Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Depravity and the Sword

I was astonished this morning when I read in the news about the high school girl in California who was sexually assaulted by multiple attackers for approximately 2 ½ hours…outside the school gym at a homecoming dance.  Police believe that as many as 15 people watched the attack without a single soul helping her or calling the police.  She was found unconscious under a bench some time around midnight, and flown to a hospital in critical condition.

It could be said that our several decades of devaluing human life and celebrating sexual sin are catching up with us.  But we must be careful not to mistake the fruit for the root.  At the heart of the problem that is now manifesting itself in the increasing degradation of our culture is not the moral issues of life and purity, but rather the overt crescendo of the nation’s rejection of God Himself.  Rejection of God is the root.  Immorality is the fruit.

So how long will this go on?  How long will it worsen?  There’s no way to know for sure, but I believe this looks more like the end than the beginning.  As I read this news story I immediately thought of two passages of Scripture, Judges 19 and Romans 1.  The atrocity that took place at the California high school mirrors elements of these passages, both of which depict human depravity at its worst. 

Judges 19 comes toward the end of the book.  The first sixteen chapters tell the story of Israel’s cycle of sin: Israel rejects God and whores after idols, God raises up a foreign people to oppress Israel, Israel cries out to God for help, God has compassion on Israel and raises up a deliver to save the people, the deliver eventually dies, Israel again rejects God and whores after idols, etc.  With each cycle, the judges used by God to save Israel become less and less virtuous.  After chapter 16, no more judges are sent.  Israel simply stews in its own sinful degradation.  An editorial comment is repeated several times that sums up the condition of the nation, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (17:6).

Chapter 19 shows Israel at its worst.  A sojourning Levite and his concubine are shown hospitality in the home of an old man in the city of Gibeah.  Benjaminites of the city come and pound on the door demanding that the old man send out the Levite so that they might gang rape him.  In lieu of this, the old man sends out the concubine whom the men then rape and abuse all night until the morning.  Neither the Levite nor the old man do anything to help her.  In the morning she is dead. 

From there the story becomes even more gruesome.  The shocking nature of the crime and the far reaching consequences of it underscore how far Israel had fallen.  In a book intended to show how badly the people needed a King, this account is the climax. 

Romans 1:18ff similarly shows what happens when men reject God.  Their rejection of God always entails the worship of false gods, which leads to self-worship, which leads to sexual immorality, which leads to the wholesale embrace of the base sexual perversion of homosexuality.  In the end, God gives them over to a depraved mind.  Their lives are characterized by “all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Their celebration of sin is described in this way: “Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

What is the purpose of this passage of Scripture?  To demonstrate man’s universal need for a Savior.  So we see that Judges 19 and Romans 1 serve the same purpose.  They show that man needs a King, that man needs a Savior. 

Accordingly, what should we recognize about our culture when we see news stories like the one I read this morning?  First, our culture is as base as any people depicted in Scripture.  All the sexual perversions mentioned in Lev 20?  We’ve got it and then some.  Child sacrifice to the false god Molech, also mentioned in Lev 20?  We have legalized child sacrifice to the false god of convenience.  So even though we may think our culture is more enlightened than the pagan cultures found in the Bible, we are no better.  If anything, we are worse.

Second, such depravity exposes this culture’s desperate need for a King and Savior.  New laws won’t save us.  New social programs won’t save us.  Better education won’t save us.  New leadership from either side of the aisle won’t save us.  There is only one way of salvation.  It is the same way setup up by the writer of Judges and the writer of Romans – Jesus Christ alone can transform a man who epitomizes human depravity into a new creation, holy and blameless before God.

Let’s not allow the evidence of our culture’s degradation drive us to despair, inactivity, or silence.  Now is not the time to be quiet and reserved and resigned.  Apathetic resignation to our nation’s spiritual decline is conduct unbecoming of God’s warriors in the church.  As God’s Word revealed to us on Sunday, we have been given a sword – the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God.  And right now, today, exactly where we are, we have been tasked with swinging it.  The evil that we see today is the same potential for evil that existed in our hearts before Christ saved us.  Praise God we succumbed to the Sword then.  It is just as living and active and sharp today.  The decline of culture should move us to bring it to bear right where we are.

When He returns, let Him not find us reading the news and shaking our heads.  Instead, let Him find us tirelessly swinging the blessed Sword.

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