Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. (Micah 3:4)
I get weary by the overwhelming onslaught of depressing news that assails me from all directions. It assaults me from the radio, TV, social media, internet, emails and even from normal conversations with friends. Let us face it, the world is a mess and nothing seems to make it better; it just seems to keep getting worse. Perhaps that is why we see so many people with their faces buried in their personal communications devices (PCDs) playing Candy Crush Saga, Angry Birds, or the latest craze, Pokémon GO, or whatever – anything to escape the “real” world – but the news refuses to go away.
Without detailing every account, anyone not fixated on their smart phones knows that the whole world is in serious trouble – economies are failing, ISIS grows like a cancer, rogue nations threaten the peace with nuclear arms, etc. The United States once served as a stabilizing force in the world, but America has her own problems now. Since Barack Obama became President, America’s economy has faltered, her military strength has declined, her influence for good in the world has diminished, and the heart of her people has weakened. President Obama mocks Christians for clinging to their guns and Bibles while he praises the virtues of Islam. He criticizes police use of lethal force against blacks without knowing all of the facts, and excuses the perpetrators as victims of racism. Obama lashes out at Christians who denounce the sin of homosexuality and celebrates the “bravery” of those that “come out of the closet.” When the Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage,” Obama gave assent and showed approval by bathing the White House in the rainbow colors of “gay pride.”
Recently a man, claiming allegiance to ISIS, entered a gay bar in Florida and slaughtered several people in the name of Allah and Obama refused to acknowledge him as an Islamic terrorist. Just two weeks ago, another man, Micah Johnson, targeted white police officers assigned to protect peaceful protestors of the Black Lives Matter movement. Five police officers were murdered in cold blood and several others were wounded. In honoring the fallen officers, President Obama began his speech in praise of the heroic officers who ran toward the danger and did all they could to protect the marchers, but his speech quickly degenerated into his typical race-baiting rhetoric. When our leader has no concept of unity, it is no wonder that our country is so fractured. However, the problem is greater than just one man’s inability to lead. The problem began some sixty years ago when the nation slowly chipped away at our Christian foundation and ousted God from the public square. “In God We Trust” are just words on our currency. Our beloved country is very, very sick.
Christians are encouraged to pray for our nation and to pray for our leaders. Albeit out of context, 2 Chronicles 7:14 frequently serves as a call for Christians pray for the nation. God promises, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (emphasis mine). God’s promise was made to the united nation of Israel, but Christians have (erroneously, I think) claimed it as their own forgetting that “our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “conversation” in the King James Bible (KJV) is politeuma, from which we get our word “politic,” means “a community” or “citizenship.” Not that we should be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good,” but the United States of America is not where our primary allegiance should be. As the Apostle Paul asserts, “our citizenship is in heaven,” not the United States of America. Ours is the Kingdom of God, not the kingdom of Barack.
Like the United States of America, Israel, first the northern kingdom and then Judah, rejected God and turned to false gods – not every individual, but the nation as a whole. Even so, there are many faithful Christians in America who “have not bowed unto Baal” (1 Kings 19:18), but there exists only a remnant. I am certain that the faithful in Israel prayed for their nation, but that was not enough to dissuade God from punishing the entire nation – including the faithful ones.
Micah prophesied in Judah. By this time, Israel, the northern kingdom, no longer existed as a nation, having succumbed to the Assyrian Empire. From the time the ten northern tribes broke with Judah, the nation fell into idolatry. Now Judah followed suit. Micah voices the words of God who charges Judah’s leaders, for lack of judgment (Micah 3:1). God points out that they “hate good and love evil” and they abuse the people with unjust taxes. The graphic words paint the picture: “who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron” (Micah 3:2-3). There comes a point when, “Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings” (Micah 3:4, emphasis mine).
Isaiah brought a similar charge to the nation as a whole, not only the leaders, but also those who willingly followed. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isaiah 1:3). Sad! Dumb animals recognize their source of provision better than “intelligent” people do. “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (Isaiah 1:4). Can we not say the same of America? As the passage continues, God laments that the more He punishes the nation, the more rebellious they become. God assesses their condition as sick of head and weak of heart. Out of rote, they bring insincere offerings to God, but their hearts belong to other gods. So, God says, “when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15, emphasis mine). God is infinitely patient, but He does set limits. When those limits are breached, His response is predictably sure. I say “predictably” because He gives an abundance of warning for those who are willing to listen.
Well, that seems just and deserved for those who rebel and reject God; but what about the faithful remnant who cry out for their nation? Just before the conquest and expatriation of Judah to Babylon, Jeremiah pleaded for his nation, but three times God charged him to stop. “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jeremiah 7:16, emphasis mine). Then again, “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble” (Jeremiah 11:14, emphasis mine). Finally, “Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good” (Jeremiah 14:11, emphasis mine). Jeremiah certainly qualifies as one of God’s people. There comes a time when God will not hear the pleas even when they come from His people.
For Judah, God kept His 2 Chronicles 7:14 promise and returned them to the land, but only after they had served their full time in Babylonian captivity. Even today, we see God’s promise fulfilled as Jews from all over the world continue to migrate back to their land. However, America is not Israel, and this promise does not have universal application. I realize that many disagree with that statement, but I suggest that such sentiment stems from deep-seated patriotism and love of country. I understand that. I too am a patriot. I willingly and gladly gave 12 years of my life in the service to this nation. These words I write tear at my heart as I see the inevitable demise of the country I love. Yet, our directive calls for us to hold the things of this earth loosely and cling to that yet unrealized country. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, emphasis mine). Is your treasure in America or in heaven above?
Praying for our nation is a noble thought, but I believe our country is too far-gone for that now. I believe God is saying, at least to me, “Pray thou not for this people.” What about Paul’s exhortation to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2)? Consider where Paul had been – imprisoned in Rome – and where Timothy was – pastoring the church at Ephesus. Rome hardly qualified as a bastion of republican democracy. In Paul’s exhortation, he does not call for prayer for the preservation of the empire. He says to pray for “the leaders” – individuals. Why? In order “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2). In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul says that God appoints leaders. “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1, emphasis mine). The Roman rulers under which Paul and Timothy lived were despicable despots to whom they were to submit in order “to lead a quiet and peaceable life” regardless of who was in charge.
Christianity flourishes in China under an oppressive communist regime. Should Christians in China pray that their form of government continue? My point is that no matter what form of earthly government we live under, we owe a higher allegiance to the Kingdom of God. We should pray for our leaders that they might come to a saving knowledge of Christ through whom they will gain godly wisdom to rule. Even so, salvation is a personal matter between God and each individual. On that same note, rather than praying for the survival of our nation, we should not only pray, but labor for the salvation of individuals. For our nation to return to its foundation, the hearts of individuals must change. A wholesale repentance of a majority of individuals must take place before God will hear the pleas of His people for their nation.
Remember Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom and Gomorrah? (Genesis 18:23-33) If there are 50 righteous, if there are 40 righteous, if there are 30, 20, 10, will you destroy the city? In the end, there were not even 10 righteous, and God destroyed the cities. Depending on what poll one reads, the number of “genuine” born-again, Evangelical Christians in the US hovers around 20% and declining. Should God spare the nation for 20 righteous? Did God spare Israel for the 7000 that did not bowed unto Baal? (1 Kings 19:18).
When a nation exceeds the limits of God’s patience, God stops His ears to the intercessory petitions of His people for the nation. Indeed, He says, “Pray thou not for this people.” Has America reached that limit? I think it has. We see a rise in depravity, perversion, and unrestrained violence, not to mention natural disasters. This is why the best response we can offer to a Hillary Clinton presidency is Donald Trump. It is sad to watch, but take heart Christians. We have a heavenly citizenship, and we pledge our allegiance to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Our duty is to work for and expand His Kingdom until He returns. I pray that is soon!