We are sure that by this time in this book the reader may have come to the conclusion that sociological paradigm shifts in a society always go wrong. But this is not the case. When certain injustices arise over time in a society, society itself begins to groan for justice. This is especially true in reference to the exploitation of the people as a whole. For example, social and economic control of the Russian society by the Tsars led to the impoverishment of the people. After laboring all day in the factory, the labor force would get off work and go to the bread lines in order to receive bread as payment for the day’s labor. This system of oppression and exploitation persisted for years. But then one day the labor force walked out of the factory on a November day in 1917 and there was no bread. And that was it. That was the trigger that set off the Russian Revolution.
When the poor are oppressed to the point of having no hope for a better future, then the stage is set for a sociological revolution. This was the predicament that brought on God’s judgment of Israel. The exploitation of the people by an elite class, who marginalized and used the poor for their own greed, was the economic tipping point at which time God determined to sift the privileged class out of His people.
The civilization of Israel originally existed in the land as a rural people who found comfort at the end of the day through the labors of their own hands. They could eat of their own labors every day. But after several centuries in the land, the rural culture of people eventually changed in reference to the production of the land. By ignoring the laws of God in reference to the economic equity that was embedded in the Sinai covenant, a rich class of the privileged arose within the economy, which class subsequently indebted the poor.
In bypassing the law of God that guaranteed equality among all the people, a growing elite class of the economic privileged arose, “who,” according to Isaiah, “enact unrighteous decrees, and who write misfortune that they have prescribed” (Is 10:1). The rich elite made these unrighteous decrees “in order to turn aside the needy from justice and to take away the rights from the poor of My people” (Is (10:2). It was this class of the rich elite who did “not defend the rights of the poor” (Jr 5:28).
The social result of this discrimination against the poor was that the privileged upper class were finally brought to judgment before God. The Lord God subsequently judged the rich: “For you have eaten up the vineyard. The plunder of the poor is in your houses” (Is 3:14). Every bottle of wine that was on the table of the rich was there because the rich had bought up through “corporate takeovers” all the vineyards of the land. Instead of the people owning their own vineyards and selling the labor of their hands, the rich elite bought the vineyards and consigned the people to being indentured servants for the sake of the “corporate” elite who exploited their labors. In doing this, God convicted the privileged elite by asking, “What do you mean that you beat My people to pieces and grind the faces of the poor?” (Is 3:15).
In their greed to retain power over the people by taking control of the economy of Israel, the rich elite “behaved themselves wickedly in their deeds” (Mc 3:4). When the rich “corporate” owners of the vineyards and the land failed to honor the restoration of all land to the original owners according to the law of Jubilee, it was then time for a sociological paradigm shift. It was then that God would through captivity take the land away from the rich class. And “with righteousness He will judge the poor and reprove with equity for the afflicted of the earth” (Is 11:4).
It may be that in the pandemic that has swept around the world today God has brought down the kingdom of the corporate elite in order to bring deliverance to the poor. In the captivities that eventually extracted the riches of the country of Israel from the elite ruling class, the judgment of God was “a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm” (Is 25:4). God “brings down those who dwell on high” (Is 26:5). Until that time, the poor of a society need to remember, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails because of thirst, I, the Lord, will hear them. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them” (Is 41:17). And herein is the irony of the social paradigm shift of captivity that eventually took the remaining Israelites from the promised land: “Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard [of the Babylonians in 586 B.C.] left in the land of Judah the poor of the people who had nothing. And he gave them vineyards and fields at the same time” (Jr 39:10).
Not all sociological paradigms shifts in a civilization result in worse conditions. On the contrary, when the poor of a society rise up because of economic inequity, and if the revolution is not hijacked by demigods, the democratic leadership of the shift will often deliver a new civilization that has corrected the inequity of the past. At least this was what happened when South Africa went through a historic social paradigm shift over a period of several decades.
During the 1960s and to the middle of the 1980s, the society of South Africa was groaning in order to be delivered from the Apartheid past of social and economic inequity. When the existing Nationalist Party finally enacted laws that would free the oppressed and exploited from the sins of the past, a whole new paradigm in South African society was unleashed. When Nelson Mandella was released from prison in 1990 after twenty-seven years in prison, and the first fully democratic elections happened in 1994, the country was on a path to a new adventure in correcting the sins of the past in order to implement a new order for the future. This is not to say that there were several bumps in the road along the way. Our personal experience while living in South Africa while this was happening was one of the most dynamic experiences of a sociological paradigm shift.
• New system of party leadership: Several things contributed to the South African social paradigm shift. The most important was that the African National Congress Party that was elected into power in 1994 through a democratic process. It was a party with one hundred years of democratic function behind it. This party democratically elected Nelson Mandella to be the first president of the new South Africa.
Throughout their history as a party, no one individual within the ANC party was allowed to assume control over the party. No demigods were allowed to take over that for which the party had struggled for a century to acquire. It was truly a party of experience that could participate in a democratic government of the new social order.
• New leadership character: The second greatest reason why there was such a smooth transition from the past into the present paradigm was the character of Nelson Mandela. He did not have a character of retribution or revenge. He was a person of reconciliation and peace. He subsequently established the behavior of all those leaders of the country who would follow him. In order to establish the principle of being a leader of the people, he made the decision to run for only one five-year term in office as president. He realized that he was establishing norms for the future.
This did not mean that there were some leaders after him who did not try to exploit the country through financial “state capture.” But these leaders have so far been weeded out on this journey of a new social paradigm. Most have ended up on trial for their behavior. But the character of Nelson Mandela as the rainbow prince of a new paradigm has continued unabated.
• New culture of reconciliation: Probably the greatest thing that promoted a smooth transition from the Nationalist Party of the past, and its autocratic control of the country since the latter part of the 1940s, was that both parties agreed to establish in the transition the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Simply defined, this was a committee of people before whom everyone of the past had the opportunity to confess their sins of the past. The committee was led by Desmond Tutu, one of the predominate religious leaders of South Africa at the time. The South African sociological paradigm shift was subsequently seated deeply in religious beliefs. And because it was, the people never lost sight of their faith and religiosity that stabilizes society.
The Truth and Reconciliation experience was indeed a heart wrenching process that was televised throughout the nation. It was difficult to listen to perpetrators of the past confess to their victims their sins of oppression. But throughout the entire ordeal, Africa in general revealed one of her deepest characters that seems to make the African culture stand apart from most of the world. As was the forgiving character of Nelson Mandella who languished in prison for twenty-seven years, there is always forgiveness to be found in Africa. During the Truth and Reconciliation process when past policeman and politicians confessed up that they had murdered the sons of parents who were present, the parents through tears forgave those who had murdered their sons and daughters.
It was truly “truth and reconciliation.” We have witnessed throughout the world that if there is no confession and forgiveness in any sociological paradigm shift, then the new order is cursed with unforgiveness. A lack of forgiveness always ends in bitterness. And bitterness will remain as long as there is no confession on the part of the offending parties.
The rest of the world would learn a great deal from the South African people who struggled for almost a century in order to come to a new paradigm wherein the people could live in freedom, and thus determine for themselves their own future. Out of their sociological paradigm shift has come a God-fearing people. Nobody, including those of the Apartheid past, ever wanted to go back to the Apartheid behavior of the past. It is a credit to the society as a whole that repentance and forgiveness was genuine, and thus the society is moving into the future with hope that is determined by the vote of every citizen.
At any time in the history of a civilization when the people turn to the Lord God with a repentant heart, God is ready to forgive and bless. At one point in the history of Israel, the people had the opportunity to repent. A sociological tipping point had been reached. Nevertheless, when Solomon completed the temple in Jerusalem, the Lord came down and said the following to all the people:
“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Ch 7:14).
Unfortunately, only a few years after this statement was made at the inauguration of the temple, Jeroboam took ten tribes and separated them under his own rule in the northern part of Palestine. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, was left with two remaining tribes in the south. It was then that the stage was set for the eventual termination of Israel as a free nation in their own land. Sin had already been embedded in the culture of the people, which sin would lead the nation into the rejection of God and His will for the people.
Once the Assyrians and Babylonians had taken the people into captivity in 722/21 B.C. and 586 B.C., only a repentant remnant was allowed to remain and return to the land. But when they returned, the land was first under the control of the Medo-Persian Empire, and then the Greeks, and finally the Romans at the time of the coming of the Messiah.
It was the responsibility of the returned remnant in 536 B.C. to maintain the identity of Israel until Israel fulfilled her purpose for existence. God had made a promise to Abraham that from his seed the Savior would come into the world in order to bless the world with reconciliation through the blood of the cross (See Gn 12:1-3). When the time was fulfilled for this offering (Gl 4:4), then it was time to terminate Israel. But the remnant of Israel that existed at the time of the coming of the Seed, mostly rejected the Seed (Jn 1:11). Nevertheless, Israel had fulfilled her purpose. The Son of God, the Blessing, had come in order to deliver all those who would by faith obey the good news of His offering. But once the gospel was revealed, then God gave Israel another forty years between the cross and A.D. 70 before He finalized national Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
We are now waiting for the time when this present world finishes her purpose for being created. Once this purpose has been finalized, then we assume that this world also will be terminated in order that those who live by faith in obedience to the gospel will continue into the next social paradigm. And truly, the next sociological paradigm shift will be a catastrophic event (See 2 Pt 3:10-13). It will be then that we will move into a new social paradigm wherein “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. And there will be no more death nor sorrow nor crying. Nor will there be any more pain, for the former things,” at that time will “have passed away” (Rv 21:4).