Drawing upon the history of Israel, specifically the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (aka Ephraim) as representative of our current situation in the 21st century is complex subject and there is no way to present it as definitive truth. What I am doing with this series of articles is giving witness. I am portraying to the best of my ability an Old Testament picture and some mapping to the present.
- Introduction – Fall of Northern Kingdom
- Primer – God’s Communication “Tools”
- Context – Fall of the Northern Kingdom
- God’s Speaking to the Northern Kingdom
- The Assyrians – God’s Instrument of Judgment on the Northern Kingdom
If you have taken the time to read through all of these articles, you may still be wondering if there is a strong mapping to the present time. For me, this mapping is one that God led me to observe. I didn’t seek it out without being prompted to look in this direction.
What are the Parallels?
First of all, let me say that I am drawing parallels to the United States of America and christians in this country as this is the scope that I feel the Lord has set for me to present this information. There are other scopes in the present time which might be relevant, but I feel it is beyond what I am supposed give witness about.
At the core, there will always be two issues present. Reviewing how we operate (i.e. what is our modus operandi) in relation to these two things can help us to see our situation from God’s point of view and how strong the parallels are between the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the present time.
- Prosperity – economic success and comfortable lifestyle
- Peace / Security – living safe and secure
The core question is what we do individually and as a larger group to attain or maintain our prosperity and peace / security. Stop and consider how commonly these two items are at the heart of most political discussion and issues. When any of these three items are challenged there is a rapid response from many in the nation calling for the government to do something to fix the problems and restore the overall sense by the majority of citizens that they can be economically successful and they are able to live in peace and safety.
In the United States of America there is one extra component which comes into play. It is our “pursuit of happiness” and the view of how it is our “right to be happy” expecting our government to work to ensure that we have as much opportunity to pursue and achieve happiness.
Are any of these bad? No. We all want prosperity, peace and even some measure of happiness. The real issue is who we relate to attain these things and how we go about attaining these things.
- Do we look to God first?
- Do we look to the United States Government first?
The Northern Kingdom was in the same situation. The people looked to the leaders (i.e. government) and the government implemented solutions apart from God. We look to our leaders (i.e. government) and our government is always trying to implement solutions. I am not aware of any of our governmental solutions being sought from God.
God wanted each Israelite (kings, religious leaders, common people) to look to Him first and to receive from Him what He provided. They did many things other than that.
Reviewing the Symptoms
Using the study God led me to do in analyzing the speaking of the prophets to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, I came up with the following major symptoms of the people.
- Enjoying Life While Others Are In Need and Justice is not available to the poor/needy
- Obvious and Upsetting Evidence of Total Moral Depravity
- Worshipping the Wrong God, the Wrong Way and/or in the Wrong Place
- This includes partaking of unhealthy spiritual food (For details, see Understanding Paul in 1 Timothy 4:1 – Part 2
These are generalizations. Are they true of 100% of the United States of America? No. Are they true enough from God’s point of view and has it gone on long enough without repentance to position us for judgment? You decide, but I believe America and American christians have persisted for too long in patterns of living that do not match God’s desire.
Enjoying Life While Others Are In Need and Justice is Not Available to All
Is the middle class shrinking? Yes. Is the lower class growing? Yes. Is the upper class getting wealthier? Yes.
Is justice available and promoted for all? Or must you have the means (wealth, etc) in order to attain justice? It is clear that real justice has become accessible of less and less people. Our ongoing selfishness has limited the accessibility of justice to a more select group of people.
In order for true justice to be available to everyone it requires a significant shift in the behavior of many people. From God’s point of view, those who have more than they need (time, energy, monies, etc) must apply some of their resources for the benefit of others without expectation of payment or credit. They must seek out the poor, the orphan, the widow, etc and give of themselves for the sake of others. This is best done out of loving your neighbor as yourself and it is no easy thing.
In our society, most have turned and focused significantly on serving themselves and the comforts of their own lives. This is not specifically wrong. However, it leads to a society where justice becomes available to less and less people over time.
It was the same for the Northern Kingdom of Israel and God calls them out and identifies this as one of His key problems with them.
Obvious and Upsetting Evidence of Total Moral Depravity
I know God’s heart is one of love towards the entire world. This does not stop God from establishing standards of behavior that are acceptable versus ones that are unacceptable. Even with these standards in place, God still loves the whole world. I do not look at any repeated sin on my part as okay. Rather I am thankful for God’s forgiveness.
Given God’s standards of behavior which clearly classify some behaviors as sin, we can review our society today and see just how far we have moved towards total moral depravity.
At the core, we have an American doctrine which has spread (to some extent) to the whole world which basically says, “I have a right to be happy and this is my human right”. This is NOT a true doctrine from God. This is a doctrine of men laid into part of the foundation of the American government (i.e. the Declaration of Independence).
This doctrine has borne fruit over time. Some of the fruit is fine and some of it is bad. This doctrine gives license to those who live according to fleshly principles (i.e. fulfilling their sinful desires) to go deeper and deeper into moral depravity while maintaining it is their “human right”.
I do not believe in trying to form a more perfect government among men to try to control the morality of people. This is not what I am writing about. Rather, I am holding up a plumb line to measure the current condition of American society against the standard of God’s point of view (his standards of sinfulness versus righteousness). When I take this measurement, it is clear that America as a society has continued on the path towards total moral depravity. In fact, it has arrived.
I do not need to provide a list of examples. It is so obvious and upsetting at this point, that making a list is unnecessary.
Our condition does not change God’s heart of love with the readiness to forgive all this sin, so I do not sit in judgment in my heart towards others who are sinning. God is their judge, but I must be plain in my witness and agreement with God’s moral standards versus the condition we have reached in this day and age.
Worshipping the Wrong God, the Wrong Way and/or in the Wrong Place
For most readers, what I say in this section will probably be the most challenging. I understand that it may not be well received by quite a few readers. I share this as solemn witness, not as sitting in judgment.
The people of Old Testament Israel participated in something that theologians and historians called “syncretism”. What this means is that they mixed together two kinds of worship (one of the God of Israel and the other of other gods) in a way that deviated from what God wanted. Some in Israel did not abandon the God of Israel completely, but they mixed Baal and/or Golden Calf worship together with worshipping the one true God. Once you study Baal worship, you realize that it was a system of religious worship that revolved around prosperity. Baal was a weather God who they sought out to bring rain to water their crops. As an agrarian society, this meant that Baal really was a cult of economic success. The reason they sought out Baal was their desire for prosperity.
One of the most significant teachings in the latter half of the 20th century in the American church has been the “prosperity” gospel. It says, if you will attend church, give your financial offerings to God then God will bless you financially and you will prosper. This is a false kind of worship and the organized church is not what gives us access to God, so trying to give your financial offerings to a church to please God is not the right kind of worship. There are those who preach a more extreme form of the “prosperity” gospel in this country, but when you step back and look at America as a whole in comparison to the church environment in other countries it becomes apparent that almost the entirety of the church environment in America has been corrupted with some level of the “prosperity” gospel.
The organized church (buildings, programs, etc) is also the wrong place to worship. I do not mean to say that no worship can happen in church buildings, programs, etc. Rather, what I am saying is that true worship is in spirit and in truth. It is according to the core truth of the New Covenant. It is in direct relationship to God without any other intermediary other than Jesus Christ. If you do not have direct, personal and meaningful interactions between you (your soul and spirit) and God then you are not worshipping the right way. Your church attendance is not of great value.
I may seem to be too harsh here and too blunt. I know my words are strong. God gave you direct access to Himself through Jesus Christ. If you are not experiencing God directly, then you have missed the target and you may be shocked to find out one day that all of your doings related to church were not very meaningful from God’s point of view. True worship and service comes from your direct interactions with God through the Holy Spirit which Jesus Christ made available to us through His work on the cross and through His resurrection.
I am sad to admit that the vast majority (more than 80%) of christians that I meet cannot account for very much experience of God at all. Some of them know the Bible a bit, but they do not really know or experience God in their lives.
To balance my presentation some here, I will admit that the direct and personal relationship I have with God is a gift from God. I did not build it by my own will. God sovereignly moved in my life over the years and discipled me to learn how to follow Him. At the same time, I did make choices in response to His initiation to follow and to sacrifice some of my own desires for a relationship with Him. I also chose to yield my life and submit my life to Him for His working in my life. In other words, I gave Him permission to work in my life and I submitted to His work. He has to initiate the process and help us to build a direct, personal relationship with Him, but we do have to submit our lives and turn over control to Him.
This cannot be done through any function of organized church. This has to be done directly and personally at a heart level by each believer. Participation in any aspect of organized church without this direct and personal relationship with God is to worship God in the wrong way and the wrong place. You may even be worshipping the wrong God if your focus is too much on prosperity, security and safety.
I know that some of what I have shared is strong and pointed. I will assume that you, as the reader, may have some disagreement with what I am sharing. I will draw upon what God shares with the church in Laodicea in sharing a prayer with you. It is a prayer that God led me to pray between 15-20 years ago. Since then, I have been through a process of raising my awareness to my real condition and the condition of believers in America. I have to lay a foundation for this prayer, so consider the following.
In the broad, general sense the church in Laodicea is representative of the church in the United States of America. This may be difficult to hear or agree with, but once you spend time with christians that come from other countries and hear their honest inputs, it is clear that it is a valid comparison.
In fact, the meaning of the very word Laodicea matches the United States of America. Here is an entry from a Dictionary of Bible Names.
Laodicea (la-od-i-se’-ah) = Greek, laos – people; laity; and dicea – opinion; custom; opinion or custom of the people; = justice of the people; ruled by the people; rule of the majority; democratic; i.e., peoples right or opinions. The people’s rights.
Smith, S., & Cornwall, J. (1998). In The exhaustive dictionary of Bible names (p. 158). Bridge-Logos.
There is no mistaking the fact that in recent time (the last several hundred years) that democracy has become the preferred form of government in most countries. The conditions of democracy can lead to the corruption of believers through making it seem that the full christian life and experience can be had in this age. We are being prepared for the age to come. If you believe you are already “arriving” in this day and age, you are in danger of being (or already have been) seduced and corrupted from the true christian faith.
Here is what God said to the church in Revelation.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “This is what the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation, says: 15 ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you are saying, “I am rich, and have become rich, and I have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, in order that you may become rich, and white clothing, in order that you may be clothed and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed, and eye salve to smear on your eyes, in order that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I reprove and discipline. Be zealous, therefore, and repent! 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, indeed I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also have conquered and have sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”Revelation 3:14–22 (LEB)
If I fit the condition of the church in Laodicea, please help lead me to repentance. Give me the zeal to seek repentance. I am giving you permission to work in my life to help me to purchase from you the things which have eternal value. Help me to buy from you gold refined by fire, white clothing to be properly clothed and eye salve to be able to see as you see. I do not know how much these problems apply to my life, but I am opening the door, inviting you in and asking you to help me. I am not able to overcome the challenges of my environment on my own and I know I need your help. Please help me in both being willing and in doing the things that will lead me to overcome in my current situation.
Help me to be undeceived and to experience a true walk of faith with you in my life.— A. Layman