the period of the judges, there was moral, economic, social, political and religious decline. We often read that, during this time, the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

History keeps repeating itself in the book of Judges. The people do evil, God allows and oppressor to persecute them, the people turn back to God and plead for deliverance, and God raises up a deliverer to defeat the oppressor and deliver Israel. Here, we speak of the “cycle” of Judges: sin, servitude, sorrow, supplication, and salvation.

Their enemy invaders came from the East (Mesopotamia), the Southeast (Moab), the North (Canaan), the East (Midian and Ammon), and the Southwest (Philistia). It is interesting that Israel overcame Canaan in the militarily brilliant strategy orchestrated by God (Central Canaan—Josh. 7-8, Southern Canaan—Josh. 9-10, and then Northern Canaan—Josh. 11-12). As a result of Israel’s failure to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, the six oppressions came from the central, south, and north—each places where God had given them victory. What a reminder that when we don’t defeat the enemy, he will return! The enemy was sin!

Here is my summary of the book of Judges, as seen in Judges 2:16-19:

  • The rulers—“Judges”
  • The role—“Delivered”
  • The rescued—“Them” (Israel)
  • The rivals—“Those” (God’s enemies)
  • The ruination—“Plundered them” (oppression)
  • The refusal—“They did not listen to their judges”
  • The reveling—“Played the harlot after other gods”
  • The retreat—“Turned said quickly”
  • The right road—“In which their fathers had walked”
  • The role models—“Father, obeying the commands of the Lord”
  • The resolution—“They did not so”
  • The raising—“The Lord raised them up judges”
  • The relationship—“The Lord was with the judges”
  • The restoration—“Delivered them from the hand of their enemies”
  • The repentance—“The Lord was moved to pity” (KJV—“It repented the Lord because of their groanings…”)
  • The return—“When their judge died, they would turn back”
  • The retrogression—“Acted more corruptly than their fathers”
  • The resilience—“Didn’t abandon their practice or stubborn ways”

The judge was the savior of the people. Time and time again, the people put themselves in a position to need some serious rescue, and our long-suffering God was willing to soften His heart to their cries. Eventually, His patience ran out and even in this time period there were severe consequences. How often do we need the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of the Father? Often, we need forgiveness for the same sins repeatedly. We wonder how Israel could fall into the same traps, but we do well to identify and avoid them in our own times. We have the benefit of both Old and New Testament Scripture, and they would have only had the writings of Moses and Joshua when they lived. May we learn from these ancient lessons (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11) and stay off that ancient cycle.


Copperopolis, California

Neal Pollard

It boomed when “copper was king” and owed its thriving existence to shell casings made for the Union Army in the far-away Civil War.  Fittingly, her downtown streets were Union, Grant, Lincoln, and Sherman. There were 90 businesses in “Copper City” from 1865-1867. The extraction and production of copper ore found in such strikes as at Gopher Ridge, Quail Hill, and Hog Hill made Copperopolis a boom town for a short time.  A huge fire in the center of town, in 1867, coupled with the enormous drop in demand for copper following the end of the Civil War, left the community a virtual ghost town. So, despite a few modest copper mining rebounds periodically through World War II, Copperopolis, which yielded $12 million in copper from 1861 to 1946, is a shell of its former self. It is a resort and recreation area today, a modest little town who  once entertained the likes of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and “Black Bart” (Charles Boles)(mymotherlode.com,  calaverashistory.org/copperopolis).

History is fascinating, with its “rags to riches,” “riches to rags,” and even “rags to riches to rags” stories.  Family histories play out the same way.  So can the rise and fall of nations.  The history of the church, wherever she has existed, may follow the same trajectory.  The Jerusalem church of Christ, where it all began, once boasted thousands of members.  In time, due to persecution and the introduction of false doctrines, the church there faded from view.  Today, it has only a modest presence. The same could be said of other congregations we read about in the New Testament.  Our congregation is somewhere on its course from the past to the future.  Where will it be in 10 years? 50 years?

Then, I look at my own life.  I have been a Christian for over 30 years.  I have preached for over 25 years. There have been Bible studies with non-Christians and new Christians. There have been efforts to try and influence others with the gospel.  My three sons are all nearly grown and on their own.  My wife and I have labored together to serve Christ.  But, each day, I must look and sincerely investigate what my spiritual trajectory is.  Am I growing nearer to Christ, acting more like Christ? Am I bearing more or less fruit? Are my best days in His kingdom behind me or in front of me? The good news is that, to a great degree, that lies within the scope of my free will and deliberate choices. With God’s help and to His glory, I can make today, tomorrow, and beyond the brightest days of service to Him.

Look at your life.  What legacy are you building? You will help determine that by what you do today.  Paul says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Photograph taken of ruins in Copperopolis, California.


Neal Pollard

The Beatles first album was released. The first Kmart and the first Wal-Mart opened their doors for business. West Side Story wins for best motion picture at the Academy Awards. Mandatory public prayer in schools are ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  Wilt Chamberlin scores 100 points in a single basketball game. Marilyn Monroe dies from an overdose.  Spider-Man appears in comic books for the first time. Johnny Carson takes over as permanent host of the Tonight Show, where he would remain for 30 years. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurs (facts via Wikipedia, Infoplease, Timelines, et al).

Depending on your perspective, the facts above either make the date seem ancient or almost like yesterday.  The records of what was happening in the church in 1962 are harder to obtain, especially as that was nearly a decade before I was even born.  I know that my dad enrolled in Freed-Hardeman College that year as a Bible Major.  The anti-cooperation movement was growing stronger and more prominent within our brotherhood.  Most congregations, especially in the deep south, were racially segregated.  Widely-known preachers included Gus Nichols, B.C. Goodpasture, Marshal Keeble, Joe Malone, Batsell Barrett Baxter, George Bailey, George Benson, and Roy H. Lanier.

In the growing western city of Denver, at the behest and with the help of some area churches, the Bear Valley church of Christ began meeting.  Though a building would not be erected until March, 1964, and the school of preaching would not begin operation until September, 1965, the body of Christ began meeting together.  Most of the charter members have passed away, but who among them would have believed that one congregation would be involved in a work touching so many lives around the globe as we look back, look around, and look ahead here in 2012.  Graduates who have gone to be missionaries in Australia, New Zealand, China, Russia, Ukraine, Japan, Italy, Poland, Scotland, Brazil, Peru, Canada, Germany, Philippines, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ghana, Tanzania, Slovakia, Vanuatu, and no doubt other countries.  They have also gone to preach in all 50 United States.  We have started extension schools in a total of more than 20 locations, with 15 currently in operation and others soon to begin.  Then, there are the sheer number of our former members who are spread out all over this country serving the Lord and helping the kingdom grow.  There are the countless fruitful labors that have gone on here that have resulted in hundreds of baptisms since 1962.

Did the Bakers, Hughes, Denewilers, Wrights, Milams, Whartons, Tharps, Laniers, and others know where this would lead?  Probably not, and that is not to their shame.  But the God of 1962 is still the God of 2012.  What will He do with this church, and His church universal, in the next 50 years?  It will be just as unpredictable, and it can just as grand if we keep looking for greater ways to serve Him!