When The Nation Glory Fades

“And she named the child I-chabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel.”—I Sam. 4:21.

The wife of Phinehas, passing through the swirling waters of the river of death, said, “The glory is departed from Israel.”

Thoughtfully scanning the pages of history, rubbing the dust of centuries off the tombs of some nations that underwent the frightful processes of self-burial, we can give the same testimonies concerning other nations. For ’tis true that, warmed by the sun which never loses its glory, a nation’s sun may set in a night.

Under the stars—the pitiless and passionless stars which “in their courses fought against Sisera” (Judg. 5:20), stars which never lose their splendor—a nation’s starry crown may lose its brightness, being displaced by a withered wreath of poison ivy or a circle of undesirable cactus; or by the brow becoming an eyeless, earless, tongueless, brainless skull. Beneath “the heavens [which] declare the glory of God; and the firmament [which] sheweth his handywork” (Ps. 19:1), a nation that circled the clouds as a strongwinged eagle can flutter among the clouds as a broken-winged vulture or squawking parrot. Among the flowery continents of God, a nation can become a place of foul odors that make the righteous stop their noses. Great was the glory of Babylon of old, but Babylon became a vermin-infested, animal-prowling jungle, and owls hooted mournfully where lovers once whispered. Babylon, “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,” became “as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah” (Isa. 13:19). Something of the tragic departure of its glory is told in these words:

“It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

“But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.

“And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”—Vss. 20–22.

Great was the glory of Carthage— once, centuries ago. But her triremes became as impotent as skeletons of cattle scattered on desert sands. Her swift feet became as a cripple’s walk, her clenched fist as the fumbling fingers of a paralytic.

Wondrous was the glory of Syria at a time when Eleanor’s troubadours at Antioch bewitched the Syrian air with ballads of the south, and lightened the horrors of the second crusade. But Syria’s glory departed when the following was said:

“But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone.”—Jer. 5:23.

O foolish Syria—to have eyes and see not, to have ears and hear not—thy music, mingled with the howl of the hyena and the cry of the coyote, became the mournful monotony of jangling inharmony that ended in the wail of death. Great was the glory of ancient Greece—especially from 450 B.C. to 350 B.C.—under Pericles. But Greece became a molded crust in history’s garbage heap. Beautifully did the poet describe her glory and the departure of that glory and the subsequent desolation: O world god, give me beauty, cried the Greek.

His prayer was answered. All the earth became Plastic and vocal to his sense; each peak, Each grove, each stream, quick with Promethean flame, Peopled the world with imaged grace and light. The lyre was his, and his the breathing might Of the immortal marble; his the Play

Of diamond-pointed thought and golden tongue. Go seek the sunshine race, ye find today—

A broken column and a lute unstrung. Greece had her Athens—civilization’s queen. Plato was hers.

Socrates was hers. A vast multitude of seers was hers. Phidias, raising beautiful children unto Athens from the sterile womb of stone, marbled many places with sculptured wonders. The Muses tented in her gates and plumed the arts with eagles’ wings. At many shrines the human brain bowed in reverence.

But with all these persons, with all these things of beauty, Greece became a molded crust in history’s garbage can.

Great was the glory of the Rome of centuries far back and forever gone—especially from 50 B.C. to A.D. 50—with her astute statesmen; with her close-meshed code of laws; with her sword-woven mantle, coin-embroidered, that fell on cities where merchants congregated and fattened on the spoils of trade; with her armies that feasted and fattened on blood.

Rome was mighty among the kingdoms “which did her battle thunders emulate,” mighty wherever ships and swords and thrones and lust of gold and sovereignty constituted the boasted heritage of the age.

But Rome and her glory became as a mouth full of pyorrheic gums holding rotten teeth, all loose and foul. Her too did the poet describe in words that seem drenched in tears: O world god, give me power! the Roman cried. His prayer was granted. The vast world was chained A captive to the chariot of his pride. The blood of myriad provinces was drained To feed that fierce, insatiable red heart, Invulnerably bulwarked every part With serried legions and with closemeshed code. Within, the burrowing worm has gnawed its home. A roofless ruin stands where once abode The imperial race of everlasting Rome.

Great was the glory of the nationlike realm of Nineveh, with her winged lions symbolic of strength and speed. But Nineveh became as a varicolored butterfly enmeshed and perishing in the net of a relentless spider. Great was the glory of old ancient Egypt—the land of the pharaohs, the land of wealth and wonders. But it became a shabby sexton of splendid tombs. Her torch of far-reaching splendor became a pot of smoke without one spark of remaining radiance. The ancient glory of this great land and the departure thereof, the poet pictures in these words: O world god, give me wealth, the Egyptian cried. His prayer was answered. High as heaven behold, Palace and pyramid, the brimming tide Of lavish Nile washed all his land with gold. Armies of slaves toiled ant-wise at his feet. World-circling traffic roared through mart and street, His priests were gods; his spicebalmed kings, enshrined, Set death at naught in rockribbed charnels deep. Seek Pharaoh’s race today, and ye shall find Rust and the moth, silence and dusty sheep.

Great was the glory of ancient Spain—back there in the glorious years beyond recall. Wide and strong was the sway of her scepter. Her piratical ships harassed all the seas and filled her coffers with gold.

But this nation, with climate and conquests and caches of coin, with thrones and crowns and scepters, with laughter and love and lure, with men and money and might, with fervor and force and fruit, became as a drowsy and lousy and frowsy beggar watching a broken clock.

And let us ask you to think of Jerusalem—“beautiful for situation” (Ps. 48:2)—as representative of the nation Israel. Triumphant were her temples. Her past shines glorious as doth the moon on midnight seas.

For favored Jerusalem, kings kneeled down and prayed. For glorious Jerusalem, prophets, in tears and love, served. For beautiful Jerusalem, martyrs shriveled into flame. In Jerusalem’s virgin face were eyes in which, deepfolded, lay prophecies of the Son of God.

But because within her sacred courts evil was girt with diadem, Jerusalem hardened her heart. Jerusalem bloodied her hands. Jerusalem deafened her ears. Jerusalem played the harlot. And Jesus described her then departing and afterward utterly departed glory in these words: “Your house is left unto you desolate” (Luke 13:35). Covered, this blood-soaked earth with the wreck of onceglorious cities. Scarred, the face of this war-blighted earth with the ruin of once-glorious nations. Marred, the fair face of this world with the wreck of once-glorious civilizations—civilizations which have left behind them nothing but the smoke of the brilliant torch, nothing more than an empty name, nothing more than the shadow of a shadow.

What the Bible says about some nations and some cities—representatives in large measure of once-proud, once-strong, onceinfluential civilizations—is true of other nations and cities of the past and the present: “For I have sworn by myself, saith the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse: and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes.” “Also Edom shall be a desolation: every one that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof.”

“And Hazor shall be a dwelling for dragons, and a desolation for ever: there shall no man abide there, nor any son of man dwell in it.”— Jer. 49:13, 17, 33.

“This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.”— Zeph. 2:15.

In America we must remember that the glory of a nation is righteousness and faith in God—and going the way God points—and in such is our security against all foes, our immunity against the ravages of time. “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.”—Isa. 60:12.

This sober truth that only “righteousness exalteth a nation” (Prov. 14:34); that if ever America loses her faith in God, she will have to come off her pedestal; that pallbearers that carried other nations to their graves will do work for us if we forsake God and refuse to go the way He points, was put upon our hearts once by the editor of the Watchman-Examiner in these words:

We should remember that early in the twentieth century Germany was regarded as the most Christian nation in Europe. enced the home, the school and the church of Germany that the national life saw a phenomenal progress. Germany was now making terrific strides in science, art and cultures.

Then came a day when innate conceit got to work. Christianity was emasculated. Christ was rationalized to be nothing more than a good man. The Holy Scriptures were reduced to a crazy quilt. Religion came to be built on negatives. God was dwarfed, and man was deified. “Let the strong survive,” became the new religion. Germany was decivilized, and Hitler had no trouble getting his followers to arm to the hilt to conquer the world.

Let us ask the help of Almighty God in these days when “we loose wild tongues that have not Thee in awe”; when there are evils that would lead our greatest graces to the grave and leave the world no copy; when the atheistic deformities of our times would coerce us into substituting for Christianity’s vital bread a chunk of froth scattered by miasmatic winds—lest our country become a despised Ichabod among the nations of earth.

R. G. Lee

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