Next month, the American people will decide who will lead this nation for the next four years. The contrast couldn’t be starker. Our sitting president cut his teeth as a community activist in the Altgeld Gardens public housing project located in Chicago’s infamous South Side. Mitt Romney, devout Mormon and son of a former U.S. senator, only entered politics after a distinguished career in business. Who is best suited to oversee the enormous apparatus of the U. S. government? I suspect that, in the long run, it won’t matter much. The important issues facing this nation are beyond even presidential influence.
What matters most to social conservatives are issues such as abortion, homosexual rights and pornography. Yet, consider this: Our nation has had five Republican presidents since these issues began to force their way into mainstream America in the early Seventies and yet the immorality they represent is more pervasive and entrenched in our culture than ever before. The fact that fifty million babies have been aborted in the U.S. since 1973 is one glaring indication of how little change these (assumedly pro-life) presidents have been able to accomplish.
Our country has gone downhill spiritually and morally at a frightful pace over the past four decades. I fear we have entered “critical mass”—where social momentum takes a nation past the point of no return.
I personally cannot see anything in either of our candidates that suggests godly character. But even if one of these men were truly a sold-out, no-compromising, utterly committed saint of the Most High God, he could not stem the tide of evil that has overtaken our country. Certainly neither of them could be compared to King Hezekiah for godliness; but even this righteous man (who enjoyed total authority over his country) could not stop the spiritual decline of Israel during his time. True, the reforms he initiated helped for a time, but no sooner had he died than his son Manasseh led the all-too-willing Jewish people right back into blatant idolatry and wickedness. No, not even a strong and godly leader can turn a nation around once it has gone bad.
And one more thing: once the demon of pleasure-worship grips a people, judgment is certain to follow.
Consider the time when the Jewish elders approached the prophet Ezekiel looking for a word of assurance from the Lord. The answer they received that day must have shocked them. “If a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it… even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their ownrighteousness they could only deliver themselves.” He went on to mention “four severe judgments” that were coming: “sword, famine, wild beasts and plague.” (Ezekiel 14:13-14, 21)
Think about the implications of that statement. Even if: Noah (whose righteous life stood in all-out contrast to the self-indulgence and wickedness of his day), Job (who spoke the remarkable line, “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him” which revealed a level of commitment few have attained), and Daniel (beloved of God) were holding daily times of corporate intercession for Israel, they could not stop God from pouring out His terrifying judgments!
By Ezekiel’s time, the nation of Israel had passed the point of no return. Judgment must come. As much as He loved these three saints, “God would not, for their sake, contradict his own declarations, reverse his own laws, and abandon his own moral government.” [i]
Yes, I believe America is also moving ever closer to the judgments of God, but there are a couple of factors that most people don’t think about that are worth consideration.
First, the judgments mentioned by Ezekiel were not eternal in nature; they only had to do with the temporal prosperity and security of Israel’s citizens. When God said He would not deliver the Jewish people from His judgments, His point was that He would allow their temporal lives to be disrupted by hardship for the sake of the eternal. Man tends to think in temporal terms, but the Lord’s first consideration is always the wellbeing of people in the realm of eternity.
Second, God does not turn against a nation because He gets sick-and-tired of people and their sin. In fact, His primary purpose for sending judgment isn’t to punish people. There will be plenty of time for that in the eternal realm. Sinners and rebels will face everlasting retribution so severe that it will make “sword, famine, wild beasts and plague” seem like child’s play in comparison.
No, the bigger purpose God has in mind is the salvation of eternal souls. (2 Peter 3:9) Not long after this incident, He queried Ezekiel, “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23)
Later, He would reiterate His sentiments through the prophet Zechariah regarding the Jewish nation in the Tribulation Period: “It will come about in all the land,” declares the Lord, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it. And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” (Zechariah 13:8-9)
Now we’re getting to the heart of why the Lord allows judgment to fall upon the people with whom He is dealing. The purpose of judgment is separation: good from evil, right from wrong, true from false. The point of it is not to hurt people; it is to bring about circumstances that will best ensure the salvation of a remnant.
The truth of the matter is that the Lord only sends affliction on His people as a last option. He is far too benevolent and longsuffering to lash out at people in a flash of anger.
The cancer patient undergoing the excruciating process of chemotherapy might think the physician is trying to kill him. But no, the good doctor is simply attempting to eradicate the disease that will certainly kill him if radical treatment isn’t performed.
Shortsighted humans tend to be way too fond of their comforts and pleasures. If we could only lift up our eyes and get a better sight of the eternal realm—with the everlasting bliss of saints and the eternal punishment of sinners—we would welcome God’s judgment on our land. But whether or not we come to appreciate the Lord’s dealings with our nation, our desire for temporal comfort is not going to alter His greater purposes.
Next month the citizens of the United States will decide which of these two men best represents their values and desires for the future of the country. But make no mistake about it: the choice may slow down or speed up the impending judgment, but it will not stop it. As much as He loves the American people, He will not “contradict his own declarations, reverse his own laws, and abandon his own moral government.”
“LORD, I have heard the report about You and I fear. O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.” (Habakkuk 3:2)