by Al Maxey

Issue #671 ------- August 14, 2015
Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb,
Take this new treasure to thy trust,
And give these sacred relics room
To seek a slumber in the dust.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)

The Guilt Of National Stupidity
Judgment Against Insufferable Insensitivity

If you have never done an in-depth study of the prophecy of Isaiah, you owe it to yourself to do so. It is a powerful testimony to both the kindness and severity of our God: kindness toward those who love Him and severity toward those who have chosen to oppose Him at every turn. There is much in this prophetic work that points to the coming Messiah, and much that also points the nation to coming judgment. It exposes the social and religious hypocrisy of God's people, and it calls them to national repentance. As we know, the nation did not respond to this offer of grace, and it suffered greatly as a result. Sadly, in such cases of national judgment, the innocent suffer the consequences of that judgment along with the incorrigible, just as they do when natural disasters come upon the land. God does not promise that His righteous ones will not experience the storms of life, nor does He promise they will not at times suffer and die in those storms, but He does promise that He will reward them at some point and in some manner for their faithfulness and endurance. As the Lord told the afflicted near the end of the first century A.D., "Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. ... Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10). I like the way Matthew Henry (1662-1714) phrased this truth: "Righteousness delivers from the sting of death, but not from the stroke of it" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].

In times of great affliction, whether individual or national, mankind (both the wicked and the righteous) is called to introspection and reflection. These are sobering times in our lives, and sobering times in the life of a nation. God longs to bless a nation, but He will not do so if they persist in their willful rejection of and opposition to Him. If a nation does not repent, it will face divine judgment, and that will not be pleasant for any within its borders (although the righteous will face such temporal judgments against their land with the assurance of blessings that transcend their temporal circumstances). The Lord God informed King Solomon, after he had finished the temple, that there would be times when it would become necessary for Him to send judgments against His people. He then said, "If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chron. 7:14). We have a very patient God, "who does not wish for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Sadly, we know from history that many nations chose, and continue to choose to this day, to push God away, and to actually seek to remove Him from their land. For such nations there is only one ultimate fate: divine judgment! And it will be severe!

Yet, even with such severe temporal judgments imminent, hovering on the horizon, God still sends forth men and women to speak for Him to these impenitents in the hope that perhaps a few may still flee to His embrace for spiritual safety in the coming storm. Isaiah was such a man of God who spoke for God to the nation. In his prophecy, Isaiah addressed a number of issues, both social and spiritual in nature. Near the end of his written work, however, he made an interesting observation about the sin of national insensitivity, one that, frankly, could be made about our own nation today. Isaiah 57:1a states, "The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands" (ESV). This passage has puzzled people over the years, yet it conveys a rather simple message: when a nation turns from God, and when they are focused only on self, they become completely insensitive to the plight of others, especially the plight of those who do not share their godless choices. As a nation turns more and more away from God, the righteous will more and more suffer as a result. Yet, the nation (its wicked leaders and those who follow them) is insensitive: they could not care less what happens to the people of God, and indeed will reach a point where they actually rejoice at their oppression, suppression and elimination. Revelation, in very figurative language, describes this scene, saying the wicked of the earth "will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents" (Rev. 11:10). When the devout are removed from their presence by an afflicting government, when the righteous are destroyed in their midst, they do not "lay it to heart" and they have no understanding of what is happening within their nation, and what is about to happen at the hands of a God whose patience has run out! It is spiritual blindness; gross insensitivity; the crime of national stupidity!

The prophet Ezekiel told the people of God, "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore, I did away with them" (Ezekiel 16:49-50). There was large-scale insensitivity to the needs and plight of others; they cared only for themselves. They grew more and more wicked, and less and less concerned about God, His will, or His people. The righteous suffer -- who cares?! The devout are oppressed -- so what?! Good men die -- big deal, pass the beer! "'Come,' each one cries, 'let me get wine! Let us drink our fill of beer! And tomorrow will be like today, or even far better!'" (Isaiah 56:12). This was the statement immediately preceding our text (Is. 57:1a). The nation no longer cared. Indeed, they gathered for themselves false prophets who would prophesy more abundant pleasures for them, tickling their ears with the promise of even more enticing perversions, while God and His righteous ones were forgotten (or openly persecuted). The prophet Micah lamented this very fact, saying, "If a liar and deceiver comes and says, 'I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer,' he would be just the prophet for this people!" (Micah 2:11).

In some ways, those righteous men, women and children who died during this time were blessed, for they were spared having to endure further affliction (both physical and emotional). Isaiah points this out in the very next statement after our text: "For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness" (Isaiah 57:1b-2). Jesus talks about such national judgment in Matthew 24, and describes that particular coming storm as extremely severe, and that the nation as a whole would be uncaring and unconcerned: "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matt. 24:12-13). God will give peace to His righteous, devout ones, even though they may suffer and die at the hands of the wicked or in the temporal judgments He pours upon the nation. "They rest in their beds," simply means they sleep in the grave, safely away from those who would harm them physically; safe in the arms of their Father. They rest in peace, while the world above them progresses closer by the day to the pit of destruction. "The hand of wrong and oppression can reach these persecuted followers of God no more" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 4, p. 213]. The afflicted Job longed to be "hidden in the ground," for it was "there the weary are at rest" (Job 3:16-17).

"In Is. 57:2 it is intimated that the righteous man and the pious do not lose the blessings of salvation because they lose this life: for whereas, according to the prophet's watchword, there is no peace to the wicked, it is true, on the other hand, of the departing righteous man, that 'he enters into peace.' The grave, when compared with the restlessness of this life, is therefore 'peace.' He who has died in faith rests in God, to Whom he has committed himself and entrusted his future" [Drs. Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 7: Isaiah, part 2, p. 368]. Paul echoed this trust from his prison cell just weeks before his own execution, stating he was not ashamed of his suffering, "because I know Whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted unto Him until that Day" (2 Tim. 1:12). Yes, in nations that turn from God there is deep insensitivity to the fate of the righteous: the wicked don't care. As Micah laments, "The godly have been swept from the land" (Micah 7:2). But, these wicked ones are also insensitive to their own fate! The Day of the Lord is coming, and may already be upon them in some ways, and yet they persist in fattening themselves for slaughter. They sweep the righteous from the land, not realizing that, as they do so, "The day of your punishment has come!" (Micah 7:4).

The sin of the nation at the time of Isaiah, and his fellow prophets, in the words of the early American theologian Albert Barnes (1798-1870), was this: "The nation was stupid and insensible. ... The nation was sunk in deep and deplorable stupidity" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. The Welsh theologian Matthew Henry, previously quoted in this Reflections, concurs, writing, "The prophet shows the general stupidity and senselessness of the people" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. Dr. Barnes goes on to say about our text: "The sentiment of the passage is, that it is proof of great stupidity and guilt when people see the righteous die without concern. If the pious die by persecution and others are not aroused, it shows that they acquiesce in it, or have no confidence in God, and no desire that His people should be preserved; if they die in the ordinary mode and the people are unaffected, it shows their stupidity. The withdrawment of a pious man from the earth is a public calamity. His prayers, his example, his life, were among the richest blessings of the world, and people should be deeply affected when they are withdrawn; and it shows their guilt and stupidity when they see this with indifference. It increases the evidence of this guilt when, as is sometimes the case, the removal of the righteous by death is an occasion of joy. The wicked hate the secret rebuke which is furnished by a holy life, and they often feel a secret exultation when such people die" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword].

"No one asks what it means; no one is disturbed; no one grieves. The general feeling was either one of indifference or of relief at the departure of those" who were righteous [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 10, part 2, p. 355]. Yes, the nation had become guilty of national stupidity and insufferable insensitivity. For this they would pay dearly! "When the suffering or downfall of good men causes no heart-searching, raises no problems, demands no explanation, it means that though religious observance may survive, faith in God has given place to a practical atheism. It is from this basic atheism that there spring all the other evils and abuses of which the prophet speaks" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 318]. The nation claimed to be "religious," but they had no clue. The leaders claimed to be "spiritual," but they too had no clue. "Israel's watchmen are blind, they all lack knowledge; they are all mute dogs, they cannot bark; they lie around and dream, they love to sleep. They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, each seeks his own gain" (Isaiah 56:10-11). As Ezekiel stated, they were "overfed and unconcerned." God and His people were, at best, an afterthought to their primary focus in life: self. Yes, they paid lip-service to God, when it was convenient or good business or good politics, but had no regard for Him or His will for their own lives or the direction of the nation. "True worship was to be more than religious ritual, going to the temple every day, fasting, and listening to Scripture readings. These people missed the point of a living, vital relationship with God" [Life Application Bible, footnote on p. 1267].

Let me transition from the past to the present, from their nation to our nation. America is in trouble; deep trouble. We have, to be perfectly blunt, far too many leaders who are stupid and insensitive leading far too many people who are stupid and insensitive. God is not welcome here; that is becoming increasingly obvious, and it is being demonstrated on a daily basis in countless disturbing ways! I am upset and I am angry!! I love this country, but I hate what it is becoming at the hands of those who have no love for God (or even for this country, for that matter). Godliness is scorned in this country, even from the highest offices in the land, and godlessness is celebrated from those same offices. When the White House was lit up in the colors of the rainbow our founding fathers turned over in their graves, and I longed to be in mine!! We're in trouble! And it's getting worse! We have a Supreme Court that dares to overrule the Supreme Being!! Can judgment be far off?! I think not. The righteous had better get ready, for the growing darkness around us is due for a Divine Visitation, and it is not going to be pleasant for anyone!

Therefore, I want to lend my voice to those other concerned citizens of this nation, those who truly love the Lord God, who are calling for the church and its pastors to "remain silent no longer," but rather speak up and speak out to the ills of our society, and against those who are sending our beloved country down a pathway to destruction. To my fellow pastors especially, I urge you to remember God's calling: "I have made you a watchman, ... so hear the word I speak and give them warning from Me" (Ezekiel 33:7). "Speak to your countrymen!" (Ezekiel 33:2). It just may be that we, as the mouthpieces of God, are the only thing right now holding back the unleashing of the full fury of His wrath against our society. Thus, may God give us the courage to speak boldly! If we choose not to stand firmly on the front line of this fight for faith, then I truly fear our fate is sealed as a nation. Let me be frank: I think Satan is doing all in his power to influence us, the Christian pastors, to remain silent, and he is quite subtle in his efforts to achieve this. I would ask each of you to please, please consider very carefully and prayerfully the following article: "Why American Preachers Will Not Unify Against The Anti-God White House" (Click Here to read this article). This is an article that will likely make you very uncomfortable ... and it should. It is an indictment against far too many of us, as we have fallen for some of Satan's subtle devices, seven of which are listed by this author (Mario Murillo) in this article. Brethren, dereliction of our duty to our calling could cost us our country!

Let me close by simply listing #7 in Murillo's indictment against the spineless pastors of the land. He writes, "I praise the faithful preacher, but I herewith indict the compromised preacher. As I said, you who are in the pews deserve to know why your minister refuses to speak out." Here is indictment #7 -- "Competition: Many preachers do not see their fellow ministers as brothers in arms. They see them as competition. They see them as predators of their people. Wanting the biggest church has blinded them to the fact that we are all in the same army; that we are on the same side. Some preachers actually relish the idea that their 'competitor' is losing members and suffering loss." While the churches compete with one another over which of them is "the one true church," our "one nation under God" is quickly becoming neither (i.e., united or under God). It is way past time for this wretched squabbling among spiritual siblings to forever cease, and for the Family of God to unite powerfully as One Body in Christ and confront the spirit of this world, and its many minions, helping restore this nation to the former greatness it had before the dark days when Stupidity and Insensitivity took office!!

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Readers' Reflections

From a Reader in California:
[This is the reader whose question inspired my article
on the death of Moses on Mount Horeb: Issue #670]

Thank you Very Much, Al. Oh, that is really fantastic. Well done and very appropriate. As it turns out, I'm preaching tomorrow on that same question (I get to preach once every four weeks). When I started to consider this passage I was really at a loss to understand God's purpose. But slowly He began to reveal that meaning to me, and you have added to that understanding, helping me to perceive His purpose even more abundantly, though, as you can imagine, I won't be able to fit all that information and insight into my sermon tomorrow. Also, it was really nice that you should start your article with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My sermon will deal quite a bit with the old negro spirituals that equate "crossing Jordan" with crossing over from death to life into His Kingdom. Like the slave preachers of the antebellum period and the reconstruction period, I'm attempting a sermon based more on experiencing the spirit of the Bible than intellectually grasping it. Thanks again for your Reflections article answering my question. You can't imagine my joy at seeing your email this morning!

From a Reader in Kansas:

You quoted Martin Luther King in Reflections #670 ("The Rock Strikes The Rock Striker: Musings on Moses' Death on the Mountain"). I have a bit of trouble with Martin Luther King. He was a philanderer of major proportions. Notice the following: "Under Kennedy and Johnson, phone-tapping increased markedly. So did executive 'bugging': the large-scale womanizing of the civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, was tapped (taped) and then played to newspaper editors" [Paul Johnson, "Modern Times: The History of the World from 1920 to 1990," p. 650]. Quoting Martin Luther King bothers me!

From a Reader in Virginia:

Hello, Al. I hope and pray that all is well with you and your family. It's been a while since I have written to you, but I still read your Reflections. I have learned so much from you, and have often used some of your material and insights for classes that I've been privileged to lead. Because of you, I have been freed from that "sectarian bondage" of which you speak. I am more prepared and secure in my faith than I ever have been. And because you were not worn down by the enemy, or too tired to keep fighting, many others like me have been freed to love the Lord without that weight of guilt that the "religiously correct" want to hang around our necks. I truly appreciate you and the writing/speaking ministry that God has blessed you with.

From a Reader in New Mexico:

Al, this is a "voice from the past." I worshipped with the Montgomery Blvd. Church of Christ in Albuquerque, New Mexico back in the early 2000's, and I met you there at a weekend revival at which you were speaking. I am currently living in the northern mountains of our state, and I'm teaching an adult Bible class at our little Baptist (semi-cowboy) congregation. Currently we are going through a study of Revelation, and I'm struggling with getting my arms around a good interpretation of this fascinating book. I strongly believe that God wouldn't have given it to us if we couldn't understand it. Do you have any recommendations for a good study of Revelation? By the way, I appreciate very much your Reflections, and I hope your message will continue to challenge some of our legalistic brethren!

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Bro. Maxey, Thank you so much for taking my call and taking the time to speak with me at length on the phone the other day about my struggle with my own legalism. I really appreciate all of your insight and wisdom. I would like to order a copy of your audio CD of your Sunday adult class: Law to Liberty: Reflecting on our Journey away from Legalism and into Freedom in Christ. In addition, please send your two CD set of your 14 week Sunday morning class: An In-Depth Study of the Epistle to the Galatians: The Magna Charta of Christian Liberty. My check for both is enclosed. I pray that God will richly bless you as well as your family and ministry.

From a Reader in Arkansas:

I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your Reflections articles that I have read. In so many ways you remind me of what I went through in growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ. I would imagine many of your readers could also say the same! I have been actively recommending to many of my fellow Christians that they email you and get themselves placed on your mailing list to receive your Reflections. Let's hope they do so! I am enclosing a check for your following CDs and books (which materials should keep me busy for a while!!):

  1. Down, But Not Out
  2. Immersed By One Spirit
  3. From Ruin To Resurrection
  4. The Debates of Al Maxey
  5. The Nature of Man and his Eternal Destiny
  6. Reflections: The Complete Collection

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

I have spoken to you a couple of times regarding baptism, and through these discussions and my own study I have come to believe the way you do (although my husband does not). Thank you so much for your help in understanding God's will for us. I keep thinking to myself: if "we" (Churches of Christ) were wrong about baptism, it's possible "we" have been wrong about other things also! So, I am reading and studying continually. Also, I would like to purchase your new CD of your Bible class on The Church. Thank you.

From a Reader in [Unknown]:

Al, I must admit that I am not a frequent reader of your writings, but what few I have skimmed through, especially on the subject of baptism's role in salvation, really concern me. I am obviously an "uneducated man in many ways;" I do know this. Yet, I fail to find any Scriptures in the NT that challenge the role of baptism in water unto salvation ... NO, not one. I feel that if we spent less time trying to develop some rationale as to why we shouldn't be baptized, we would have more time to spend emphasizing the commands that are contained in Scripture. Our obedience to such divinely provided commands grants us the right to be called the children of God. I have to wonder if Paul, Peter, John, and the list goes on, were considered in their day to be "conservative" in their teachings.

From a Reader in Texas:

With regard to Reflections #670 ("The Rock Strikes the Rock Striker"), I too have questioned those incidents where the discipline seemed disproportionate to the sin, especially since there were others doing far worse who weren't punished to the same extent, if at all. However, I have come to see them as unique examples for us, as well as for the people of that time; reflective of God's purpose to send a specific message to convey a certain truth. And, like Moses, I don't believe Uzzah's sin led to the loss of his soul. The same with David, who committed the sins of adultery and murder, due to his repentance. I have long thought that Moses' problem was really his attitude. Notice Numbers 20:8, "He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, 'Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?'" (the "we" here is emphasized by me).

From a Reader in Arizona:

I am thankful for you drawing out (in your article "The Rock Strikes the Rock Striker") the importance of maintaining the Lord's holiness. That is a truth we all need to be reminded of repeatedly. Also, I was greatly encouraged by the detailed account of conversion in childhood from the reader in "Unknown" (in the readers' response section of your last Reflections). I rejoice in the truth of his story. I am asking a favor: would you send this person a brief message telling him that another Reflections reader was greatly encouraged by his story?! Thank you. You are also welcome to include my name and email address to this person.

From an Elder in New Mexico:

Some good thoughts here in your recent Reflections on Moses' death! Those of us who have achieved a life of sinless perfection (actually, I lost my sinless perfection some years ago!!) are often quick to criticize or question flawed characters in the Bible. Apparently one Alabama preacher wrote a series in the 1970's or 80's condemning the entire 1st century church in Jerusalem for observing the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20-27), and particularly Paul for allowing them to erroneously think he observed the Law (vs. 24) and for passively submitting to their outrageously sinful demands (vs. 26). And yet, to use your own words in your article, "each of these acts did indeed have a divine purpose that often eludes us, but which can be perceived if we are willing to view them from His perspective rather than our own." No, I personally cannot question Moses' conduct, as I have done far worse! Like Moses, we must endure our own shortcomings and physical death, but these are only blips on God's eternal timescale! Keep on making us think, brother!

From a Reader in Georgia:

MAN!! Do you know how much you covered in this Reflections ("The Rock Strikes the Rock Striker")?!! I may have to use a whole pot of coffee to digest all the material presented (LOL). It wasn't until last year that I first saw what you pointed out here about Moses blaming his actions (his disregard of God's instructions) on the people, which he did on several occasions. For such a great leader I thought that was kind of "wimpy." But, perhaps we've elevated Moses to a character that even he himself wouldn't recognize (in part because of Cecil B. Demille and the movie The Ten Commandments). Seems ole Moses also tried to make a bunch of excuses about not being the right guy to go confront the Pharaoh of Egypt. I don't know about you, but after seeing a burning bush and having a conversation with The Great I AM, I might have jumped and asked on the way up, "how high?!" Maybe it was because he was "abandoned" by his mother, who put him into a basket in the Nile!! (LOL) Well, let me go fill my cup. Just wanted to say how much I appreciate your weekly comments. They encourage and challenge me greatly!! Blessings to you!

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