The Old Testament prophets preached a united message over the course of hundreds of years: the judgment of God was coming upon the nations of Israel and Judah because they had forsaken Him to worship and serve other gods and because they had refused to obey Him. The message was not well received by the general population because the people of Israel were so convinced of their status as “God’s chosen people” and so secure in their present prosperity and peace that they could never conceive of God turning His back upon the nation. Ultimately, the judgment of God would come in the form of two invading nations: Assyria would conquer Israel in 922 BC and Babylon would conquer Judah in 586 BC. Jerusalem, the capital city, was destroyed along with the Temple of the Lord. Never again would the nation return to its glory, even when the exile ended and some of the people returned to rebuild the Temple. The Davidic throne was gone, never to be restored again until the second coming of the Messiah.
It is very difficult to read the words of the Old Testament prophets and NOT apply them to our own nation. From the very beginning, the people who landed on the shores of North America to from a new nation viewed themselves much like the people of Israel leaving Egypt for the Land of Promise. If Americans can see in the exodus story the roots or our beginnings, then we should also see in the Old Testament prophets the roots of our demise. By that I mean, the very same words of the prophets warning of the coming judgment of God upon a nation that has turned to worship other gods and that refuses to obey His commands should be ringing in our ears.
Charles Spurgeon knew of the possibility of the judgment of God upon his own nation, the people of England. In 1885, he preached a sermon called “The Coming Judgment on the Secrets of Men” in which he said,
There is a judgment also passing upon nations, for as nations will not exist as nations in another world, they have to be judged and punished in this present state. The thoughtful reader of history will not fail to observe, how sternly this justice had dealt with empire after empire, when they have become corrupt. Colossal dominions have withered to the ground, when sentenced by the King of kings. Go ye and ask to-day, “Where is the empire of Assyria? Where are the mighty cities of Babylon? Where are the glories of the Medes and Persians? What has become of the Macedonian power? Where are the Caesars and their palaces?” These empires were forces established by cruelty, and used for oppression; they fostered luxury and licentiousness, and when they were no longer tolerable, the earth was purged from their polluting existence. Ah me! what horrors of war, bloodshed, and devastation, have come upon men as the result of their iniquities! The world is full of the monuments, both of the mercy and the justice of God: in fact the monuments of his justice, if rightly viewed, are proofs of his goodness; for it is mercy on the part of God to put an end to evil systems when, like a nightmare, they weigh heavily upon the bosom of mankind.
The omnipotent, Judge has not ceased from his sovereign rule over kingdoms, and our own country may yet have to feel his chastisements. We have often laughed among ourselves at the idea of the New Zealander sitting on the broken arch of London Bridge amid the ruins of this metropolis. But is it quite so ridiculous as it looks? It is more than possible it will be realized if our iniquities continue to abound. What is there about London that it should be more enduring than Rome? Why should the palaces of our monarchies be eternal if the palaces of Koyunjik have fallen? The almost boundless power of the Pharaohs has passed away, and Egypt has become the meanest of nations; why should not England come under like condemnation? What are we? What is there about our boastful race, whether on this side of the Atlantic or the other, that we should monopolize the favor of God? If we rebel, and sin against him, he will not hold us guiltless, but will deal out impartial justice to an ungrateful race.
And so, it is right and proper to hear the warnings of God’s judgment upon nations who forsake the Lord and refuse to obey His commands.
This morning, I read some startling words from the prophecies of Isaiah. While I usually think of the judgment of God in Old Testament times as invading armies, the judgment of God described in Isaiah 3 is quite different:
See now, the Lord, the LORD Almighty, is about to take from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: all supplies of food and all supplies of water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the soothsayer and elder, the captain of fifty and man of rank, the counselor, skilled craftsman and clever enchanter. I will make boys their officials; mere children will govern them. People will oppress each other—man against man, neighbor against neighbor. The young will rise up against the old, the base against the honorable. (Isaiah 3.1-4)
The beginning moves of God’s judgment are slight, and perhaps imperceptible to the common vision. God removed from Judah the hero warrior, the prophet, the wise counselor, and even the skilled craftsman. In their place rose young people with little respect for the knowledge of the aged.
The youth movement in America is quite evident. NFL teams are hiring 30 year old coaches with no experience. The most popular churches are those with hip, 30 year old pastors. And we have elected a President with almost no experience. Could it be that the judgment of God is already in progress upon our great nation? The judgment that will culminate in national collapse, with the King of Kings removing us from the land of peace and prosperity, with the Sovereign Lord using a foreign nation as an instrument of His judgment, that judgment is already in motion when the Lord removes from this nation the righteous judge, the faithful prophet, the warrior hero, and the wise counselor. As Amos said, “The Lord roars from Zion” as a lion who is in mid pounce (see Amos 1.2 and Amos 3.4).
Judgment is in motion.
No nation will stand on the strength of its military might (see Psalm 33.16), and God’s judgment falls on those who are convinced that the capital city is set securely in peace (see Amos 6.1). Our Gross Domestic Product will not be able to protect us from the One who owns it all. Spurgeon’s words, with a few modifications, remain true today:
The omnipotent, Judge has not ceased from his sovereign rule over kingdoms, and our own country may yet have to feel his chastisements. We have often laughed among ourselves at the idea of the Iranian sitting amid the ruins of this metropolis. But is it quite so ridiculous as it looks? It is more than possible it will be realized if our iniquities continue to abound. What is there about Washington that it should be more enduring than Rome? Why should the White House be eternal if the palaces of Koyunjik have fallen? The almost boundless power of the Pharaohs has passed away, and Egypt has become the meanest of nations; why should not America come under like condemnation? What are we? What is there about our boastful race, whether on this side of the Atlantic or the other, that we should monopolize the favor of God? If we rebel, and sin against him, he will not hold us guiltless, but will deal out impartial justice to an ungrateful race.