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One of the things that disturbs me about American culture is our “can do” attitude. While our nation is incredibly diverse, one thing seems to unite us—for the most part, we all came from somewhere else. The very fact that either we or our ancestors had the courage to carve out a life in a new land is admirable.
But that very courage has warped into prideful self-reliance. This didn’t happen over night, but in a crisis we still seemed willing to turn to God, however briefly, as recently as 2001 when the terrorists attacked New York and Washington.
A scant eight years later and we are in an economic mess of our own making, and yet there is certainly not that national humility that fell upon the nation those first weeks after 9/11.
Instead, lawmakers reassure the people by giving “yes we can” speeches and by coming up with plans to restore our financial equilibrium by capitalizing on our citizens’ vices. As I see it, these schemes are nothing more than our god of choice.
Rather than saying, God is trying to get our attention.
We’ve had a devastating hurricane, killer tornadoes, blizzards, floods, fires, and now an economic crisis with global repercussions, yet we seem to think the solution is within us. We need to be kinder to our environment, and we can. We need to be more organized in our relief efforts, and we can do that too. We can fix our roads and schools, bail out our failing banks and automobile industry, mandate health insurance, and lift the restrictions on scientific research (those babies were going to be killed anyway, so let’s make good use of their stem cells). We can do it, yes we can. Why? Because we are … the incredible, amazing, can-do Americans.
OK, half of that paragraph is tongue-in-cheek. I happen to love my country. I’ve lived in enough other places to know what an incredible place this is. I also happen to think President Obama has powerful leadership ability. He has studied the Presidents of recent history who commanded language, and he seems to be purposefully putting into practice what he’s learned. He has adapted FDR’s radio fireside chats to the Internet, he has picked up on JFK’s and Ronald Reagan’s delivery of memorable and motivating one-liners.
The problem is, we are completely ignoring the idea that maybe, just maybe God wants us to look to Him instead of to ourselves. Where are the leaders saying that to our nation?
Sadly, when a few Christians suggested our sins were behind the 9/11 attacks, they were vilified. Maybe they didn’t say “our sins,” but “their sins.” I don’t know. The point is, no one else seems willing to bring up the idea that God still judges nations.
I know I asked that question shortly after a string of disasters: an earthquake in Northridge, CA, the Oklahoma bombing, 9/11. Quite frankly, my doubt is gone. I don’t believe in coincidences, for one thing.
While God doesn’t change, clearly His way of working with Mankind has changed, but I don’t know if His way of working with nations has. He judged the nations living in the Promised Land, which is why He gave it to Israel. He judged Assyria and Babylon and a host of other nations—Edom and Moab, Syria, Philistia, Midian—even though He didn’t make a covenant with them as He did with Israel. So why would we think He stopped judging nations?
Here’s what He told Israel when they looked elsewhere for help instead of turning to Him:
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help
And rely on horses,
And trust in chariots because they are many
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
Yet He also is wise and will bring disaster
And does not retract His words,
But will arise against the house of evildoers
nd against the help of the workers of iniquity.
Now the Egyptians are men and not God,
And their horses are flesh and not spirit;
So the LORD will stretch out His hand,
And he who helps will stumble
And he who is helped will fall,
And all of them will come to an end together.
- Isaiah 31:1-3
Whether or not God has purposed to get America’s attention through the string of disasters and difficulties or whether He is judging the nation because of our turning our backs on Him, I think it’s fair to say, He wants our attention individually. He wants us to turn to Him and not to the devices of our own making. He wants us to repent.
And after all, what is a nation but a collection of individuals?