Knowing that judgment was coming, King Zedekiah, sought the prophet Jeremiah’s Word from God on how he could be saved: “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘If you surely surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul shall live; this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans; they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.'” (Jer 38:17-18)
The king hadn’t been listening to the prophet; he instead did what he wanted and did not heed God’s Word. Even though he asked Jeremiah for how to escape, he again didn’t heed God’s Word. The long-delayed hour of judgment came at last. The city was taken. The temple was burned (Jer 39:1-10).
As you read this account you can see a certain poetic justice which is always characteristic of the judgments of God. The city that refused God, God refused. He granted them their own desires, in other words. The temple that burned incense to idols was itself burned. The king who would not see had his eyes put out. The people who held their slaves captives were themselves led captive by the Babylonians. This is always the way God works. His judgment is to give you exactly what you are asking for, to let you finally have your way — but to the fullest extent, beyond anything you would desire.
We read this three times in the first chapter of Romans: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts” (v 24); “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions” (v 26); and “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (v 28). We need to be very careful what we ask for, because we just might receive it.
A nation must never forget that, ultimately, the judgment of God will come. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; Though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all.” Sooner or later judgment will fall. No nation has the right to continue to exist as a nation when it continually violates the requirements of God’s justice.
Therefore the hand of doom rests upon any nation that deliberately refuses to hear and heed the will of God. Ultimately, judgment will come. No political manipulation will avert it. No partial compromise will delay, no defiance will evade what God has said. It will come at last — some eleventh year, ninth month, and fourth day, when a breach is made in the walls of the city, and judgment and destruction can no longer be averted (Jer 39:2).
There are several ways by which individuals and nations seek to turn aside the will of God. First, a people can ignore and refuse to listen to God, and give themselves over to things that help them forget — to a life of debauchery and revelry, refusing to hear and heed the Word of God (Isaiah 5:11-12).
Second, a people can persecute the prophets of God, and hinder the message of God. There will be the developing of a callous attitude against the preaching of the Word of God (2 Chron 24:19). Third, a people can seek to circumvent the catastrophe which is coming by political maneuvering and manipulations. “Then they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land most desolate because of all their abominations which they have committed.” (Ez 33:29)
Finally, a people can compromise in outward ways, but fall short of real submission to God. That is when a people become outwardly religious, learning the “God words” and practice civil religion, but their hearts remain unchanged. Jesus predicts that false Christian prophets will be coming as wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15). They may use all the right “God talk” and even make impressive displays of power, but they will not belong to the Lord:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt 7:21-23)
There is only one attitude that will avert the coming judgment of God: repentance, deep humiliation before God, an understanding and acknowledgment of guilt, a willingness to recognize that we have lost our right to exist as a nation, and a cry to God that He will heal us and change us and forgive us and heal this land.
“When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.” (2 Chron 7:13-15)
When that occurs, God Himself assumes responsibility to recover the nation. Despite all the damage which has been done, He will restore the years that the locusts have eaten (Jer 30:17). But if a nation ignores God, it goes down into the dust of history, as hundreds of kingdoms and nations before us have perished. “For the nation and kingdom which will not serve You shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined.” (Is 60:12)
Lord, I ask that You put it in the hearts of Your believers across this nation to humble ourselves before You; to seek You first; to know You intimately; to seek Your will, not ours and to repent of our sin against Your righteousness. Lord, You are a just God who cannot abide sin, so You have made the provision available for us to be cleansed so that You impune the righteousness of Jesus upon us when we come to Him in faith. Lord, when we repent and seek Your will, please hear our cry and heal us as a nation that will again turn toward You and away from evil. In the precious name of Jesus, amen.