Friday is for Heart Songs
As a history major with an emphasis on Ancient Rome and Greece at the University of Maryland, I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Wilhelmina Jashemski, noted archaeologist of Pompeii. I still remember the day that she arrived at class on crutches after having slipped on some ice the previous Sunday outside of her church in Washington, D.C. So, when I ran across the following article in Kairos Journal it was a given that I would be interested.
But the theme caught my attention as well. I love my country, but like the prophet Jeremiah, I know that judgment of America is coming. It is inevitable.
Our crimes, specifically and most egregiously, over 50 million murders of children through abortion, will, inevitably, call forth God’s judgment. But like Isaiah, I am praying that judgment might be delayed by revival. I am praying that an unleashing of God’s grace, from the storehouses of his great mercy, might forestall his judgment and bring many to faith in Christ. Ancient Pompeii stands as a warning to every nation that God is not mocked. What follows is from Kairos Journal.
When the End of the Wicked Comes Quickly: Pompeii (79 A.D.)
On August 24, 79 A.D. the city of Pompeii, in Italy, was suffocated under five meters of volcanic ash. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius was as devastating as it was instantaneous. People remain, entombed in ash, as they were when the volcano erupted. The remains of Vesuvius provide a snapshot of life in the ancient world, half-a-century after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
The Roman Empire emerged from a period of unusual turmoil in the last decades of the first century. In 69 A.D., “the year of the four Emperors,” three of Rome’s rulers were murdered or committed suicide: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. Vespasian, who ruled from 69-79 A.D., epitomized the “cult of the emperor” that dominated the empire. His last words were “Dear me, I must be turning into a god.” This idolatry was closely linked to the appalling sexual immorality which was ever present throughout the empire, and which, in a bizarre and macabre way, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius has preserved for future generations.1
The volcanic ash that poured down on Pompeii killed many in pursuit of high culture and many more pursuing the ordinary activities of everyday life. Also retained is significant evidence of the semi-religious cults that thrived in the city, which were based around the city’s many brothels and the hundreds of prostitutes, including young boys and girls, employed there. The archaeological evidence of this hideous trade is so graphic and offensive that it remained in the prohibited section of the National Museum in Naples for many decades.
The history of Pompeii is distressing, yet it is not unique. Societies rot from the head down, and the lifestyles of the emperors provided poor models for the citizens. Pompeii is remembered simply because it was destroyed, but the same idolatry and immorality was commonplace throughout the empire. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians demonstrate that the early Church was called to purity and true love in an environment that was unrelentingly hostile to godly living.
The dead of Pompeii remain as a testimony to the brevity of life and the immanence of divine retribution. God will not be mocked forever, and sinners, though enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season, will soon be cut down. The ash-covered corpses of Pompeii cry out to humanity. They are the empire’s own Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed in the very acts that so provoked the vengeance of God. Pastors can use the fate of Pompeii to underline the need for urgent and genuine repentance. Yet Pompeii is also a witness to God’s kindness and patience, for in an empire gripped by lust and wickedness, only three cities2 were so suddenly eradicated, whilst the message of the Lord Jesus began to take root in many others.
|1||This account of the ancient world is indebted to Norman Davies, Europe: A History (London: Pimlico, 1997), 189ff.|
|2||Herculaneum, a city of about 5,000 residents, and Stabiae, a resort city of large villas, were also destroyed.|