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Thursday, April 03, 2008

America, the damned?

Much has been written about Rev. Jeremiah Wright. His claim to fame? He’s the pastor and spiritual father of Barack Obama. But once he became known for that, the world started to notice something else about this man. He’s offensive.

He says things that people don’t like. Some of them are outrageous. What kind of things? An example is his statement that the American government created the AIDS virus to wipe out the black race. ( We write him off as a lunatic and wonder how Mr. Obama could sit in his church and listen to such crap.

So far, Mr. Obama hasn’t said anything so outrageous. He’s full of smiles and waves. He kisses the babies and offers hope. He promises change and doesn’t ever seem to find any real faults in America. He sees only hope and promise. Actually he reminds of me of Bill Clinton’s first election. (Remember when the victory song at his campaign headquarters was “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow?”) If Barack Obama agrees with his pastor, he hasn’t tipped his hand in that regard.

Not so for his wife. Michelle Obama has gone on record to say that, until now, there’s been nothing about America that she’s proud of. ( Nothing. That’s pretty encompassing. She’s not proud of how we saved Europe from Hitler. She’s not proud of any of our accomplishments, our values or even our constitution. Until now, when her husband is on the scene to save the day.

Let’s face it; people like Mr. Wright and Mrs. Obama offend us with their outrageous statements. Ironically, they’re not the first people to make such pronouncements that we find offensive. Moses did it too? You know, the guy in the Old Testament. He led the Israelites for years. God talk to him a lot. He wrote part of the Bible. If we truly are “one nation under God,” it’s worth looking at what he had to say. Or more accurately, it’s worth looking at what God told him to say.

I think one of the best places to see what sage wisdom can be found for America, one nation under God, is in the biblical book of Deuteronomy (which Moses wrote most of). Specifically, we should look at chapters 27 and 28. Let’s take look.

Deuteronomy 26:16-19
Today the Lord your God has commanded you to obey all these decrees and regulations (of the Lord). So be careful to obey them wholeheartedly. You have declared today that the Lord is your God. And you have promised to walk in his ways, and to obey his decrees, commands, and regulations, and to do everything he tells you. The Lord has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. And if you do, he will set you high above all the other nations he has made. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the Lord your God, just as he promised.

What’s he talking about here? Moses says God has certain ways he wants us to live – and he expects us to follow them. We have declared that we are Christians. In response, God has claimed us as his people. Further, God has said if we will honor that relationship with our obedience, he will set us above all other nations, honored and praised. Do you suppose that’s what it looks like for America these days?

Deuteronomy 27:9-10
… be quiet and listen! Today you have become the people of the Lord your God. So you must obey the Lord your God by keeping all these commands and decrees (of the Lord) ….”

So shut up and listen. You are God’s people. Now act like God’s people. It’s that simple.

Deuteronomy 28 (selected)

Blessings for Obedience

1-2 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands …, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world. You will experience all these blessings if you obey the Lord your God: … Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be blessed.

So here’s the covenant. If we obey, God will let us be the best nation on earth. We’ll be blessed. All of our efforts throughout the world will be blessed. It almost seems prophetic. For much of the last 100 years or more, it would seem that America has lived that blessed life.

7-12 The Lord will conquer your enemies when they attack you. … The Lord will guarantee a blessing on everything you do … If you obey the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways, the Lord will establish you as his holy people … Then all the nations of the world will see that you are a people claimed by the Lord, and they will stand in awe of you. The Lord will give you prosperity … You will lend to many nations, but you will never need to borrow from them.

Our obedience and the resultant blessed position ensure that we are victorious in war. We are victorious over other things too. We win over poverty, crime, disease, even weather. We learn how to live in deserts, survive earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and other disasters. In fact, we overcome so much that the world takes notice. The world recognizes that there is just something special about us. As the most prosperous nation on earth, we can lend money to many and never need to borrow from any of them. (This was true of America for many years.)

13-14 If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God …, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.

Obedience means we get influence – over the whole world. We’ll always get to be the people that everyone else listens too. But we must never stop being obedient to God. We can’t ever have other gods (like money, power, pleasure, etc.). And we must remain pure to the one true God.

Curses for Disobedience

15 But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees …, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:

But if our obedience falters, we will be a cursed people and nation.

19 Wherever you go and whatever you do, you will be cursed.
20 The Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning him.
21 The Lord will afflict you with diseases …
22 The Lord will strike you … These disasters will pursue you until you die.

Confusion and frustration in everything we do? The right thing to do just isn't ever clear any more? Diseases and disasters that we cannot readily withstand?

25 The Lord will cause you to be defeated by your enemies. … You will be an object of horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.

Wars that we can’t win? An object of horror to people who used to be our allies? This sounds serious!

27 The Lord will afflict you …
28 The Lord will strike you with madness, blindness, and panic.
29 You will grope around …, but you will not find your way. You will be oppressed and robbed continually, and no one will come to save you.

God is out to get disobedient people who call themselves his. We’ll do crazy things that make no sense. We’ll react instead of proact. We’ll struggle on many fronts – and nobody will help us.

33 A foreign nation you have never heard about will eat the crops you worked so hard to grow. You will suffer under constant oppression and harsh treatment.

Someone else who isn’t our ally will begin enjoying the fruits of our labor. They’ll profit from our success. And we’ll suffer for the way they treat us. (Anyone bought any energy from a foreign land lately?)

34 You will go mad because of all the tragedy you see around you.

Disobedient people become overwhelmed with the tragedy the find themselves in the midst of. There’s so much of it we can’t respond to all of it. It is heart breaking.

37 You will become an object of horror, ridicule, and mockery among all the nations …

Everyone is mad at disobedient people. Even our allies are struggling with why they are our allies. They wonder how long they can continue to be our allies when they see how pathetic we are.

38 You will plant much but harvest little, …

Our efforts produce little. We seem ineffective.

41 You will have sons and daughters, but you will lose them, ...

Our children are a bitter disappointment. They don’t own our values. They live our legacy. They offer little hope for our future.

43-44 The foreigners living among you will become stronger and stronger, while you become weaker and weaker. … They will be the head, and you will be the tail!

The immigrants will be better educated, more disciplined, more industrious and more successful. (Have you seen the chairwoman of Pepsi lately?) They have more influence and power than natural born citizens do. Reverse discrimination becomes the norm. Globalization sets in and the foreigners in that global community take our jobs and our prosperity away from us.

45-48 If you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and to obey the commands and decrees he has given you, all these curses will pursue and overtake you until you are destroyed. These horrors will serve as a sign and warning among you and your descendants forever. If you do not serve the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. … The Lord will … oppress you harshly until he has destroyed you.

Disobedient people are opposed by God. The horrors we suffer should serve as an example and warning to others for generations to come. If we don’t serve God, we will serve our enemies. He will make sure of that. God will destroy us – through slow opposition.

49-50 The Lord will bring a distant nation against you from the end of the earth, and it will swoop down on you like a vulture. It is a nation whose language you do not understand, a fierce and heartless nation that shows no respect for the old and no pity for the young. …

God will send us a “wake-up call” by allowing a foreign people with a different language from across the globe to attack us from the air. We won’t understand their language or culture. They’ll be heartless people with no respect for human life or dignity.

58-61 If you refuse to obey all the words of instruction that are written in this book, and if you do not fear the glorious and awesome name of the Lord your God, then the Lord will overwhelm you and your children with indescribable plagues. These plagues will be intense and without relief, making you miserable and unbearably sick. He will afflict you … and you will have no relief. The Lord will afflict you with every sickness and plague there is, …, until you are destroyed.

Disobedient people are plagued without relief. Every kind of sickness and plague (disease) will overtake us until we are overwhelmed. We’ll wonder how much more we can deal with.

63 Just as the Lord has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the Lord will find pleasure in destroying you. …

Just as it pleases God to bless his obedient people, it pleases him to destroy disobedient people who claim to be his.

65-66 There among those nations you will find no peace or place to rest. And the Lord will cause your heart to tremble, your eyesight to fail, and your soul to despair. Your life will constantly hang in the balance. You will live night and day in fear, …

When it pleases God to destroy disobedient people, there is no peace or rest. We worry about everything. Our soul will despair. There is more to fear. More to worry about. It is God’s will for people who disobey him.

So here’s the thing we need to think about. Jeremiah Wright and Michelle Obama have offended America. But what is the truth? As offensive as their statements have been, is there any truth to what they’ve said? If so, I’m afraid we need to own that, folks. It is time for us to act like “one nation under God.” And if we don’t? Well, the implications are serious indeed!

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