These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.
– 1 Corinthians 10:11
I love the Bible. I love it for so many reasons, of course. The first and main reason is that it is undeniably and demonstrably the very word of the living God. Fellow author Cord Cooper and I recently wrote and produced a book – “Questions About God – And the Answers That Could Change Your Life.” One of the three basic questions we address is whether science can prove the existence of a Creator. And we prove it to any rational, honest reader.
A couple of pretty good scientists we call on are Stephen Hawking, considered the most brilliant scientist alive today … and Albert Einstein. Both these men, and many other unimpeachable scientific experts, affirm in their own ways that the existence of the universe operating in perfect precision is inescapable evidence of an intelligence and power beyond our comprehension. Of course, the Bible itself declares, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
The second basic question the book tackles is whether the Bible can be proven to be divinely inspired, written by men, but with words breathed into their minds by God Himself. And again, any honest and reasonable reader will find it hard, if not impossible, to explain the power and authority of the Bible – written in composite by scores of men over a span of 2,000-plus years, men who never knew each other but combined to compose the most amazing book ever written – without acknowledging the real Author of The Book.
I marvel at the Bible’s unflinching history of the ways God has expressed His love for beings created in His image and the endless ways these beings have “messed up,” rebelled against their Creator and sabotaged the blessed existence He provided them. Looking back from the perspective of elapsed centuries, it seems incomprehensible that blessed people could be so infernally, repeatedly stupid and selfish and self-destructive. But there it all is, in all the garish and horrific detail, on the pages of the Bible. It’s amazing – and it has a very important purpose.
As the apostle Paul wrote, all the horrendous mistakes Israel and her leaders made were written down and preserved for us, to teach and warn us, those of us who are “living at the end of the age.”
But are we even aware of these examples, and are we trying to learn from them and to avoid being destroyed and enslaved as were the people of Israel who lived them before?
I’ve been reading through the 365 Day Bible, cover to cover, as I do each year, and again I’ve been amazed about how nations can absolutely forsake and throw away the blessings they’ve known. Israel had a long progression of kings, some good and faithful … and others so corrupt and evil that they led the Israelites into bondage and dispersion.
Following a very good king, Uzziah, who restored a scattered and ruined Israel to its former glory by leading them into a renewed obedience to God, and his son Jotham, who followed his father’s good example, Israel was afflicted with Jotham’s son Ahaz, who became king when he was 20 and reigned in Jerusalem 16 years. And, for unfathomable reasons, Ahaz was as rebellious and stupid as his fathers were wise and obedient.
In just one chapter, 2 Chronicles 28, his whole reign is detailed. Right from the start, apparently, he decided to adopt a policy of “change,” abandoning the principles that had made Israel great, in favor of becoming like countries around him. “He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.”
I hope you’ll read the chapter for yourself, but the short version is that Ahaz was so cocksure of his “change” policy that he led his army into appalling defeats, costing the lives of 120,000 experienced warriors and the capture and exile of 200,000 women and children from Judah. And the Bible declares this disaster was “because they had abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors.”
At one point, God intervened for the innocent women and children and caused them to be returned to their homes. But meanwhile, stupid Ahaz was aligning himself with enemies of Israel, who, far from helping him, raided and plundered the towns and villages of Judah, and finally attacked King Ahaz himself. “The Lord Himself was humbling Judah because of King Ahaz, for he had encouraged his people to sin and had been utterly unfaithful to the Lord.”
Desperate to ingratiate himself with Israel’s enemies, Ahaz plundered the temple of worship and gave valuable and sacred things to the king of Assyria. He shut the doors of the Lord’s temple, so that no one could worship there, and he set up altars to pagan gods in every corner of Jerusalem.
“But this did not help him. Even during this time of trouble, King Ahaz continued to reject the Lord. He offered sacrifices to the gods of Damascus who had defeated him, for he said, ‘Since these gods helped the kings of Aram, they will help me, too, if I sacrifice to them.’ But instead, they led to his ruin and the ruin of all Judah.”
Friend, in America today, there is an alarming falling away from the basic principles that made us the greatest nation on earth. We have leaders who are determined to “change” the direction, the foundational priorities, the rule of constitutional law that gave us our character, our very freedoms. They seek the approval and alliance with those who are our proven enemies. And they are making concerted efforts to prevent the free expressions of the people’s will and our faith.
The terrible story of the days of Ahaz was written and preserved as an example for us. Are we listening? Will we determine not to accept the same result?