When Jeremiah preached to the people of Judah, the nation was on the brink of the Babylonian captivity. God was about to allow a foreign nation to come into the land and capture the people, destroy the temple, and show the anger of God over the sins of the nation. Why was God so upset? The people of Judah, people who had agreed to follow the ways of God, had been going against the law of God. They were cruelly abusing the poor and needy. They were shedding innocent blood. They were going after idols. And God would not tolerate it.
Even worse, the people who were doing all this were, whenever they were threatened, looking back to the physical presence of the temple in Jerusalem as a sort of talisman. They did not believe that God would ever let their nation fall, because they had the temple.
So these words to them from God through Jeremiah must have gotten the attention of at least a few.
3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’
Get the brashness of the people. We can’t fall. We have the temple, the temple, the temple. No matter how evil we are, we have the temple. God would not, could not, judge us. We are safe to continue to live as we want.
8 “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. 9 Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord.
See the problem. These people were living as enemies of God. But when threatened, they point to their heritage as if that will protect them. And the Lord is letting them know that it will not. The past faithfulness of some of their ancestors will not protect a wicked nation from the coming judgment of the Lord.
And here we are, sometime around 2,600 years from that time. Is there anything for the modern American to learn? O, I think so.
First, as I said yesterday, we are not Israel. America is not the promised land, and Americans are not the new covenant people of God. So we should not apply this as a one-to-one comparison. But with that said, we should recognize that many Americans are willing to see our nation race headlong away from the justice and the ways of the Lord. WE shed more innocent blood in our nation than in any place at any time in history with the millions of unborn children sacrificed at the altar of human sexual freedom. We know we have a justice problem—even the political liberals buy that. We are sexually immoral. Our nation embraces and champions things that God calls abominations. And our nation aggressively opposes, in some corners, simple and faithful expressions of Christianity.
Should we expect that our nation can then turn to some symbols of our heritage and expect that we, as a people, are not worthy of the wrath of God? Should we say that our defense of the world in World War II gives us a free pass? Should we assume that the Christian heritage of our forefathers will keep us from destruction?
I love where I live. I am grateful to God for people who gave much to let me be free. I’m grateful for the continuing freedom, at least today, to worship, to preach, and to care for others in Christ. I would not want to live somewhere else. And I get patriotism.
But, dear Christian friends, let’s not assume that we can avoid the judgment of God that our nation is already experiencing by an appeal to the flag, the constitution, or the military. We need to be a repentant people. We need to see the gospel spread in our land. WE need to see people’s souls saved. We need to see the word of God again valued. And if we do not see such a change, we need to understand, as Judah had to understand, that a prior status as people under the favor of God is no guarantee of future blessing for a sinful land.