God confronted Israel because He was no longer the dominant influence in their lives. A creeping worldliness had come into their lives and was bringing with it dire consequences. Here is a list of what they were slowly succumbing to in their lives.
- They were filled with influences from the east. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations. THEY were supposed to be influencing the nations with God’s way and God’s Word. Instead, they were BEING INFLUENCED by the world – especially those influences of the Assyrian and Babylonian culture. These influences were from things like soothsaying (which God rebukes directly later) and various eastern religious practices. These practices denied the Lord as the true God and introduced a pantheon of other false gods who encouraged behavior and morals completely contrary to God’s ways. I found it interesting to note that in our culture, as we turn further and further away from the Lord Jesus Christ and the Scriptures – what is often filling the void is eastern religious influence in things like yoga, transcendental meditation, becoming our own gods and goddesses of our lives, as well as a host of other eastern practices. As these practices come in – the Bible is slowly being pushed out (and some times not even that slowly).
- They were “striking bargains with the children of foreigners.” The actual words in Hebrew say that they were striking hands or clasping hands with foreigners. This word meant that they were making covenants with them. These covenants were most likely commercial, military, and matrimonial. Israel was forbidden to make such alliances – and from joining with foreign nations in such things. In our day we hardly have a day go by where we are not informed that due to an economic or military alliance we are pulled further and further into conflicts and deals which harm our nation. Often such deals are made for the benefit of large corporations rather than for the average person. We have learned too many times that deals where someone struck the hand of another have hurt our economy.
- They were being influenced by a culture of wealth and riches. The land was filled with silver and gold – and there was no end to their treasuries. It is not a sin to be wealthy – but it is a sin to focus our lives on obtaining and maintaining wealth. God knew that a people filled with the influence of wealth and riches would be a people who would compromise their hearts to get and keep it. The truth is that no matter how much wealth we gain or keep in this life, we leave it all when we die. All that will matter in that day is what we’ve done with the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and with a choice to honor and obey God in this life.
- There was no end to the idols in their land. It is necessary to see here that God mentions this in two ways. First, they just made idols – and worshipped false gods. Our nation is turning away from the true God every day and embracing the false gods of this world (or no god at all). The godlessness in our nation grows – and it has reached proportions where to speak of God’s ways and laws bring you mockery and outright hostility. The second way idolatry is mentioned is that men worship the works of their own hands. Ours is a culture that worships our own dead works. We follow after our own desires and make monuments to our own achievements. God is ignored or disdainfully discounted.
God’s answer to a culture and a people who no longer valued His influence was to reveal “the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty.” The way to deal with proud, arrogant, self-sufficient men is to humble them – and to humble them hard. God was going to humble the proud arrogant look of men who disdained Him. He was going to deal with the loftiness of men who ignored Him. He speaks of a “day or reckoning” which will affect the entire earth. So great will be the horror of those days that men will retreat into caves and holes in the ground, throwing their idols to the moles and bats. Every exalted thing of man will be abased so that the LORD alone will be exalted in that day.
Now such language and such situations are not mentioned much any longer in our day. The God of the American 21st century is a God who loves – and whose love is seen only in good things. Just listen to the preaching of our day. No one is out there writing down the sin of the nation with an iron stylus. The prophets of the 21st century are prophesying only good, favor, pleasing words, and nice things. No one weeps any longer over the wound of the church – which is infected and foul – not pressed out – not treated – not bandaged. It is a day when they say to the prophet of God, “Shut up and quit speaking of judgment and wrath! Speak to us only pleasant things and ‘good prophecies!’” All the while the land mourns the sins that run rampant – often with the approval, or at least the unwillingness to confront them that continue to infect the church itself. We no longer speak against the practices of heterosexual and homosexual immorality. That is cultural suicide! We cannot speak of the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way of salvation – that is bigoted and anti-multicultural! Thus the church sits silently by fiddling her cool, new praise songs as Rome (the church in this scenario) burns.
God alone will be exalted in that day! That is the instruction God offers to us. That is His confrontation of this self-drunken age. When God comes in the terror of the Lord and the splendor of His majesty – men will hide themselves and humble themselves. His word thunders through Isaiah His prophet, “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils! Why should he be esteemed?” So the question to us is simple. Who or what is most influential in our lives? What is the influence that is dominating our thinking and our living today? If it is not God Himself and His Word – we are making a monumental – no an eternal mistake!
I do not know how this humbling will come. Currently it may come through Russia or through a horrific terrorist attack. I recently heard of swarms of small earthquakes around the area of Old Faithful in Yosemite National Park – an area where some fear a super volcanic eruption might occur. A North Korean EMP attack could send our economy and culture back to the 1700-1800’s with untold disaster following. How will it come? I honestly have no idea. Will it come? I honestly have little to no doubts. We have left our God – we have been filled with influences that are absolutely contrary to His. Our pride and arrogance has risen to levels never known before in our nation. And . . . our pulpits and prayer altars are sadly and strangely quiet. May God have mercy on us – for that is our only hope.