Saturday, 28 November 2015

Nations who Reject God

Nations who Reject God

Does God hand nations who reject him over to the consequences of their folly? If it comes to that does the act of a nation and its leaders rejecting God inevitably lead to foolish political decisions?

This would seem likely to be the case, but I would like to establish that it is biblical teaching, not just a likely looking theory.

We have all heard platform speakers who take a short narrative section of the Bible and use it as the “proof” for even the most blatantly un-biblical notions. I certainly don't want to be like that! So how do we try to find accurately what the Bible teaches (if anything) on this question).

First we can check if more general teaching is consistent with our theory being true.

The Bible does say that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10, Prov. 1:7, Prov. 9:10) and conversely “the fool says in their heart 'there is no God'.” Ps 14:1. So there is a link both between being God-fearing and making wise decisions, and between folly and rejecting God, so this is positive so far.

There are prophecies against Israel's rulers, pictured as shepherds over God's flock, which shed some light:

Jeremiah 10:21 “the shepherds are senseless and do not enquire of the Lord; so they do not prosper and all their flock is scattered." Here rejecting God's counsel on the part of the national leaders has bad consequences for the people.

Ezekiel 34 deals with Israel's corrupt leaders at length and leads up to the thrilling prophecy that YHWH himself will step in and rescue the flock and be their shepherd – a Good Shepherd! But in the early part of the chapter, the faults of the leaders are laid bare, and the fact that (up to a point) God did allow the whole nation to suffer the consequences of their mis-rule: “The word of the Lord came to me “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ' This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to your shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, cloth yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost You have ruled them brutally and harshly. So they were scattered ...” (my emphasis)

There is a great deal of food for thought in this passage for civic and national leaders – and ministers about what God requires of them, but the point relevant to our discussion is the result of their failure in the case of Israel : God's sheep were scattered. So although he promised – and performed – a wonderful future rescue of his sheep; at that time the natural consequences of these leader's decisions were allowed to follow.

Again from these passages there is a link between leaders rejecting God's way and what God requires of leaders, and harm flowing on the whole nation. This is further support for our theory.

Now to two cases-in-point in the Bible.

The first is the time of Jeremiah. The successive kings and even more so their chief advisers were not men of God. The chief priests were actively opposing the prophet. The people were, as we learn in the later chapters of Jeremiah actively worshiping idols.

The first hurdle, a low one as it happens, is that the disaster which falls on Israel is attributed by the Bible to God's judgement. It is a commonplace in philosophy (and accident investigation!) that the question “What caused this to happen?” can be answered on different levels – all of which can be true. So in this case, it was God's judgement. It was also a result human folly in not taking the advice and the choices that God offered which would have averted the disaster.

As I said in an earlier post, ancient Israel was in a particular covenant relationship with Godnot shared by modern democracies. So some aspects of what God did to Israel when they rebelled against him and worshiped idols cannot be simply transferred to our situation. On the other hand God did punish eve pagan nations for extreme evil, so some of God's warnings of judgement linked to evil acts may well be applicable. But  to be on the safe side, I will not use the level of the cause being God's judgement in looking at our situation.

On the simultaneous level of the cause being human folly and disobedience, there is good support for our theory – except that God's mercy is so great that he holds out open arms to them right up to the end! They continue to reject him!

On the political level the rulers made foolish choices. Flirting with the waning Egyptian empire and rebelling against their powerful Babylonian overlords was proved by subsequent events to be sheer idiotic folly. And God warned them to this effect. So their rejection of God's reality, power and goodness led to them becoming really bad political decision makers. (Or possibly, the same inner workings which made them reject God also had the effect of making them make stupid choices in other areas)

Even on the personal level, they would not go against human pressure and obey God. Near the end, King Zedekiah sough out Jeremiah and asked counsel of God. By this time it was obvious that the court prophets had been, as Jeremiah said, lying in God's name. It was also obvious that the policies urged on the king by the pro-Egypt lobby were a disaster. God told Zedekiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. He promised that if he did, he and his would live. He warned that if he did not the city would be burned and his family killed. Zedekiah did not obey this simple advice. He and the city paid dearly for his poor choice.

Applying this to our situation, we may or may not as nations be incurring God's judgement for our sins: but certainly our leaders and the dominant voices in our countries have been rejecting God and busily sweeping Christian morals and teaching out the door – this has left them wide open to human folly and the deceits of the devil!

My second example is the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

Jesus wept over the city ans said: “How often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37)

In Luke 19:41 ff, we read: “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

In the light of Jesus sorrow over Jerusalem and his prayer on the cross “Father forgive them ...” It is unlikely that the disaster which did indeed befall Jerusalem was divine retribution! However Jesus does link it to their national failure to recognize him – the Messiah.

This event also seems to support our theory: Had they as a nation recognized Jesus, events would have turned out differently. They did not, and their rejection of God's purposes for them left them open to also commit the political folly which led to their destruction.

So in the modern Western world, to varying extents nation after nation that has in the past given at least nominal allegiance to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has rejected him. Radical secularists have campaigned to remove all overt Christian influence, even Christians have been demoralized and churches infiltrated. Our nations are now left defenseless against human folly and the destructive influence of the devil.

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