"And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel. And Joshua . . . died. . . . And they buried him. . . . And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel." (Judges 2:7-10).
Judges makes me seasick-talk about a vicious circle. The tale, in a nutshell, is of Israel abiding in God, then slipping from God, then falling into bondage, then crying out to God for help, then being rescued by God, then abiding in God for a while. Repeat.
It is too high praise to call those 200 years a "circle," as if it kept reverting to its origination point. A downward spiral is more like it. In the opening verses of the book, the Israelites are still (as in Joshua's day) asking God which nations He wants them to tackle now. That's good.
But we are not out of chapter one before they start backing off from God's command to annihilate the pagan strongholds in the Promised Land. The narrative is a string of embarrassing excuses: Judah couldn't drive out the lowlanders "because they had chariots of iron" (1:19). Manasseh couldn't drive out their assigned group "for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land" (1:27). Dan couldn't dislodge the Amorites "for they did not allow them to come down to the plain" (1:34). Naphtali didn't destroy their allotted target, yet patted themselves on the back because "Beth-anath became subject to forced labor for them" (1:33).
Here is the point that interests me: Every time in history the Israelites fell into apostasy, it is because they have forgotten the miraculous. See the synopsis of Israelite history in Psalm 78:
"They forgot his works, and the wonders that he had shown them" (Psalm 78:11).
Whenever we forget the miraculous, we of necessity reduce ministry to the size of our gifts and programs. Church life is whittled down to a business model. This may be a way to keep a 501(c)(3) cross-bedecked corporation going, but it's no way to conquer nations for the kingdom of God.