Tuesday, July 1, 2014

God, the Prophets, and the USA

As we prepare to celebrate another Independence Day, I’m not in a very jovial mood about our nation.  While I deeply appreciate our freedom (which is shrinking) and the sacrifices of those on whose blood this nation has been built, I fear for our nation’s future.  

I’ve been thinking about the prophets and the nations.  Yes, the prophets were Jews.  And while they spoke words of judgment and hope for Israel and Judah, they also had something to say for God to surrounding nations too.  God is not just Israel’s God.  God is without borders or boundaries.  “The earth is the Lord’s and all its fullness, the world and all who dwell in it” (Ps. 24:1).  God is sovereign over all nations, including the good old U.S.A.  So many of God’s intentions for the nations are announced by the prophets. The prophets themselves were rather quirky and their words often heavy, pointing out sins and calling people back to God.  The prophets have a way of exposing the lies we tell ourselves and the illusions we nurture about God and our world.  They have a way of reminding us that God is large and in charge and present and at work in the current events of our lives. 

Like Isaiah reminding us that the nations are but a drop in the bucket to our holy God, and that rulers are little more than grasshoppers in His sight.  God raises them up and whenever He chooses, He blows on them and knocks them down.

Like Habakkuk reminding us that God may use even more sinful nations than our own to bring judgment to our gates.

Like Ezekiel warning us that if a country sins against God by being unfaithful and God stretches out his hand against the country by means of sword and famine and wild beasts and plague, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job lived in that country their righteousness would save only themselves and not the nation.

Like Micah speaking out against corrupt politicians, priests who are in it for themselves, and a general population complacent to it all.  He calls us instead to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

And like Hosea reminding us that underneath God’s judgment is this stubborn love, a love that would prefer to pour out blessing, but yet a holy love that will eventually pour out wrath when His love is mocked and spurned and ignored over time—and just how much time, we don’t know.

Amos helps us too.  Amos was called away from his farm in Judah to preach God’s word to sinful Israel.  It was the 8th-century B.C. and Jereboam II was the king of Israel.  And while he was the most successful king of the North, while Israel enjoyed a season of rare prosperity and prominence, the country was a moral and spiritual wreck.  The rich got richer and the poor got poorer.  The rich oppressed the poor.  The courts were corrupt, injustice rampant, the prophets false, immorality abounded, and worship was insincere.  Still, Israel was feeling awfully big for her britches and assumed she’d have smooth sailing ahead.  She had a decisive king, a pretty strong military, and a pretty good treasury, so who needs God when you’ve got all that.  It was party time for the well-to-do in Israel, and Amos became the party-pooper.  He saw a storm brewing in the north.  He saw destruction and exile in Israel’s future.  He saw the wrath and judgment of God poured out on that nation.  And Amos preached what he saw.

Israel in Amos’ day and the United States in ours are not exactly alike.  But there are enough similarities to learn something from Amos for our day.  Amos shows us that when God sends judgment He usually does so after all kinds of opportunities for nations to turn back to the Lord in humility and confession and need.  So in the spirit of Amos’ prophecy in Amos 4, I offer these warnings for America in this season of our history.

“I allowed terrorists to bring your nation to its knees and while the churches were full for a couple of Sundays and folks sang God Bless America a thousand times, you did not return to me,” says the Lord.  Instead, you took your government’s advice and went shopping.

“I have allowed floods on one town and drought on another, yet you have not returned to me,” says the Lord.

“I have allowed fires in one place, hurricanes and tornadoes in another, and yet you have not returned to me,” says the Lord.

“I have have allowed inflation and recession and loss of jobs and the fear that comes with it to wreck havoc in your nation, and yet you have not returned to me,” says the Lord.

“I have allowed you to stretch your nation thin militarily and financially so that great calamity could befall you in the future, and yet you have not returned to me,” says the Lord.

Such happenings should call us back to God.  Such things should humble us.  Such things should remind us that our hope is not in politics or candidates or governments or armies.  Our hope, our only hope, is in God.

So, America and the American church, let’s humble ourselves, turn from our sins, seek the Lord God, and live.  God is patient.  But sooner or later God says, “Enough.”  Who will join me in praying for renewal and revival and the mercy of God on our wayward, sinful nation?  Though I’m not very hopeful, I’m praying we turn back to God before it’s too late to turn back at all.