Horns of Despair to Horns of Jericho
By Al Gray
In 1997 William Strauss and Neil Howe authored a book entitled The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy - What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny'.
This provocative book posits “Just after the millennium, America will enter a new era that will culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of the nation will almost certainly be at stake. Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles. Each cycle has four "turnings"-a High, an Awakening, an Unraveling, and a Crisis. “ The authors located America in 1997 “as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth Turning). ” Since the growing, morphing financial, economic, political and moral crisis we are now in started in 2007, the authors look prophetic as to timing.
Others have cited that alternating generations go through enormous crises, because the generation that went through the last crisis must die out, erasing the memory of it, leaving the next generation to fall into the next crisis. The citation of 20 year turnings and being in the Crisis stage brought to mind our story of the day. It comes from the story of Moses' spies found in Numbers 13 and 14.
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 2 “ Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the sons of Israel….
25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…”
14 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt……”
26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; 29 your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. 30 Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’”
36 As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, 37 even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.
The power of resistance to change that we visited in last week's message was clearly at work with the Israelites. Like Simon Peter, they treated the miracles that the Lord had wrought for them and before them as yesterday’s news. They rushed to compare the relative security of lives in bondage in Egypt- even their lives wandering in wilderness = to the dangers of confrontation and war necessary to take the Promised Land. The promises of milk, honey, and bounteous harvests were a venture into the unknown setting off internal conflicts that were more easily resolved in seeking return to the past.
Relative to The Fourth Turning cycle theory, Moses’ people broke the bonds of slavery to leave Eqypt at the middle of an Unraveling stage. Their memories of security, albeit security in bondage, conflicted with what should have been excitement over the future and taking ACTION to secure it. Strauss and Howe say “Eventually, cynical alienation hardens into a brooding pessimism. During a High, obliging individuals serve a purposeful society, and even bad people get harnessed to socially constructive tasks; during an Unraveling, an obliging society serves purposeful individuals, and even good people find it hard to connect with their community. The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have been unthinkable half a saeculum earlier. People can now feel, but collectively can no longer do.”
By declaring that no one under the age of 20 would enter the Promised Land, the Lord was using the demographics of aging to eliminate the generation that fled Egypt with their sinful disdain of faith in Him wrapped fitfully in cognitive dissonance or resistance to change. This was the Crisis stage. The people were dependent upon the Lord and would do nothing to help themselves. Concurrently with killing off the generation of failures, the Lord used the forty years in the wilderness to allow the second half of the Crisis stage to prepare the people to work for their final deliverance into the Promised Land.
As the 4th Turning continues: ”A CRISIS arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire. Great worldly perils boil off the clutter and complexity of life, leaving behind one simple imperative: The society must prevail. This requires a solid public consensus, aggressive institutions, and personal sacrifice….. Eventually, the mood transforms into one of exhaustion, relief, and optimism. Buoyed by a new-born faith in the group and in authority, leaders plan, people hope, and a society yearns for good and simple things.” At the end of the 40 years in the wilderness the Tribes of Israel were at the stage to embrace their free will, not to reject the Lord’s plans for them, but to embrace them.
This writer believes firmly that we are between the Unraveling and Crisis. The great Baby Boom generation knows only prosperity learned in its awakening and continued by self-deceptive, massive debt creation to maintain the unsustainable for the last 30 years, a period during which GDP growth only exceeded debt creation for about one quarter. We are probably 4 years into the Crisis state, so the next decade will see the denouement of the Boomer generation as leaders. The young folks will disavow the debt we have run up to maintain the delusion – that is a mathematical certainty. We went into 2007 and 2008 with average savings of $58,000 outside of our homes. Now many of our homes are underwater by that much. Predictably, most boomers will rage in denial, but they will not change. Look around. Observe. You won’t need to read the Bible or the Fourth Turning to see this if you truly open your eyes.
When one tries to warn Baby Boomers, the nonbelievers ignore him and the believers invariably say “The Lord is returning soon. I will depend on that!” Yes, he will return as promised and it might be in this Crisis cycle, but isn’t it sinful and presumptuous to pretend to know His timing when He told us we cannot?
How many will be the Joshua’s and Caleb’s of the Boomer generation and embrace what lies ahead, seize opportunity, and become beacons of knowledge and leadership of the young folks? This story, indeed all of human history, says that it will be a small minority. What awaits is a period on High, summarized this way: ”A HIGH brings a renaissance to community life. With the new civic order in place, people want to put the Crisis behind them and feel content about what they have collectively achieved.” For the people of Israel, made strong by 40 years in the wilderness, the high meant crossing the Jordan and seizing their destiny. For Caleb and Joshua, it meant that their sacrifice and courage in standing with full faith in the Lord’s promises were rewarded. They prevailed until the walls of Jericho fell to the sound of their horns.
Lord, give us, the wayward Boomers, the strength and faith of Joshua and Caleb. We didn’t deserve the fake prosperity we laid claim to. It is time to make amends. It is time to lead, even though our weary minds and bodies will resist. Most of us won’t make it, but those who do won’t have to cross Jordan alone.