In our Sunday School class we’re studying the Old Testament books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth. These books occur just after the Israelites have occupied Canaan; The Promised Land, and after Joshua, the last of the patriarchal leaders has died. Without a patriarch to hold them to their religion, the people fall away from God, following the pagan practices of the Canaanites who were not driven out of the land as God had instructed the Israelites.
A cycle is set up where the people fall away and begin worshiping Baal, his sister Anoth and Baal’s wife: Asherah (who was known to the Greeks as Aphrodite, and to the Romans as Venus, figures who appear in society even today). God becomes angry with Israel and delivers them into the hands of an enemy for a period of time. Israel cries out to God for forgiveness, God provides a deliverer who leads them in a miraculous victory over their enemy and guides the nation for a time. But upon that leaders’ death, Israel slides back into pagan religion and the cycle begins again. Over and over and over.
Why Don’t They Remember?
Why, when the nation has been delivered so many times from its enemies, beginning with the exodus from Egypt led by Moses, would the people keep sliding back into paganism? Why is it so hard for them to remember the God who keeps delivering them?
Perhaps it’s the same reason we are doing it again today.
In Old Testament Israel, after driving out most of Canaan’s former occupants, the Israelites set up the Tent of Meeting, or mobile temple that God had designed for them to use in worshiping Him during their desert trek, at Shiloh. This was the center of worship for the entire nation. At each of the seven annual festivals and when a first-born was consecrated, each family had to travel to Shiloh to perform the rituals prescribed by their religion. This was inconvenient. Add to that the fact that God no longer lived over their heads in a cloud of smoke and fire as he had during the desert journey; out of sight, out of mind.
The Canaanites who had escaped the initial slaughter crept back in to occupy empty territory before the Israelites grew numerous enough to occupy their entire inheritance. Rather than being constantly at war, it was easier to let the pagans live among them.
Naturally, the Canaanites rebuilt their temples and resumed their worship of Baal and his family. As they increased their numbers, Baal was everywhere. Every family could have its’ own alter. Temples to Baal were numerous. It was so much more convenient to worship a deity who was very visible and easily accessible, even if he was a false god.
The New American Idols
Today, instead of worshiping Baal, Americans tend to worship themselves. Some devote the majority of their lives to developing a career, getting ahead, so they can bask in the glory of being “somebody” and can afford the big house full of cutting-edge electronics, fancy cars and the best clothes. Others show less ambition, but still devote their lives to fulfilling their own desires with little regard for what is ‘right’. Whether their desires are even legal often doesn’t interest them, much less being Godly. And attending church, studying the bible, communicating with God through prayer, and serving Him in the church and in the community; these have become very inconvenient.
When these people find that they have no use for The Lord or Jesus, they do not want to be reminded of their back-sliding, so they seek to excise God from modern society; remove Him from our public class rooms, ban the Ten Commandments from government offices, sanitize Christmas displays and celebrations by focusing on the commercial aspect and quashing any mention or depiction of Christ. Remove all the reminders.
Who Is To Blame?
When Muslem terrorists dove three commercial air liners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon people around the nation shook their fist and shouted, “Why would God allow this to happen?” When Hurricane Katrina battered the southern United States, they looked Heavenward and asked “Why?”. The Israelites of The Old Testament also did this when hardship came upon them. Eventually the Israelites went from surprise and anger to begging for mercy and deliverance from the God they had pushed aside.
The United States of America has been a sovereign nation and a world power for over 200 years. Our Constitution and Bill of Rights were drafted upon Christian principles by Godly men and we have all become comfortable with the notion that we are “safe” here. But for how long? That God-fearing attitude has been changing; losing it’s centrality in our government, in our nation as a whole. Modern pagans have crept into our Promised Land and are erecting their temples, and those temples are proving convenient to Christians.
As our nation turns it’s collective back on God, just as the Israelites turned theirs, we should be prepared to be “given into the hands” of our enemies. Perhaps this would be just another loop in that cycle, forcing Christians to turn back to God. Perhaps not.
Storm Clouds On the Horizon?
2nd Thessalonians, chapter 2 discusses events leading up to the return of Christ after gathering God’s children and taking them home. A man, a human, will rise to power. “He opposes and exalts himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, and even sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” In those times, it will be very inconvenient indeed to be a true Christian; to stand up and profess faith in Jesus may well prove fatal. But only physically.
This is the course history will take, must take. Just as Jesus Christ had to be crucified to redeem our sins, Christians are and will be tested by the unrighteous. Will we stand firm for Biblical truth, or will it be more convenient to give in, turn away and worship the idols of our society?
These events may not happen this year, or next, or in our lifetimes, but we must be prepared, and we must be preparing the next generation, to stand firm and hold onto our faith in God even in the face of adversity. Even though that may be inconvenient.