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What the Bible says about National Collapse
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Just before Israel and Judah fell to the Assyrians and Babylonians, God called several prophets to warn His people and urge them to repent. In recording the events of their times, these prophets paid particular attention to the prevailing attitudes within their societies, no doubt inspired by God for the benefit of His church. If we compare their societies and attitudes with our own, we can gain insight into the problems we face in the collapse of this nation.

What was the dominant attitude of the people in Israel and Judah just before their fall? In virtually every book by these prophets, warnings against attitudes of self-sufficiency, spiritual indifference, complacency, and self-satisfaction—Laodiceanism—are a major part of God's message!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Leviticus 18:26-28

Because of man's lawlessness, this law of the universe has too often gone into effect. As a law of an impartial God, it will soon descend upon the nations of Israel in the form of "a nation of fierce countenance" (Deuteronomy 28:49-50). It is only a matter of time.

When a nation descends into perversions like homosexuality, its decline accelerates, its fibers weaken, and it becomes ripe for disaster, either natural or political/military. If the leadership of a nation participates in these perversions, the immorality spreads like a cancer among the people, accelerating the collapse. The leaders, already perverted personally, make immoral and unwise decisions regarding the nation's direction and conditions grow worse (Romans 1:26-32; II Timothy 3:13).

Knowing the nation's destruction is so near, Christians have a responsibility to "sigh and cry over all the abominations" (Ezekiel 9:4), preparing for the time when we will rule with Christ in a just and holy government (Revelation 5:10; I Peter 2:9; I Corinthians 6:2-3). Fortunately, God has made provision for homosexuals to repent, maybe not now but in the resurrection, if their minds have not been totally perverted (II Peter 3:9; I Timothy 2:4; 4:2; Hebrews 10:26-31).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The 'Gaying' of America

Amos 5:4-7

The word "justice" used in verse 7 is associated with end-time circumstances in nearly every prophecy where social conditions are described in a nation on the verge of collapse. The Hebrew word is mishpat, translated justice, judgment, or ordinance. Because he is spiritually blind, the Laodicean, too, has lost his ability to judge between right and wrong. He can no longer discern, as the Bible phrases it, "between the clean and the unclean."

God speaks of this lack of judgment in terms of their courtship, their relationship, with Him. Similar to the situation today in the church, Christians need discernment, the ability to distinguish right from wrong, to make true judgments. The Laodicean lacks this ability and it shows in the decisions he makes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Amos 6:3

The prophet pronounces God's judgment. Notice the many parallels to Babylon and Laodicea. Also notice what Jesus says in a parable concerning the time just before His return: "But if that evil servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunkards . . ." (Matthew 24:48-49). Amos and Christ speak about the same sequence of events. The attitude of putting off the day of Christ's return promotes violence and injustice toward one's fellow man. Appeasement, a "strength" of the Laodicean, virtually guarantees violence and war, as happened in the years leading to World War II.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism

Amos 6:3

In their false security, none of the people worried about the collapse of the nation, even though the signs of it were all around them. In fact, put far off literally means "drive out" or "cast out" (see Isaiah 66:5). They did not just ignore the danger signals, they utterly rejected any notion of an imminent downfall. In doing so, they had done a very stupid thing, as foolish as running horses upon crags or trying to plow the sea. They had allowed violence, corruption, and exploitation to mount in their midst (verse 12).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)

Habakkuk 1:1

This is a very simple introduction. He does not say, "In the tenth year, in the tenth month of the reign of a certain king, Habakkuk the prophet, from a certain town, who was a Levite and a priest, saw a vision." He simply says, "This is what the prophet Habakkuk saw." We begin to see immediately some of Habakkuk's character. He removes himself almost entirely from the book. He is not worried about himself or his pedigree. His book is just a narrative of his conversation with God.

All we know about Habakkuk is that he was the prophet at the time. He is an obscure character, not appearing anywhere else in Scripture. In effect, there is nothing to learn except from what he says; the Bible contains no extraneous details about him. It is possible to extrapolate a few things about him. He may have been a Levite, one of the singers or musicians in the Temple, perhaps one of the sons of Asaph, because he writes a very fine song in the third chapter.

Even his name is uncertain. It seems not even to be Hebrew but foreign, an Akkadian word. Moreover, its meaning is disputed, the best guess being that Habakkuk means "embracer," almost like "hugger"—one who wrestles. In a way, that is what he does throughout the whole book. He embraces God, wrestles Him, for an answer—similar to what Jacob did—and he does not let go because he wants God to answer his troubling questions.

The date of the book is also uncertain. We know a general time, that it was probably written within twenty-five years of Jerusalem's fall in Judah, somewhere between 610-585 BC. This was right after Nineveh fell to the Babylonians in 612, and about the time that Nebuchadnezzar was besieging Tyre and before he came against Jerusalem. His first attack on Jerusalem occurred in 604, so the general consensus is that Habakkuk was probably written sometime during Nebuchadnezzar's seige of Tyre.

The awesome might of the Chaldeans was just one country away, and Judah itself was sinking further into sin. Josiah, one of Judah's best kings, had died, and his sons had come to the throne, and they had failed to hold the country together morally. Judah was beginning to fear that they would be next in the domino of nations that were falling, and they were terrified because word had reached them of what the Chaldeans, the Babylonians, did to those they conquered. Judah's day of reckoning was near, and so Habakkuk's cry to God is only a natural response of a man who loved his people and his nation.

We can see that Habakkuk's situation fits current circumstances quite closely. The fall of Israel is not too far off. This land is sinking further into sin, and no one seems to want to stand up to stop it. It could go quickly, even though we are the world's superpower. Just one terrorist who says he has a briefcase-size nuclear bomb could hold this country hostage, because no President would want to give up Houston, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, or any city in the United States to call the bluff of some terrorist group or some nation who decides that America needs to be cut down to size.

Not only that, things are happening in the church itself that make people ask questions, even of God Himself. "Why are you doing this, God?" "Why is the church disintegrating?" "Who are these people that have come in and destroyed the doctrines of the church?" "Why have You allowed it to happen?" Many of us have asked questions like these. They are the same questions Habakkuk was contemplating. He did not know what to think because what was happening did not seem to follow what he knew of God. "Why would God work this way?"

Like Habakkuk, we want to reconcile what we know of God with what is happening because we understand that He is sovereign. However, sometimes with God, it seems that two and two do not quite equal four, but with God two and two always make four. Our perspective is just not the same as His. So, we must go to God for answers when things do not seem to be going the way we expect them to. In this is the real value of this little, obscure book: It helps to answer some of these kinds of questions.

Notice that Habakkuk calls his message, his prophecy, a "burden." This is a very important word. Sometimes God's ministers, especially the prophets, had to deliver messages that people really did not want to hear. Often, speaking God's words is a burden because they are not always sweetness and light. Sweetness and light seem to come only at the end of the message, as a quick conclusion to the matter. What is so burdensome are the heavy, depressing terrible things that are the main part of the message. In addition, we all know what often happens to the messenger who bears bad news—sometimes he gets his head cut off! People who hear bad news too often take their wrath, their disappointment, their frustration out on the messenger. So it is no wonder Habakkuk says this is a burden! He bears a heavy load: He must tell his people something that they will despise, and because he says it, they will despise him. Thus, as he begins, Habakkuk says, "All right, here goes. You will not like what I have to say here, but read on." And so he presents his "burden."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk

Habakkuk 1:2-4

The anguish in his voice is palpable. "God, I've been crying out to You day and night, and still violence, perversity, and all these terrible things are happening in the land. How long will this evil last? How much longer must we endure this constant wickedness, this corruption? When are you going to act, God?" We have probably prayed similar prayers ourselves: "We need You, God. How long, O Lord?"

Ezekiel was a slightly later contemporary of Habakkuk. In Ezekiel 9:1-6 is a prophecy, a vision, that he saw while a captive in Babylon. The vision describes what God was doing in Judah and answers, at least in part, Habakkuk's question: "Why have You not judged all this evil, God?" His reply in Ezekiel 9 is, "I am going through the land, through My chosen people, and I am marking each one who sighs and cries over what is happening. I am searching out and seeing who is righteous, who has character, and whom I must destroy."

It is good that we mourn over all the corruption, wickedness, and abominations that are happening in this land. It tells God something about our heart and our character. He is seeking out those who are concerned, distressed, and repulsed by what is occurring around them, and He is setting them apart for deliverance. All the while, we must endure it, but it is a necessary wait, because it takes time for God to evaluate our character, to see what we will do over the long haul. As Jesus advises in Luke 21:19, "In your patience possess your souls."

So we must ask ourselves, "How do we react to what is happening in our nation?" How do we react to sex and violence on television, movies, and magazines, in books, on billboards, and in just about all advertising and entertainment? How do we react to terrorism, to drug use, to abortion, to oppression? How do we react to our court system, which allows so much injustice to stand? How do we react to racial inequalities? Have we become numb and hardened to all of these things, or do we still sigh and cry over the depths of this nation's depravity?

Habakkuk is certainly concerned, and so he asks God for answers, crying out, "Save us!" God replies in Habakkuk 1:5-11, and His reply is very interesting.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 




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