These past weeks, I have devoted myself to a renewed fresh study of the biblical text. My aim has been simple: to look at the ancient record of God’s dealings with ancient Israel and the lessons that we can learn from them as today’s Christians who are living at a time when a great exodus from the faith is a daily norm. Surprisingly, I have become more convinced that in an age where religious Christianity is on the rise, genuine spirituality is rapidly declining and suffering demise if the real prophetic voice of the Lord is unheeded. I am not referring to modern religious leaders who have assumed prophetic titles on themselves, but rather, am appealing to the prophetic voice of the Scriptures, for God has spoken, who cannot hear?
Most people today seem to have grown indifferent to the Bible, the only official inspired, true, inerrant and authoritative word of God on this planet. They have let go of the biblical text because it seem to be in direct contradiction to modern day religious beliefs and practices. As a result, many have invented their own sayings which they have equated to God’s word and have either stripped the Bible of its authority, denied it or utterly rejected it. Some have not out rightly rejected it but rather, they have chosen to twist it to their own destruction. Others still, have chosen it as one of their collections of modern day good religious books but not necessarily the word of God.
I am of the opinion that, if true spirituality is to exist among the churches of our generation, we need to first reexamine the question of authority in our spiritual lives. Where do we derive our authority from? To whom do we turn to in the midst of a faith crisis? When all voices speak at once with unclear and undistinguishable sounds, what mode or rule of measurement can we use to determine the true from the false, the counterfeit from the genuine? Sadly, to most people, God has given us the Holy Spirit and there is no longer need for the Bible, its teachings or instruction. In some cases, modern day prophets have emerged with some boisterous revelations with the mouth like that of the antichrist who speaks proud and boastful words against the God of heaven who has given us his word.
What is your foundation as a Christian? Is it rooted in God or in man? The Bible is God’s revealed word and it seeks to bring man to God, the owner and source of the bible’s message. The Bible though written in ages past has a universal application and it calls all people to come and hear God’s published news, for God has spoken and the summon to hearing and obedience cannot be overlooked. The apostle Paul has clearly indicated that whatever was written in the Bible was written for our learning, and the examples are of important significance to us because of the time in which we live. We are in the end times and the coming of the Lord will be soon But while many have looked down with eager anticipation to a glorious move of the Spirit that will usher in an end-time spiritual harvest, the Holy Spirit has clearly spoken and forewarned about last days’ events.
The last days are perilous, evil, and full of all forms of unimaginable iniquity and a falling away from the faith. Strangely, they are days of mass deception that happens in the name of Christ. Those who practice evil and imagine all kinds of evil and abominations do so in a religious spirit and attitude, either knowingly or unknowingly serving the devil’s agenda. The church is in a great crisis for many of the leaders, the shepherds of the flock are not who we tend to think they are. Some are devil’s agents masquerading as ministers of the gospel and in more subtle and cunning ways; they have managed to deceive the saints who have fallen prey to their schemes. It bleeds my heart to see that the majority of believers are content with the spiritual crisis that is prevalent in our days. Likewise, some pastors have aligned themselves to the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The situation is so terrible. But we need to ask, what has led to the culmination of these events? Is it that I and others have lost sight of some spiritual realities or we have become so biased? Is the apologist, the polemicist or theologian a foe of established religious institutions and is the quest of bringing people back to God an unsanctioned ministry?
Is there a new kind of spiritual phobia in the religious atmosphere? I have been silently observing the phenomena and I am convinced that what we are witnessing now may be the beginning of something worse than what the churches have ever experienced before. Why? You may ask. Have you noticed that among church leaders today, those who speak against error, false teaching and sound doctrine are reduced and marginalized? They are regarded as religious misfits and spiritual cry babies. They are under the penalty of a bad name syndrome as names that describe their unfit spiritual status to judge spiritual things are attached to them. We often hear people call us names because of our outright rejection of spiritual fanaticism, a Christianity that is devoid of Christ, rule of principle. The zealous but misguided religionists who think they are more spiritual than us feel disturbed by our constant pleas to return to the simplicity of the Bible, to doctrine and an honest contention for the faith.
Like the reformers, we as modern day contenders of the faith are calling back the people to the faith that was once for all delivered. There is no new faith, new hope or new power; only the old time Gospel of Christ and him crucified. If the churches neglect the book of Christ, they will also neglect the Christ of the book. Today, an overemphasis of the Spirit and his work is prevalent in most Pentecostal and charismatic circles. But what we need is to ask and call for serious reflection and honest introspection. In this article, and succeeding articles, I will explore the idea of apostasy and its implications among God’s people today. I am going to explore a critical theme From God to the Prophet: A Shift of Allegiance among Christians Today as a critical factor in understanding the current spiritual phenomena of apostasy. Drawing from the biblical passages and Israel record, I will seek to look at events that led to Israel’s apostasy and how these can be traced in the modern day church.
Denial of God
It is unthinkable today to anticipate a denial of God among Christians especially as we recall that the name they bear shows an allegiance to Christ. The word “Christian” is derived from the word Christ which implies that believers in Christ share in the same anointing with Christ. In other words, they have become one with Christ and their derivation is Christ. Christ is the Head of the body while all the believers make up the universal part of Christ’s body wherever they are in this world. Thus, it is not easily conceivable that those who profess to be Christians can deny Christ or God. But shockingly, the biblical record clearly says that is a given. In other words, the biblical record has many cases of people who profess to know God and yet deny him. Thus, in the final analysis, God can be denied by anyone who claims to have been called by God or to be his servant. This may appear to be strange for most of my readers, but, those who have acquainted themselves with the biblical narratives can easily see how this happens.
Israel Denies God
When God called the nation of Israel, His intention was for Israel to be His own special people, a holy nation that would show all the nations of the world how to be faithful and serve God in the midst of a perverse generation. God’s choice was not a result of Israel’s choosing, rather, it was in accordance with His eternal purposes. The covenant relationship that was initiated by God would regulate the dealings of Him and his people. The blessings and prosperity of national Israel depended on their faithfulness in keeping God’s covenant. If Israel would submit fully to God and obey his commands, then the Lord would be Israel’ God. However, if they chose to reject His words, it was ruled as disobedience, rebellion and rejection of God.
To ensure his leadership and rule among his people, God gave to the nation of Israel priests, kings and prophets who each in his own unique way would keep representing God to man and reminding man how they are to be ever conscious of God and his presence in this world. This essential component would serve as a reminder of God’s eternal presence among his people. While the Ark of the Covenant could have been thought of the ark of his presence, and the tabernacle as God’s dwelling place, it is incumbent for the student of Scripture to see that God’s main purpose was to dwell not in tents or boxes but among His people and in His people. Thus, the presence of God among His people would be a distinct mark that would separate them from the nations of the world. Israel was revered as the people of God whom God had chosen to be the receptors of His divine presence amidst the idolatrous nations.
In His foreknowledge, He foresaw a time when Israel would be unfaithful to his covenant and sought to reject him. They would choose to be like other nations and reject his laws and his rule. As a result, he gave provisions that had to do with governing and regulating them even at a point in time when they would have chosen to reject him. We should understand that God had clearly indicated that He loved Israel with an everlasting love and the judgments and calamities that befell Israel were all within the bounds of His love to chastise and discipline his bride even though most of his warnings were ignored. As a result, He often spoke of the remnant of Israel who would return to the Lord and be saved. One of the provisions had to do with kings, and proper guidelines that had to do with monarchial rule were written in his law. Hs desire was to be the King of Israel and Israel was to be a theocratic nation.
When Moses, Joshua and some early leaders of Israel died, there usually was a crisis in Israel as people forgot and forsook the Lord. As a result, he handed them over to their enemies who oppressed them and smashed them until they remembered and called upon the Lord God of their fathers. These judgments were acts of God’s mercy though they appear to be harsh and unloving, yet they were all within the confines of his love. It was God’s rod of correction for his wayward people. The last of the Judges that the Lord gave them was a priest and a prophet, Samuel who ministered before the Lord at Shiloh. During his days, the nation of Israel made a very foolish decision: to be like the nations that God had said were evil. Israel thought that its troubles were a result of not having a monarch. Even though the Lord was their King, they were not satisfied. They wanted a human King whom they could control, manipulate and use. They had been sore afraid of God and could not use God to do their bidding. Thus, they cried and rejected Samuel who represented God’s kingship and rule in Israel. “Give us a king”, they had cried and God though grieved and wept for them, had to give in to their demands. He however, had to warn them as t the consequences of their action, but still, the nation had spoken and bound itself to evil. Therefore, God gave them the desires of their own hearts.
We should bear in mind that God’s approval of the nation’s request was not because it was a righteous request. Rather, God’s spirit does not usually contend with man for he is flesh. God’s justice requires that man be given a fair hearing and a fair trial. For this to happen, his choices have to be respected. At times, in His sovereignty, God overrides some decisions that are detrimental to His purposes in some unique ways, but at times, He simply appears to withdraw from the scenes and works behind the curtains. But yet still, in the final analysis, His purposes cannot be thwarted. Thus, Israel rejected God. It rejected His word, his voice and his rule. They asked for a man, a symbol of man’s rule and flawed judgments and God granted their desire. They sought a new religious system that had man’s authority and tradition devoid of God, and God granted them. Israel rejoiced when their first human king, carnal and indifferent to the Spirit appeared. Here was Saul, the choice of their choosing.
As to the qualities of Saul, a clear biblical portrait of him shows a king who was disobedient, stubborn and evil. Here was a man who was quick to act when God has not spoken. Here stands the king who usurped the priestly office, impatient and a liar. Instead of fully obeying God’s voice, He partially gave himself to religious duties only as a ritual not as a spiritual obligation. He was selfish; he thought only of himself. Surprisingly, he sought to serve God with accursed things, those things that were meant for total destruction from the presence of the Lord. The condition of his heart was evil, stubborn and rebellious. But yet, here stood the choice of the flesh, Saul the first king of Israel.
In my next article, I will pursue this issue further, looking for points of similarity and comparison and draw an application for the contemporary church in Africa, especially in view of the current religious trends that have led to a rejection of God while most of the church folk still think they are serving God. I still content that the current spiritual crisis is so deep. Our allegiance has dramatically shifted from God to prophets, from God to man, and this series of articles will explore the issues further. Blessing!