|Volume 23 Number 3 March 2021
No matter where in the world one lives, there can be no doubt one lives in a wicked land. Problems with crime and immorality abound. Political and social unrest compound the situation. However, such is not a new state of the world. Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), mankind has lived in a wicked land. For a few moments, consider some of God’s faithful servants, the wicked land in which they lived and the lessons we can learn today.
Noah in Prerecorded History
From an historian’s point of view, Noah lived prior to recorded history. Therefore, the only written record of the wicked land of Noah’s day is the Bible. Genesis 6:5 reads, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” More detail appears in verses 11 and 12. “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.” In the tenth generation from Adam, the land was so wicked that God found only eight righteous souls (Genesis 5:29; 6:8; 7:7, 13; 1 Peter 3:20).
Noah lived faithfully in this wicked land. The Bible records, “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:8-9). Noah demonstrated his faithfulness by his complete obedience to God. When God told Noah to build an ark and to prepare to live in it with his family and the animals (6:14-21), Noah followed God’s instructions perfectly. Twice the Bible states that Noah did “all that God commanded him” (6:22; 7:5). This preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) lived faithfully in a wicked land by obeying God’s commands.
The Prophets in
the Divided Kingdom
Though there are secular historical records of the world in the time of the nations of Israel and Judah, the best source for the state of the land in that time is once again the Bible. The last verse of Judges reads, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (21:25). The books of 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles describe life during the reigns of the kings that followed. God’s people were generally faithful during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon. When the kingdom split after the death of Solomon, the northern kingdom (Israel) immediately began to practice idolatry (1 Kings 12:25-33). None of the kings of Israel from this point forward faithfully obeyed God. The phrase “did evil in the sight of the Lord” accompanies the announcement of almost every king (1 Kings 15:34; 16:30; 2 Kings 3:2; etc.). Many of Judah’s kings were commended for “doing what was right in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:11; 2 Chronicles 20:32; etc.). Others received condemnation for their wickedness (1 Kings 15:3; 2 Chronicles 21:6; etc.).
In the midst of a rebellious people in an often-wicked land, the prophets persevered in proclaiming God’s message. Elijah confronted King Ahab and 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18). After Queen Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life, he fled but later returned to speak the Word of God to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel once again (1 Kings 19:1-3; 21:17-28). The books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos and Hosea contain messages to Israel and Judah to repent. The prophets of God lived in a frequently wicked land by faithfully preaching God’s Word in difficult situations.
Daniel in Babylon & Persia
Historical records show Babylon was a powerful empire. At the height of its prominence, King Nebuchadnezzar expanded its beautiful capital with great buildings and walls. The Babylonians eventually fell to the Persians. The Persians developed a system of government that divided the empire into regions, each of which was governed by an official who reported to the king. This empire also contributed roads, postal systems and legal codes to the world. The cultures of both of these empires were steeped in idolatry.
Beginning with forcible deportations of Jews to Babylon and ending with the destruction of Jerusalem, King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonian Empire conquered the southern kingdom of Judah (2 Kings 24-25; Daniel 1). Daniel was one of the many Jews relocated to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-7). When Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that none of his wise men could interpret, Daniel prayed to God for help (Daniel 2:17-18). God provided Daniel the interpretation through a vision, and Daniel was able to explain the dream to the king, saving the lives of Daniel and his Jewish companions (2:19-44). Under the Persian King Darius, Daniel was promoted to the position of governor (6:1-2). Verse 10 reads, “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.” Notice Daniel prayed three times a day throughout his captivity in a foreign land. Though the specific content of Daniel’s prayers is not revealed to us, doubtlessly, it is a safe assumption that Daniel’s prays included petitions for God’s people and for wisdom. In an idolatrous, wicked land, Daniel remained faithful through an active prayer life.
Esther & Persia
As already noted, the Persian Empire was powerful and made many contributions to the world. Additionally, the Persians treated captured people well, permitting them to return to their homelands. Captured idols were restored to their original locations, and items removed from the temple at Jerusalem were also sent back with the returning Jews (Ezra 1). Though the Persians tolerated and at times acknowledged God (Daniel 6:19-26), they still worshipped idols.
Esther also lived during the rule of the Persian Empire. She became queen when the former queen, Vashti, refused to obey King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) by displaying her beauty before the empire’s officials at a banquet (Esther 1-2). While in the king’s palace, Esther followed the wise advice of the uncle who raised her (Esther 2:5-7) when she did not reveal she was a Jew (2:10, 20). She also followed her uncle Mordecai’s advice to plead for the lives of her people when she approached the king without being summoned (4:13-17). Even though it was risky, Esther found something she could do to save God’s people in a wicked land.
Apostles & Rome
Many volumes have been devoted to chronicling the Roman Empire. In New Testament times, the Roman Empire allowed a blend of cultures, religions and languages. It was a time of peace and prosperity for the empire, but it also allowed great debauchery and polytheism. Caesar was the ultimate authority (viewed by many as a god), and he ruled with an iron hand. The Jewish leaders still had a measure of influence in Palestine. Initially, persecution of Christians came from the Jews. Later, the Roman Empire heavily persecuted followers of Christ.
Though the Roman Empire had some tolerance for different religions, the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem did not. The apostles were commanded to stop preaching about Jesus (Acts 5:27-28). However, Peter and the apostles chose to continue sharing the Gospel message and stated, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Verse 42 of the same chapter reads, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Not only did Peter and Paul choose to follow Christ, they also commanded Christians to obey and to pray for the government (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:17). Peter and Paul prayed for civil authority and obeyed laws that did not conflict with God’s laws as they faithfully followed the Savior in a wicked land.
Christians who imitate the qualities mentioned above can also live faithfully in a wicked land. Like Noah, listen to and obey God’s Word. Be like the prophets of Judah and Israel who persisted in declaring God’s message. Emulate Daniel by praying daily. Find some positive activity that will help others and listen to wise counsel like Esther did. Always choose God’s way over the ways of men and pray for government leaders like the apostles did. Like the many examples in the Bible, with contentment through the strength of our Lord (Philippians 4:11-13), live faithfully in a wicked land.