by Pastor Ed Evans
Scripture: Lamentations 1:1-6
1:1 How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.
1:2 She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
1:3 Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
1:4 The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
1:5 Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
1:6 From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
Recently I attended the funeral of a friend, where someone expressed the thought that God should keep His arms around the deceased and give him special care to "make up for all he suffered and all that seemed unfair."
In a perfect world, that would certainly be expected. Right would never be overcome by wrong. Good, decent people would not be taken advantage of by thieves and swindlers and people who didn't believe in being fair. And God would count all the nice things we do to our credit, and balance out our sins.
That, after all, would be fair.
And wouldn't it only be fair if America managed to survive all the neglect it has suffered at the hands of those who live within its borders, who enjoy its God-given freedoms and protections, while ignoring Almighty God; drinking deeply from the well without giving thought to replenishing its waters. Only fair?
But I remember an old country adage that says "fair" is where you find the Ferris wheel and where you take the pig every summer to win a blue ribbon. There is no other kind of fair.
My experience in this life tells me that's pretty much true. How about you?
As for seeking justice from God by having Him balance things out, I'd run from that like a scalded dog. It really isn't justice we want from Almighty God, but mercy.
What has all this to do with our scripture? Allow me to substitute a few words in verses one and two for the sake of illustration:
"How lonely sits the nation of America that once was full of people and jobs! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal, financially beholding to other nations. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies."
There are few things that happen in our time that are new, and this is not new. Actually, the same might be said for Israel right now, and Great Britain, and others.
No, life is not fair. If it were, someone has said, we would never learn anything new.
How did America come to be full of people who want, want, want and never give back, give back, give back? What happened to all the jobs? How did the nation with "In God We Trust" stamped on its money, and with Christian mottoes adoring so many of its official buildings in the nation's capitol city -- how did such a nation of people become the nation that murders more infant children than any in the world? The nation that takes from those who productively support the nation and gives to those who have no legal right to be in that nation?
How did America put into place national leaders who claim to worship the Christ, but turn their backs on previously approved national days of prayer, who lie blatantly to the American people, who break their promises to the electorate while blaming others for their misdeeds? How could these things come to be?
There is nothing new under the sun. This has all happened before. No one should be surprised that it is happening again. All down through the history of mankind, through the history of nations, where there is power the righteous and the evil will contend for control. Greed, personal privilege, and avarice will take the field and claim the right of power. Pride, lust, gluttony will lead to sloth and defend itself with anger.
All through history, elaborated upon in the Bible, nations, armies, powers rise and fall as they unite to build themselves up, then drown in their own wretchedness.
It was precisely to avoid such predictable circumstances that the original founders of the United States of America set up a balance of power and organized a government that is "of the people, by the people, for the people." In fact, the first few line of the U.S. Constitution make clear its purpose: " We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
This nation's earliest documents make it crystal clear that this nation was founded on the idea of the free and unencumbered worship of Almighty God, and that government was established for the organized benefit of America's citizens. Somehow the government has become all important and the individual rights of its citizens became less important.
How did we reach this point, with all the checks and balances our forefathers put into place to protect us from ourselves?
Well, let's see.
This is the country settled initially by those seeking freedom to worship as they chose, not as the government required; the Christian Bible was one of the first texts recommended for all schools; in Washington, D.C., the Capitol Rotunda was for many years used as a site for worship services by four different Christian churches, and worship there was first initiated by President Thomas Jefferson. We also have a U.S. Constitution which guarantees us certain "God-given" rights.
And yet, Christian prayer is forbidden in our public schools today, the Bible is not allowed in most schools, the public celebration of Christian holidays is not allowed on most public property and in many schools; lawsuits regularly stop Christian invocations at public meetings, luncheons, even sporting events. Meanwhile the false religion of Islam is promoted by legislators, promoted even in public schools, and so-called ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ urge us to respect and revere the religion of Islam.
We have a President who has attended only one Christian church worship service during his two years in office, he has on two occasions refused to support National Prayer Day events unlike the two previous Presidents, and instead has held at least two public Islamic prayer events at the White House, as well as celebrating the major Islamic holiday of Ramadan at the White House, which this year coincided with Sept. 11th, America's 911 day of mourning.
The original question I posed was, how did we reach this point, with all the checks and balances our forefathers put into place to protect us from ourselves?
We reached it, I believe, because we were not paying attention. We took our eyes off the prize and our minds off praising God. Our attention was diverted by cable TV with its 4,000 stations of entertainment and sports, by easily accessed porn so no one knows, by skipped meditation and prayer times, all separating us from time spent with He who loved us first, with the God who cares enough that He sent His very best, taking our attention away from our own duties in the due concern for the health of our nation, giving free rein to those overcome by the power of their position, turning their back on We the People, and on the God who brought America to greatness. It has all become very confusing.
The Christian writer Oswald Chambers has written, "There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you."
It was Almighty God who brought America to its position of prominence in the world, to a level of wealth so we could afford to reach out to others in need and offer them the hand of Christian love, food, medications, strength in their time of weakness.
And I believe it is Almighty God who has brought us to this point in our history, that we might turn to Him once more, come to Him in prayer and worship, that we might return America to its position of greatness, if not for our sakes, for the sake of the world which needs America to be great once again.
It is not that we of America are so wonderful, so decent, so much more intelligent, helpful, or even prayerful than any other nation. But it is as Paul writes to the Philippians in chapter 3, verse 13-16: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained."
".....what we have already attained."
God has richly blessed this nation. It can be great once again, if we who worship the One God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will bring to life the promise of God's answer to Solomon's prayer in 1st Chronicles 7:14, if we will stand firm for what is right and what is just before God, if we will draw others to worship God and preserve what God has given us.
Might does not always make right, and right does not always prevail over evil. If we choose to exempt ourselves from the responsibility of God-given citizenship, choose instead to wring our hands and cry "Woe is me," and decline to use the very tools God has set before us for the protection and preservation of this nation He has blessed, then we can look forward to the very real playing out of that portion of our scripture in Lamentations 1:4-6 -- "The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer."
America is one of the last bastions of true freedom for the individual worshipper of God. If we will not work for a transformation of our own government on November 2, if we will not speak out for what is just and right before God, and if we will not ensure that others who worship God get to the polls on November 2nd and clean House and Senate of those who serve themselves and not God, then we deserve what comes.
This wonderful experiment in freedom and liberty does not deserve extinction, our posterity certainly does not deserve it, but those who will not ensure the survival of freedom, justice, and integrity not only do not deserve it, but will not have it.
" Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions..."
Let us "live up to what we have already attained" in Christ Jesus. Your call.