Yes, It Can Happen Here. And It Has. (Psalm 73)

Yes, It Can Happen Here. And It Has.

Written by: Pete McClanathan

Asaph served and wrote during the years of King David’s reign in Jerusalem (1000-962 B.C.), and in part of Solomon’s reign thereafter. By and large these were good years for the nation. Times of military success, growth of the national economy, the building of Solomon’s temple.  

But Asaph observed troublesome things appearing amidst the veneer of prosperity.  Personal and societal values were being tested and weakened. The very terms used by Paul in his letter to Timothy are found in Asaph’s lament roughly 1,000 years earlier.  Pride, disdain, oppression, violence, hypocrisy, disregard of God.   

The most troublesome aspect for Asaph was that these things were occurring among God’s people and their leaders. A man of stature in the nation, Asaph would have mingled among the wealthy, the powerful, the famous. And his status would have brought him close to the very ones he deems “wicked.” Prideful, successful business people, religious leaders, and government officials who were bending the rules for their own personal gain. And wholly in disregard of the nation’s purpose … to bear witness to a righteous and holy creator God. One can understand Asaph’s confusion and frustration. This is not what God intended nor approved. 

Take a look, then, at the following four centuries of the nation’s life. The Bible describes a succession of kings who did not follow the Lord. Leaders who practiced and promoted idol worship in its various wicked forms. Officials consumed with personal gain at the expense of the people they were called to serve. Even the few righteous exceptions were followed by other ungodly leaders. And by and large the people supported and followed these leaders, maybe even encouraged them. 

Do we ever wonder what led to this apostate behavior within a nation founded by and upon the Lord? One clear answer is that sin will overtake even well-meaning people as they turn their hearts and thoughts away from God and toward the world’s promises of success. We see it occurring quickly and repeatedly in the nation’s history. The same concerns ought to be in our minds as we live now. And not merely for “those out there” whom we observe practicing ungodly behavior and encouraging others to do so (Rom. 1: 32).

How do God’s people become hardened so as to disregard His purposes? Why would those purposes fade to the background of the personal and national priorities? Perhaps because society as a whole began uncoupling from godly values, and God’s people carelessly watched and then followed. Why would such uncoupling take place? Perhaps because for a long time the importance of biblical truth increasingly had been neglected or dismissed in families, in communities, and regrettably in many churches. Recall one of the notable acts of Josiah, a righteous king, who retrieved the Book of the Law from its hidden place of disuse and reintroduced it to the people. And ask, how did it fall into disuse and be placed in storage?

Coming back to the present time, we find the same pattern. The Word of God and the pursuit of Christ have become marginalized, even mocked or forbidden in parts of the American culture. And, as in Asaph’s time, the disappearance began when many churches and their people failed to study and teach its true content. 

The behavioral choices and public policies of the ensuing years reflect that void. We’re now living in the outgrowth of that era, and the upheavals we’ve experienced show no sign of abating.

We may long to reverse this tide, but that longing itself exposes the fallacy of thinking that good is measured by what once seemed better times. Those times held serious shortcomings of their own, ones which contributed to the growth of national indifference and apostasy. 

There are core truths that we disregard at our own peril. Each person who ever lived was born into a battle already in progress. One involving beings and themes that we know only barely and understand even less. We leave ourselves, our families, and our culture exposed to all of the fallout of that battle if we fail to study, teach, and live by God’s Word. And this is not a new thought. Note that the primary theme of the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ warnings to the people to do just that, for their own protection and purpose.   

The message of these past two articles is that indifference and carelessness do carry significant risks of serious consequences. To conclude on a positive trajectory of hope, we can embrace the fact that these struggles are not new. We are not alone, nor without direction. We draw encouragement from words such as these:
 
“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, …”  (1 Tim.  4:1-2)

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”  (2 Tim. 4: 1-4)

“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Ps. 119: 11)

“Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”
(Ps. 119: 37)

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness … But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.” (Gal. 6: 1,4)

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house,  and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Mt. 7: 24-27)    

It can be tempting to project these words of scripture into an end-times scenario where the wicked are about to be judged. That may or may not be what we’re now seeing, but may I encourage us to look beyond that possibility and examine our own lives and purposes. The clear message for us, the people of God, is to persevere. To reject those things in us that are built on sand. To gather our lives around the foundational rock of Jesus and to find our joy and strength in Him.

Meanwhile we ought to consider the futility of yearning for better times past, or comparing ourselves pridefully to the wickedness in our generation. Both will deceive us when we allow them to be a measure of our own lives. Our calling is to fill our minds with God’s Word, to submit ourselves to Him, to be content with His provision, and to carry on our assigned task of being salt and light, a city on a hill, moment by moment. 

Salt and light are not found in pursuit of personal ease and pleasure. Nor in prideful condemnation of others, privately or publicly. They’re demonstrated in the harder work … study, knowledge and wisdom, humility, courage, self-control, and love. Well, no surprise. Aren’t these the very traits to which the people of God have been called throughout human history?

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