|HIS STRANGE WORK
(Written November 2001)
"For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act." Isaiah 28:21 (KJS)
Judgment is God's strange work. He reserves it only for times when the state of men's souls are in critical condition. It is the rare thing that He allows when a country is reaching a point of no return into darkness, when it is sealing its fate, when it is close to being doomed, when it has become so proud that it cannot recognize its own sin, and when it has turned so far from God that people are beginning to believe that evil is good and good is evil.
Every Bible reader is familiar with God's judgment in the Old Testament, and we also know the Old Testament is relevant because examples in it are to be used for today, as we read in First Corinthians:
"Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come." 1Corinthians 10:11 (NKJV)
However, many do not realize that God's judgment is also revealed in the New Testament. Although it is not replete with examples, the instances that are recorded are dramatic and severe.
Judgment Under the New Covenant
Perhaps it is due to uneven preaching and teaching that many think that somehow God no longer judges the sins of nations, but nothing could be further from the truth. Not only has God not changed, "For I am the Lord, I do not change…" Malachi 3:6 (NKJV), the New Testament also reveals His judgments upon mankind under the New Covenant. When Jesus walked the earth, He spoke of the fact that Jerusalem would be destroyed because of its sin. In 70 A.D. that is exactly what happened, for Rome attacked and ruined the city, and in the process dismantled the temple Jesus speaks about in the following verse:
"And Jesus said to them, 'Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down.'" Matthew 24:2 (NKJV)
We also see the greatest judgment of all time in the Book of Revelation, when Babylon and most of the world are destroyed in righteous judgment. In the Book of Acts we read of instant judgment on certain individuals. Herod died and was eaten by worms when the people called him a god and he did not deny it.
"So on a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat on his throne and gave an oration to them. And the people kept shouting, 'The voice of a god and not of a man!' Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died." Acts 12:21-23 (NKJV)
In Acts chapter 5 verses 1-11, we read of the immediate judgment of Ananias and Sapphira, who died after lying about the actual price they received for some land – the proceeds of which they donated to the church. This incident makes one wonder how many would die if God struck every churchgoer who lied to receive praise from fellow church members. We also read of how Elymas the sorcerer was struck temporarily blind in Acts 13:8 when he opposed Paul. Another sorcerer, named Simon, who actually believed in Christ, was threatened with horrendous judgment because he offered money to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:24).
The Lord's Supper is another instance. God warns us regarding unrepentant sin in the taking of communion. He clearly states to us that judgment, which may be in the form of sickness and even death, may come upon us if we "take the cup" without examining our lives and repenting of our sins – and this is directed to believers.
"For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world." 1Corinthians 11:29-32 (NKJV)
Punishment Generally Not Instant
From these examples we can deduce that the instances of immediate judgment are rare and atypical. Instead, God generally is patient and longsuffering with us, as He seeks to wean us away from our folly, so we may recognize and acknowledge our sin, and turn away from it. Certainly all of us can remember things we have done for which we did not get the punishment we deserved, even as we read:
"He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him." Psalm 103:10-11 (NKJV)
However, the fact that He normally does not punish us spontaneously may give occasion for the enemy to deceive us into thinking that there will be no judgment from God at all. We sin, and no lightning bolt comes down, so we continue to transgress, which is explained in Ecclesiastes 8:11:
"Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
It is also exemplified in many places in the Bible concerning the sin of Israel:
"And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, "The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil." Zephaniah 1:12 (NKJV)
Why, though, does God generally not punish immediately? The first reason is that He is seeking man's repentance not from the motivation of fear, but because of a love for God and a desire to serve Him voluntarily. God loves a cheerful giver and does not want men to obey Him because they are forced to. Secondly, He extends grace through patience because He wants to give each individual the maximum chance to turn from his or her sins and repent:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." 2Peter 3:9 (NKJV)
Does Calamity Always Fall on the Most Wicked?
Is it then the most wicked who lose their lives or suffer other problems when troubles come? Not necessarily; Jesus explains to us in Luke Chapter 13 that when incidents occur of this nature, they do not generally involve those more wicked than others:
"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.'" Luke 13:1-5 (NKJV)
Jesus explains clearly that those who experienced these catastrophes were not worse than others, but that we might also expect to experience devastation if we do not repent. In other words, these things are used to warn us, so we might start thinking about our lives. In His mercy toward us He even uses the worst of disasters to teach us and draw us to Himself. And to make certain that we understand the meaning of these events, so that they will not be wasted, He brings us prophets and preachers and teachers. When they speak messages anointed by the Holy Spirit it elucidates and unlocks for us the meaning of these matters.
The Prophets of Israel
"The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it." Jeremiah 18:7-8 (NKJV)
The prophets were perhaps the most hated of all the people in Israel, because they were called to speak God's truth regarding judgment for sin. Judah was so self-righteous that the people could not stand to hear the truth. Jeremiah explained that the nation was to be destroyed by Babylon because of its sin, and that the people should surrender if they wanted to live. This was a most unpleasant task, but a true prophet has no choice but to speak if he or she is to obey God, for there is a warning attached with this calling:
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand." Ezekiel 33:6 (NKJV)
Jeremiah had to speak, even if the people stared him down with looks of hatred and murder. God's mandate to him was to warn the people, even if they did not like the warning:
"'Do not be afraid of their faces, for I am with you to deliver you,' says the Lord. Then the Lord put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the Lord said to me: 'Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.'" Jeremiah 1:8 (NKJV)
Jeremiah Considered a Traitor
Not only did Jeremiah have to tell the people that the attacks they were experiencing were judgment from God, he even had to tell them to surrender their arms and give in to the enemy if they wanted to live!
"Now you shall say to this people, 'Thus says the Lord: "Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death. He who remains in this city shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence; but he who goes out and defects to the Chaldeans who besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be as a prize to him. For I have set My face against this city for adversity and not for good," says the Lord. "It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire."'" Jeremiah 21:8-10 (NKJV)
What a terrible message to proclaim! Who would want to be in this position, and who could stand the persecution of appearing to be a traitor to one's own country? Nevertheless, there was a saving grace to this message – there was a glimmer of hope – it was not fait accompli; it was rather the last solemn warning before there would be no chance of redemption, for Jeremiah also declares:
"Thus says the Lord: 'Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you indeed do this thing, then shall enter the gates of this house, riding on horses and in chariots, accompanied by servants and people, kings who sit on the throne of David. But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself,' says the Lord, "that this house shall become a desolation." ' " Jeremiah 22:3-5 (NKJV)
But instead of heeding this word, all the leaders blamed Jeremiah.
"Therefore the princes said to the king, 'Please, let this man be put to death, for thus he weakens the hands of the men of war who remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, by speaking such words to them. For this man does not seek the welfare of this people, but their harm.'" Jeremiah 38:4 (NKJV)
God protected Jeremiah and he lived, but the sad ending to this story is that the people and the king would not repent, and so the disaster that could have been avoided fell on them.
God's Warning to America
"All these are the beginning of sorrows." Matthew 24:8 (NKJV)
The sins of Judah included murdering innocent infants. The sin was so stupendous that God, although He is omniscient, condescended to say it did not come into His mind to accentuate the gravity of it:
"And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." Jeremiah 32:35 (NKJV)
America has murdered multiple millions more than Judah, and it continues to refine its method of destruction through abortion pills, and the destruction of human stem cells. America's systematic destruction of the unborn would make the evil doctors of Nazi Germany proud, for their whole mission was to find the most efficient way to kill millions of people.
We started as a godly country, and have sinned against the greatest Gospel light any nation has had. Isaiah succinctly describes what has happened to us.
"How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; righteousness lodged in it, but now murderers." Isaiah 1:21 (NKJV)
Many of our politicians espouse their hatred of this country through their liberal politics, and many of our leaders, even those who do not espouse this hatred, vote according to what special interest group funds them – which in Isaiah's time would be known as a bribe. Few stand up to stop abortion, and children are brainwashed and destroyed with perverseness and pornography from the entertainment industry:
"Your princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes, and follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless…" Isaiah 1:23
This is not to say that America does not do tremendous good in the world, and we are definitely a bastion of freedom. Nevertheless, God does not balance our goodness with our badness and allow one to ameliorate the other. A man who murders another man may be spoken of by neighbors as nice and helpful. They may testify in court about how courteous, polite, and generous the man is, even citing his contributions to various charities. But no court would let him go free just because of that. Even human justice does not see fit to free a man who murders because he has done good things also. We would be outraged and consider it a tremendous injustice if that were to happen. Why then do we think God will look the other way regarding the legalization of infanticide? If we would consider a human, secular court unjust for allowing murder to go unpunished, how much more would we consider it a travesty of justice for a perfect, holy God to ignore such a crime?
We are not a moral nation. We are the largest producer of adult and child pornography in the world, and we export it all over the world. We have legitimized and decriminalized homosexuality, pornography, fornication, and adultery. We worship materialism and greed, and allow the most sordid and disgusting things to exist on television and in the media. The church in America is also at fault. The rule of men in organizations and the love of money have compromised the church, and it is so lukewarm and worldly that all of the sins of the unsaved can all be found in abundance in the church.
It all happened to Israel thousands of years ago, for an example to us. God many times used an ungodly nation to punish Israel (or Judah, which was the kingdom to the south when the nation was split), and then punished that nation. Habbakuk had this explained to him when he questioned why God allowed Judah to continue in sin. God explained that judgment was coming, and that the brutal Babylonians would attack. Habbakuk then complained that they were worse than Judah, and God explained that He would use Babylon as His tool of judgment, and judge Babylon afterwards.
Patriotism and the Love of God
"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" Galatians 4:16 (NKJV)
Several years ago, I wrote a message called "Hosea Speaks to America." In it, I outlined the sins of this country in great detail, and explained that America was on the verge of massive judgment because of those sins. Someone accused me of not being a patriot because of that message. Let us consider what the definition of patriotism truly is. The dictionary defines it as "love and devotion to a country." If you love a child, will you not tell him to straighten up if you see that his behavior is wrong, and you know trouble will come upon him because of it?
I am patriotic enough to accept any criticism due to this message. I love this country enough to make the sacrifice of telling the truth, so that we will not be completely destroyed. As a young man, I was idealistic enough to serve in the Marine Corps. However, military action now will only be a temporary reprieve. We have seen how vulnerable we are – it took very few people to cause this havoc. If we resist this warning, worse will happen. For when the World Trade Center Towers collapsed, it was a clear warning from God that He had removed His protection from our country in a relatively minor way, to warn us to turn from our sin and escape experiencing major judgment in the future. However, if we continue in self-righteousness, we will reap the whirlwind. If we truly think this incident was just a coincidence, we are spiritually blind. This disaster is perhaps the most important message God has sent our country – and we ignore it at our peril.
We may punish the perpetrators, and we may build even more sophisticated weapons, but nothing will save us from destruction except repentance. Nothing will save us from destruction if we keep killing babies, purveying pornography, throwing God out of our society, and living selfish, complacent lives. If we continue in this manner, nothing will remedy this situation, and instead it will get worse until we reach the point of no return, and God will speak to us through Isaiah, saying:
"Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked to anger the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment." Isaiah 1:4-6 (NKJV)
God is not the author of evil, but when we sin we step out of His protection, and become vulnerable to the power of the enemy, and this applies to individuals as well as countries. Under the spiritual laws He has set up in the world, one cannot sin with impunity, for judgment will eventually come. Even though judgment may not be manifest in this present world, it will certainly come in the next.
Our Only Hope - Repentance and God's Mercy
Let us consider the promises of God and stand on them:
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy." Psalm 103:8 (NKJV)
"So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm." Joel 2:13 (NKJV)
"Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up." Hosea 6:1 (NKJV)
We cannot perhaps make the nonbelievers repent, but the church is also mired in sin. Abortion, adultery, fornication, pornography, pedophilia, homosexuality, selfishness, greed, materialism, irreverence for God, dishonesty, opportunism, covetousness, lying, apathy, pride and complacency are ruining it and keeping it from being the salt and the light. Many Christians defile themselves regularly with television and evil movies, and then go to church and say, ""Praise the Lord." Many Christians are not becoming broken in their sins, but hardened. Like the world, they are self-righteous and lack humility and repentance, and are bound by lust. God tells us the remedy, and although we have heard it before, let us take it to heart in a more serious manner in the light of recent events:
"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." 2Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV)
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