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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Modern Problems

I blogged recently about the dilemma that I increasingly find myself in.  I get up in the morning, read my Bible and then read my newspaper.  The dilemma arises from the fact that I'm reading the same stories in both places!  Seriously, I've just finished reading the Old Testament all the way through.  And I see problems in their world that were caused by the sins of the Israelites.

If you're even remotely religious or remember anything about the story of the Israelites in the Old Testament, you know that they were God's chosen people.  But they were a sinful, rebellious people and God punished them.  They were conquered and exiled in foreign lands.  The various books of the Old Testament tell their story in intricate detail.  One book, which is often favored by modern spiritual leaders, is the book of Nehemiah.  Now he was a spirited leader who convinced the king to let him go back to Jerusalem and help rally the people to rebuild the city walls.  It's a story of leadership.  And it's a story of revival.

Throughout the Old Testament, we see a familiar cycle.  The people would be suffering in misery, but mostly because they had turned from God and were behaving sinfully.  God would send someone to lead them to repentance and renewal.  When they turned back to God and obeyed Him, He would bless them and all would be well.  Until they fell back into their sinful patterns and disregarded God and His will for them.  Then it would start all over again.

The last book of the Old Testament is the book of Malachi.  Malachi was the last of the great prophets (before Jesus was born) and he was sent to once again call the people to repentance.  Malachi preached to a nation of religious people - who knew God but had turned away.  They were a nation of what we would today call backsliders.

When Malachi was called to preach to the Israelites things were pretty bad.  Even the spiritual leaders (the priests and other Levites) were backsliders.  Even they had fallen into old, sinful patterns of behavior.  As a result of this backslidden spiritual state of the nation (of Israel), they were suffering the consequences of these sinful patterns of behavior, of this turning from God and of this outright disobedience toward God and His will for them.

What kind of consequences are we talking about here?  Well, for one thing, they had a severe case of economic depression.  The economy was in the tank.  GDP wasn't growing.  In fact, it was contracting.  People were out of work.  People had no money.  Inflation was frustrating attempts at economic recovery.  There were severe cases of crop failure - mostly caused by one of the worst drought the nation had seen.  There had been attacks by foreign marauders ... which today we would refer to as terrorist attacks.

Family life had dissolved.  Divorce was rampant.  Even many of the marriages that hadn't ended in divorce were dysfunctional.  And the spiritual lives of the people were cold and empty.  There was no joy.  There was no hope.  Nobody was spending time reading God's word (what we call today the Bible).  Nobody was spending time in prayer or worship of the one true God.  And nobody was even trying to familiarize themselves with God's revealed will, must less try to follow it.

Sound familiar?  Open today's newspaper.  See that the United States of America is suffering from precisely the same maladies!  We've got economic depression.  We've got debt like the world has never seen.  We've got dysfunctional and inept government, run by corrupt and incompetent leaders.  Much of the U.S. is suffering from record drought.  And other parts of the nation are suffering from record flooding.  Divorce has been rampant for decades - to say nothing about adultery, fornication, homosexuality, and other family and sexual dysfunctions.  Of course we've been fighting terrorists for years now - in wars that we're not winning.

Now the cause of the problem for the Israelites as Malachi was called (by God) to confront them was their lack of relationship with God, lack of focus on God and lack of obedience to God.  So we sit here in 2011 with precisely the same exact conditions.  What do you suppose the odds are that at least some of our current conditions could also be consequences of the very same behaviors? 

Or let me put it another way.  Do you suppose the U.S.A. might recover and prevail if our government and spiritual leaders were to lead us as a nation to repentance, right relationships with God and obedience to God?

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