When King Solomon died, Israel splintered into two parts. Though Judah was still faithful to the house of David, most of the tribes chose Jeroboam as their king. He led Israel away from God. In spite of brief periods of reform, the ten tribes drifted farther and farther away. As their political fortunes declined, it was clear that their days were numbered.
However, during the reign of Jeroboam II, the nation experienced a political and economic resurgence. Jeroboam “restored the border of Israel from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah” (2 Kings 14:25) and prosperity returned to the land.
All was not as well as it appeared. The prophets pointed to the nation’s moral decay. The Lord cried out, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river; righteousness like a never-failing stream” (Amos 5:21-24).
Israel was corrupt. Her prosperity was illusionary. In less than fifty years she would be carried into captivity, never to return. David had declared, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). Israel died because her outward prosperity masked her real spiritual condition.
There is a lesson in this for today’s church. Our relationship with God is not determined by our house of worship, our Sunday morning attendance, nor the size of our contributions. The church can manifest outward signs of growth while spiritually drifting from God. The post-apostolic church grew rapidly and eventually conquered Rome, but in the process it slipped off the foundation of the apostles and prophets and apostasy resulted.
We must continually re-examine our beliefs, morals, and attitudes in the light of God’s eternal Word. There is a danger in allowing the thinking of preceding generations to become the norm against which truth is measured. The restoration of the apostolic teachings is a never-ending process. When we think we have arrived, it is usually a sign that we are off the foundation. And “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Monroe E. Hawley