It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
A Tale of Two Cities
Hosea was a prophet (or seer) who was called to declare God's indictment against the Northern Kingdom.
(Almost a century later, Jeremiah would be called to render a similar service to the Southern Kingdom.)
The kingdom divided after Solomon's death into two kingdoms: Judah and Jerusalem in the south, under Rehoboam, Solomon's successor, which in large measure remained faithful to God and the temple worship; and the Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam, called Israel, which plunged into idolatry.The Northern Kingdom, with a successful standing army, recovered to Israel all the territory lost - even the possession of Damascus. They enjoyed material prosperity unequaled since days of Solomon. 1
It was, indeed, "the best of times." At least, so it seemed from their own point of view.However, they also had sunk to their lowest ebb of immorality and idol worship. In addition to idolatry, other sins denounced by Hosea included social injustice,2 violent crime, 3 religious hypocrisy, 4 political rebellion, 5 dependence upon foreign alliances, 6 selfish arrogance, 7 and spiritual ingratitude. 8
It was also, indeed, "the worst of times." Particularly from God's point of view.
This is the burden of Hosea: that although a loving and caring God had provided their abundance and prosperity, their sin, disloyalty and abandonment of Him will force Him to vindicate His justice with judgment.
After detailing the indictments against the nation, Hosea then declares that God is going to use their enemies as His instrument of judgment. Shortly they will be history...
An Uncomfortable Parallel?
The parallels with America are very, very disturbing. We, too, are experiencing unprecedented prosperity. The stock indexes are caressing 11,000. People are purchasing their third and fourth cars. Almost every home has a computer.
It's difficult to find a pedestrian without a cellular phone in his ear or on his belt. Fuel for our cars costs less than a bottle of water.
It is, indeed, "the best of times." Or so it seems.
And yet we have sunk to moral depths lower than could have been imagined only a generation ago. We are so "sophisticated" that we condone homosexuality as an "alternative life-style."
We murder babies that are socially inconvenient. We change marriage partners like a fashion statement.
We have abandoned the sanctity of commitment in our marriages and in our business enterprises.
Our entertainment industry celebrates adultery, fornication, violence, aberrant sex practices, and every imaginable form of evil. We have become the world's leading exporters of all that God abhors.
It certainly is "the worst of times" from His point of view. God rebuked Israel for their brutality: there was murder, there was violence, and there was warfare. We, too, have had Waco... and Columbine High School. New York City has recorded more crimes than England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, combined. 9 And we, too, have had Vietnam, Kosovo, et al. We should have been sending Bibles, not bullets and bombs. Missionaries, not missiles.
Immorality and deceit have also come to characterize the highest offices of our nation as well. Our politics have condoned and covered up more murders than we dare list.
Our public enterprises have been prostituted to the convenience of the elite. We have clearly disconnected character from destiny.
There is nothing new in the "new morality." They practiced it in 700 b.c. and were ultimately destroyed as a result. And so may we be.
Israel had neglected the Word of God for two hundred years. So have we.
All this is but a mirror of the American soul. Behind all of our problems is the big problem: that we are not recognizing God. We are virtually ignorant of God's Word. We have outlawed Him from our schools and exiled Him from our lives.
The minute you get away from the Word of God, you are doomed to failure in both your Christian life and your national life.
The Rise of Paganism
Are idols of stone cold, unresponsive, and impersonal? If you worship them, you too will become cold, unresponsive, and impersonal.
Is the world materialistic, harsh, and unforgiving? If you worship the world, you too will become materialistic, harsh, and unforgiving.
And if you worship Christ, you will become like Him! ...Ah! Devoutly to be wished! It is staggering to attempt to understand the insanity of paganism. Who can tally the blood which has been spilled upon the altars of the gods who are not, and the demons who are! Covetousness and greed (also called idolatry 12 are now the gods of America, too.
The Prognosis for America
"It could never happen here." That was the cry in Eastern Europe, doubting that Communism would ever take over. Yet it did.
This also is the presumption that pervades our own country regarding God's judgment. It is the slogan of a fool in ignorance of God's nature and His commitments.
Yet, let's take an honest, hard look at ourselves. We are hated by major segments - one might say most - of the world's population.
As you read this, alliances are being formed between Russia, China, and Islamic countries against us. Weapons of mass destruction are becoming increasingly available, and America's defenses are rapidly being depleted, dissipated, and appearing increasingly inadequate.
We would seem to be ripe for judgment. Have we crossed the Rubicon? Is it too late? Some think so.
Yet, remember Nineveh. This pagan capital ruled the world for several centuries. And it was scheduled for God's judgment. It was 40 days from "ground zero!"
Then God called Jonah, the Reluctant Prophet. He wasn't excited about the assignment until God explained it to him a bit more clearly.
And Jonah wasn't very tactful in his message: "Forty days and you get yours!"
Then, the biggest miracle in the Old Testament occurred: within those forty days the king on down all repented!
And the kingdom was spared for almost another century! God, we must remember, is in the miracle business...
God has declared His clear and exciting principle:If my people, who 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. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
This is not addressed to our President, our Congress, or our population in general: It is addressed to "My people, who are called by my name." It is addressed to the Body of Christ.
If we will humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways - then He will forgive our sin and heal our land.
We need a national revival - but it must begin with you and me. It is our sin that is standing in the way of what God would prefer to do: to have America continue as a beachhead for the Gospel to a hurting world.
It's up to us. It's high time we got serious about it.
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