Friday, September 2, 2011

Weeping over America

This year in staff meetings we have been working our way through the book of Jeremiah. Although written over 2400 years ago, the parallels between his day and ours are uncanny. If God is still the same, his holiness hasn’t diminished, his standards for what constitute a good and just society haven’t altered, and our responsibility to hear and obey His Word hasn’t been negated, then the "weeping prophet" has a message for us. "If any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it" (Jeremiah 12:17). Here is a sampling of the indictments Jeremiah made against Judah:
They "went after worthlessness and became worthless" (2:5). They "turned degenerate" (2:21) and wore themselves out sinning (9:5). They were so wicked that they even taught "wicked women" things they didn't know (2:33). They "polluted the land with [their] vile whoredom" (3:2). They were callous and unjust toward the poor (2:34). They repeatedly claimed that they had not sinned (2:35). They were greedy, conniving, unashamed, and self-deluded regarding their true status (6:13-15). They treated the Word as an object of scorn (6:10). They were incapable of speaking the Truth (7:28). They followed their own hearts and went after false gods even more diligently than their forefathers had (9:14). They broke their covenant with the Lord (11:1-13). They were not correctable: they would not listen to God's prophet (2:30; 5:3), and they would not obey His Word. They assured themselves that God would not judge them, that disaster would not fall (5:12).
They were wrong, of course, as history demonstrated in 586 BC when Judah was crushed by the Babylonians. Many have warned of a similar judgment pending against America. In Death in the City, written in 1969, Francis Schaeffer not only claimed that both Europe and America were even then under "the wrath of God," he also addressed the question of the contemporary relevance of Jeremiah:
We do not have to guess what God would say about this [question] because there was a period of history, biblical history, which greatly parallels our day. That is the day of Jeremiah. The Book of Jeremiah and the Book of Lamentations show how God looks at a culture which knew Him and deliberately turned away. But this is not just the character of Jeremiah’s day of apostasy. It’s my day. It’s our day. And if we are going to help our own generation, our perspective must be that of Jeremiah, that weeping prophet Rembrandt so magnificently pictured weeping over Jerusalem, yet in the midst of his tears speaking without mitigating his message of judgment to a people who had had so much yet turned away.
Diane Singer recently outlined what our response to the evil of our day should be:
We must, like Jeremiah, keep speaking the truth about human nature (17:9): “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” Unless people understand that they are sinners in need of a Savior, they will -- in the words of one bumper sticker I've seen around town -- tragically believe they are "Born OK the first time" and so don't need Christ. Evangelism becomes more difficult in a culture where people think they are basically good and where people reject the concept of personal sin. We must keep warning our fellow citizens that it is foolish to trust in man (17:5), but wise to trust in God (17:7). The corollary to this is that people must learn to trust what the Bible has to say about what has gone wrong with our world and what God has done to set things right. We need to promote a biblical worldview in all areas of life so unbelievers can see the futility of the man-made philosophies they have been clinging to, and suffering under, and instead embrace the Truth of God's Word as it speaks to issues such as marriage, the family, the right and wrong use of technology and science, the sanctity of human life, the proper role of government, and other "hot button" issues. We must pray that we will stand firm in these evil days, as Jeremiah did (17:14-17). And while Jeremiah was forbidden to pray for his nation (7:16), we have not yet reached that point: therefore, we must fervently pray for revival to come to America. We should, with the Cross in mind, pray for God’s judgment to fall on the unrepentant who are leading many others down the destructive path of sin and evil (18:19-23).
What does it mean to keep the Cross in mind as you pray for God's judgment to fall on the unrepentant? Singer provides a solid answer:
An imprecatory prayer must come from two intense desires: a longing to see God's holiness vindicated, and the desire to see sinners repent of their sin and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Sometimes a form of judgment which stops short of death can bring sinners back to God: that is God's primary desire, and it should be ours. However, sometimes God's judgment exacts the ultimate price. In such cases, we should feel a deep sorrow for those who have perished, all the while recognizing that only God knows whose evil has progressed to the point of no return, and whose harmful influence on others has become so great that it must be stopped.
Early in his ministry, Jeremiah admonished his fellow citizens to "Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls" (6:16). Our study of Jeremiah this year has shown us that taking time to consider those ancient paths is still a good thing to do. The only question is whether we will be like the people of Judah who refused to walk in those paths, or whether will we be wiser than that: Will we allow the words of Jeremiah to help us stay on the narrow way which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14)? During our study of Jeremiah Jeremiah summer, we have become painfully aware of just how bad the situation in America has become; but it's also brought great blessing. Jeremiah reminds again and again that our God is gracious, loving, and patient: His greatest desire in warning us of impending judgment is to wake us up to reality so we'll repent and return to Him. He is ready to forgive and restore. So, we have a choice to make: we can face a future of devastating judgment (Jeremiah 1:16), or we can claim as our own these hopeful words written to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:11-14): "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD..." Which path will we choose?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post. I was extremely blessed by your words and the Scriptures you referenced. There is nothing more refreshing than the Truth of God poured out pure and simple, for the benefit of all those who call Him Father.

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