“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
DownshiftHave you ever driven a car with a five-speed manual transmission? Imagine you’re in fifth gear and about to downshift into fourth, but instead you inadvertently put it in second gear. You immediately recognize your mistake as your seat belt tightens around your body, the tires screech, the car fishtails and everybody in the backseat meets the backside of your front seat!
We, as a nation, have lost our way. There was a measure of grace given to us from our beginnings as a nation because we honored God. “Righteousness exalts a nation.” And, while it is true that we have always had sin and corruption, seldom have we honored sin and embraced it at a national level. When we do, this word in Proverbs says, it is “a disgrace to any people.” The word disgrace means “falling out of favor.”
We have children at our fellowship that do “signing” or interpretive dance to worship music. The sign they use for grace is a hand over or covering the head. When we are a righteous nation, God’s hand (or His grace) covers us and His covering is our protection. However, when we forsake God through blatant perpetual sin, then His hand begins to draw back. To what extent? Only He knows for sure, but I don’t want to find out! Simply put, sin causes a nation to be disgraced or fall out of favor with God. What does that mean? The protective covering is pulled back as our choices for sin invite and welcome darkness.
When we watch the evening news and see a famine in Africa, or the carnage in Syria, or over 300,000 dying in Haiti’s earthquake, our hearts go out to them but we think it could never happen like that in America. (I am not saying every disaster is God-ordered judgment. Some things are consequences of the laws of nature.) God spoke to the prophets and priests in Israel and said, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)
We are in a very serious hour, but we are not serious with God. At best, we are “dressing the wound” but we are not getting to the root cause. Much of our political turmoil is the result of our moral decline, our disgrace. Sociologists are now using the term “post-Christian era” to describe our nation. That is serious! We have lost our way and our covering and we have “turned our backs to God and not our faces.” (Jeremiah 2:27)
In a vision several years ago, I saw a wine flask pouring into a cup. It was being held over this nation as it was being filled. Finally, the cup did fill up and it spilled out over America. It was the cup of God’s wrath and it had become full to overflowing. Judgment was spilling out over this great nation.
I am convinced that we do not live with the revelation of how much grace this nation has known. We have lived our lives with God’s hand of grace over us. Because of that grace, I believe many disasters and calamities have been averted. His hand has “covered” us and certain things have not passed through. But, I believe, God’s hand is moving.
Turn RightWhat’s the answer? A “right” turning. Jesus told us a parable to show us that, other than the seed, the most important part of growing a harvest is good soil. If the soil has become hardened or fallow, it must be broken up. “Break up your fallow ground,” (Jeremiah 4:3)the Word says. To do that, it requires a plow that will turn the soil. This plow must have the sharp tip of a good blade to break through the hardened or fallow ground.
Like the plow turning soil, God wants to turn the hearts of men back to Him again. That was the case when Elijah confronted the hardened hearts of the Israelites by saying, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him. (I Kings 18:21)Then God sent fire from heaven and consumed the sacrifice. The scripture says, “The hearts of the people turned to God” saying, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”” (1 Kings 18:39)
We are a nation moved by polls and opinions and seldom by conviction. Like the children of Israel, we waver between what we “want” and what is “right.” The book of Judges is a book of judgement cycles. Israel would fall away from God, their enemies would waylay them, Israel would repent (or turn) and cry out to God, then God would send in a judge like Gideon and victory would be secured for Israel once again. Then… the cycle would repeat itself. Each time, when they had had enough, they would turn back to God!
God clearly wants to turn things around: “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11) It is our choice to turn (or return) to the Lord. God spoke through Jeremiah saying, “They have turned their backs to me and not their faces.” When we turn our backs on the Living God, we can’t see Him guiding us and we lose our way.
I know this for sure: God’s judgement is always motivated by His love. If He is judging us, you can know for sure that He is doing the most loving thing for the greatest good. Can His judgment be stopped? Can this cup somehow not spill over? I don’t know. I do know that the Prophet Joel said, “Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing…” (Joel 2:13–14)
Father God, in Jesus’ name, we turn our hearts back to You. Forgive us for our sins, which are many. Revive us with Your Holy Presence once again, like in the days of Elijah when the fire fell and the hearts of many turned back to serve You. We need you desperately. “In Your wrath, remember mercy.” Help us to turn back in such a way that we feel Your hand of grace covering our head as a nation and return us to the righteousness we once knew. In Jesus’ mighty Name. Amen.