Monday, September 19, 2005

 

Is America Ripe for Judgment?

Occasionally you hear claims that America is God’s chosen nation, usually in the form of a lament that America is in danger of divine judgment because of abandoning the Mosaic covenant. “We have turned away from the Lord to worship idols.” “We do not care for the poor or protect the defenseless.” “There is sin in the camp.”

The belief that America is the New Israel in God’s plan gets some encouragement from quotations of Pilgrim or Puritan founding fathers who believed they were raised up for that purpose and who attempted to establish theocratic governments based on God’s covenant with ancient Israel.

If we read the Bible with open eyes, we will know that claim must be rejected. America is a “Gentile” nation, in terms of the Old Testament.

When God announced judgment on Israel, it was always for violating his covenant provisions. When God announced judgment on other nations, the reasons were always non-covenantal—since there was no covenant between God and them.

The first two chapters of Amos demonstrate this. God’s judgment on Judah (2:4-5) and Israel (2:6ff) is because of their failure to keep his covenantal laws imposed through special revelation at Mount Sinai: “They have rejected the law of the LORD and have not kept his decrees”; “They trample on the heads of the poor as upon the dust of the ground and deny justice to the oppressed.”

The six nations mentioned previously, however, are judged without reference to agreed laws, warnings, or special revelation. Their doom comes because of inhumane cruelty, doing things that even people without the Bible ought to know are wrong: “She threshed Gilead with sledges having iron teeth”; “She sold whole communities of captives to Edom, disregarding a treaty of brotherhood”; “He pursued his brother with a sword, stifling all compassion”; “He ripped open the pregnant women”; “He burned, as if to lime, the bones of Edom’s king.”

Announcements of judgment on Gentile nations are recorded in the major prophets also. The pattern in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel declares that judgment is coming because of excessive and inhuman violence and cruel treatment of others, with the addition of pride as a reason for judgment: “We have heard of Moab’s pride—her overweening pride and conceit, her pride and her insolence—but her boasts are empty. Therefore the Moabites wail . . .” (Isaiah 16:6-7); “The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks, who occupy the heights of the hill. Though you build your nest as high as the eagle’s, from there I will bring you down . . .” (Jeremiah 49:16).

When we include Obadiah, Nahum, and Habakkuk, we find the same pattern. Gentile nations are judged for cruelty and pride, not for breaking any covenant.

Is America ripe for judgment? Perhaps so. Inhumanity and cruelty have marked more of our history than we like to admit. And, most of the world sees the pride and conceit that we Americans pretend isn’t there. But, declining church attendance, or taking the Bible out of school, or declining moral values, or making too much money, or neglecting poor people, or other “old covenant” violations are not the cause of our national judgment.

Let’s keep our eyes open.

Comments:
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Excellent post. I have one additional thought to contribute, here on my blog.
 
Jeff mentions on his own blog site that in addition to considering God's different standards of judgment on Gentile nations, we need to notice that most of God's judgments on other nations is in vengeance on or protection of His own covenant people. I agree.
However, God doesn't renounce ownership of any nation or people. He tells the Israelites in Exodus 19:5-6, "All the earth is mine, but you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." And, most of the judgments Amos announces were for Gentile-on-Gentile atrocities.
 
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good word - Kerry
 
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