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Friday, August 15, 2008

God's Punishment?

Old Testament prophecy has always intrigued me. Of course it seems to have different meanings for different people. Bible scholars typically point to the lessons it has for mankind in how we should behave. Others seem to try to use it to figure out what God is going to do next. But the thing I see in it are the valuable insights it can provide me about the character and nature of God.

It is true that God never changes. (That's one of His promises.) So the God that was in Bible times is still the same God who is today. We don't see burning bushes or parted sees very much today. So I'm always on the lookout for opportunities to know the character and nature of God better. I find a wealth of such opportunities in the Old Testament.

This being an election year, many people are unhappy. There is the euphoria around Barack Obama and his promise of change. I know many people support him. I know fewer of them who know what kind of change he's talking about. An even smaller number can say why they think he's really capable of meaningful change.

Then there are the McCain supporters, who will talk about all the reasons why Barack Obama isn't qualified. They'll point to McCain's experience and extol his wisdom. Of course there are others, who sit around disgruntled because Hillary Clinton isn't going to be a nominee. But the vast majority of people I talk to seem to be saying that they aren't really happy with any of the choices. (Put me in that camp.)

So what do the presidential elections, and lack of suitable candidates have to do with Old Testament prophecy? (I thought you'd never ask!) Well, there is more than one occasion where a national leader "did what was evil in God's eyes." The Bible tells us that some of these leaders were used by God to punish disobedient and disregarding people (usually Israel). I wonder if that might not be what God has in mind today.

2 Kings 8:7-15 tells the story of Hazael, who murdered the king (of Aram) and became king of himself. God used him as judgment against the disobedient Israelites. Folks, this was the character and nature of God. And He hasn't changed. It still is. So if that's who God is, what are the implications for American voters in an election year?

We can talk about the virtues of Americans all day long. So many go to church. so many are generous. America tries to rescue and save the world. We can go on and on. Those things are all factual. But the truth of the matter is that America is a very disobedient nation. Greed, lust, arrogance, pride, and other sins are hallmarks of our existence. Abortion, same-sex marriage and other practices all would safely fall within the definition of "doing what is evil in God's eyes."

So what does God do with a disobedient nation that does what is evil in His eyes? Well, He often has punished them. And He often has punished them through bad leaders that He would allow to be placed over them. The radical televangelists will tell you that AIDS or Katrina or 9/11 were God's punishment on America. I honestly don't know.

But what I do know is that God is capable of so much more. His methods of punishment can be much more insidious and much more comprehensive. That should give me great pause as I consider whom to support in a presidential candidate. We often pray the Lord's Prayer, asking that His will be done here on earth as it is in heaven. I've always learned that you should be careful what you ask for.

If God's will is done in America, we might become a humbler, more obedient, more submitted nation. Who do you suppose God might use to take us on such a journey to become that nation?

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