Clinging to Hope

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Apart from national repentance, America will be unable to avoid divine judgment indefinitely. Discomforting as the thought may be, this is a good thing. It is important that God relent of the good He has planned for nations that do evil and rebel against His instructions. Without the incentive of pain and discomfort, we as humans rarely feel the need to change our behavior.

God says, “If I announce that I will plant and build up a certain nation or kingdom, but then that nation turns to evil and refuses to obey me, I will not bless it as I said I would” (Jer. 18:9–10). God knows that being in a right relationship with Himself is more important than temporary comfort and pleasure. It is considerably better to experience the difficulty of a national judgment that alerts us to the folly of our rebellion against God than it is to be permitted to traverse our rebellious path to its final destination of permanent separation from Him and the abundant life that God offers in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 20:11–15; 21:8, 23–27).

Difficult as it may be to appreciate, God’s corrective judgments are a mercy. They are God’s refusal to abandon His hope that a nation’s citizenry will choose the blessings associated with God’s kingdom over its cultural idols. These idols are the manifestation of a nation’s rebellious ideology; however, when a nation refuses to relinquish its idols, God will eventually shake that nation hard enough to cause them to fall. This is God’s severe judgment. In that moment, the people must choose whether to release their idols or to fall alongside them.

The experience of Israel illustrates this pattern. In Amos, God laments Israel’s refusal to respond to His corrective judgments: “‘I destroyed some of your cities, as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Those of you who survived were like charred sticks pulled from a fire. But still you would not return to me,’ says, the Lord” (Amos 4:11). Consequently, God warns that He will shake the nation to the point of collapse:

Prepare to meet your God in judgment, you people of Israel! … I, the Sovereign LORD, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel, says the LORD. For I will give the command and will shake Israel along with the other nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost. But all the sinners will die by the sword—all those who say, “Nothing bad will happen to us” (Amos 4:12b; 9:8–10).

This prophecy was fulfilled in 721 B.C. when Assyria conquered Israel. However, this was not God’s intended will for Israel. He is not eager to destroy people and nations in judgment. Rather, God’s desire is that we obey Him. According to Jeremiah 18:7, had Israel repented of its sin, God would have likely delayed judgment: “If I announce that a certain nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down, and destroyed, but then that nation renounces its evil ways, I will not destroy it as I had planned.”

God warned the Israelites to give them both opportunity and motivation to repent. When we declare God’s warning, we join with Him in clinging to this same hope that people will be motivated to repent. As long as there remains opportunity to warn, there remains hope that a nation will relent of its rebellion and receive mercy. However, we deprive our nation of this opportunity if we are unwilling to sound the alarm.

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. Biblegateway.com.