Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, October 20, 2006

Raising of Nations--Israel, America, Babylon

Yesterday morning I shared a conversation with a student that covered many topics. One of which was the United States. One of the points made in the discussion, if my memory serves me right, is the tendency of American ministers to speak of God’s relationship with the US in the same terms that describe God’s relationship with the covenant people of Israel. The point was made that we are not one and the same, God does not relate to the US in the same way as ancient Israel despite our Christian heritage—after all, God did not call us out to be His unique people, He did not enter into a covenant relationship with our ancestors, did not miraculously deliver us from bondage (taxation???). In other words, we are simply a nation that has been raised up—perhaps filled with many children, by faith, of Abraham—but a nation that is in no unique covenant relationship with God like the nation of Israel of the Old Testament.

This was an interesting conversation that paralleled some points made on our Wednesday night studies that are going through the Minor Prophets. In Habbakuk, the author is complaining about the injustices and evils around him, wondering why God isn’t acting the way he thinks God should. Then God further confuses Habbakuk by talking about raising up the Babylonians to judge Israel-HAB 1:6 I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.”

God raised up the Babylonians to accomplish this task even though they had no covenant relationship, no calling, the nation of Babylon rose and fell by the guidance and will of God. It didn’t make sense because they were more vile than Israel, how could God raise up or use such a wicked nation?

The ultimate lesson is that God is in control even of nations—in control of which ones rise to prominence, for how long, and what they will accomplish. This sentiment is restated in other places.

DA 4:17 " `The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.'

Acts 17:26—“ 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.

God determines the nation, the peoples, the times, the purpose and even the greatness of that nation.

So the question came to me later—why did God raise up the US to a position of world superpower—for what purpose—what does God hope to accomplish through the US?

Were we to provide the light of democracy and religious freedom to the world? Possibly.

Were we to fight against oppression by being in a position to contribute decisively in WWI and WWII? Another possibility.

Were we to be the greatest missions sending and funding nation in Christian history, developing technology and resources to make the fulfillment of the Great Commission truly viable for the first time? Another welcome possibility.

Why has our nation been raised up? For what purpose?

Here’s a scarier question—how do we know when the US has fulfilled its purpose? What happens to the US then?

After Babylon fulfilled its purpose as an instrument of judgment on Israel, it was quickly overrun and replaced—itself judged by another nation.

This came after decades of decline, much like what happened to Assyria. And yet, God reached out to Assyria and gave them an opportunity to repent and turn to Him using the reluctant prophet, Jonah. They did, and they were spared for a few decades.

Where is the United States? I could easily argue that we are in a state of decline and have been since the aftermath of WWII. We have been decaying morally in the midst of unprecedented economic prosperity, a common biblical pattern. Even militarily in some ways we have declined as seen in the aftermaths of Korea, Vietnam, various others. We’re not incapable, in many ways we are still the world’s only superpower, but perhaps we’re no longer as overwhelming and invincible.

Have we fulfilled our purpose and God’s timing us just waiting for the call to judge us?

As a mission sending/funding country did we turn out back on our call when our nation chose to rebuild physically much of what we destroyed in Europe and Japan but did little to rebuild spiritually?

I find it strange that 2 of the most unchurched nations in the world today were recently rebuilt by the supposed Christian nation of America. We rebuilt their structures, their governments, but failed to emphasize their faith. How did we miss this opportunity to rebuild the faith of a people that had been so deceived?

Today, from what I hear, there is a movement in Iraq to embrace Jesus as Savior. Much of this witness comes through our troops—there are baptisms in the Euphrates river and the faith community is growing.

Could God be using the US to reach out to this region, this people—extend the hand of mercy one more time? Are we an instrument of judgment, an instrument of grace, or maybe both? I wonder what would happen to that new faith community if the US presence suddenly disappeared—would they be wiped out? Probably.

God was willing to use an imperfect nation as His instrument in Babylon—the US is far from perfect—can we be used as His instrument, will we accomplish His purpose?

Another question, have we turned our back on our purpose from God, even seeking that purpose? If our purpose was to be a sending nation, a nation that supports the church worldwide, have we succeeded or failed in this purpose? What should He do with us if we have? Then, have we accomplished His purpose and what happens to our nation when we have? Is the US immune from God’s judgment and discipline?

If Israel was not spared, then why should we expect to be? How do we as the people of God, influence our nation to fulfill God’s purposes?

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,

Kelly Reed

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