The Falling Away of Israel

Part 2

 

 

In the last installment we considered the words of the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 10:6-12 that deal with the fact that the nation of Israel, in their failings, acts as an example to the servants of God on what to avoid.  We considered the evils of “lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting and murmuring.”  We now pick up the Israelite nation during the time of the Judges and further consider the example left for the believer in these last and evil days prior to Christ’s return.

 

 

Time of the Judges

 

The civil and spiritual condition of Israel during the time of the Judges is summed up very well in chapter 21:25 where it is stated, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

 

After Israel had been cleansed in the wilderness and dwelt comfortably in the land, and after the death of Joshua; within 30 to 40 years Israel again fell into disobedience against God’s commands.  They were without a visible and officially appointed individual to lead them.  But this shouldn’t have mattered if they would have remained faithful to their promise to serve Yahweh.  Though He could not be seen, God was their master and had put in their charge Laws and ordinances to direct their civil and spiritual lives, which if faithfully followed would have led to abundant prosperity and happiness in the Land of Promise.  In Joshua 24:24 we read of their oath – “The LORD God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.  The time of the Judges is characterized by men who followed their own conscience or views rather then God’s instructions.  During this time Israel did not dwell as a unified body serving the LORD “with one consent”.

 

Is there any comparison with their situation and the state of affairs within the Brotherhood today?  Like the Israelites during this time we also are without a visible leader, which for us is by design and can work to our advantage – just as not having a man as their King (God was their King) was supposed to work to the advantage of the Jews if they had not desired one.  We do not answer to corrupt hierarchies that can manipulate God’s word to their advantage or that make profit off of the word of God.  Christ is to be our leader just as God was to lead Israel.  Like the Jews we have the Word of God clearly available to us that outlines His commands on what we are to believe and how we are to live out lives.  But just as Israel, we too are living in a time of confusion and division.  Putting the larger division of Amended/ Unamended aside, within our own community we are divided and fractured over various matters.  Confusion is prevalent as how to properly “contend for the faith” in belief and action in these critical days prior to the Advent of our Lord.  A lack of consensus has led to spirit of every man for himself – “every man” doing “that which” is “right in his own eyes.”  No longer is a “thus sayeth the LORD” appreciated.  Such a way is often considered “too harsh” and not practical in these more modern times when man seems to think his way better and more logical.

 

Is there a remedy to such confusion?  If we are unsure of our direction the scriptures give us clear instruction as to how we can find our bearing.  In Jeremiah 6:16 we read the familiar but often ignored passage that declares, “Stand ye in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths where is the good way, and walk ye therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  Several years ago a booklet was published known as “Christadelphian Standards”, which was a compilation of various quotes and beliefs written by earlier Christadelphian brethren on an assortment of subject matters in relation to “Faith and Practice”.  It is interesting to compare the views of these earlier brethren in opposition to how we view matters of “faith and practice” today.  It is rather frightening to see the sure and convicted stand taken by those who once “contended for the faith” in comparison to how lenient and liberal we have become in regards to the whole spectrum of the Truth.  Though these are the words of men, nonetheless their views on what the scriptures teach on what manner of persons we are to be are worth our serious notice.  Though they lived in a different world then we live in – it was a world that was not as weighed down by the modern comforts and pursuits of the times we live in, making their perception much clearer and focused on the Word of God then what we may have.  The ultimate “old paths” that we look to is of course found in the Scriptures, but review and consideration of the expositions and exhortations by brethren that have come before us (with Bible in hand) can provide us with a proper compass in which to avoid the confusion that characterizes the condition of the Brotherhood today.  In Romans 15: 5,6 we are commanded “to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we accomplish this if we do not collectively follow after “the old paths.

 

 

Time of the Prophets

 

Now we move on to a time of in Israel’s history after the passing of Solomon.  The northern ten tribes had split away from under the authority of the House of David and had fallen into terrible wickedness under the influence of kings like Jeroboam, Ahab, and of course Ahab’s wife Jezebel.  Every king (nineteen in all) that ruled over the northern ten tribes is recorded as being wicked.  This kingdom, despite the efforts of faithful servants of God such as Elijah and Elisha and other prophets who God had sent to warn the people and their leadership of the consequences of their evil ways, was destroyed and scattered by the Assyrians some 700 years before the birth of Christ.

 

The Southern Kingdom ruled by the descendants of King David (known as the Kingdom of Judah) faired better for a time then did Israel, but the end result was basically the same.  Because of the righteous reigns of kings like Asa, Joash, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah, God showed mercy on the house of David by allowing it to continue approximately 130 years longer then did Israel.  Even though the Kingdom of Judah was blessed to occasionally have righteous leadership, the general condition of spiritual health that existed in Judah was in a progressive slide towards idolatry and apostasy.  We know that they brought idol worship into their religious services.  They mixed their beliefs with many worldly influences, but yet they claimed to still worship Yahweh.  But this mixture of “religion” that they had adopted from the world around them was not acceptable to God.

 

What is most tragic to consider when reviewing the Kingdom of Judah is that they did not see their problems even though God sent them prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah to warn them.  God viewed them as a wicked people, but they saw themselves serving God like they thought they were supposed to!

 

Consider the Spirit’s words through the prophet Isaiah, who was contemporary with Hezekiah some 100 years before Jeremiah and Judah’s destruction by Babylon:  Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew My People their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.  Yet they seek Me daily, and delight to know My ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God:  they ask of Me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.  ‘Wherefore have we fasted,’ say they, ‘and thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?’  Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.  Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.

 

After reading these verses consider God’s perspective in opposition to the people’s perception of their actions.

1.  They still sought after God (or at least they thought so).

2.  They enjoyed coming before him.

3.  They still celebrated the Day of Atonement.

4.  They couldn’t understand why God didn’t recognize their action.

 

What was the problem here?  Clearly the Children of Israel were doing these things for show.  They were not approaching God “in spirit and in Truth”.

 

Consider these other passages, “Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but no in truth, nor in righteousness.  For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is His name.  (Isaiah 48:1,2).

 

Wherefore the LORD said, ‘Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.  (Isaiah 29:13)

 

Ignorantly continuing to believe that all was spiritually well, the Jews refused to hear the Prophets of Yahweh.  They didn’t want to hear anything negative or that would make them look bad – even if it was the Truth.  They wanted to hear things that would make them feel good.  Does this sound familiar to the cries that are coming out of the mouths of many Christadelphians these days?  Isaiah 30: 9,10 – “That this is a rebellious People, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD:  Which say to the seers, ‘See not;’ and to the prophets, ‘Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.’”  Are we any different then the Children of Israel of the times of the Prophets?  We still need God’s rebuke, correction and direction. But are we willing to listen?

 

Some 100 years passed by and they never learned from the mouth of Isaiah and the other prophets sent by God.  Just before their destruction by the hand of the Babylonians Yahweh sent Jeremiah as to provide one last chance for repentance.  Consider again Jeremiah 6:16 – “Thus saith the LORD, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk therein.’”.  Also in verse 17 and 20 – “Also I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Hearken to the sound of the trumpet,’ But they said, ‘We will not hearken.’ * * * “To what purpose cometh there to Me incense from Sheba, and the sweet cane from a far country?  Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices sweet unto Me.”

 

They refused to worship God in the way proscribed, but worshiped him their own way as seen in verse 20.  But God would not and could not accept their sacrifices.  They refused to follow the old or “ancient” paths that God had clearly established, and ignored the pleas to return to the proper way.  Again we must bring out the point, the Jews thought they were doing fine but from God’s perspective (the only one that matters) they were in fact doing wickedly.  As Jeremiah describes them in chapter 12, verse 2 – “thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reigns.

 

Why did the Jews have such a problem following after God’s commands?  Of course human nature is the simple answer, but Ezekiel gives us an even more descriptive explanation.  Comparing Judah’s wickedness with that of Samaria he continues on to say, “Yet hast thou not walked after their ways nor done after their abominations: but, as if that were a very little thing, thou wast corrupted more then they in all thy ways.  As I live, saith the Lord God, Sodom thy sister hath not done, she nor her daughters, as thou hast done, thou and thy daughters.  Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.  And they were haughty, and committed abominations before Me: therefore I took them away as I saw good.  Neither hath Samaria committed half of thy sins; but thou hast multiplied thine abominations more than they, and hast justified thy sisters in all thine abominations which thou hast done.  (Ez.  16:47-51).

 

How prideful are we?  Do we think that the spiritual state of the Christadelphian community is “better then ever” or “just fine” as some contend?  Are we “full with bread”, or in other words softened by our satisfaction with the prosperity and pleasures that are a part of our modern society?  What do we do with the free time that we have that modern comforts and conveniences allow us?  Do we “strengthen” others with the strong words of Truth and Righteousness that in fact help the “poor and needy”?  What if God was pointing the finger at us with these words, how would we answer?  Please remember, the Israelites were not able to see the problem in themselves.

 

 

God willing, we will continue this subject further in Part 3 in next month’s installment.