The Spiritual Dilemma that Afflicted Israel
Text: Matthew 2:1-23
How do we understand how the chief priests and scribes ended up with such a state of unbelief? This problem of unbelief is not a new problem. A closer look at some of the prophetic literature would reveal the fact that this spiritual dilemma had afflicted Israel for centuries!
THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF ISRAEL IN THE DAYS OF THE PROPHETS
The prophets lamented long and loud over the spiritual deadness of the ancient nation of Israel. Let us consider some of the statements they made against Israel when they ministered as prophets! Let us look at the statements of two outstanding prophets, Jeremiah and Hosea.
Jeremiah the Prophet:
1. No genuine searching for God
a) The general populace
“Neither did they say, ‘Where is the Lord…'” Jeremiah 2:6
b) The priests
“The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?'” Jeremiah 2:8
c) The teachers
“And those who handle the law did not know Me…”Jeremiah 2:8
(This was essentially the priests, though there were others who taught the law to the nation)
2. The problem of Backsliding
Jeremiah knew that the underlying problem was one of perpetual backsliding. This problem was boldly highlighted to the nation. He minced no words when he preached on this subject of backsliding.
“Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done?”
‘”Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord.”
“Return, you backsliding children,
And I will heal your backslidings.”
3. General spiritual ignorance
God decried the general low spiritual state of the nation of Israel.
“For My people are foolish,
They have not known Me.
They are silly children,
And they have no understanding.
They are wise to do evil,
But to do good they have no
Hosea the Prophet:
He had similar words to say about the spiritual condition of Israel.
“There is no truth or mercy
Or knowledge of God in the land…”
“And it shall be: like people, like priests.
So I will punish them for their ways.”
THE MINISTRY OF THE LAST PROPHET OF ISRAEL
Malachi was the last prophet that God sent to Israel, before the lapse of 400 silent years. The next prophetic voice that Israel would hear would be that of the forerunner of the Messiah.
A careful reading of the Book of Malachi would indicate that the problems Jeremiah combated in his time continued to prevail in Israel! Despite the fact that Israel suffered a 70-year exile because of the many gross sins committed in the land, the nation did not appear to have learned much.
The Book of Malachi singled out the fact that the priests were very much to be blamed for the spiritual dilemma of the nation.
“‘For the lips of the priests should keep
And people should seek the law from his
For he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
But you have departed from the way;
You have caused many to stumble at the
You have corrupted the covenant of
Says the Lord of hosts.”
THE SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF ISRAEL IN THE DAYS OF JESUS
The spiritual condition of Israel in the days of Jesus was anything but cheery. The words preached by Jeremiah, Hosea or Malachi could easily be applied to the nation of Israel in the days of Jesus!
The prophets of old lamented over the spiritual condition of Israel. But all of them carried a message of hope. Micah was one of those who never failed to point Israel to the day when God would send His Messiah to redeem the nation. Jesus was that Messiah!