WHAT IS NATIONAL SIN?

By Jim Jordal

 Therefore it will happen that, when the Lord has performed his whole work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the willful proud heart of the king of Assyria, and the insolence of his haughty looks. For he has said, "By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I have understanding: and I have removed the boundaries of the peoples, and have robbed their treasures. Like a valiant man I have brought down their rulers. My hand has found the riches of the peoples like a nest, and like one gathers eggs that are abandoned, have I gathered all the earth. There was no one who moved their wing, or that opened their mouth, or chirped."   Isaiah 10:12-14 WEB

This Bible reading relates God’s plan for dealing with the arrogance and insolence of Assyrian invaders who attributed their success in subjugating God’s people to their wisdom, understanding, and military strength. They figuratively “thumbed their noses” at Israel and its God, likening their conquest to an invader gathering eggs of wealth from an abandoned nest. Their arrogance reached its peak as they wonderingly explained that there was no one who “moved their wing, or that opened their mouth” or even peeped in anger or protest.

Do you suppose that today various enemies of America might be similarly bragging over their ability to cast us into political, economic, and social chaos? Could they, like Assyria, applaud the fact that we seem to be unable to create leaders, with few exceptions, who seem able to open their mouths, flap their wings, or even peep in protest? Have they really robbed our treasures and removed our boundaries (not land, but borders of decency and justice)? And the biggest question: Will they get away with this?

What the Assyrians failed to realize was that God, not their military might or wisdom, gave them the victory.  The purpose was so that Israel would realize their perfidy in turning from God, and would repent of their sin and be once again healed and delivered by their Lord. So Assyria and its power was just a tool in God’s hand to bring a repentant Israel back into fellowship with God.

This passage is in the Old Testament, meaning that many of us will perhaps spend a lifetime ignorant of its power and truth. This is much more than personal sin and redemption; it is also national sin and national deliverance through divine intervention.

Christians generally act as if there were no such thing as national sin, preferring to categorize all sin as individual acts contrary to Mosaic Law, common morality, and the teachings of Christ. This view is often defended with the comment, “Well, aren’t all sins personal in origin as individuals make decisions affecting all of us?” Looking at sin this way, it’s easy to forget that individual acts have a tendency to morph into laws of the land as political parties and other organizations pick them up for inclusion in party platforms or other policies.

Our friend J. Rufus Fears from the Great Courses says that all political, social, and economic decisions begin with one person’s choice. I can’t argue with that, but what about when these decisions gravitate into the political arena where they become party policy decisions or even law? Do they remain individual choices forever, or is there a place where they become prominent enough to be considered national law?

Most of the Old Testament and quite a bit of the New Testament deal with national sin, or what occurs when nations, their leaders, and many of their institutions fall into behavior that can only be described as favorable to the rich and powerful and actively antagonistic to the peace and safety of the great masses of citizens.

If God favors righteousness and justice as the founding principles of human organization, then any action by government and other structures of society to either rescind or water-down these founding principles must be sin because it so clearly violates God’s law, or the Mosaic Code and its antecedents. So let’s remember that national sin and national deliverance are both parts of God’s plan.

WHAT JESUS COME TO ACCOMPLISH

By Jim Jordal

For to us a child is born. To us a son is given; and the government will be on his shoulders. His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, on the throne of David, and on his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from that time on, even forever. The zeal of Yahweh of Armies will perform this.                                        Isaiah 9:6-7 WEB

At this Christmas season we hear much about baby Jesus as we remember his lowly circumstances and birth in a manger. We sing of his coming and celebrate the promises of his later accomplishments. And we become aware that his arrival did not please everyone because they knew, as did Mary his mother, that things would drastically change as his life unfolded.

Although he was fully human, Jesus was no ordinary man. Mary his mother realized this as she spoke the enduring words of her song in Luke 1:46-56, part of which proclaimed to the world that “He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich he has sent away empty.” No wonder the proud complacent religionists of the day were afraid; they knew he constituted a threat to their prestige and arrogance as they took advantage of their religious positions as temple authorities to rob and cheat the poor and vulnerable. 

It is in the fourth chapter of Luke that the young man Jesus reveals his earthly mission. He says he comes to “preach the gospel to the poor…heal the brokenhearted…proclaim liberty to the captives…recovery of sight to the blind…set at liberty those who are oppressed…proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

These statements by Jesus reveal several things about his life and ministry as he spoke to nations as well as individuals. The gospel he delivered was much more than individual moral philosophy or personal salvation. It was also a new form of righteous rule for entire nations with Christ as King.

The first action of the young Jesus was to “preach the gospel to the poor.” The term “gospel” literally means “good news.” So the good news of the advent was especially promised to the poor. We tend to personalize this promise by claiming it meant good news exclusively to the poor in spirit. Yes, it was for the poor in spirit, but it was also to the financially destitute poor who had been victimized for years by the unholy combination of Roman rulers and Jewish temple authorities.

Another point in Jesus’ ministry was to “proclaim liberty to the captives.” He meant not just slaves and prisoners, but also those sad figures enslaved by centuries of religious tradition and spiritual emptiness under the tutelage of temple authorities bound under Roman authority. So the leaders were as oppressed and afflicted as the followers. Both needed deliverance!

Spiritual blindness arises from a religious heritage that substitutes human ability for wisdom that comes from God through his Holy Spirit. This unfortunate condition went back centuries, and was often the main point of attack by the prophets. Notice that Jesus said he came to bring “recovery of sight to the blind.” Evidently the now-blind people had once possessed the gift of sight, but had lost it over the ages through disobedience in government and formalism in the temple. Whatever the cause, Jesus promised a change in emphasis and spiritual direction and new vision to the sufferers. We today could probably use a good dose of this sort of cure for religious lack of sight.

Jesus closed his teaching with the promise to “proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” He meant the Year of Jubilee instituted by Moses, proclaimed by the prophets, explained and empowered in the Gospels and in the Revelation. Isaiah could not have written as he did in his great prophecy, which we read at Christmas, if he had not already known and studied the Jubilee promises.

We could do a lot more of the same as we realize the power of Jesus the Christ taking upon his shoulders the kingdom government of righteousness and justice upon the earth, just as it is in heaven.

 

A PROPHET TROUBLED BY VIOLENCE AND DESTRUCTION

By Jim Jordal

  The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see. O Jehovah, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear? I cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save. Why dost thou show me iniquity, and look upon perverseness? for destruction and violence are before me; and there is strife, and contention riseth up. Therefore the law is slacked, and justice doth never go forth; for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore justice goeth forth perverted.                                                                Habakkuk 1:1-4 ASV

Habakkuk prophesied to Judah during the reign of good king Josiah on the eve of the Babylonian invasion and dispersion of Israel in perhaps 625 BCE. This would be approximately 100 years after the Assyrian invasion and deportation of the Northern kingdom of Israel. His nation was in chaos and delusion as he charges them with “slacking” the law, perverting justice, and overcoming the righteous. So Habakkuk wonders why God does not hear his complaints concerning the absence of justice and the disintegration of law and decency pervading the nation.

God’s answer was to pronounce the coming invasion of Judah by the terrible, fearsome hordes of Chaldea (Babylon). Verses 8 through 11 of the first chapter announce God’s plan to “work a work in your days, which ye will not believe, though it be told you.” The Chaldeans are described as “terrible and dreadful,” “their horses are swifter than leopards,” “more fierce than the evening wolves,” and that “they shall scoff at kings.

This seemingly impossible situation for Israel brings forth a truth that many Christians shy away from; that there is a definite connection between national sin by God’s people and national punishment. Almost the entire chapter of Deuteronomy 28 details the truth that in response to the national sins of Israel, God punished the nation with crop failures and famine, pestilence, defeat in war, natural disaster, and captivity by their enemies.

National sin differs from personal sin in that it is not the accumulation of millions of individual sin by the people, but the egregious, arrogant sins of leaders who create national policies and laws dismissive of God’s will for the nation. Scripture speaks of leaders who “decree unrighteous decrees, that they may…turn aside the needy from judgment, and take away the right of the poor…that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless” (Isa. 10:1-2).

Does this sound a bit like our nation today? Chaos and delusion reign supreme as politicians attack one another over trivia while the public remains caught in a hopeless vortex of lies, innuendo, alternative truths, and evasion of the real issues. The real issue today is that, notwithstanding the blustering and deceit of national leaders, the poor are still poor, widows still lose their homes to foreclosure, the earth is still violated with impunity, and laws are still passed denying justice to the vulnerable people and families of the nation.

This sort of sin especially angers God because of its supreme arrogance, unlimited greed, and trivialization of the major values of Scripture and our nation’s founding principles. This nation does not exist to fatten the wealth of a few at the expense of the many, to continuously rape the earth, and to sadly ignore, often in our places of worship, the basic foundations and intents of the Christian faith.

It’s time we took prophesies like Habakkuk’s seriously, when he says “the law is slacked,” “the wicked compass the righteous,” and “wrong judgment proceeds.” That, folks, is happening every day in this country, and we are paying a very high price for our grievous sin in ignoring and minimizing the clear words of God. Not only our national treasure, but the blood of our people is being shed in violence, war, addictions, untimely death, and the host of other things resulting from our national sin.

It feels to me that it’s time to stop pandering to evil. We need to learn to advocate powerfully and continuously against the existing situation and those perpetuating it for profit and power.

WHEN WILL WE LEARN THAT GOD RULES IN THE AFFAIRS OF MEN?

Jim Jordal

“Behold, he withholds the waters, and they dry up; again, he sends them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom; The deceived and the deceiver are his. He leads counselors away stripped. He makes judges fools. He loosens the bond of kings, He binds their waist with a belt. He leads priests away stripped, And overthrows the mighty. He removes the speech of those who are trusted, And takes away the understanding of the elders. He pours contempt on princes, And loosens the belt of the strong. He uncovers deep things out of darkness, And brings out to light the shadow of death. He increases the nations, and he destroys them. He enlarges the nations, and he leads them captive. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, And causes them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. They grope in the dark without light. He makes them stagger like a drunken man.”       Job. 12:15-25 WEB

This passage from the Book of Job could just as well have been written yesterday to describe the present political situation in Washington D.C. Dysfunction and chaos reign supreme in the land, led by political and economic institutions who seem to vie for public disfavor over the fact that no matter what is done, the “fat cats” get most of the benefits.

Translated into simpler language, this passage says that God:

  • Withholds the waters, causing drought.

  • Sends out floods that overturn the earth

  • Possesses strength and wisdom

  • Claims both the deceived and the deceiver as his

  • Sends counsellors away embarrassed

  • Makes judges fools

  • Loosens the power of kings and binds their abilities

  • Leads priests away stripped of authority and power

  • Overthrows the mighty

  • Confuses the speech of trusted advisors

  • Removes the understanding of elders

  • Pours contempt on princes and leaders

  • Weakens the strong

  • Uncovers and exposes hidden actions of darkness

  • Brings to the light behaviors leading to death

  • Builds, increases and leads nations into captivity

  • Takes away understanding from chiefs and causes them to wander in chaos

  • Makes leaders grope in the darkness without light and stagger as if drunken

Notwithstanding all this, we still have leaders blind to the moving of God upon people and nations. Many in the religious community cannot seem to accept the fact that God might get angry at continual violations of his law. They cannot seem to understand that God is sovereign, and does as he pleases: “I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create calamity. I, the Lord, do all these things (Isa. 45:7).

The question then arises: “Does God choose to do all these things to human beings because of our lawlessness, or do we do them to ourselves by continually violating his law?” Look at the increasingly frightening reports from global warming experts, some of whom now say it’s already too late to stop the oncoming express of warming ocean temperatures, increasingly violent storms, floods, and earthquakes. Other claims that we can still take action to end or at least modify these afflictions. Wherever the truth lies, we can certainly not blame God for all natural disasters, since many are the direct response of earth’s climate systems to the onslaught of human greed and thoughtless stupidity.

Then there are the scores of reports of sexual abuse perpetrated by prominent men on those beneath them in the power structure. And, as the hammer of justice falls on these perpetrators, we seem unable to comprehend that God might have something to do with this. But Scripture says: “Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26). Christians are not to fear the truth, but to revel in it as it topples kingdoms, reveals secrets, and sends confusion among arrogant world leaders. So don’t be afraid; God knows what he is doing.

       

THE MODERN TOWER OF BABEL

By Jim Jordal

 The serpent said to the woman, "You won't surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."                                                                                              Genesis 3:4-5 WEB

They said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top reaches to the sky, and let's make ourselves a name, lest we be scattered abroad on the surface of the whole earth." Yahweh came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. Yahweh said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is what they begin to do. Now nothing will be withheld from them, which they intend to do.                            Genesis 11:4-6 WEB

And so it began---humans seeking to become God and to gain knowledge enough so that they could avoid doing his will. Back then it was arrogance and stubbornness; today we call it the innate perfectibility of humankind. Whatever it was, it would become near-fatal to human aspirations for justice, truth, and peace. 

The biblical account of the ancient tower of Babel is not just a quaint myth elucidating some principle of Scripture. There really was a tower of Babel, the ruins of which are located in the present city of Babylon in the modern country of Iraq. The area was excavated beginning in 1898 by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey. In his explorations he dug up the ruins of a great tower estimated to have been 288 feet high (about 28 stories today) and about the same distance on each of four bases. It was more like a pyramid than a tower, and had seven terraces or levels, the lower ones being reached by steps. At the top was the Temple of Marduk where the priests gathered to worship the best-known god of Assyria.  It was built of some 58 million fired bricks of a bluish color, and could be seen for many miles in the clear desert air.

The original tower described in the Bible (dated 2247 B.C. by C. I. Scofield) was destroyed and rebuilt many times over a period of perhaps 1800 years as new rulers conquered the land, destroyed the tower, and were then re-conquered by new monarchs who rebuilt the tower. The physical tower changed slightly many times, but one thing did not change---the supreme arrogance of the people who built it. They---and possibly many others over the centuries-- thought they could rise to the level of God if they got high enough into the air.  As new gods, they could then accomplish anything they could imagine. As Scripture says: “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,” and  “nothing will be withheld from them, which they intended to do.”

That form of hubris could well be entitled, according to classical history professor Rufus Fears, as outrageous arrogance. Dr. Fears maintains that we do not profit as we should from cultural advancements because the new ideas get thrown into the same old bag of unchanging human nature. So we keep repeating the same errors, never seeming to learn from history. They had outrageous arrogance; we today have a worshipful belief that technology will somehow rescue us from our arrogant stupidity and flagrant disregard for God’s principles of justice, truth, and mercy regarding humankind and creation. They believed they could aspire to God by building towers; we attempt to approach God by building giant cathedrals, creating soaring melodies, and devising cunning religious philosophies and statements of faith. But God can best be reached, not by human effort, no matter how magnificent, but by humble obedience to his word and faith in his promises.

That’s what we’re inexorably being driven toward---faith and obedience. As the various negative outcomes of our arrogance flow together into one giant funnel of systemic collapse, we are faced with the choice between our way and God’s way. We won’t choose God’s way until the pressure becomes greater than we and the earth can bear, and even then only as God’s new Spirit descends on us as described in the New Covenant of Hebrews chapter eight.