Ignoring God has predictable consequences. History’s rife with it. Nevertheless, we Christians, if we’re honest with ourselves, we sin with our eyes wide open at times, before a Holy God. Sadly, this isn’t new. Proverbs 28;1 insightfully explains when we ignore our sin, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.” Why do the wicked flee? When we behave as the unrighteous, we should feel guilty, looking over our shoulder, waiting for the the sword to fall.
That proverb is a reference from Leviticus 26, when the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen when (when, not if) they disobey. What He promises He will do. The outcome isn’t pretty. Israelites didn’t have spiritual ears to hear. Sadly, God-words rolled off their lips, but their hearts were far away. God knew it. So did they. It’s easy for us to recoil at their conduct, and ask, “How can that be?” We know too well.
Here’s what He promised “I will bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, even when no one is pursuing, they will flee from the sword, and they will fall. They will stumble over each other as if running from the sword, but no one is pursuing…(Leviticus 26:36-37) Today, is it guilt that haunts us when we know that we are living in a way that isn’t pleasing to the Lord? Our Spirit is vexed, and we fail to repent. He beckons us just as He did then. Running is futile, although it doesn’t stop us. But where are we to flee? Whether we rise to the highest pinnacle, or sink to the lowest abyss, we can’t escape His presence. Does modernity exempt us from the Lord’s chastening?
The Holy Spirit, Hound of Heaven, pursues us if we are His. Like Dicken’s “Scrooge,” or Shakespeare’s “MacBeth,” the knowledge of our own sin, can produce shadows that haunt us, as we flee, even when no one is there. Some refer to it as “Biblical paranoia.” Theologically, we know that God is omnipresent. Everywhere all the time. Yet, when one sins flippantly, one only dupes one’s self. He’s there, and He isn’t silent. He will speak to us through the Holy Spirit to prompt us to repent and refrain from the very act that we do in “secret.” In 2022, too many Christians operate as if we are free agents. We ignore His Word, while flirting with a lifestyle inimical to His revealed ways.
The Old Testament’s a record of God’s Grace and judgment, of a wayward people who took His blessings for granted. Israel was always in a jam. God used Assyria and Babylon as His chastening rod. Their reputation for brutality and murderous plundering are a matter of record. Rather than trust the One True God, they formed deadly alliances, while ignoring His wisdom and counsel, going their own way. The outcome was predictable. It turned out as a woeful tale of leaving God out of the equation.
For one’s spiritual edification, study closely the Books of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuh, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, often referred to as the Minor prophets. It will be a stimulating, though at times, troubling dive into the life of God’s chosen people, how they consistently disobeyed, went their own way, briefly repenting, then returned to their habits of violence, idolatry, arrogance, hypocrisy, greed, injustice and abusive treatment of the poor and downtrodden.
Apparently it was Augustine (Sweeney 2012, p.788) who first coined the term “minor prophets” in the fifth century, to distinguish them from the “major prophets.” That term “minor” isn’t used to indicate the unimportance of these books, rather referring to the relative brevity of the writings compared to the Major Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. It’s a panoply of God’s long suffering and grace.
These Minor Prophets speak to us today. It will jolt one’s reverie, reminding us that in 2022, that American Christians aren’t much different today when it comes to following the Lord’s Word, and the Holy Spirit. We have His complete written revelation to guide us. His Son Jesus Christ paid the full price for our sin. Yet, if one honestly considers our nation’s moral ambiguity, we are more pagan. A 2019, Washington Times poll indicated nearly 63% of the population claim Christianity. God doesn’t conduct polls.
Amos, a farmer turned prophet, prophesied during a period of national optimism in Israel. Commerce is booming and boundaries are bulging. But, below the surface, greed and injustice are festering. Hypocritical religious motions have replaced true worship, creating a false sense of security and a growing callousness to God’s discipling hand. Famine, drought, plagues, death, destruction-nothing brings the people to their knees. He painted a word picture for Israel that they would understand. For their failure to repent, the nation, like a basket of rotting fruit, stands ripe for judgment because of its hypocrisy and spiritual indifference. Does that sound familiar?
Although, according to R.B. Chisholm, “Interpreting the Minor Prophets,” the content, there’s some variety, most of the prophesies follow a five point pattern. First, there’s a warning of impending judgement because of sinfulness. Second, the prophetic warning is often followed by an identification and description of the sins. And third, Having identified the sin(s), the prophet then announces and describes the coming judgment. Fourth, impending judgment is often followed by a call to repentance. Fifth, the prophet then proclaims a promise of future deliverance, and or restoration. God used both the Assyrian invasions, found in Isaiah, Amos, Micah and Hosea, and Babylonians in Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk.
Our nation’s ripe for judgment, like Habakkuk warned, when he ministered during the “death throws” of the nation of Judah. Although repeatedly called to repentance, the nation stubbornly refuses to change her defiant ways. Habakkuk, knowing the hardheartedness of his countrymen, asks God how long this intolerable condition can endure, God replies that the Babylonian hordes will be his chastening rod upon the nation, an announcement that sent the prophet to his knees. Will America’s intolerable condition, refusal to return to heart-felt worship of the One True God, bring us to our knees? Is it too late? In the furnace of chastening, will we ever learn our lesson?
Haggai’s brevity, with the Babylonian exile in the past, asks why haven’t they finished the rebuilding of the temple project, sixteen years after starting its rebuilding, was interrupted by their own personal distractions, while the temple lies in ruins? He characterizes their condition in chapter 1:6, “You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but you do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You cloth yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wage, Earns wages to put in a bag with holes.” Picturesque language of man’s futility to placate a Holy God.
A false sense of prosperity won’t alter this postmortem in 2022. Talk of individual liberty is seriously compromised when one’s a slave to sin. Like Israel, there’s a path back for America. But it must pass through God’s hand. What do you think?
Mike Pyatt’s a Natrona County resident. His email’s firstname.lastname@example.org