Not Bowing to Baal

Illustration: We are over halfway through March 2021 and property in some American cities continues to be burned to the ground. This week it is Portland … again. Portland’s federal courthouse is again barricaded. Around it are border fences and T-walls. Why? Because Portland’s elected politicians decided the wise thing to do was to defund their police. The result surprised no one who recognizes the spiritual rebellion characteristic of the mob. Rioters shattered glass windows with steel poles, spray painted federal property in graffiti, and set the facility ablaze.

And if you listened to folks not directly affected, you may have heard some comments like the following:

  • “They asked for it; let it burn.”
  • “They voted for lawlessness; well, this is what lawlessness looks like.”
  • “They don’t want cops? Okay then. They made their bed. Let them lie in it.”

It is heartbreaking to hear things like this. But comments like this are growing more common. A coarsening is taking place. There is a great sifting taking place. There is a separation taking place. And people are dividing. It is blatant. Just pay attention to what people are actually saying and doing.

To state the obvious, we are in a spiritual crisis. There is a spiritual famine in the land. It is actually worse than that. Why? Because it is self-inflicted. We are a culture hostile to God, his revelation in the Bible, Judeo-Christian values, and to the foundations that have undergirded the West for centuries.

“No more of that!” the mobs scream. They demand “progress,” while they loot your cities. See how well that progress is working out? Just go to Portland. It’s the new Eden. 

Godless mobs do what they have always done: steal, kill, and destroy. Property, life, civilization, art, culture, law, beauty, safety, etc., the mobs don’t care. No self-restraint, no self-discipline, and certainly no responsibility. And hard work? No, that’s systemically oppressive, don’t you know? The 20-year olds Tweet on their iPhones their mommies bought. They’re the enlightened ones, don’t you know? If they don’t have what they want, they scream, “I’m oppressed!” and point in derision at the freest country the world has ever known.  

Segue: Like most of the people with whom I associate, I am a patriot. I love my country. I have read and love the Founding Fathers, and many of the documents they produced. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the U.S. Constitution are magnificent world-changing documents that the mobs neither know nor care to know. They just want power. And, folks, as alarmist or paranoid as this may sound, I don’t see this ending well unless there is a biblical revival. I don’t mean a patriotic emotional flag-waving jingoism. No, I mean a God-sent biblical revival wherein we plead for God to spare a nation under divine judgment.

Connection: In Romans 11, Paul wrote extensively about Israel. God had chosen a remnant of people out of his sheer grace. Why? To bear witness to the glory of God. The nation had mostly rejected Jesus as Messiah. They did not want God or his rule over their lives. Most wanted to remain in their rebellion. Sound familiar?

Paul grieved over the spiritual malaise, the rebellion, and the destruction. The first five verses of Romans 11 are deeply moving. But pay special attention to verses 4-5:

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.” But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” So the at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace (Rom 11:1-5, ESV).

Encouragement: When most of Paul’s fellow Jews wanted nothing to do with God, with Christ the God-man, Paul wrote and reminded those with ears to hear: God has “kept for [him]self seven thousand men who ha[d] not bowed the knee to Baal” (v.4). That was a reference to Elijah’s ministry in the Old Testament. How was that possible? They had been “chosen by grace” (v.5).

This world, we must remember, is passing away. If it weren’t the mobs now, it would be divine judgment later. Why? Because life is, ultimately, quite serious and God will not be mocked. Rebellion and sin merit justice.

And do you really want justice? Have you thought about what justice means from holy God?

These vapid mobs scream about justice but I have rather serious doubts they have thought much about it. “Justice,” we need to understand, is rooted in the Latin iustitia, which means “righteousness.” It means “right order, the rewarding to everyone of that which is his due.” And what is due us sinners? Judgment. Let that sink in. I know that doesn’t get thumbs up and likes on social media, but that is because it is the truth. And when truth shows up, people tend to crucify it. That is the way of mobs.

Takeaway: But Paul reminded those with ears to hear that there was a remnant. Seven thousand, chosen by grace, had not bowed the knee to the idol, Baal, in Elijah’s day. And there is a remnant still, beloved. But it requires you to acknowledge that justice is inseparable from God himself. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:31, ESV). The wrath and judgment of God are not popular ear-tickling truths, but they are truths nonetheless. And I contend that we need to pay attention, to speak and live the truth, and to ask ourselves if we have counted the costs of rejecting God and his gospel. A beautiful way to begin might sound like this: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

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