A close study of history shows that just as there are motifs in a grand musical composition, so there is a motif running across the opus of time: recurring destroyer-deliverer manifestations.
In every generation there arises the destroyer spirit whose aim is the obliteration of the City of God, which is the expression of God’s Kingdom, the highest form of civilization, within the nations.
Wherever there is goodness and justice, peace, and God-given joy (Romans 14:17), the destroyers will try to assault, and, in words given through Isaiah, cause the earth to “tremble,” kingdoms to shake, the world made into a “wilderness,” and “overthrow its cities.” (Isaiah 14)
The destroyers consciously and unconsciously try to hurl us back to tohu-bohu, formless and desolate chaos. (Genesis 1:1-2)
The Destroyer-Deliverer theme is blaring through our cities currently with earsplitting ferocity. It seems we are living through a preview of “great tribulation,” brought on by the removal of restraint. (Matthew 24; 2 Thessalonians 2)
An officer of the law who should be a deliverer loses personal restraint and plants his knee on a man’s head and throat, becoming a destroyer. A justifiable outpouring of protest is infiltrated by destroyers seeking anarchy, resulting in a greater loss of restraint and violent devastation of more lives and property.
Destroyers thunder through civilizations shattering, scattering, demolishing everything in sight. Deliverers grasp the deeper implications and importance of civilization and aim to become catalysts and strengtheners of the loftiest values and principles. When they are in authority they govern with a sense of servanthood and stewardship.
In this desperate moment in America, we need true deliverers in positions of leadership. Instead we have politicians in both parties who don’t want to “waste a good crisis” even if it means fueling the rage, propagandists whose aim is to spin the media narrative for popularity and profit, ideologues who theorize convoluted ideas that will form new courses in increasingly irrelevant institutions of higher learning, spiritualists who try to contrive new mysticisms, and a multitude of neo-Neros who fiddle while the cities burn.
The Bible and other literature from the ancient world — especially that of the Greeks — saw civilization in terms of the “city,” or, in Greek, polis. Niall Ferguson, a scholar of nations and cultures, writes: “A civilization, as the etymology of the word suggests, revolves around its cities …”
Hence, the Lord of history says through the prophet Jeremiah: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
This polis of security, progress, liberty, and prosperity demands continual maintenance.
The people who enjoy the benefits of the “city” must take care of its welfare, even if it is not the city of their choosing, as in the case of the Jews in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. They are nevertheless there by God’s choice, and for His purposes. That includes the Babylonian world system we inhabit today.
Seeking the welfare of the city means seeking justice for the George Floyds, including peaceful protest calling for that justice — but not the violent destruction of the city.
Destroyers infuse the city with “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing.” (Galatians 5:19-21)
Deliverers of the “city” today are those who bless it by walking in and by the Spirit Who brings “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
If the Kingdom of God is the highest form of civilization’ then walking in and by the Holy Spirit is the highest form of civilizational behavior and action.
Apollyon, the destroyer, as we saw above from Isaiah 14, always seeks the destruction of the “city.” In the fallen world there is continual conflict between cosmos and chaos, light and dark, good and evil. The attack is centered on the human polis whose God-given purpose is to extend the qualities of the heavenly city — the “New Jerusalem” —into the realm of our everyday living. (Revelation 21)
The Hebrew Prophet Zephaniah covered it all centuries ago when he wrote:
Woe to the city of oppressors,
rebellious and defiled!
She obeys no one,
she accepts no correction.
She does not trust in the Lord,
she does not draw near to her God.
Her officials within her
are roaring lions;
her rulers are evening wolves,
who leave nothing for the morning.
Her prophets are unprincipled;
they are treacherous people.
Her priests profane the sanctuary
and do violence to the law.
The Lord within her is righteous;
he does no wrong.
Morning by morning he dispenses his justice,
and every new day he does not fail,
yet the unrighteous know no shame.
No wonder Jesus opens the Lord’s Prayer with the words, “Thy Kingdom come... Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...”
Pray for the horribly bereaved Floyd family and at the same time seek the peace of the cities.
Wallace Henley is a former pastor, White House and congressional aide, and author of more than 25 books. His newest is Two Men From Babylon: Nebuchadnezzar, Trump, and the Lord of History, published by Thomas Nelson.