Reading the Prophets of the Old Testament can be a rather eye-opening affair. We often think of the Old Testament as the time of God’s wrath and judgment, whereas the New Testament is the time of God’s mercy and peace. What really changes, however, is not God, but people – with the Cross, Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are restored to the proper view of God that Adam and Eve once enjoyed in Eden. With the grace that comes through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, humanity once again has an opportunity at living in the peace of Eden. Adam and Eve walked closely with God in friendship and harmony in Eden, a friendship that is restored by Christ.
And yet, what is also amazing about the Prophets is just how much human nature has not changed. Humans, so prone to sin due to the consequences of the Fall, travel through a constant storm of madness without the leadership of its Shepherd. Without the intervention of God and sanctifying grace, humanity is lost. Such is the story of the Old Testament and especially, the Prophets of Old. Both the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah faced exile to Assyria and Babylon, respectively, because of their failure to change for the better.
But perhaps what is most terrifying is how eerily relevant the Prophets are to the West of 2023 AD. I do not think it is a stretch of the imagination to admit that the West has become morally decadent, an empty shell of its glorious past. I am obviously not the first person to say it, but it shocks me just how progressively decadent the culture becomes with each passing year. The culture that was born from Revelation given to the Jewish people, combined with the great philosophy of the Greeks and the laws of the Romans, is dying. What is particularly alarming is how swiftly it is happening. In America specifically, the shocking phenomenon of regular mass shootings should be proof enough of the decline of the culture. A culture that disregards the lives of its unborn, that witnesses repetitive mass shootings, that increasingly tolerates such nonsense as legal marijuana, cannot sustain itself. I remember saying in 2013 that the culture could not possibly fall any further. That was a decade ago, and I have been proven wrong.
Isaiah offers an insight into just how bad things became in ancient Judah, before its fall to the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BC. “For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue mutters wickedness” (Isaiah 59:3). Even the legal system of Judah has become grossly corrupt: “No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly” (Isaiah 59:4). Sound familiar? Modern Western culture lacks respect for objective truth, and human life is the victim.
But where the Prophets speak of doom and destruction due to sin, they constantly balance this out with the promise of redemption and restoration. Much better times are coming, with the coming of the Messiah. The seventy-year exile of the Jewish people in Babylon will successfully root out much of their sinfulness, and the era of the Messiah will bring about an abundance of joy and peace. But the Messiah, Jesus Christ, does not force His kingdom upon anyone. To be a disciple of Christ is a free decision. To accept the mercy of God is a free decision, and the only unforgivable sin is that against the Holy Spirit – the complete rejection of conversion and of God’s mercy.
The ancient Jews rebuilt their nation following the Babylonian Exile. In c. 515 BC, the Second Temple was completed, and Judah enjoyed the solid leadership of its governor, Zerubbabel, a descendent of King David. The royal family was no longer on the throne (hence why Zerubbabel is governor rather than king), and the Second Temple was less impressive than the First, but the renaissance of faith among the Jewish people during this time is astounding. It took the total destruction of their former kingdom to finally inspire this conversion. Will it be the same for America and the West?
Catholicism can rebuild Western culture, just as it played a major role in building it in the beginning. If ancient Judaism, faithfully followed, rebuilt ancient Judah, then Catholic Christianity – which is the fulfillment of Judaism – can do the same for America and the West.