Something unusual happened in Babylon during the captivity. After being deported to a faraway land, a clandestine priestly caste laid the groundwork for a new approach toward divine knowledge.
Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ And I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not listen.’ Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what is among them. Hear, O earth: behold, I am bringing disaster on this people, the fruit of their plans, because they have not listened to My words, and as for My law, they have rejected it also.” [Jeremiah 6:16-19]
If one reads the gospels looking for similar clues and seeking this particular theme, it is not difficult to find. In fact, the theme jumps right out at you. Certain religious authorities were always questioning Him. They questioned His teachings, His manner, His motivation, the way He went about things, and even His mental makeup. They repeatedly struck out, however, on all their attempts to discredit Him.
SECRET SECTS A-STIRRING
One wonders how those people ever gained their religious authority. How did it happen? Many Christians never seek out the back story, but there was a lot of really weird stuff brewing up in good old Judea in the two centuries prior to the Lord’s arrival. There was also really weird stuff going on in the centuries before then but it started getting concentrated and coming together in an organized manner by that time.
Let’s go further back for even more background, to just prior to the Babylonian invasion of Judah and the first destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586BC. Up to this time, the many spiritual departures and vile depravities that began with Solomon and continued through later generations of kings and priests laid a foundation for the destruction. We know of the strange pagan practices they adopted and never completely disavowed. One can only imagine how deep the sin became, but judging by the manifold mentions in OT lore, it was quite extensive. We know the results but little of the conspiratorial underpinnings. By the time of the Babylonian captivity, the degeneracy and corruption level reached a point that demanded judgment.
This was the period of the early origin of obscure precursors, factions, and mysterious esoteric sects that had begun forming behind the pages of OT history that would essentially rewrite it and which later came to full fruition. It stemmed from the ongoing sin and rebellion plaguing the dwindling kingdom of Judah. The failing nation, at intervals, had already become the client state of great world powers and most of her final kings were weak, though King Josiah brought a great reform which sadly failed in the end.
The captivity actually began circa 600BC (many scholars say the first deportation to Babylon took place in 597BC). I will not go into all the particulars, but these early divisions within Judah began to coalesce into distinctive groups and eventually produced the various religious sects, mini-cults, political parties, and whatnot by 200BC and shortly thereafter.
HEADING FOR A SHOWDOWN
This resultant splintering and ongoing four century sorting out process had begun long before the captivity, however, primarily with the first big split—that between the priests and prophets. There was a war simmering beneath the surface for what should be obvious reasons. The priests and associates were always on the scene daily working in and around the temple and this put them in close authoritative proximity with the political rulers and kings. The prophets, however, were often the wild card which those in authority didn’t like. They didn’t like them precisely because they were largely incorruptible (and paid a great price for it), and could never be counted on to go along with the program since they always followed God’s program.
But wait. Were not the kings, priests, and prophets all supposed to be on the same page? Did not God create the priestly tribe in the first place and give them a legitimate function? The answer is, of course, yes, but the priestly tribe would often get weirded out and appeared fixated on a never-ending fight with the other major authority God created, that of the prophets, seemingly because of some strange inferiority complex and disagreement with the prophets’ perceived Wild West manner. And compared to them, the prophets definitely had a Wild West manner.
If Clint Eastwood was involved, for example, he would always be a prophet.
To outside observers (the ruling authorities), the prophets were always flying by the seat of their pants and making crazy unfounded pronouncements, meaning they could not possibly be like God or be in obedience to God because God just wasn’t like that. He would never do that. He was structured and organized and orderly and demanded strict attention to detail and doing things in a set manner on a consistent daily basis. According to those in charge, the wacko solitary head-in-the-clouds eccentrics with powerful and perfect unsettling utterances and fiery eyes scaring everyone all the time and getting in the face of those who ruled and telling them off for all their many peccadilloes and transgressions proved they could not possibly be on God’s payroll and therefore must be stopped.
After centuries of this bickering battle the prophets finally were stopped. The prophetic word ended somewhere in the vicinity of 400BC. The preservative was gone. The lights went out. The priests took over. They got their way. And they relished the moment.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Over the next two hundred years, from 400BC to 200BC, a sifting and settling process commenced among those vying for the official priestly perspective and narrative. Then, from roughly 200BC and a few decades thereafter, the origin and early beginnings of the later major religious sects emerged. Their beginnings are still historically sketchy, but enough information can be found to follow their trail. These major sects—Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, et al—wayward and odd, and each with its own agenda, claimed close proximity to God but were truly quite distant compared to the rich relationship with the Lord possessed by the early patriarchs and later prophets.
These new groups came to full flower and strength by the first century AD, just in time to do battle with the greatest of the prophets and His forerunner who was otherwise the best of all time. One wrested control of the people and another wrested control of the temple.
The Pharisees in particular, most of whom were not priests or overtly priestly but certainly not prophetic, had long since undermined the Law of Moses and created their own hyper-sacerdotal encyclopedic answer-all mega index and then orally codified it, meaning it was known only to them and they controlled it. They were thus the holders of secret knowledge. Their illicit work was only possible because there had been no prophet for over four hundred years to stop them. Thus, the Lord obviously knew what He was doing by creating prophets—in part to keep an eye on and balance out those incommunicado priests and kings in authority that seemed to always have a problem with His authority. The absence of the prophets and the clear voice of heaven—the voice of God Himself speaking through the prophets—allowed the priests to create a non-spiritual dimwit faction that took over everything.
After surviving early skirmishes and gaining ever-greater power over a couple of centuries, the Pharisee and Sadducee parties and smaller groups like them were used to having their way. They never had a prophet in their face. They had nothing whatsoever to draw on in all their collective experience regarding how to deal with a prophet. There was never a prophetic correcting voice against them. Squabbling among themselves did nothing regarding correction and only served to foment more hatred and division.
Unlike the prophets, the new religious rulers put their faith not in God but in money, outward appearance, and themselves. They ended up being the epitome of religious spoiled children constantly whining and demanding their way. Every little thing was an offense to them. They were ridiculously easily offended. Everything they said was right—down to the most ludicrous and preposterous detail with little or no bearing on the written Law. They were thus relentlessly pointing out everyone’s errors and tacking on an endless minutia stream of counterintuitive religious do’s and don’ts.
THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU QUIT ON GOD
One wonders why in the world the rest of the nation didn’t simply rise up and stomp these idiots out of existence and get them off their backs. Was it part of God’s judgment? Being constantly rejected by His people going back many centuries, was God giving the people what they demanded, the same way He allowed them to replace Him with King Saul a thousand years before?
In searching for the reason why Judea allowed these religious pretenders to gain such prominence and ruin their lives, one discovers the not so secret answer when one acknowledges the results of their sordid rebellion: When the people rejected God they eliminated His strength, power, and anointing within and upon them. They lost their ability to fight spiritual battles. They were thus forced to surrender to the use of their mere natural strength, something demonic forces could easily overpower and much stronger individuals could take advantage of. The people of the nation meekly surrendered, having no wherewithal to overcome their religious oppressors who were intent on control though guised in false light.
It is for the same reason that the exact religious development has transpired in Unreal Christianity. It should look very familiar.
THE RETURN OF THE PROPHETIC VOICE
But the Lord God was not through. He would take it upon Himself to return and restore, and do battle with the demonic pretenders to His throne. He would bring freedom to those sincere ones caught up in the struggle who loved Him and wanted to be free to serve and worship Him. He would come for them. He would fight for them. He would put everything on the line for them. In one fell swoop the powerful voice of the prophets was gloriously restored.
“Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’” [Luke 11:47-51] 
The evil ones returned fire by doing to Messiah what they did to all those prophets. He returned fire by coming back from the dead and claiming His throne. Like those in Ezekiel’s boneyard, He continues to return fire through every man and woman He raises up from spiritual death, anoints with His Holy Spirit, and sends into spiritual battle.
All glory, honor, and praise to Yehoshua HaMashiach.
© 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
He had done everything right. He did everything he was told. He was dutiful, and thoughtful, and slow to react. He always considered the implications of his actions.
But yet, the closeness he desired never arrived. Rather than trying to get personal with God he stayed at a distance. His preference was going through the quotidian exercises of his religion.
He was a nice guy, always helping others, and quiet—carrying on in a relaxed and measured way, looking people in the eye with the hint of a smile, as if his job was to serve whoever may come before him. He enjoyed such actions, things someone else might call ministry, but it was just part of his life.
He wondered about God often—who He was, what He was like. He had been given answers as a child that God was essentially unknowable and far away. As a result his wonder never blossomed into an outright search, because he had far too much respect for his family and local church, especially the well-respected ministers he had been associated with.
Of course, that is a very loose term. Most churchgoers are not associated with their ministers. They are people seen once a week for an hour or two while attending to their profession. There may be a mini-chat every so often after services or a low-key counseling session. It is the same with most church members. Though rubbing shoulders with many, they deal mainly with simple surface relationships and remain distant from each other’s heart.
One may wonder why there is so much passivity within traditional Christianity. Very few ever buck any trends. There are certainly never any instances of someone like the Lord cleaning out the temple. Is this because everyone thinks their own church needs no cleaning out? Are the majority of churches in America clean and orderly and right with God? Do they teach Biblical truth and demand loyalty to the Lord Jesus and New Testament teachings?
Or are churches actually corrupt in that quiet passive way? Is the fact that most church-goers sit down in orderly pews and chairs without ever raising an eyebrow a sign that all is perfect and well? Does the man in the pulpit have it so together that there is never a discouraging word regarding that which he preaches? Are American churches doing their job?
This must be the case, right? It must be that such perfect order proves all is right and that God is pleased.
But how do they know this? If God remains unknown, how do the people know He is pleased? Does church order reflect godliness in this sense?
Whoever thinks this is true does not read the Bible and certainly not the New Testament.
“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” [Matthew 10:32-39]
Have you ever heard this passage of Scripture as part of a Sunday morning sermon?
How about this one:
Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” [Matthew 15:1-3]
And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” [Mark 7:6-9]
What would happen if the Lord Jesus came to your church? Would he see it as everyone there sees it? Would He simply go along to get along? Would He never say a word or mention the things going on there that don’t line up with His teachings? Would He simply love everybody and tell one and all to keep on keeping on?
He went to seven churches as recorded in the Book of Revelation and was none too pleased with the vast majority. Remember, these were His people gathered in His name supposedly doing what He taught them. At least, that is what they claimed. He had some good things to say but He also railed against them and demanded they get their act together. I submit that most American churches are worse off, and the reason there is so little change for the better is because the Lord Jesus is not welcome. The sinful culture of this country has taken over most traditional churches, regardless of denomination.
Believe me, if He ever did show up in the greatness of His power, all would know it.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” [Revelation 2:4-5]
“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Revelation 2:10]
“But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” [Revelation 2:14-16]
“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” [Revelation 2:20-23]
“I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” [Revelation 3:1-3]
“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” [Revelation 3:10-11]
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” [Revelation 3:14-19] 
© 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.