The Bible describes the nation of Israel as “the apple of God’s eye” (Duet. 32:10, Zec. 2:8). God has always had a special relationship of favor and blessing with the descendants of Jacob. They are deeply loved by God and because of this favor God has held Israel to a high standard. At times, God has disciplined the nation of Israel because they have rejected His favor and love and have gone their own way. Their example of what to do and what not to do is invaluable to a nation that seeks to know God’s favor and blessing.
The United States of America started as a nation whose intent was to seek the favor of God. The founding fathers of this land valued true freedom. They also valued the blessing of God. They understood that true freedom was only possible if the people of the land valued biblical principles. They knew that love for neighbor was the essential principle of a people longing to be free. Without the internal bond of love, there would be no end to the laws that must be put into place to restrict the destruction of selfishness.
Our founders understood that law was put into place for lawbreakers and if biblical love was present, the law of love trumped the need for civil and criminal law.
The founders looked to the Bible to develop their understanding of the rights to private property, what made for healthy relationships, and how to assist the poor and needy. They looked to the Bible for direction regarding the administration of justice. They looked to the Bible for direction regarding education and the best possible way to train children.
I know that many would dispute these assertions but I’m not here to argue this point. The writings of the founders are replete with references to these beliefs and the curious are able to study them at length.
I stated earlier that a study of how God dealt with His people Israel is valuable to any nation who is seeking God’s favor. I want to point out four characteristics that developed in the nation of Israel that are signs of a crumbling spiritual culture. These characteristics began to appear shortly after the nation had reached its zenith.
As a country whose desire throughout history has been to receive God’s blessing (our leaders always end speeches with “God bless America”), we might do well to take heed and be aware of the development of these traits.
So, let’s look at four signs of a crumbling spiritual culture.
1 KINGS 11:1-10
It can be argued that Israel reached its political, economic, and religious zenith under Solomon. But, before the end of Solomon’s reign, spiritual decay began to take root in the form of disobedience to God’s word which began a rapid decline for the country that eventually resulted in the nation’s judgment by God. I need go no further than the life of Solomon, his son, Rehoboam, and the first king of the ten tribes of Israel, Jeroboam to find the development of these characteristics. Once integrated into society, these characteristics will lead to a loss of God’s favor and impending judgment.
The Bible says that when Solomon was old, he built places of worship for the gods of the women he married. This was in direct violation to the written law and what God had told Solomon directly.
When “keeping the peace” becomes of higher value than God’s glory, tolerance begins to set in. It is one thing to have a nation where everyone is free to worship as they please. It is another to promote false religion and to censor the worship of Jesus. One protects people’s right to worship the other promotes principles contrary to the Bible and works against the worship of Jesus.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Matthew 12:30
In an effort to appease, Solomon opened the door for the eventuality of his wives’ religions to be on an equal footing with the law of God in matters of law and order leading to the acceptance of anti-biblical principles whose practice cannot be blessed by God.
2. Development of high places
Through the door of tolerance opened by Solomon came another characteristic deadly to a nation seeking God’s blessing: the promotion of individual directed worship.
God has directed Solomon to build a temple in Jerusalem where the Israelites were to gather together for worship. God had several reasons for this command. The accountability of corporate worship fights against the development of heresy. The gathering for corporate worship fosters care for those who are needy and hurting. Gathering for corporate worship means the community works together toward godly goals. Gathering for corporate worship keeps Jehovah at the forefront.
By allowing his wives to worship at their own personal places instead of the corporate gathering, Solomon created a “monster” that affected all Israel and led to the nation’s downfall. For the rest of Israel’s existence, people built high places of worship on their property. At these high places, no accountability existed to keep human nature from changing the principles of God. People could be separated from their neighbors and ignore their responsibility toward them. An “us four and no more” mentality developed that turned these places into “bless me” clubs instead of advancing the kingdom of God. Each place had its own “priest” and worship could occur as often or as little as possible making worship a matter of convenience rather than a matter of response to an awesome God!
1 KINGS 11:26-38. Because of the sin of the people, God sent division among the Israelites. For the first time in their history, Israel was divided into two kingdoms. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam went to reunite the two by war, a prophet rebuked him saying, “You shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel. Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me”.
The people were divided over political disagreements. These disagreements began with the tolerance of principles inferior to those of Jehovah. Now, the people not only had two different agendas but considered those different from them their enemies.
4. Use of religion for personal benefit
1 KINGS 12:25-33. Jeroboam, the king of the ten tribes of Israel created a new religious order to further his own agenda. This began a practice in Israel that led to the downfall of the people: compartmentalization. People began to change the unchanging word of God or use the word of God to fit their own purposes. Rather than being changed by the word, the people were using the word to get what they wanted. God became a “bellhop” to promote the agenda of the individual. If religious talk was needed to further an agenda, it was used. If it got in the way of what man wanted, it was changed or ignored. Instead of God directing life, man began “directing” God, all the while, asking for His blessing.
Now, do you see any of these characteristics in our own land?
People – it is time to pray and obey! We are moving in a direction that cannot be blessed by God! Let’s pray for revival in our land! Remember, revival begins in you!!!