Thursday, August 6, 2015

Lessons for America from Israel’s Monarchy

I believe that one of the most important sections on our website is our Introductions of the Books of the Bible. Actually, we hope that each is a little more than just an introduction. For each book (and each section), we attempt to offer information on the author, his purpose, major themes, theological teachings, and key verses. We include a brief survey of the book, historical background info, and a timeline of the people and events. Finally, we also discuss some interpretation challenges, present some hints to aid in properly interpreting the book, and attempt to answer some of the common questions that often puzzle readers.

Like many other sections on our website, our Bible Book Intros are still in progress. When we began the section, our original goal was to finish by the end of 2012. It didn’t take long for us to realize how short-sighted we were in setting this goal. We certainly underestimated the lack of available time due to other projects, the extra details the we would include in the intros, and the number of spin-off articles each intro would produce. That said, we are re-doubling our efforts to complete this section (but not setting a new deadline).

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve recently completed the Book of the Kings, originally one volume entitled Melakim (Hebrew for “kings”). The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT in the second or third century BC) divided it into two books called the “Third and Fourth Book of Kingdoms” (Samuel was designated the “First and Second Book of Kingdoms”). Together, these four books provided a complete history of the transition and the monarchy of Israel. We followed the later division of First Kings and Second Kings.

In writing these, I couldn’t help but notice (as with the other historical books of the Bible) that, even though cultures continue to change, overall human nature remains basically the same. One aspect that particularly stands out is our failure to learn from our pasts. This includes both our personal and historical pasts. The Israelites who were living during the monarchy had the book of Moses that taught the lessons of the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Exodus, the desert wanderings and other events. They should have also been familiar with the conquest and the repeating cycles of the judges. Throughout their own period of the monarchy, there were people and leaders who were repentant and faithful to God’s Word and thus enjoyed periods of God’s covenant blessings while others suffered the curses for disobedience, yet their pattern of returning to destructive behavior never ceased.

Likewise, as a whole in modern day America, we often follow the same patterns even though we have much more historical data available, including hindsight of the events concerning the fate of the Israelites. We also have the lessons of Rome and their self-destruction caused by elimination of the middle class, breakdown of the traditional family, high taxation, and other moral and economic issues (most economic crisis are caused by moral crisis). We also have the lessons of the millions upon millions of people killed by communistic and socialistic regimes.

A few weeks ago, we witnessed the Greeks celebrating in the street after following their far-left politicians’ advice to vote down responsible economic measures. Like much of America, the people were celebrating the fact that they were going bankrupt, but didn’t care as long as someone else bails them out with no resulting consequences. On the plus side, some parts of Europe are now learning some lessons from history and are subsequently making some attempts to change. At the same time, America has become the dumping ground of centuries of failed European political and economic ideas (ironically in the name of progress and going “forward”). We now witness America rushing ahead toward moral and economic bankruptcy. In the past month the US Supreme Court has flushed what was left of the Constitution (we’ll have more to say on this in future posts), and like Greece, people party while going broke.

So, how can America be fixed? Most moral issues can be fixed by repentance and a return to the Biblical foundations on which our country was founded. Similarly, most economic problems can be greatly improved by restoring the Christian work ethic (Pr 21:25, Th 3:6-12, 1Tim 5:8). The American Revolution was a direct result of the First Great Awakening. Our country today is barely surviving on the remnants of the Second Great Awakening, and is fast becoming post-Christian America. This second national revival however, also led to the sending of numerous missionaries to foreign nations around the globe. Perhaps, some of these countries in which Christianity is exploding will return the favor by sending missionaries here. Given America’s current deteriorating condition, I believe we need a Third Great Awakening. Since only God can send revival, this will require repentance and prayer by His people (2Chr 7:14). Unfortunately, like Israel, we tend to turn to God only as a last resort, so things may need to get even worse before this happens. I pray that I am wrong and that the church will arise and fulfill her calling. In order to effectively change laws, we must first change hearts. We should continue working through political and social channels but ultimately, our hope must be in the Lord.

The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord... From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth — he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength... But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you. (Ps 33:10-22)