First the Altar
In a recent reading from the prophet Ezekiel I noticed that his first concern was with the waywardness of the purportedly faithful. He looked to the prophets, priests and princes of Jerusalem and their venturing into folly. It was all about people-pleasing, unjust gain, oppressive justice, securing the praises of men and effecting a compromise with the idolatry of the surrounding communities.
For these things the backsliding people of God were going to bring judgment, shame, exile and barrenness upon themselves. (chapters 22-24)
The prophet then went on to describe the coming collapse in commercial enterprises. He describes with great detail the crash of the mercantile wealth of seafaring Tyre (chapters 26-28). It was to become a place of bare rock, foraging sea birds and pitiful drying nets. Gone the glory of the once great centre of the world's riches! Both the Babylonians and the later Greeks brought this about.
But notice the order of things. First the decline of the centres of faith. Then everything else. And why? Compromise. Lust. Mendacity. Impatience. Insensitivity. No fear of God. The Great and Righteous First Cause missing from all public considerations.
Today's Church may also be at the fore of a similar debacle. Or conversely, it may repent, re-focus and rescue a remnant from the general down-slide. To do this, prayer must be given the ascendency, not endless lectures on ethics or "successful" living. Christ must be the objective, and the life spelled out in absolute honesty according to the Gospel standard. It is not an "easy street" to follow the Galilean, but the one who relinquishes will discover true riches.
Have you noticed the rush out there? The over-packed agendas? The farmed-out children? The addictive electronic toys? The double-speak in all public affairs? The general impatience in hearing out one's neighbour? The absence of prayer corners? The famine for the Word of God?
It is as Peter later wrote in his First Epistle:
17. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God; and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
(Aerial view of Tyre)