Ancient Israel was politically and religiously pragmatic. The earliest description of this can be seen in the nation’s clamor for a Golden Calf to quell their fears at Mount Sinai.
Fearing that God had abandoned them, they called for Aaron to cast an idol they could see and worship. They did this In spite of the fact that the Calf was of their own making and had no existence prior to the time when they turned their jewelry into a statue.
They continued this behavior throughout their times. Once they said to Samuel, “We want a king like all the rest of the nations.” Against Samuel’s counsel, Saul was anointed to be King. According to Saul’s warning, the king conscripted their sons and daughters, taxed the people, and consumed their food. This, like the Golden Calf, was fueled by their lack of confidence in God.
Similarly, King Solomon patched together strange political liaisons attempting to control the outcomes of history. He believed that troop size, political alliances, and military strategy would win the day for him and his nation. Instead, it set up a political coup that split the nation and plunged the nation into political and spiritual darkness.
If this bit of ancient history was changed only slightly, substituting more modern names and some different political strategies, it would sound like a story ripped off the pages of the New York Times. Leaders hated by the people, lies substituted for truth, loss of moral direction, and people wanting to quell their fears at any cost seem to be universal tendencies across the centuries.
Jeremiah the prophet was clear about the foolishness of the ancient prophets’ moral compromise. “From prophets to priests, they are all frauds. They offer superficial treatments for my people’s moral wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace,” Jeremiah 6:13b,14.
And the prophet, Ezekiel, had a similar message. “Your leaders are like wolves…And your prophets cover up for them by announcing false visions and making lying predictions. They say, ‘My message is from the Sovereign Lord,’ when the Lord hasn’t spoken a single word to them,” Ezekiel 22:27-28.
Eventually, people get so far away from what is true, they lose all power of discernment. They are like a pilot who loses the horizon and begins spiraling toward the earth. Or a hiker who loses North and begins to walk in circles. In this climate, you can tell the truth and be called a liar.
Ancient Israel used to say, “We have the Temple of the Lord; we have the Temple of the Lord.” They and their false prophets believed nothing could ever happen to them because the Temple sat proudly in Jerusalem.” However, in 587 BC the temple was razed to the ground by the Babylonians.
All because Israel quit listening to the truth-tellers and believed a lie instead.