Israel had been plagued by a line of kings who had abandoned the Lord as had the whole land of Israel. They had accepted the gods of the surrounding peoples, and their morals had fallen to an all-time low. The prophet Hosea describes it this way:
There is no faithfulness, no love
No acknowledgement of God in the land.
There is only cursing, lying and murder,
Stealing and adultery;
They break all bounds,
And bloodshed follows bloodshed.
The prophet’s condemnations go on and on. Then God says through the prophet’s mouth: “Hear this, you priests! Pay attention you Israelites! Listen, O royal house! This judgment is against you . . . .”
The judgment was that the King of Assyria invaded Israel and after a three-year siege, captured the place, took away 27,000 of its people to Assyria and populated the area with Assyrians. The Israelites never returned!
The time—586 B.C. The place—Judah, the southern kingdom of the Holy Land, with its capital in Jerusalem. The event—the capture of the southern kingdom by the Babylonians.
Oddly enough, the same religious and moral decline occurred in Judah as had occurred in Israel. The prophet Isaiah says:
See how the faithful city
has become a harlot!
She was once full of justice;
Righteousness used to dwell in her--
but now murderers!
Your rulers are rebels,
companions of thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
The widow’s case does not come before them.
Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty,
the Mighty One of Israel declares:
Ah, I will get my relief from my foes
and I will avenge myself on my enemies.
I will have my turn against you;
I will thoroughly purge away your dross
and remove your impurities. (Is 1:21 and 23–25)
The Prophet Jeremiah tried to warn the country, but prophesied:
The Lord said to me, “From the north disaster will be poured out on all who live in the land. I am about to summon all the peoples of the northern kingdoms,” declares the Lord.
Their kings will come and set up their thrones
in the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem;
they will come against all their surrounding walls
and against all the towns of Judah.
I will pronounce my judgments on my people
because of their wickedness in forsaking me,
in burning incense to other gods
and in worshipping what their hands have made.
Things had gotten so bad that King Manasseh even returned to human sacrifice in the Temple itself! The prophet Jeremiah tried to do penance to avert God’s punishment. He put an iron yoke on himself and preached to the people to show what slaves they had become. But they had him scourged and put into prison.
The result of this abandoning of God by Judah was the invasion by the Babylonians, the destruction of the Temple, and the exile of her citizens to Babylon which really began in 605 and ended in 539 B.C., when the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland.
These two events are not mere historical curiosities. They are real historical and theological events which contain a great deal for us to learn. The United States was founded as a Christian nation (though not Catholic, the country had, over the years, a great many Catholics in it and has been influenced by them). In a similar vein, no one from the 1600s onward would even think of allowing the things to go on that we learn of now every day. Rampant illegitimacy, the sexual revolution, birth control and abortion, publicly extolled homosexuality, the commonality of divorce, and 22 million Catholics who have left the faith over the last few decades. This is not to mention the anti-life Catholic politicians that seem to be a dime a dozen today, and a president who is the most pro-abortion president we have ever had, and a socialist to boot.
The pattern is clear. It is similar to that of both Israel and Judah. Adherents of the true faith at the time, they slowly drifted away. Things got more outrageous until eventually God had to abandon them to their enemies.
But the reason God did this is very instructive. Look at what God told the prophet Ezekiel:
Again the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. . . . So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it by their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, “These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.” I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they had gone. (Ex:36, 16–21, my emphasis)
Notice that God punished the chosen people because of His holy name. His people were acting like they were not his. The United States, founded on a Christian basis, slowly but surely has moved away from its Christian foundations, and many Catholics have cooperated in this betrayal. On the basis of this whole situation—the defection of the holy land, the exile, now the ebbing away of beliefs and morals in the United States—what are we to conclude? Is it possible that the problems we have are all coincidence: radical Islam, confusion at home, attacks on Christianity worldwide, our economic problems and the growing statism in the country?
Next time, I will take a look at the twentieth century. In the meantime, it would be beneficial for the reader to prayerfully read the books of the Bible which refer to these events discussed in this section: the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel, Hosea, and 2 Kings.