Jehoiakim Burns the Scroll, Caspar Luiken 1672-1708.
What to write? That’s the question all bloggers must face. Sometimes the answer comes quickly. Sometimes it doesn’t.
With campaign season hitting its big crescendo last week, my mind’s been focused on the election. But now that it has passed, where do I go from here? There’s the series on immigration I’ve been writing. I haven’t forgotten about it. Lord willing, I plan to finish it sometime later this month. But today didn’t strike me as a day to write about immigration.
So back to the question of what to write about. Perhaps due in part to the recently concluded election, the specter of national and civilizational decline is often at the forefront of my thoughts.
Perhaps another reason for this is my Scripture reading. Recently, I’ve been focused on the prophets, Jeremiah in particular. And I never get very far in the prophets before I find myself saying “This could have been written yesterday about America!”
And it’s true, too. Edward Gibbons’ masterpiece of history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is often cited by writers who want to advance some reason or another for the obvious, ongoing collapse of Western Civilization in our own time.
But there is a far better text to use if we want to gain insight on the problems we face in 21st century America. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible. And in particular the historical books of I and II Samuel,
I and II Kings,
I and II Chronicles and the prophets. Taken together, they could almost be subtitled The Decline and Fall of the Hebrew Republic.
Samuel was the last of the judges and the anointer of the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. It was during Samuel’s judgeship that Israel made the critical error in asking for a king (big government) in place of the limited, constitutional republic set up by God in the law of Moses.
If we were to summarize the history of Israel under the kings, we could say that the kingdom rapidly grew in power under the rule of David, hit its peak under his son Solomon, then split in two – the northern and southern kingdoms – under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. From there, the two kingdoms followed a centuries long trajectory of decline with the northern kingdom falling to Assyrian in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom to Babylon in 586 BC.
What makes the history of this decline and fall so relevant today is that the reader is not, as he is with secular history, left to decide for himself the reasons behind the disasters that befell Israel and Judah. The Word of God tells him explicitly: the people of Israel refused to heed the Lord and suffered the covenant curses pronounced in Deuteronomy 28.
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