This post is written by Jared Bumpers and is published as a companion to Unit 9, Session 1 of The Gospel Project for Adults Vol. 3 (Spring 2022): From Conquest to a Kingdom.
The classic film Groundhog Day revolves around Phil Connors (Bill Murray), a “self-centered and sour TV meteorologist” Connors is forced to relive the same day, February 2nd, over and over again. No matter what changes Connors makes that day, the following morning he wakes up to the same song on the same day. Even when he “dies,” Connors still wakes up on February 2nd. Eventually, he “changes from an inconsiderate, callous egocentric into a thoughtful, kindhearted philanthropist.” His personal transformation “saves” him from the time loop, and he is able to continue his life as a changed man. All Phil Connors needed was time to reform himself.
While Groundhog Day became iconic and many people enjoy the film, the message of the movie is anti-gospel. According to the gospel, Jesus Christ died for sinners because they are incapable of reforming themselves on their own. No amount of effort or exertion will ever result in righteousness or perfect obedience to God’s law. No matter how much time a person has, they will never be able to love and obey God without His help. Everyone falls short of God’s glorious standard (Romans 3:23). We need outside help.
Judges 2:8-19 reinforces this truth. Joshua leads the Israelites into the land of Canaan, but when he and the other elders die, the next generation “did not know the Lord or the works he had done for Israel” (vs. 10). As a result, they abandoned God and worshiped idols (vs. 11-13). Their idolatry kindled God’s anger, and He punished them by allowing their enemies to defeat them and oppress them (vs. 14-15). The people suffered greatly because of their sin, and God had compassion on them (vs. 19). He raised up judges to rescue them (vs. 16-17), but after the judges died, the people returned to their idolatry (vs. 18-19). The people were stuck in a vicious cycle: (1) sin, (2) oppression, (3) cry for deliverance, and (4) rescue. The term “cycle” may be too generous; the people were actually stuck in a downward spiral, because whenever a judge died, “the Israelites would act even more corruptly than their ancestors” (vs. 19). Unlike Phil Connors, the more time went by, the worse the Israelites became. They needed help from without.
Thankfully, God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love and truth. Despite their sin, He never abandoned Israel. He continued to intervene. He sent judges. He sent kings. He sent prophets. Then, He did the unthinkable: He sent His only begotten Son! But Jesus did not come just to save Israel – He came to save the world (cf. John 3:16). Through faith in Christ, salvation is available to all. Jesus lived the perfect life of obedience that sinners could never live. He died the death that every sinner deserves (cf. Romans 6:23). Then, He rose from the dead to save every person who repents and believes in Him. The help humanity so desperately needed arrived in a manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
Jared Bumpers serves as Assistant Professor of Preaching and Evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri . He also serves on the preaching team at Fellowship KC in the Parkville area . He is married to Kim, and together they have four children: McCartnie, Rush, Maverick, and Jett .
 IMDb, “Groundhog Day,” June 4, 2021, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107048/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl#synopsis .