It’s a different season on planet earth these days. Certainly, there has always been a level of disturbance, a modicum of trouble, an atmosphere of unsettledness in our nation, yet something is clearly different these days. There is an added element that has entered the equation which should cause all of us to pause and consider. Whereas there is nothing new about political tension, racial discord, social outcry in our nation’s history, I am discerning that a new ingredient has been poured into the mix. We are wise to also note that hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and other natural phenomena have been with us all along, but these days there is an entirely unique sensation accompanying them.
What is this added element, this new ingredient, this unique sensation to which I am referring? I believe we can call it the uncomfortable, undeniable intentionality of God.
“I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7
Proud Americans have a hard time swallowing this horse-pill of reality. We have learned to dismiss with a flip of our hand the possibility that God might be working against our nation – after all, we are America. Those of us who are in the Church have been for decades so singularly focused on the goodness of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, that we can scarcely entertain for more than a minute the notion that God might actually be intentionally fighting us through any means that He has at His infinite disposal. Isaiah wrote down the statement of the Lord and it is very clear: in addition to being the source of blessing, God identifies Himself also as the creator of certain calamities. In case we tried to apply mental gymnastics in order to twist the plain meaning of His words away, He adds, “I am the Lord who does all these things.”
I don’t really want to mess up the groove for your weekend, but I feel compelled to suggest that the Almighty is repeating with America what Hehas done throughout history with other nations: He is heavily and intentionally chastising us. He did it to Egypt in the days of Moses. He did it to the pagan nations in Canaan when they fought His beloved Israel. Oh yeah, about His beloved Israel, He openly brought them down via the Assyrians and Babylonians when His chosen children believed that they could do whatever they wanted with impunity, in open defiance of Him. I will be the first and loudest voice in proclaiming the goodness, gentleness and graciousness of God. The same verse above wherein He declares that He intentionally creates calamity also contains His assertion that He offers light and well-being. He is really, really good.
But He is not a push-over. I think we have entered a season that reveals His desire to communicate that reality to the United States of America.
Here’s how it works when God is intentionally acting to bring about repentance, and calling for a nation to return to Him: He distresses them in the beginning. He removes the blessings they have previously enjoyed. Things become harder as the flow of His enriching endowments become clogged. Sometime later, with an omnipotent hand, He then bring down walls of former protection from all the badness in the world. Things that a nation was immune from in days of greater honor and fuller obedience, suddenly begin to spill over and trouble the land. When the people of that nation still do not repent, God next shifts His mode from that of a patient Father to that of a committed disciplinarian. He goes after those people with a strong arm and high hand. When this occurs, it is no longer the more passive act of the removal of blessing and the allowing of natural difficulties to find a nation, it is that God Himself now begins to fight those people. When this begins to happen, it comes to a full crisis in which a nation either repents or experiences what no nation ever thinks will happen to them: the comprehensive judgment of a righteous King who has never been successfully resisted by any nation. History reveals that no nation ever returns from this particular season with God. He continues on in His righteousness while that particular nation who refused to repent becomes one more in a succession of historical footnotes.
America is not the exception. Nor will we be.
Church, our voices are the only hope now. There will not be a political solution. There will not be a return to whatever your favorite version of normal life in America happens to be. Our fondness and sentimentality will be no match for God’s fierceness and strength. Is there, at this moment, any hope for our nation? Yes. But it is a singular hope. The only way that the intentional calamity that God has begun can be averted is for the Church to, once again, arise to the most prominent voice in the land. If this occurs, and if the people listening to the voice of the Church will respond in repentance, then healing will find us. Am I optimistic that this will occur?
Not today, no.
But I am willing to be realigned in my confidence. As a matter of fact, I am eager for this to happen. I quoted Isaiah earlier in this post, now let me quote Him again below, so that the flicker of hope that is with us might linger long enough to become a lasting flame in our hearts. This second truth from Isaiah is why I hold on to the thinnest thread of hope that America can be saved. It is not because we have it within us as a nation. We, clearly, do not, and that would be an extremely poor foundation for any hope. No, our hope is rooted in what all valid hope has always been rooted in: the mercy of an immeasurably good God.
“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.” – Isaiah 30:18