Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Legacy of Ignoring God

As I watched the presidential election cycle this year, I was saddened more than ever at how far our nation is moving from God the Father. As they do every four years, candidates promise more wealth to the average American, even though it is the government that takes a large portion of it away in taxes, which are then inefficiently used and ill-spent. And except for the occasional flash of godly awareness (like McCain’s response to the abortion question at the Saddleback interviews), most of the responses are couched in politically correct, vapid, and meaningless phrases.

As I was reading through the book of Jeremiah, I saw another leader who had the same attitude toward God, and who acted upon God’s warnings with a very deliberate response. In chapters 35 and 36, we see God instructing Jeremiah to write words on a scroll which will warn the people of their coming captivity if they don’t turn from their godless ways. God arranges to have these words read in the presence of King Jehoiakim, ruler of Judah. His response to God’s words was to use a knife on every few sentences in the scroll, cut them off, and cast them into the fire. I have read this passage many dozens of times before, but the bold disregard for God acted out by Jehoiakim has never struck me fully. Can you imagine burning a letter sent to you from the Creator, sentence by sentence, in the presence of witnesses? Add to this his attitude during the process – Jeremiah 36:23, 24 says “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe's knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.”

While their act is stunning to a believing Christian, I can’t help but think that our own leaders are not far from this. I believe that God has protected this nation for the last 250 years, and has blessed it beyond measure precisely because we started as a God-fearing people. But as we move away from that gradually over the years, history shows that God will remove His blessing as well. When the United States Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade by a vote of seven-to-two in 1973, a piece of God’s blessing was removed. As same-sex-couple laws are entered into the books at the state level, God removes even more. We may already be past the tipping point, with no possible return short of a complete repeal of these laws. And in today’s political climate, that seems very unlikely.

How long does it take before God abandons our nation altogether? Looking at the example in Jeremiah, we see that God threatened them with captivity during the reign of Jehoiakim. The scroll-burning incident likely took place around 600 B.C., while the Babylonian siege began about eleven years later. A year-and-a-half after this, the siege was successful and the people of Judah were taken into captivity. So, in all, the time between God’s warning and the fall of Jerusalem was less than fifteen years. The act of Jehoiakim, who burned God’s words, demonstrates that he was not worried about the immediacy of God’s response. But he should have been, because Babylon began moving against the nation of Judah right away.

One more interesting thing to note is that God does not always award victory to the most God-fearing nation. The Babylonian empire did not follow Him, but they were allowed to take God’s people captive. This tells me that God could deliver our nation into the hands of another nation that is even less godly than ours. God repeatedly does this to His people in the Old Testament, with the purpose of leading them back to Him after a time of suffering. I can’t help but wonder if He is doing the same thing to us.

I don’t want my children to grow up in a world ruled by Communist China, or godless Russia. If our nation’s leaders continue to ignore God’s warnings and proceed on their path toward a politically correct but godless rule of law, then I fear that this reality may come to pass. It is for this reason that I am educating my son and daughters to be strong leaders who uphold God’s words first. If they ever have the chance to enter political office, I want them to be like King Josiah, who heard God’s words for the first time, tore his robes, and said "Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us" (2 Kings 22:13). Josiah pledged to obey God’s covenant and the Bible tell us in 2 Kings 23:25 that “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the LORD as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” That is a legacy worth pursuing. I pray that our nation can rediscover it before it’s too late.

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