I’m Still Perturbed

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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?

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Published in: on March 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm  Comments (8)  
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8 Comments

  1. The question though, Becky, is does God judge nations based on what a certain percentage of them do, or when the totality of the population has descended into evil and ungodliness. If we look, for example, at the Earth before the flood, at Sodom and Gomorrah, and at Israel before the Babylonian invasion, the populations were at total depravity. God said of Jerusalem before the invasion, “If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.” (Jeremiah 5:1) But not one could be found. And those other nations you mentioned were, at the time, pagan cultures who did not worship God. So it would seem anything less than 100% depravity, to a man, would not qualify for judgment. Even the most pessimistic account of today could not match such levels of depravity.

    I think that belief was on display when those, like Falwell for example, were chastised for suggesting the 9/11 attacks were God’s judgment. If any of those that died on 9/11 were righteous, than they were killed essentially for the crimes of others, and that is considered cruel and sadistic by our standards of decency. And since another American value is to presume innocence until proven guilty, no one was going to believe that all who died on 9/11 were evil, godless people unless someone could prove it, and who was capable of that?

    For that reason, I don’t think fear of divine judgment will resonate as it did millenia ago. It worked then because nations were forewarned by prophets who had divine words; today, all we can really do is guess. And our nation is fundamentally different than those you listed, it’s a divided nation, always has been, a cauldron of conflict even among moral issues, just look at slavery or even alcohol. Perhaps you could judge part of the country, but the whole? I don’t know how you would do that.

  2. A-men and A-men!!

  3. Jason, you discount the role of prophets in today’s culture, but they’re out there. Years ago David Wilkerson foretold the economic chaos which has come to pass. True believers with prophetic messages/warnings are not “popular” in today’s supposed “Christian” culture. And, granted, there are some weirdo-wannabe prophets today just like there were in days of old.
    And you failed to mention “the remnant” which God always left amidst the judgment in order to show how the faithful will be carried through the disasters and ruins of His mighty judgments.

  4. I don’t discount that God leaves a “remnant,” but the key is, they were indeed left amidst the judgment. Noah and his family did not drown in the flood. Lot escaped Sodom. During the Babylonian invasion of Israel, Jeremiah was not harmed, in fact he was freed from prison by the Babylonians themselves. By contrast, if people are going to say that 9/11 was a result of God’s judgment, then all who died had to be ungodly. But we know of Todd Beamer, a believer, who died on one of those planes. If we look at events like hurricanes, the OKC Bombing, other acts of terror, and find the bodies of dead Christians, how is that God’s judgment? Is not the purpose of His judgments to punish the guilty? Now, God may not have intervened to stop them, but that’s no less than when He doesn’t stop drunk drivers on the highway or someone’s terminal illness; he does allow for human choice.

    Regarding Mr. Wilkerson, I have to say it’s not anything for someone to predict economic chaos. Remember the Great Depression? The economic system is bound to have ups and downs. Even today is nothing compared to the events of the late 70s. The standard for any prophet according to the Bible is that they be right in what they predict, but many “prophets” today only give general predictions that don’t say much other than times will be bad. The problem is, people in every generation have always said that worse times are ahead. Maybe genuine prophets still exist, but you’d have to admit, we haven’t seen the kind of divine prophecies concerning nations in the past 2,000 years that we have seen in the millenia before the crucifixion.

  5. I guess we’ll agree to disagree, Jason. When you consider that the prophets foretold things 400 years in advance and there are still things they’ve predicted which are yet to happen, perhaps our defintions differ.
    Jeremiah suffered intensively at the hands of the ungodly Israelite king when he refused to heed what Jeremiah predicted. The nation of Israel was judged and brought down under Babylonian rule just as he said would be the consequences of their rebellion against God.
    It’s easy to say “it’s not anything” for someone to predict economic chaos when you can see it coming, but he was outlining it long before it happened with the prophet’s mentality which challenges people to repent for their greed and covetousness to avoid the onslaught.
    Judgment begins in the house of the Lord. Dying for a Christian is hardly judgment: it’s release. I see your point, Jason, but when a nation is judged it is because of sin. David was a man after God’s own heart, but when he sinned, he brought judgment upon the nation of Israel, good and bad alike. JMO

  6. I once heard about a prayer room in congress. The room got a lot more use than most people thought. Perhaps it’s ironic that our congressional leaders can prayer to God and yet those of us in the school system cannot share our faith. Or maybe, just maybe, they need it more than we.

  7. Jason and Nicole, an interesting discussion.

    I didn’t really give my view, though I hinted at it, so here it is.

    I don’t think God has judged America. I think He wants to get our attention. This is what He did with Israel throughout their history. When they strayed, He did things like bring a three-year drought. Or send an enemy army against them.

    The book of Judges is all about Israel turning from God, God bringing calamity on them, them turning back to God, and God rescuing them. But eventually they stopped returning to God. It is this that Jeremiah, speaking God’s words, condemned:
    “Why then has this people, Jerusalem,
    Turned away in continual apostasy?
    They hold fast to deceit,
    They refuse to return.”

    Am I saying America is there yet? Not yet, but we could be. I think God wants us to return and repent. If we don’t, I suspect we will receive the same kind of judgment other nations received.

    And the Christians caught up in these warnings? God might remove us as He did Lot or He might save our culture through us as He did Ninevah through Jonah’s preaching about the coming judgment. Or we might suffer and die as the first century Christians did, knowing that God uses all things, even our death, for good.

    Becky

  8. Daniel, the irony is extended. The Senate has a chaplain, the President has ministers pray for him when he is inaugurated, buildings like the Court House have Scripture inscribed on the walls. Clearly our founding fathers did not see these measures as “establishing religion” but rather the free exercise of it.

    The misuse of the establishment clause in our society today is another example of us calling good, evil.

    Becky


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