Summary: A lesson from history on what America needs now, after the election
The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.
Konnie Stevens is a former missionary. He became pastor of a large southern church after spending eight years ministering in Moscow and other Eastern European cities. Things had changed a lot in America, especially in the world of technology; cable, computers, cellular phones -- it can all get a bit confusing.
So when pastor Stevens complained to his new secretary that he didn’t think that his paging device was working, she was gentle in pointing out that he was wearing his garage door opener. That, of course, explained why his pager wasn’t having much success opening the garage door. Pastor Stevens had all the tools. He just needed a little good information on how to use them.
I feel that way this morning. As I write this (Thursday morning, Nov 9th), we are post-election, but pre-understanding what has happened. The re-count in Florida continues, while the candidates and country anguish. (Perhaps you understand more clearly now why I moved here from Florida!)
Independence Sunday is a day for patriotic songs, parades, and remembering. On July 4, 1776, England’s King George III wrote in his diary, "Nothing of importance happened today."
Poor George - wrong as a politician can be! What happened was the birth of the most powerful and benevolent nation the world has seen in a long time. A Soviet immigrant, David Edelman, wrote a letter to a major magazine,
If Americans knew what it is like
to search for a piece of meat and never find it;
how it is not to be able to buy a refrigerator
unless you stay on a waiting list for 10 years;
what it is like to live in constant fear
and to struggle for survival every day;
if they knew all this they would whisper as I do:
’God bless this land and its people.’
It is easy to presume that America will stand forever; 224 years is a long time! Yet history records so-called "invincible" empires that lasted an average of 200 years.
We have survived "black Mondays" (1929, 1990). We have survived wars and tragedies. No doubt our system can find answers to pollution, deficits and crooked politicians, even the Electoral College.
However, our nation faces a "black Monday" that the politicians never mention. And it is more damning than anything you will see on the front pages of the newspapers, or Net News Service. Our predicament is an uncanny parallel with ancient Israel.
This morning’s text laments to apostasy of a nation. Israel’s history is the kind of warning of which America needs to take note.
Israel began as a Theocracy
(The real thing!)
A theocracy is like a democracy, except there is only one vote – God’s! When God called Abraham, He called a nation. From that one family sprang the people of God, Israel. It was a roundabout journey over the generations that lead from Ur in the Persian Gulf, to captivity down in Egypt.
But God would not leave His people in bondage for long. He sent plagues, and Moses led the people out into the wilderness. From the Biblical account we know it was Moses who was the mouthpiece, but it was without question God Who was their leader— a theocracy.
On Mt. Sinai God gave Moses commandments, and promises; if the people would follow, God would lead them, supply their needs, and protect. According to Exodus 24.3, it was acceptable to the people, and a "theocracy" (God-ruled people) was born.
The conquest of Canaan, the promised land, and it’s subsequent occupation and guidance by judges, was adequate proof that God approved. A secular historian (Chodorow) even records this about God’s people: "...the Hebrew race beginnings was characterized by an unique religion and an ability to resist hostile takeovers."
The rule of God over his people was the REAL THING! However, like most of us, the children of Israel could not leave well enough alone.
Israel Became a Monarchy
(a "Plan B" imitation of God’s best)
During the leadership of Samuel as judge (1 Sa 8.5-9), God’s people became restless, and demanded a king. The catalyst was when Samuel was quite old, and appointed his hedonistic sons in his place. Samuel had invested his life in serving God and Israel, but he neglected the instruction and discipline of his kids.
They were selfish, crude and entirely unaware or respectful of God’s holiness. The people didn’t trust God to deal with them, so they demanded that Samuel give them a king, that they might be like other nations.