God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us-Selah. That Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; for You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. Selah (Ps.67:1-4).
Changing a culture is clearly a long-term proposition, but it may be a lot easier than we have imagined. People may not be enthusiastic about long-term goals that will last well beyond their life-time, but they would be if they understood it can and will be accomplished through some simple things amongst God’s people: faith and patience.
When a culture has been in decline for centuries, God doesn’t expect it to be all changed completely by tomorrow afternoon. But what we must do is start the process, and do what we can in our day to begin the reversal of the trend. In David’s era, all he could do was receive the plans and gather materials for the temple, for Solomon was charged with the task of building. So, long-term plans are an integral part of God’s plan for His people; there is nothing new about them.
The Bible speaks of this. Paul spoke in Hebrews, that
We desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he obtained the promise (Heb.6:11-14).
After serving God on Mount Carmel, Elijah was prompted to action when he heard from his servant that “…a cloud the size of a man’s hand is coming from the sea” (I Kings 18:44). God said to Zechariah, “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech.4:10).
But there is more. In Noah’s day, God warned him of what was coming because of His judgement on the earth due to the wickedness of man. So, in faithfulness to God, and for the sake of himself and his family, Noah laboured for 120 years to build an ark. If he had said, “That will take way too long, I can’t be bothered,” he and his family would have drowned.
So we have very definite reasons of self-interest to commence trend reversal. There is indeed an economic judgement coming in our era, and indifference or melancholy in the church won’t change the trends.
And let’s not kid ourselves that our political leaders from around the world will come up with a solution. All of them seems to be no better than an empty beetroot can: either useless, or next to it.
No, the solutions to the problems of our era have to come out of Mount Zion, which typifies the church. In the New Testament, Paul tells that
You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all… (Heb.12:22-23).
This has always been God’s plan. The Psalmist declared,
Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores His captive people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad (Ps.53:6).
It is God’s people who are charged with the responsibility of preaching the gospel, and seeing the nations transformed as a result. We have the commands of the Lord to do this. We do not have a command to sit in a cave and avoid confronting the problems of our era, for they will not improve without the logical applications of scripture, coming from the church.
It was when the church began losing confidence after Darwin, that the decline of the world accelerated. Intimidated, we withdrew from the ideological conflicts. We packed up our Bibles and went home, left the ideological fields of battle to the humanists, and two generations later (where all this started), the nations were tearing at each other in World War I. Then there was Communism and Nazism, and another World War, in which supposedly Christian nations like Britain and the US firebombed the civilians of Dresden, then atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And still, with all the technology, nothing gets any better.
Yes, we can like Pilate wash our hands of the problems, and then mutter about the wicked atheists who did this. But the wickedness didn’t begin with them. It began with a sleeping, indolent, irresponsible church, which has studiously ignored the Lord’s warning to His people:
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Mat.5:13).
All this will have to change, and it will. We’ll be obliged to go back to scripture, to God’s law, and think again about what a godly society would look like. We’ll need to apply those same scriptures to economics, education, law, government; to everything we haven’t applied the scriptures to. Only when we do this will we be able to see lasting change come. It will have to begin in the church, then it can spread to the world.
I close with a wonderful, favourite Biblical promise for the church age:
Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it. And many people will come and say, “Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.” For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations… (Isa.2:2-4).