Warnings For America
from sermon series
“Learning from Isaiah”
by Pastor Dave Strem
Used by permission
What kind of country are we becoming? It seems to be beyond our control. It seems to be happening despite our personal efforts to stop it. It is becoming more difficult to shield our children from its negative influences. How do you feel about America?
How do you feel about America? How do you feel about life in this country? Many are frustrated by the ungodly things that occur daily in our country. We do not like these changes taking place; we do not like the decisions that are handed down. We do not like the moral shifts. We do not like the rise of sexuality in our culture that is driven by the entertainment industry.
Actually, a more important question should concern us: How does God feel about America? As God looked at Israel in the first five chapters of Isaiah, He reveals His pattern for judgment and what He looks for a nation to do.
There are some amazing parallels between the social conditions in Israel that prompted God to respond in Isaiah’s time and the social conditions of America today. If you read the first five chapters of Isaiah and picture in your mind that He is talking to America, it seems uncannily similar to our present situation. We must know that the same standards that God used to judge Israel, He will use to judge America. And if God did not withhold that judgment from Israel what makes us think He would withhold it from America, or any other nation? This is important to understand.
The political climate in Israel in that day is similar to America today. Social conditions and world politics were unstable and violent. Power was grasped by assassination and terrorism. Covert operations, as we call them today, were commonplace in that day as well: spies, bribes, and conspiracies. The world faced war after war after war and never really settled anything. They just had a different name on the throne. Nations sought to buy friendship and peace by exhorting tribute or by giving foreign aid. Social justice belonged to those who could afford it. Government officials were manipulated by bribes and kickbacks. Decision making ability was in the hands of the few who enjoyed plush luxury while the poor scrounged for their next meal. They promoted wars for their own economic growth while those who exploited and profited from it did not actually have to go and fight themselves. For us those similarities are intriguing.
Listen to Isaiah 1:2: “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! This is what the Lord says: ‘The children I raised and cared for have turned against me. Even the animals—the donkey and the ox—know their owner and appreciate his care, but not my people Israel. No matter what I do for them, they still do not understand. Oh, what a sinful nation they are! They are loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil and corrupt children who have turned away from the Lord. They have despised the Holy One of Israel, cutting themselves off from his help. Why do they continue to invite punishment? Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. You are sick from head to foot—covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—without any ointments or bandages.’” Historically, does that sound like American?
Those who came to this country were devoutly religious, our settlers came here to find religious freedom, not simply freedom to do as they pleased. They sought freedom to grow closer to God. Freedom, as freedom, was not the goal. God was the goal. Freedom was the vehicle to get to the goal. In America today freedom itself has become the mantra. Freedom to do as one pleases, even if it means killing a baby in the womb, passing our children off for someone else to raise, or destroying our marriage because we indulge sexual desire without restraint.
God’s ways are ignored as too restrictive, as being against personal freedom. Individual liberty, personal expression, is the highest value that occupies America’s attention. We have lost our way, we cannot think clearly, our “head is injured,” we cannot feel clearly, our “heart is sick.” The social and political parallels are striking.
There are also religious parallels. Isaiah 1:11-15 describes Israel’s religious condition. “’I am sick of your sacrifices,” says the Lord. ‘Don’t bring me any more burnt offerings! I don’t want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings of rams and goats. Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils! Your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath day, and your special days for fasting—even your most pious meetings—are all sinful and false. I want nothing more to do with them. I hate all your festivals and sacrifices. I cannot stand the sight of them! From now on, when you lift up your hands in prayer, I will refuse to look. Even though you offer many prayers, I will not listen. For your hands are covered with the blood of your innocent victims.’”
They were celebrating what God had done in the past but they had forgotten about God Himself. How do you think God, our Lord, feels about Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving, and All Saint’s Day? Sunday has become a play day, filled with football, golf, and auto races. The Babe in Swaddling Clothes has been replaced by Santa Claus, by commercialism. The Easter Cross is overshadowed by the Easter Bunny. All Saint’s Day is devoured by ghosts and goblins on “Hallowed Eve.” Thanksgiving is a celebration of gluttony and the starting gun for the annual shopping spree. It sounds like God was talking directly to America, 2,700 years ago.
There are also economic parallels. Israel was rich. Their land was full of silver and gold, horses, and livestock. There had chariots and weapons of war. They were smug in their military power. “Their land was full of idols. They bowed down to the work of their hands, to what their fingers had made” (Isaiah 2:8). Do you recognize the materialism in our country, how we seem to adjust our lives to serve our possessions, working overtime to buy what we do not have time to enjoy?
There are also moral parallels. God looked at Israel and told them that He saw moral parallels between them and Sodom and Gomorrah. “You act just like the rulers and people of Sodom and Gomorrah” (1:10). That must have stung Israel’s leaders. Sodom and Gomorrah has always been the moral example of a corrupt people, and now God says, “You are like them.” America is becoming alarmingly like Sodom and Gomorrah. Our entertainment industry is barraging us with sex and sensuality at every turn. Those who espouse deviate sexual lifestyles are elevated as heroes of free expression and liberty. There are few limits to what they will do or say to gain attention. Alcohol, drugs, and other mind-altering substances saturate our culture. They cloud thinking and lower inhibitions against doing evil. All of these parallels should alarm us.
The end result of Israel’s social, political, spiritual, and moral rebellion was judgment. For them it was exile. If we do not turn from our self-indulgent, “wicked” ways, What judgment awaits us? If He did not spare Israel, His specially-chosen nation, What makes us think He will spare us?
But I do have some good news, great news! It is not too late. For our God is a God not only of justice, but also of love and mercy. In chapter 5, He says, “When I look for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?” When God looks at us does He see only bad? I believe that as God looks at America He still sees some good. There are good things happening. There are godly branches that still yield sweet grapes.
Do you remember the days of Noah and how God looked upon the world and “… every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5)? “Only, every, all,” there was nothing else, so God said, it’s time to start fresh.
Do you remember when God sent the angel of death to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abram chose to argue with God and said, “There’s some good things there,” and God said, “I’ve looked, I’ve checked, I know there is not.” But Abram said, “I know there’s got to be 50 righteous men there.” God said, “Well, I will look again if you want, but I know there is not.” America is deserving of God’s judgment. But America also receives the mercy of God. So, as we think through how do we feel about America, I want you to know there is hope.
There are three things we are called to do before God. First, He calls us to bear good fruit. That we be pockets of sweet grapes, of strength, of help within this country. What is bearing good fruit? God tells us very clearly and very simply in two Old Testament passages that Israel should have known, and so should we! Micah 6:8 and Malachi 3:16-17 tell us what God wants from us. Is it great feats of ascetic self-sacrifice? Or, ultra rule keeping? These verses say it plainly.
Micah 6:8: “No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he requires: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Malachi 3:16-17: “Then those who feared the Lord spoke with each other, and the Lord listened to what they said. In his presence, a scroll of remembrance was written to record the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him. ‘They will be my people,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘On the day when I act, they will be my own special treasure. I will spare them as a father spares an obedient and dutiful child.’”
He makes it very simple–to live justly, to do the right thing, to love mercy when others around us do not do the right thing, and then to walk humbly with Him. Involve Him in your life. Let Him be your personal Saviour and Lord. Not simply doing well and being nice, but walking with your God. Have a living relationship with the Living God who made you. That is what He created us for.
When you look at the judgments of God outlined in the first five chapters of Isaiah, one of the foundational things that comes up is the oppression of the poor. We all hear people complaining about social security and welfare, and it is often frustrating. But God is thankful and I am thankful that someone is trying to do something to help the oppressed. Are there excesses and problems in this system? Absolutely! Should those things be exposed and corrected? Absolutely. But don’t throw the system away. God is thankful that we are caring. If with all the foreign aid we send around the world, only one dollar out of every fifty goes to really help somebody, I am glad there is a dollar for somebody out there, to feed hungry children, to heal and help the helpless. And then there is all the missionary work Americans support. Much good is being done.
Secondly, He calls us to trust him. Our money declares: “In God we trust.” I think those words may soon disappear too, but while we have it, we need to live up to it. Are we truly trusting in God? So often we are frustrated or upset at the way things are done. We complain and whine but that does not change things, they just get us in an emotional stew. We are called to recognize that God is bigger than our government and the system of things that we see.
The greatest men, the greatest activity, the greatest things that God has ever done have always been done in governments that are against Him. God raised up Daniel in the middle of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. He sent Jonah to Ninevah. Joseph was taken in chains to Egypt. Then God brought Moses out of Pharoah’s land. And He sent Jesus to a Jewish culture oppressed by corrupt Roman dictators.
I am thankful that our government supports humanitarian efforts. I am thankful it still has a few religious underpinnings. But at the same time, I am a little frustrated by the way most people equate being American with being Christian just because there is some God-talk. And I’m convinced America might be better off if we actually did away with some of it. Then, Christians might actually standout from the rest of the world, from the culture in which we are absorbed.
I am not afraid of our government taking the religion out of our culture. In fact, I expect it to happen. But I know it is not going to change me. And I am sure my children and my grandchildren will get a huge dose of God, whether the schools teach it, condone it, or not. I am not personally afraid of a godless government.
But I do fear what godless governments do. Throughout history godless governments have committed great atrocities. They reason they have nothing above them to restrain their actions. Great faith has been fostered during these harsh times. God still has a way of shining through the darkest hours of human history. But many died and suffered amid the darkness.
Do not be stirred up for no good purpose but find a good purpose. Personally bring God’s truth, light, and love to your little part of America.
If God puts you in the position like He put Esther, or Joseph, or Daniel, or Moses, or David, or Nehemiah, then get involved in government and bring good change there. Otherwise get on with something else that will spread goodness in the world. If you are frustrated because you cannot change the world, change your home, your school, your office, your neighborhood. In the midst of our increasingly godless society, God continually works in the lives of individuals.
Most of you reading this are Christians because God worked through somebody else to teach you about Jesus, to build some spiritual principles in your life, to explain God’s word, to tell you about who He was, and what He wants to do in your life. You can do the same for others, and that changes your world.
So, how do you feel about America? Be thankful, for God sees pockets of goodness here and wants to grow it, right around you!
Lastly, we need to pray for our nation and your influence in your neighborhood. Pray against its evils and pray for the good. We need to separate ourselves from the corruption and cleave to what is right and true. As God tells us in Isaiah 1, personal corruption separates us from God. It makes our prayers worthless and actually a stench in His sight. The prayer of a righteous man can avail much.
Even if the nation turns from God, you can remain true to Him! If you bear holy fruit, trust in Him and His ways, and pray for change, God will work. The fate of our nation is not beyond repair, but if we do not live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God, judgment will come. May it be said of you and I, they “Feared God and loved to think about Him.”