Again and Again
By Anthony Casperson

The Legend of Zelda series of games have long been a tradition among the catalogue of Nintendo video games. Its most recent installment, Breath of the Wild, topped players’ lists of best Zelda games. And there’s a sequel arriving later this year.

For those deeply invested in the games’ lore, the connection between most of the installments is quite interesting—if not a bit confusing, depending upon how far down the timeline rabbit hole you go. Apart from a small number of titles, the series of games represent a repetitious cycle of rescue.

A conquering villain—often named Ganon, or something similar—oppresses the land. The people need a hero. Thus, a princess named Zelda calls forth the deliverer, who’s officially named Link. Then, the actual game takes place where players control the valorous young man as he defeats the villain for the age. The land becomes free. And the people rejoice.

Until the next cycle starts up in a later generation.

Specifics differ from game to game, but the basic idea remains the same. You’re gonna play Link. Zelda will inhabit an important role in raising him up. You’ll defeat Ganon—as long as you complete the game. And you’ll do it all over again (with a different Link, Zelda, and Ganon) in the next game of the series, if you play it.

Even though there’s a sense of victory and freedom from oppression, the next generation will need to experience the same type of thing. Another experience of deliverance will be required for them. Revival must be revived once again.

This type of repetitious cycle is shown in the book of Judges as well. If you look at the book as a whole, you’ll see a number of cycles that show: the people of Israel sin against their God, a conquering nation acts as God’s agent of justice against that sin, the people repent and cry out for deliverance, God raises up a judge to deliver them, the enemy falls at the judge’s hand, peace comes to the land, until the people of Israel sin against their God again, repeating the cycle.

Sin, judgement, repentance, deliverer, victory, peace, sin. Rinse and repeat. Generation after generation. Again and again.

The author of the book lays out the cycle in the second chapter, especially in verses 18-19. “Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways” (ESV).

It almost seems that people were just waiting for the judge to die so that they could go back to the sinful lifestyle that their predecessors had experienced. It almost looks as if they ran away from the judge’s funeral to go “have some fun.” But this literary exaggeration of the timeline makes a point.

Revival is needed for every generation.

Just because God has moved in a spiritually uplifting manner before, doesn’t mean that future generations can just coast off that wave. Sure, they can learn from it. Appreciate it. See the value of that earlier revival. But the cycle of spiritual deliverance must be repeated on account of human fallenness.

When memory of the explicit cry of deliverance has faded from the minds of those who have only experienced the peace, then an implicit lack of guardedness comes to the fore. And sin loves apathetic guards.

Recently, I’ve heard a lot about cries for spiritual revival. And I agree that we need it in the Western Church. I mean, we always will come to need it because of the cycle. But I think that we also need to keep in mind that this cycle of revival exists. That we shouldn’t expect this newest movement of God among his people to be the ultimate revival from sin—as if we’ll never need another.

Although our Deliverer gave us the ultimate victory on the cross—and will establish a final revival in his people after he returns—humanity’s spiritual revival in this life will cycle again and again through the generations. We need revival today. Cry out for it. Repent for our faithlessness to him. And be the people that God sends to work through. But remember that this will need to happen generation after generation.

Again and again.