Saturday, January 9, 2021

Do we really want justice?

The United States is headed down a very dark and dangerous path. It's nothing new--we've been moving that direction for decades--but it sure seems like we've gone into free fall with the things that are going on right now.

Though many would have us believe otherwise, the United States was founded as a nation whose goal was to please God. This was a country established on a declared dependence on God the Creator and on the idea that our rights are not dependent on something being granted by an earthly government, but instead they are granted solely by the One who created us. The Declaration of Independence states clearly that our pledge to each other is made possible only by "a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence."

Let me be clear here--I fully believe that Israel is God's chosen nation. I don't pretend that the United States has taken that place; God made a promise to bless Abraham, and His promises are never broken.

However, I also fully believe that when we as a nation declared ourselves to be a nation relying on God's protection, we made ourselves representatives of Him. As such, we are called to uphold certain standards--and we have fallen woefully short of them for far too long.

God is merciful and slow to anger. To put it bluntly, He puts up with a whole lot of stuff before He takes action. At the same time, though, we are told time and time again that He disciplines His children. When we invoked His name in the founding of our country, I believe we entered into a covenant.

And we haven't upheld our end of the deal.

The thing is, God always upholds His end. And part of entering into a covenant with God is dealing with the consequences that come as a result of of our failures... and if recent and current events tell you nothing else, they should tell you that we have a whole lot of failures.

I've seen a couple of verses from Amos quoted lately:

"Search for good and not for evil
    so that you may live;
That way the Eternal God, the Commander of heavenly armies,
    will be at your side,

    as you yourselves have even said.
Hate what is evil, and love all that is good;

    apply His laws justly in the courts at the city gates,
And it may be that the Eternal God, the Commander of heavenly armies,
    will have mercy on those descendants of Joseph who survived."
~Amos 5:14-15

Any time I see a verse quoted, it makes me go and read it in context. All too often we see verses quoted that seem to say one thing but actually have a significantly different meaning when you look at the verse in context. While these two verses are pretty timely and significant on their own, it takes on a much deeper meaning when you read them in context.

This passage is in the middle of a much larger passage that talks about the failings of nations. Amos reveals God's judgment against Philistia, Tyre, Edom, and Moab. That's not where it stops, though--His judgment for Judah and Israel follow closely behind.

Amos 4 ends with these verses:

"So this is what I am going to do to you, Israel.
        Because of what I am planning, prepare to meet your God, Israel!
Witness the One who shapes the mountains and fashions the wind,

    who reveals His thoughts to human beings,
Who changes dawn to darkness
    and treads upon the high places of the earth.
The Eternal God, Commander of heavenly armies, is His name."

 And what were Israel's crimes? Their leaders were silencing anyone who dared speak the truth. They were getting rich on the backs of the poor, from taxes imposed on them. God said He saw the depths of their sins, how they had turned away from what was right and gone so far as to persecute those who did right. They took bribes and abused the poor. That list of sins is what comes directly before verses 14 & 15, where God's people are commanded to hate evil and love good, to live justly.

What follows, though, is the consequence if His people refused to repent and run back to Him: 

"Get ready to hear wailing from every street,
    people crying out in pain and sorrow along every highway.
The farmers will be pulled away from their fields to mourn,
    and those who are trained to grieve will wail with them.
In every vineyard, there will be mourning
    because I will pass through the middle of you."

As an individual, I know that I am saved from God's wrath and judgment. It's not because I'm some amazing person who never messes up--it's simply due to the fact that I know just how utterly useless my own attempts to be "good enough" are and have accepted the amazing gift of God sacrificing His Son as a replacement for my punishment.

As a nation, though, I truly believe that we have finally pushed too far and that we are about to see what happens when God gives us what we've been demanding for so long--a society without Him. We're about to see what happens when God removes His hand of protection and instead turns us over to experience justice and righteousness.

"How horrible for you who look forward to the day of the Eternal One!
    Why do you want it to come?
For you, its arrival will mean darkness, not light.
It will be as if you were to escape from a lion

    only to run headlong into a bear,
As if you ran into a house to hide, leaned against the wall to rest,
    and a poisonous snake latched onto your hand.
Will not the day of the Eternal One be darkness instead of light,

    pitch black, without even a hint of brightness?
Eternal One:
I hate—I totally reject—your religious ceremonies

        and have nothing to do with your solemn gatherings.
You can offer Me whole burnt offerings and grain offerings,

        but I will not accept them.
You can sacrifice your finest, fattest young animals as a peace offering,

        but I will not even look up.
And stop making that music for Me—it’s just noise.

        I will not listen to the melodies you play on the harp.
Here’s what I want: Let justice thunder down like a waterfall;

        let righteousness flow like a mighty river that never runs dry."
Amos 5:18-24

The justice and righteousness of God are not things to be taken lightly. I'm afraid that we've been demanding them for so long, though, that God is about to give our nation exactly what we've been asking for.

All I can say is that I am thankful God's promises are eternal.
In the midst of the chaos and the confusion, He promises His presence.

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