What in the HELL?! (Literally…)

The following sermon was delivered to the local Church of Christ over the winter of 2012

I was listening to Isaiah on my audio bible a while back…

I wound up listening to it all the way through. Isaiah is a fascinating book. It has a great many of the prophecies that foretell the coming of Jesus. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. Today, I wanted to talk about some of Isaiah’s commentary about the various cultures of his day.

I know that Isaiah lived and wrote under the Mosaic covenant. But while the context of some of his teachings may have been different, the people about whom he wrote were exactly like you and I today… and I think there’s a lesson to be learned there.  After all, Ecclesiastes says that ‘that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘see, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us.

Frankly, when I listen to Isaiah I forget that he’s talking about Judah. Moab, Egypt, and a bunch of other folks whose names I can’t pronounce. When I read him, I can’t help but impose the name of my own people in the places of theirs.

 This is chapter three, in its entirety.                  

For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts

is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah

support and supply,

all support of bread,

and all support of water;

the mighty man and the soldier,

the judge and the prophet,

the diviner and the elder,

the captain of fifty

and the man of rank,

the counselor and the skillful magician

and the expert in charms.

And I will make boys their princes,

and infants shall rule over them.

And the people will oppress one another,

every one his fellow

and every one his neighbor;

the youth will be insolent to the elder,

and the despised to the honorable.

For a man will take hold of his brother

in the house of his father, saying:

“You have a cloak;

you shall be our leader,

and this heap of ruins

shall be under your rule”;

in that day he will speak out, saying:

“I will not be a healer;

in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;

you shall not make me

leader of the people.”

For Jerusalem has stumbled,

and Judah has fallen,

because their speech and their deeds are against the LORD,

defying his glorious presence.

For the look on their faces bears witness against them;

they proclaim their sin like Sodom;

they do not hide it.

Woe to them!

For they have brought evil on themselves.

Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them,

for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.

Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him,

for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.

My people—infants are their oppressors,

and women rule over them.

O my people, your guides mislead you

and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.

The LORD has taken his place to contend;

he stands to judge peoples.

The LORD will enter into judgment

with the elders and princes of his people:

“It is you who have devoured the vineyard,

the spoil of the poor is in your houses.

What do you mean by crushing my people,

by grinding the face of the poor?”declares the Lord GOD of hosts.

The LORD said:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty

and walk with outstretched necks,

glancing wantonly with their eyes,

mincing along as they go,

tinkling with their feet,

therefore the Lord will strike with a scab

the heads of the daughters of Zion,

and the LORD will lay bare their secret parts.

In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents;the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarves;  the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets;  the signet rings and nose rings;  the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags;  the mirrors, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.

Instead of perfume there will be rottenness;

and instead of a belt, a rope;

and instead of well-set hair, baldness;

and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth;

and branding instead of beauty.

Your men shall fall by the sword

and your mighty men in battle.

And her gates shall lament and mourn;

empty, she shall sit on the ground.

When I go through these poetic verses line by line, it really does terrify me. I’ve always believed that avoiding evil means knowing what evil is. When I read this chapter, I understand that Isaiah was writing to Jews but I always forget that by the time the chapter’s finished. Some of the lines almost seem to jump out of the headlines… which is exactly, I suspect, Jesus meant when He said that His words would never fade away.

And I will make boys their princes, and children will rule over them’. Sound familiar? Does the phrase ‘youth-centered culture’ ring any bells? A recent president was awarded Time magazine’s ‘man of the year’ award for rallying record numbers of 18-to-20-year-olds to vote, indirectly giving them the power to make decisions for the mature and elderly in our society.

 Leviticus 19:32 says ‘You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the LORD.’ Proverbs 20:29 says that the ‘The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.’ Notice that it says the glory of young men is their strength, NOT their wisdom!!! There is no such thing as a ‘youth-centered culture’. If it’s ‘youth-centered’, it ain’t culture. It’s anarchy. Wanna know what a ‘youth-centered culture’ looks like? Read ahead to ‘the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable.’

Scary stuff. Moving on.

 ‘And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow’. Wow… Baltimore and Chicago have murder rates that rival the Third World. An American woman is sexually assaulted every forty-five seconds. The people voting themselves the resources of the working man now officially rival the working men in numbers. Price gouging is driving inflation through the roof, predatory banking has tanked the dollar to record lows, and the media is lying about all of it. An old preacher named Scott Wesley Brown once pointed out that every nation that has fallen has fallen from within, and when you look at history he was absolutely right. Isaiah would certainly have agreed with him.

Open sin. Brazen oppression. Violent men and immodest women. Theft from the weaker members of society. Treating the elderly like a nuisance, women and children ruling over men, fooling around with cults and foreign religions … WHAT A MESS!!!  For all this, God says that he will take from Judah ‘support and supply, all support of bread and all support of water’. He says that her men will be killed and her women humiliated.

Is this a specific curse levied by God against Judah? Did God cook this up as a special punishment just for them, or is God simply pointing out the natural consequences of behaving badly? Let me answer that question for you. I hold this truth to be self-evident; there is nothing in God’s way of thinking that can’t be explained using simple common sense, because God is the God of common sense.  

Greed inevitably leads to a nation issuing currency that has no wealth behind it. It’s phony riches, simply put. No nation has lasted last more than fifty years after debasing its currency. We debased ours in 1973. No empire has survived the degradation of the marriage covenant, especially when they go so far as to accept open deviancy. No socialist nation has ever survived without a) returning once again to some free market principles, or b) being repeatedly bailed out by the free world. We’ve debased our currency, destroyed the idea of marriage, warmed up to same-gender liaisons, and embraced socialism – a form of government that rewards laziness.

We’re toast.  

What took down the Babylonian, Roman, Greek, and Byzantine empires is going to consume us as well. When empires collapse, one of two things inevitably happens: They are either overrun by a larger, more brutal empire, or they fall into a period of feudalism and anarchy.

God doesn’t lie. What Isaiah prophesied for Judah happened. History doesn’t lie, either. It can be misinterpreted and twisted, but only for a short time. As Rome and Greece were, so is the United States of America. Our fall is not an ‘if’, it’s a ‘when’… because that’s another fact: No empire has ever righted itself once it started down the road to ruin.

When most preachers point out the causes of America’s impending doom, they do so as a call to political action. ‘We have to take back America for Jesus’, they cry. I think this is a foolish and short-sighted point, and one that is at odds with God’s ultimate goal of saving souls. I have a different reason for pointing out our impending collapse today, and I’ll get to that in a few minutes.          

I am not one of those preachers who thinks that America is ‘God’s country’. God’s one and only theocracy in recorded history was Israel, and they ceased to exist as a God-sanctioned theocracy once the Day of Pentecost rolled around; Hebrews and Galatians make this very, very clear. America’s Founding Fathers may have paid lip service to Christianity, but a great many of them were Freemasons who belonged to an occultic fraternal order; it’s likely that Freemasonry was a bigger influence on our Constitution than the Bible. (We only added the phrase ‘under God’ to our vaunted ‘Pledge of Allegiance’ because we were looking to differentiate ourselves from the Russian Communists of the 1950’s. Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge, wrote it to further the cause of unquestioned socialist rule.)

I’m not up here trying to ‘reclaim America for Christ’, as my fellow Virginian Pat Robertson would put it. Rather, I want to examine where we went wrong, because I think there’s a personal application there for us Christians. There’s an application that matters in our personal lives, regardless of what does or doesn’t happen to the world around us.

One of my all-time favorite movies ever is Disney’s ‘The Lion King’. Anyone seen that one? It’s the story of a lion cub who’s chased away from his pride, and he ends up being raised by a meerkat and a warthog, ‘way off in the African Jungle.

But when he comes of age, the ghost of his father comes to him in a dream and he tells him, ‘you have forgotten who you are, and so have forgotten me.’ And then he proposes a solution to the problem, a very, very, simple one: ‘REMEMBER who you are!’

That’s where America went wrong, on both and individual and collective level. We forgot who we are. Not as Americans, but as people. As Americans, we were only ever skeptics and conquerors, and that’s probably not worth remembering. We have made a national pastime of paying lip service to God while disobeying His commandments. There’s nothing worth remembering there. No, I’m saying we Americans have forgotten who we were meant to be in God’s eyes. We forgot our place in creation.

Soooooo…. Who are we?

The question of ‘who are we?’ is a very basic question… a question so fundamental that God answers it for us at the very beginning of his story. Therefore, we need to look in Genesis, in those early chapters where God explains to us who He is, who we are, and what the relationship should be between the two.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…’ That tells us everything we need to know about God, right there. He is God. He made everything. Therefore, he gets to define right, wrong, good, evil, and that without question. Everything else that scripture says about God is just an expansion on the idea laid out in Genesis 1:1. And that begins to tell us who we are. Whoever we were meant to be, we were meant to be only within the context of God’s plan. There’s nothing outside of that.

Then Man enters God’s plan: Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’  So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’.

And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.  Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food’; and it was so.  Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Interestingly, it seems that only Adam was made on the sixth day, or step. ‘male and female he created them’ and ‘be fruitful and multiply’ were added to this account simply to reiterate that God created all humanity. When you read the expanded account of the woman’s creation in Genesis 2, it’s a reasonably safe bet that Eve was created well after the seventh day.  Also notice that it was only Adam who was made in the image of God. The Greek word for Image is eikon, and its meaning goes well beyond looks. It means a ‘reflection’, or a ‘representation’.  Adam was the image of God, and Eve was the image of Adam. Paul reiterated this in 1 Corinthians 11:7, when he says that ‘man is the glory of God and that woman is the glory of man’.  The word eikon is used there as well to differentiate the nature of man and woman.

 So what are the roles associated with this description of creation? Adam and Eve are both told in Genesis that ‘they are to fill the earth, and to subdue it.’ In this they are given the same orders from God; their gender roles only become different when they are told HOW they are to subdue it. When God creates Eve, the account goes as follows: And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”  Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.  So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place.Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

And Adam said:

“This is now bone of my bones

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  

Adam is told, along with Eve, to subdue the earth, but Eve is designated as his helper.  Whatever Adam does, Eve is to be right there beside him. There is absolute equality between them in importance, in personhood, and they share an equal place in God’s plan. Just because Adam is the head of the relationship in no way diminishes Eve’s dignity or importance. And in obeying that God-ordained idea of marriage and social structure, you get stability, and strong families. Proper application of gender roles is how God meant to fill the earth, and subdue it.

To me, this is the beginning and the end of why America will be the next historic failure. We forgot Genesis 1 and 2. We began by forgetting the very beginning: God created the heavens and earth. Charles Darwin’s ‘origin of the species’ has been America’s accepted creation story for nearly a century now. (Darwin himself, by the way, realized the folly of the Theory of Evolution and recanted it shortly before his death. Social Darwinism leaves us nothing in the way of affirming personhood.) If men forget that they were made as eikons of God, and women as the glory of men, then we become faceless, nameless. If life came from nowhere, accidentally, then there is no dignity or importance attached to it. We have no hope, and ultimately nothing we do matters. In honoring God as the creator, we ourselves can rightly retain a shred of that honor as the pinnacle of his creation.  Particularly women, because Eve was the very last being God created. She was the icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the sundae, and the signature at the bottom of the painting. Women in particular should take great pride in being fashioned by God, because they are the artistic epitome of creation.

Once we lose sight of ourselves as God’s greatest creation, the roles assigned to us become muddied as well. I see this as something that became an epidemic in the 1960’s. God intended for men to be defined by their strength, and women by their purity. It’s an inarguable point that American men lack the propensity they once had for being leaders, and warriors. We are abdicating, en masse, our orders to subdue the earth. Simply put, we’re becoming lazy.

When men become lazy, we incite the woman’s sinful nature to usurp our positions as leaders. By the 1980’s in the US, it was thought very hip and cosmopolitan for a man to a hyper-sensitive pacifist, and for a woman to be a hard-driving feminists… the polar opposite of what they were created to be. By the 1990’s, not only were gender roles considered obsolete but gender itself was beginning to be considered passé. Phrases like ‘transgender’ were beginning to appear in newspaper articles and television clips.

By the 2000’s, surgically modified people began fighting for equal ‘rights’ and legal protection. Men are no longer men and women are no longer women. No one knows who they’re supposed to be anymore. This, and only this, I believe, is what has de-stabilized the American family. We’re raising fractured, dis-enfranchised children who make hobbies of things like shooting up their schools. We forgot who the men were supposed to be and who the women were supposed to be, and nothing good comes from that because that’s the basis of proper human interaction.  Every other social ill is just a symptom of that deeper problem.

It is my firm (although admittedly debatable) opinion that America is a lost cause; she is too crippled to survive much longer. Empires rise and empires fall, and we will not be the exception to the rule. We were once an immoral people. Immorality is knowing right from wrong, but choosing wrong. When that’s your state, you can recover. At least the immoral man knows right from wrong. But now we have become Amoral. Not only are we choosing wrong, we don’t even know what right is anymore.

There’s no surviving that.

But we Christians can and will survive. First of all, we have to always honor Genesis 1:1: God created the heavens and the earth. The Ecclesiast gave us a simple way to live for this very basic idea: Ecclesiastes 12 says this:  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,

For this is man’s all.

For God will bring every work into judgment,

Including every secret thing,

Whether good or evil.

To the men, the sons of Adam, Paul gives us this very basic commandment: Ephesians 5 says ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself’. Love is not a fuzzy feeling, as post-modern thought would have us believe. It’s act of will, the ability to place another’s needs above your own. Brothers, if you never fail to honor your wife’s need above your own, she will never be tempted to usurp your place as head of your household. She won’t want to, because she’ll trust you to care for her needs. The feminist movement is the direct result of men’s failure to lead well. We can’t stop the feminist movement in the world beyond our doors, but we can nip it in the bud in our own homes.

Regarding women, Paul says this in 1 Timothy 2: ‘And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.’ The wording of that verse is very, very archaic; I don’t have time to go into the Greek of it this morning, but I will paraphrase it in plain English because its point is very simple: Eve may have lost her honor by being deceived, but her daughters can restore it by faith, love, holiness, and self-control’. Not by protests, demonstrations, political activism, and discrimination lawsuits, but simply by being what God created them to be: Adam’s helper.

Social stability begins and ends with the home. If we as Christians can maintain that marital triad of God, man, and woman, we will have stable homes even though ‘they’ do not.  Our children will not shoot up the schools. Our households will be financially solvent, and our lives will make sense. America may crash and burn, but we will not. If we want to survive in a post-modern imperial collapse, we have to remember what we were created to be.

I realize this is probably a pretty depressing sermon. Remember, I’m Southern… we’re kinda hardwired to peach ‘hell n’ damnation’ . That’s why God promotes the idea of multiple teachers; we balance one another out.

But seriously, times they are a-changing’ and almost everyone agrees it ain’t for the better. We have to maintain a strong sense of ourselves, or we won’t survive …

In this world, or the next.

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