Human history records the rise and fall of many empires. Some kingdoms reigned longer and better than others, but eventually all have crumbled into oblivion. Obviously, God is sovereign over such things, yet, there is an observable pattern of moral decline that, generally speaking, precedes each social collapse. Such was the case of the Southern Kingdom of Israel in sixth century B.C. The prophet Habakkuk informs us that the wonderful benefits of the great revival experienced during the reign of King Josiah had passed and the Jewish nation had again digressed
into corrupt and depraved behavior.
God first used the prophet Isaiah to indict idolatrous and worldly Judah (Isa. 1) and then others, such as Jeremiah, followed suit. Isaiah detailed the type of divine judgment the Jewish people would experience for their rebellion against Jehovah (Isa. 2:6-4:1). This severe chastening would be accomplished by Babylon invaders and leave so many dead that surviving women would be competing with each other to obtain a husband.
Isaiah was also careful to identify Judah’s sins deserving of God’s retribution and the chaos that would result when Nebuchadnezzar’s armies destroyed Jerusalem. This foretold agonizing scene is then contrasted with Jerusalem’s glory in the future Kingdom Age (Isa. 4). What message is the prophet conveying by this thematic arrangement? He is warning future generations that the same rancid attitudes that marked Israel when God summoned Babylon to destroy Jerusalem will be prevalent again when the Antichrist is permitted to capture the city and ransack houses just prior to Christ’s second advent (Zech. 14:2). There is nothing new under the sun and history tends to repeat itself because man does not learn from his past failings. Indeed, the same degenerate attitudes that marked the Jews long ago are again rampant today among many societies that have identified with Israel’s God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Signs of Decline
We pause to consider an obvious question spawned from Isaiah’s stern message to Israel long ago: How might God’s displeasure for a particular society be displayed today? The answer is, in much the same way it was shown towards Jerusalem in Isaiah’s day. The prophet identifies six clear signs of a society void of God’s blessing, thus, in decline (Isa. 3):
1. The disappearance of solid leadership (3:1-3). The absence of judges, elders, prophets, and mighty men (soldiers) for which a society depends on for wisdom, justice, protection and its general welfare are removed.
2. The appearance of immature, impulsive, and unpredictable leaders (3:4). Leaders motivated by carnal impulses, unchecked emotions, and the fear of the people replace those who revered God.
3. A divided society (3:5). With the absence of godly leadership upholding an ethical compass to guide the actions of the people, those who crave to go their own way clash with those who either for conscious sake or for conviction to God’s Word hold their ground.
4. An age-gap rift results (3:5). The younger generation rebels against their elders. A lack of respect for those older and wiser occurs and the younger then attempt to cancel the traditions of the past and forge a new social order.
5. Moral values are compromised as those despised take the initiative to transform the society (3:5). This is often accomplished through political venues where candidates having the least promise the most. Sadly, emotional or carnal enticements are employed to win the hearts of the undiscerning populace. In short, the one gaining office is who the people deserve, not who will best care for them. We should recall that in
His anger, God gave King Saul to Israel to teach them not to lust for what displeased Him (Hos. 13:11). As our governmental officials are placed in office by the Lord (Rom. 13:1-2) we likewise must consider that, at times, God may be reproving us rather than seeking our prosperity.
6. An air of despair permeates the nation (3:6-7). Without God’s blessings a society will decline economically, morally, and spiritually. Great wealth may delay the inevitable chaos and ruin to come, but our God is a God of order and righteousness and He will not bless a rebellious people. Consequently, the demise of any nation that has identified with Jehovah and His Son, Jesus Christ, is not caused by policy failure per
se, but rather because of provoking God’s righteous indignation through disobedience (3:8-11).
One can hardly deny that these same social features are already evident in many Western countries which once held to a Christian heritage, but now have a growing dissent population which is provoking the Lord to anger.
God Judges the Proud
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible declares God’s contempt for pride and His commitment to judge it. As the proverb says, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty
spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud” (Prov. 16:18- 9). Both James and Peter proclaim that “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” ( Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).
Solomon wrote, “When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom” (Prov. 11:2). The psalmist declared, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Ps. 51:17). The opposite of pride is a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
God Revives the Humble
Second Chronicles 7:14 conveys the timeless remedy for sin in any age – our humble repentance prompts spiritual restoration and revival: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Although the context of this verse clearly pertains to the nation of Israel, the Church today would benefit much from heeding it.
To be broken before the Lord is to be a qualified recipient of His grace. Our failures should lead to personal brokenness, which should then cause us to cast ourselves upon the Lord in a way that we were hesitant to do beforehand. The outcome of testing, then, is that the believer knows and
trusts the Lord with a greater patience and confidence than he or she had before. This is why the Lord longs for us to come to Him with all of life’s burdens.
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isa. 57:15). The One who is over all ages to come forever offers the humble and contrite the opportunity to experience full and continual revival in His presence! Spiritual revival is what Israel needed then, and what the Church desperately needs today. Christians today know the Word of God better than those before them, but few know the God of the Word.
Our pulpits are filled with more highly-degreed individuals than ever before, yet we have little knowledge of the true God. We study rather than pray, plan rather than trust, boast rather than weep. The modern Church has gone from experiencing and expecting the supernatural to being
choked to death by the superficial, or being captivated by sensory pomp and emotional appeals, or being lolled into a pampered state of lethargy.
As in the days of Isaiah, we desperately need revival and the conditions are ripe for it in the Church. What would happen if a few believers desperate for change would separate themselves from the world and consecrate themselves to God in prayer? Might the Spirit of God again wring out the arrogance and gaudiness from our calloused hearts and cause them to beat spontaneously for Him? Might the masses be converted to Christ as in past great revivals? Until the Lord’s return for His Beloved, the only solution for social decline is a revived Church.