Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Rebuke of a Nation: Call for a Return to God’s Righteousness

Rebuke of a Nation: Call for a Return to God’s Righteousness
By Rev. Greg Schermerhorn

3  Israel was holiness [something set apart from ordinary purposes, dedicated] to the Lord, the firstfruits of His harvest [of which no stranger was allowed to partake]; all who ate of it [injuring Israel] offended and became guilty; evil came upon them, says the Lord.
7  And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and good things. But when you entered, you defiled My land and made My heritage an abomination [detestable and loathsome].
11  Has a nation [ever] changed its gods, even though they are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory [God] for that which does not profit.
12  Be astonished and appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked and shrivel up with horror, says the Lord [at the behavior of the people].
13  For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and they have hewn for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns which cannot hold water.
19  Your own wickedness shall chasten and correct you, and your backslidings and desertion of faith shall reprove you. Know therefore and recognize that this is an evil and bitter thing: [first,] you have forsaken the Lord your God; [second,] you are indifferent to Me and the fear of Me is not in you, says the Lord of hosts.
20  For long ago [in Egypt] I broke your yoke and burst your bonds [not that you might be free, but that you might serve Me] and long ago you shattered the yoke and snapped the bonds [of My law which I put upon you]; you said, I will not serve and obey You! For upon every high hill and under every green tree you [eagerly] prostrated yourself [in idolatrous worship], playing the harlot.
21  Yet I had planted you [O house of Israel] a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned into degenerate shoots of wild vine alien to Me?
22  For though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, yet your iniquity and guilt are still [upon you; you are] spotted, dirty, and stained before Me, says the Lord.
26  As the thief is brought to shame when he is caught, so shall the house of Israel be brought to shame—they, their kings, their princes, their priests, and their prophets—
27  [Inasmuch as] they say to a tree, You are my father, and to a stone, You gave me birth. For they have turned their backs to Me and not their faces; but in the time of their trouble, they say, Arise [O Lord] and save us!
28  But where are your gods that you made for yourself? Let them arise if they can save you in the time of your trouble! For [as many as] the number of your cities are your gods, O Judah. [Surely so many handmade idols should be able to help you!]
31a  O generation [that you are]! Behold, consider, and regard the word of the Lord:
37b  for the Lord has rejected those in whom you confide, and you will not prosper with [respect to] them.

This passage of Scripture really preaches itself.  It is a rebuke to the leaders of Israel to turn from their idolatry and return to the Lord.  It is a warning that the Lord has rejected their ways and their political allegiances and that He will not allow them to prosper.  This is God putting the nation of Israel on notice that they have become an abomination in His sight.  We can draw some parallels to our nation from this passage.  I want to be very clear; God still has a purpose and a plan for His chosen people, the Jews.  His plan for the Jews is separate from His plan for the church.  He has two separate and distinct plans for his chosen people through Abraham and His chosen elect separated through salvation by grace.  That being said, there are many parallels that can be drawn between God’s plan for both of His peoples, the Jews and the Church of Jesus Christ.  This is just one of the many reasons we have the Old Testament as part of God’s revealed Word to us.

In many ways, the United States of America is like the Israel of the Old Testament.  Both nations were set apart before God Almighty and purposed to bring Him honor and glory.  While many modern historians try to deny that our country was founded on true Judeo-Christian values, this is a fact that cannot be denied.  It takes only the most rudimentary study of our country’s founding documents to see that they sought God’s guidance every step of the way as they formed our Republic.  Yes, I said Republic.  This is no democracy because we have a government founded upon law, specifically God’s law.  Democracy, in its purest form, is the lynch mob.  It doesn’t follow law, only the mob’s desire for or against issues.  Indeed, this would be a very dangerous way to govern as decisions are based upon the emotion of the moment.

Our founding fathers knew that freedom had a price.  They knew that liberty was not free.  They certainly had in mind Gal 5:1:

Galatians 5:1 (NKJV)

5 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

And also:

John 8:36 (NKJV)

36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

They knew that this freedom also came with responsibility.  Their responsibility was to act in ways that brought honor and glory to God, as opposed to bringing themselves personal gain.  They were charged to act in the best interests of the people, above and beyond their own self interests.  History reveals to us that America’s founding fathers did just that.  They fixed their eyes on Jesus and set about the business of shedding the yoke of British slavery and tyranny.  Then they set about the business of establishing a government that had never been tried in all of humanity’s existence.  A government that not only honored God, but sought to protect it citizen’s free moral agency to live life as they saw fit, to serve God, or not, was the citizen’s choice.  They established laws to prevent the government from establishing a state religion.  They wanted to ensure the free practice of freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  Twenty-seven of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were ordained ministers or had degrees from what we would consider seminaries today.

Today we are in bondage to sin as a nation.  Our leaders, in general, are not seeking to honor and glorify God.  Our nation, as a whole, does not seek the Lord.  We have departed from the path chosen by our nation’s founding fathers.  We have a nation where wickedness is accepted as a normal and sometimes even a desired behavior.  We have a nation where it is not only legal, but mothers are encouraged to consider abortion during their pregnancy.  We live in a society where various legal groups sue to prevent God’s name from being used, spoken or prayed, even at funerals.  We have elected officials at the highest levels of government that exalt themselves above God Almighty and declare to the world that “America is not a Christian nation.”  Truly Psalm 12:8 is true today:
Psalm 12:8 (NIV84)
8 The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.
There is a whole lot of strutting going on in Washington DC, Atlanta, and other seats of political power in our nation.

Now what do we do?  God made a promise to Solomon that I believe also has relevance to us in this case.  The Lord said:
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
This was addressed to Israel, but we are also called by the name of Jesus.  Jesus’ name is the Name above all names.
Philippians 2:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We need to humble ourselves and confess the sins we have committed as a nation before the Lord!  We need to turn from our wicked ways as a nation!  This means that our elected officials need to be engaged in this issue to see the truth of God’s Word.  If they do not see it or agree with the truth, it is our duty to VOTE to unelect them!  Christians can no longer be a silent majority in this country.  We MUST stand up and take action.  We cannot be complacent.  Look at the legacy complacent Christians have left us to deal with!  The “be silent” and “the live and let live” attitude are not Christ-like!  What did Jesus do when He saw the merchants and money changers in the Temple courts in Jerusalem?  He was angry and He cleaned house.   
Mark 11:15–17 (AMP)
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And He went into the temple [area, the porches and courts] and began to drive out those who sold and bought in the temple area, and He overturned the [four-footed] tables of the money changers and the seats of those who dealt in doves;
16 And He would not permit anyone to carry any household equipment through the temple enclosure [thus making the temple area a short-cut traffic lane].
17 And He taught and said to them, Is it not written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations? But you have turned it into a den of robbers.

Indeed, America also became a house of prayer for all the nations.  As a place of true freedom of religion and practice, this nation became a haven for persecuted Christians from around the world.  Baptists and Anabaptist were among some of the first Christians to come to this country before it was America.  Freedom of religious practice is one of the cornerstones of our country that modern revisionist historians would have you know nothing about.
Isaiah 56:7 (NKJV)
7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Much of Isaiah 56:7 is also true of America, in her youth.

How will we change as a nation?  It is a daunting thing, but just like eating an elephant, it can only be done one bite at a time.  This change starts at the individual level with each one of us.  It starts with the personal prayer before the Lord, “Lord, please heal our land.”  We must continually seek the Lord in our own lives first and foremost.  We are admonished to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus in Heb 12:1-3.
Hebrews 12:1–3 (NASB95)
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

We have to lay aside the things which keep us from become fully committed followers of Jesus Christ and draw our strength from Him.  This is a lifelong process, so realize that you can’t wait until the point where you have reached Christ-likeness to start becoming involved.  You need to be on your journey toward Christ-likeness and be involved in the matters that the Lord would have you address. 

I believe that there are two issues that every Christian has been commanded to address, regardless of anything else the Lord puts on your heart.  They are the Great Commission and the Great Command.  These are Jesus’ last commands to us, as His church, before He ascended into Heaven.  Here it is:
Matthew 28:19–20 (NKJV)
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

The Great Commission is the command to reach the lost of this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Great Command is the command to lead believers toward a state of growth and spiritual maturity in their relationship with the Lord.  All Christians share in this responsibility and we are all gifted differently to fulfill this mission.  God also gives us individual assignments to accomplish in addition to these tasks based upon His calling in our lives.  We are all a Bible that someone else reads.  Your actions tell the story of your relationship with Jesus.  As citizens of this country, we have a responsibility to see that business is conducted in an honorable way.  In our specific case, we were founded upon godly principles and precepts, so we need to seek to elect officials who will honor God and the godly principles and precepts upon which this country was founded.

Pray for America. We have been the second Promised Land for generations of people.  For 235 years, America has more or less prospered.  Certainly it did for the first 200 years.  At the turn of 1900, major secular thought started to invade our country through universities, colleges, seminaries, and even the government.  These humanistic ideas have resulted in our country turning its back upon God Almighty.  This is evident by our government’s political positions like backing away from Israel in favor of the Palestinians, the overt and successful attempt to change the Constitution’s freedom of religion into freedom from religion, and the general moral decline of our society highlighted by abortion.  The wicked are freely strutting about in honor within our society.  Pray for America, and her leaders at all levels of government.  Pray for your pastor.  Pray for your family.  Pray for an awakening and a revival.  It is not too late!