How do we handle texts from the prophets condemning the sin of Israel and Judah? That is not as easy a question as one might imagine. On the one hand, it seems simple. Sin is sin. God is not pleased when nations do the things he forbids. But the prophets are speaking something more.
The prophets who speak to Israel and Judah are speaking to a people who have made a covenant with the Lord. They have promised to obey his laws. They have accepted God’s promise of protection and provision. They also have accepted his promise of judgment if they refuse to obey him.
In our modern setting, our national government is not a one-to-one parallel with Judah. America is not Israel. Even if many of our founders were genuine believers, even if you accept the narrative that the nation is truly intended to be a Christian nation, we are not in covenant with the Lord. What Israel was is different than what we are. And thus to apply the words of the prophets directly is not exactly fitting.
The prophets were speaking to people who were in covenant relationship with the Lord, who had accepted his governing, who had signed off on his justice, and who then turned and rebelled. And I still want to ask, what is the closest parallel? How do we apply something like the following?
for I will stretch out my hand
against the inhabitants of the land,”
declares the Lord.
13 “For from the least to the greatest of them,
everyone is greedy for unjust gain;
and from prophet to priest,
everyone deals falsely.
14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly,
saying, ‘Peace, peace,’
when there is no peace.
15 Were they ashamed when they committed abomination?
No, they were not at all ashamed;
they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,”
says the Lord.
Notice with whom God is most upset. God is speaking powerfully against the religious in Israel who are speaking a false peace to the people of the land. God is speaking to false prophets and other such men who are telling the people of the land that they need not repent. God is promising judgment to come for those who should have the truth, and out of a love of sin or a love of comfort or a love of status are telling the sinning nation around them that it’s all just fine.
Now, do not think for a moment that God is giving the non-religious of the land a pass. They have committed abomination, but they do not even know how to blush. The concept of shame for grievous sin against the Lord is simply gone from that society. And thus the judgment of God is coming.
How do we handle this? I’d say two things at least are in order. On a simple side, sin is sin, and we need to see that our land is full of evil. Be careful not to let gratitude for our nation and those who have helped us maintain freedom prevent you from seeing our need of national repentance. WE embrace as a nation what God calls abomination. We have legalized the shedding of innocent blood. We have publicized sexual immorality and condemn those who still know how to blush. And if we do not repent, repenting as a nation, we are under wrath that we will not survive.
But, as a Christian, I need to be really careful not to let this passage make me only point fingers at the lost world around me. God’s strongest condemnation here is for the people who claim to be his people, the religious leaders, who speak peace to a land in rebellion against the Lord. We cannot do that and be faithful Christians. We need to weep. WE need to blush. We need to call our land to repentance. We need to warn of judgment and not rest in a supposed righteousness built into our culture.
Our nation is not Israel. We as a people do not have covenant promises of favor from God. We would do well not to boldly commit abomination before the Lord. Those who are in covenant relationship with the Lord, his church, need to be sure first not to participate in the sins of the nation. We next need to be sure not to pretend that the sins of the nation are OK. And we need to warn the nation to repent by first coming to Christ and then by turning from the evils that bring the wrath of God down on any nation.
Does this make me about modern social justice? Nope, I’m about repentance. I’m not about allowing the secular academy to tell us what is and what is not acceptable repentance. I’m about the word of God calling the people of God to stand in opposition to all things that dishonor God. So I hate racism. I hate murder. I hate abuse. And it is my job, as a Christian, to let the word of God command me how to live and how to call others to repentance.