Can America avoid being a nation judged?
by Hank Martin
Our nation is intensely divided. We can see how caustic the discord is, because of the closeness of the votes in the latest presidential election. In the words of the Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 1:10 “make our calling an election sure.” From a Biblical standpoint and from a Christian perspective, I would like to present what I think is the real division. This division is consequently disturbing to Christians. It is not about economics. It is not about taxes. It is not about deficits and surpluses. It is not about prescription drugs. It is not about entitlements. The division is not about anything that is political or that is social. History has demonstrated that we are in an environment where socialized economics, reallocation of wealth, big government, and excessive taxation, are already firmly established, and can only be little revised by either party, if at all.
In those areas, it is not relevant who is president. There is no appreciable difference. The division that divides us is not about any of that. The division that divides us is about the Bible. It is about morality as defined by the Scriptures. It is about Christianity and its place in American history and society. In all honesty, and simply put, the current Democratic agenda is pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, pro-lesbian, pro-feminist, anti-Christian, and exclusive of Biblical standards. Essentially, no true Christian can support that agenda. Yes, there has been a significant change in America, but nothing new for nations throughout history.
We have a disagreement in regard to the Bible, connected with morality, with reference to Biblical standards. That is what is so disquieting to us. When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, the majority of Americans, 63 percent, did not desire him as president. It had already been established at the time, that he was an immoral man; and later confirmed, repeatedly. Notwithstanding, one could observe that during the eight years of his presidency his popularity grew, and his rate of acceptance and satisfaction continued to increase. The citizenry began to approve of him. Now, there is a larger number of the non-moral, non-Christian population, and I am becoming convinced that, by the next election four years from now, another generation of young people will have entered into voting age, and they will carry the attitudes that are pervasive in the culture today. Moreover, what was a 37 percent vote could well be a 60 percent vote, for the non-Christian, non-Biblical, non-moral position.
What we are now observing in America is the death of morality. We are seeing in America, the death of Biblical standards, and the displacement of Christianity. Morality and Biblical commitment are growing dimmer in our nation, and withering before our very eyes. Christians, rightly, are disturbed. Despite the rhetoric otherwise this is not personal, nor is it racially motivated. We simply desire to see our ways return to the tried and true paths of old. For what is right, moral, righteous, and Biblical. We would like to believe that we could hold on to a place in our society for God’s Word. For ourselves, and our children and their children. Is it a losing battle? Perhaps we should allow history to speak for itself.
In Acts chapter 14, we get a perspective that is important. The Apostle Paul, along with Barnabas in this case, and anyone who does what Paul did, describes himself as a preacher of the Gospel. Verse 15 of Acts 14, about a third way into the verse, he says, “We are also men of the same nature as you and preach the Gospel. We preach the Gospel to you in order that you may turn from these vain things, that is idols, false religion, to the living God who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.” Paul says, “We are preachers, and we preach about the one and only God. The true and living God. In addition, we preach to you the Good News of that true and living God, that sinners can be reconciled to Him. In verse 16, he says, “In the generations gone by, He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; (emphasis mine) and yet He did not leave Himself without a witness.” That is the story of human society. All nations rise and fall. All nations come and go. In the midst of all of that, God always has His preachers who are preaching the Gospel. He is never without witness. However, the cycle is always the same. Verse 16 says that, “In the generations gone by,” He can look at all of human history, “God permits all the nations to go their own way.” There is no way to stop the cycle. It has been stated that, “If men have learned anything from history, it is that men never learn anything from history.” Consequently, you have humanity today endeavoring feverishly to salvage America. That is very normal, and it pains us greatly to see the declining interest in the Bible, the tremendous striving to remove the Bible from public discourse. To get the Bible expunged as the standard for conduct and behavior and law. However, this is history, and history inexorably repeats itself. The cynicism of the preacher in Ecclesiastes is justified when he said there is nothing new under the sun. He went on to say that history is an endless cycle of repetition. “That which has been is now; that which is to be has already been,” he said. We are now in the cycle. Men and nations follow the same path from glory to dust. From the heights to the depths. From great achievement to destruction. The beginnings are bright, and the beginnings are hopeful and filled with promise. However, there is always the slide and the drift. The spiritual entropy that takes over in a fallen world and catapults nations downward into destruction. In fact, every baby born is a living illustration of the inevitable course of men and nations. Every baby is a single illustration, beginning in the loveliness of innocence and infancy, and moving through childhood and all of its bright, shining hope and, finally, to adulthood and decline through maturity to the poignant validity of death.
America, tragically, is on that same path. The United States is caught in the doomsday cycle that has captured every nation, and will until the Lord comes and establishes the glory of His own Kingdom. We are a dying nation in a world of dying nations and dying people. For Americans, it is hard to swallow, because we had a particularly bright infancy. It commenced with such a primitive beauty. Beginning with a people coming here to this great land to seek out freedom. Freedom to express their love to Christ in a fellowship of persons who were faithful to the Word of God. It was in that context that our Constitution was established. In that context that we established our Bill of Rights. In that context that we designed our government with all of its wonderful freedoms. In that context we established our churches, schools, and legal system. The Bible was held high, and the Bible was the source of all truth and authority for life, both private and public. God was at the center of our activity, worshiping God was a way of life, and churches were the hubs of communities. There were remarkable preachers and extraordinary schools for teaching Scripture. They all had a central place in the life of this nation. There was a standard, and a norm. There were moral absolutes, based on the Word of God.
That was the time of America’s infancy. As maturity came, we began to drift into a degraded adulthood. It was self-evident. Some voices tried to call us back. The Edwards and Whitfield and Moody, and others. There were preachers and churches here and there that were crying out to try to stem the tide. Nevertheless, evil has prevailed, and we face the inevitable judgment of God. Decline is measurable. Perhaps it takes an election and a collapsing economy to show us how measurable it is.
Where do we go to understand this? Where do we go to understand this cycle and what it all means? Where do we go to get a definition of it? In 1 Corinthians chapter 10, the Apostle Paul said that the Old Testament was written to give us examples. If you go back into history, you see the pasts of the nations unfolded in the Bible, and the Bible is the truest history ever recorded, because the Holy Spirit inspires it. In the Bible, watch the rise and fall of nations in the Scripture, you see the fulfillment of Acts 14:16. God, indeed, did permit the nations to go their own ways. Notably, of all nations, God even saw His own covenant people, Israel, go that same way. There were a people whose beginnings were glorious. Whose beginnings were with the covenants and the promises of God. With the law of and the Word of God. A people who were given prophets and priests. These were a people given the law of God in its entire definitive manner. These were a people given everything by God to assure a glorious future. They, too, followed the same cycle and ended up in tragic judgment.
America is not Israel. We do not have a covenant nor a divine promise as a nation. The law was not given to us originally. However, though we are not a covenant people, we are not God’s chosen people as was the nation Israel. It is still true that we had amazingly privileged beginnings. We had a freedom here to take the Word of God and to build a nation upon that Word. Really, that is unique to the world. We have been a privileged people; yet, we have followed the cycle of all the other nations. Israel provides for us a good pattern because of the parallel of privileges. To see that pattern unfold, look at the Prophet Isaiah in chapter 5 of his great prophecy.
Isaiah chapter 5, and there is a huge billboard from the past showing us what to expect, giving us the truest picture, a divine insight to understand what is going on in our country. A model of glorious beginnings and disastrous ending; a model of apostasy and decline. A model that starts with the glorious truth of God and ends up in the judgment of God. Isaiah begins this chapter with the parable. Isaiah is prophesying to Judah, the southern kingdom, the judgment of God. The judgment of God is going to fall on Judah, and it did, in the Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians eventually came and destroyed the land, destroyed the city of Jerusalem, destroyed the temple, massacred the people, and carried the remaining people who were still alive off into captivity in Babylon. This was the judgment of God, and this is what Isaiah is predicting here.
However, the imagery is so graphic and so clear and parallel to us that it serves us very well. Look at the parable in chapter 5. “Let me sing now for my well-beloved a song of my beloved concerning His vineyard. My beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill, and He dug it all around, removed its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. Moreover, He built a tower in the middle of it and hewed out a wine vat in it. Then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only sour berries,” or “worthless ones.” Now this is a song. Verse 1 says, “Let me sing.” You can see that it is even written in the text of Scripture in a poetic fashion. This is a song. A song from one person to another. From one to the well beloved, a plaintive song. An exquisite elegy. A death song, a weeping song, a sad song, a dirge, and a requiem. This is the saddest thing that could happen in the life of an individual in an agrarian society. Takes all of one’s life savings and makes the massive effort to put together a vineyard, and does everything that is necessary to guarantee the success of that vineyard, and ends up with worthless, sour berries, inedible. Literally, this is the story of personal bankruptcy and personal disaster. In that culture, as in any agrarian culture, one’s complete fortune is tied up into the land and the crops. This is the ultimate disaster. When a man lost his crop, he lost everything. His family lost everything.
Consequently, in ancient times, if you wanted to destroy your enemy you burned his crop. Like Sampson who destroyed the crops of Philistines by setting the tails of the foxes on fire and sending them through the fields, this is the ultimate disaster. If you destroyed a man’s crop, you destroyed the man’s life. On the contrary, when you wanted to guarantee your future, you saved and saved and saved, and you took your money, and you bought a piece of land, and you put grain in it if it was in the valley. If it was on the hill, you terraced it and put a vineyard there, and you hoped for the success of that, because everything you had was in it. In the days of Isaiah, the stony hills of Judah were beautifully terraced for the vineyards. That is true today. The grain is in the valleys and the vines are on the hillsides. This is one of those kinds of stories. The citizens of Judah were very familiar with vineyards, which produced very luscious grapes, and they knew how much toil and how much love and how much care and how much investment had gone into making these vineyards production and how hard people worked to produce it and how great was the hope for a rich return of such an effort and investment. Everybody would understand the horrible, horrible feeling and the devastating result of one that came out and found only small, sour, misshapen inferior little berries, inedible, and useless. Frustration, heartache, sorrow poverty.
That sad song starts this chapter. In fact, in verse 3, the song is added to with a further explanation. “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I haven’t done in it?” The question comes; the rhetorical question comes from the vineyard owner. His question is, “What could I have done that I didn’t do? I found the best fertile hill. I dug around it, and that would have been a hedge or a moat, a protection in order that small animals would not come in and destroy the crop or small reptiles or insects. I did what I could do to protect it. I removed the stones which were plentiful.” In fact, the old rabbis used to say when God delivered the rocks to the earth; He made a mistake and dumped them all in Israel. There are rocks everywhere in Israel. However, he had to clean out all of those and get ’em out of the soil so that the roots could go down to the nutrients and the water there. You took the soil, and you cleaned all the rocks out. With those rocks that came out of the soil, you created the terraces for the vine to be planted. He did that. He removed all the stones. He planted the choicest vine. He went and found the best bread stalk to put in the ground to guarantee the best result. He put a tower in the middle. They built a tower so that someone could sit on top of the tower and make sure there weren’t any larger animals that were encroaching or there weren’t people coming in as an enemy to destroy the crop or strangers passing by and eating the crop. They protected it. They also stored all their implements in that tower. They produced a wine vat, hewing it out of rock, where they could stamp out the grapes and produce the wine. Everything that could have been done was done. He had every right to expect good grapes. Verse 4 inquires, “What more was there to do for My vineyard?” The answer is nothing. Nothing.
“Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes, did it produce worthless ones? How did this happen? How did we get to this place? Was it something I did?” No. “Was there something wrong with the soil?” No. There was something wrong in that vine. It may have been the choicest vine. It may have been the best available, but there was something in it that was wrong. That is the implication here. Verse 5, “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard. I will remove its hedge or its moat or its protection, its dugout protection, and it will be consumed. All the animals and all the reptiles, all the insects, everything, all the strangers can come in, trample all over it. I will break down its wall. I do not care about the terraces anymore. I do not care about the border that surrounds it. I will lay it waste. I will not prune it or hoe it. Briars and thorns will come up. I will charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” This is a curse on an unproductive vineyard. Everything that could have been done was done. Moreover, the product was useless. The product was disappointing. The product brings judgment. What is this all about? Who is he talking about? Verse 7. Here is the definition of the vineyard. “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, also called the men of Judah.” They are His pleasant or delightful plants. He is talking about Israel. He is talking about Judah here. He says, “I put Judah in the fertile hill. I put Judah in Canaan land. The land that flows with milk and honey. There is not any more fertile piece of land on the planet. I put them there. I put them in there in that strategic place with the Mediterranean Sea and with three continents surrounding them, so that they could produce the greatest of products, and they could be disseminated all over the world. I put them in the most magnificent, fertile piece of land there is. Could not have been better. I put them in a land that has so much, that yields so much. A land of great wealth and promise.” In fact, the original land, as you know, the original covenant to Abraham, the land goes all the way to the east and covers all of the massive fields of oil that the whole world is dependent upon that have made the Arab world so rich. He gave them an incredible place. In addition, he says, “They dug all around, or put a hedge.” What is that? That is the ceremonial law. All of the structure of the ceremonial law indicated in Exodus and defined in Leviticus that made it difficult for the Jews to have easy social interchange with the Gentiles. The Lord knew that He had to protect His people from the encroachment of idolaters. Those who worshipped false gods. Those who were immoral. He had to protect them. So He created a life pattern, dietary laws, laws of clothing, Sabbath laws, festival laws, feast laws, all kinds of laws that had to do with how they dealt with animals, how they dealt with birds and birds’ nests, and how they dealt with every area of life. There was this constant defined life that was so different from anybody around them, that it almost demanded their isolation. That was to protect them from the encroachment of idolatry. Every time they began to mingle with idolaters, you remember God warned them repeatedly.
He said, “I removed the stones.” What is that? It is very likely that God cleaned out the Canaanites. God told them, “When you go into the land, destroy the Canaanites. If you do not get the stones out of there, the nation cannot grow and become fertile and productive.” Then He says, “I planted the choicest vine.” Nobody is going to argue that the Jewish people are a noble part of humanity, still with us today. That same pure strain of Jewish people from the past, from the time of Isaiah. God has preserved the people of Israel. Even in the modern world, in the 21st century, the Jewish people have made massive contributions. For being so small in number, they have made contributions to the world in science and the arts, medicine. They are a wonderful part of humanity. The choice vine.
He built a tower in the middle of it. No doubt refers to Jerusalem, the parapet, the high place from which the rule took place of the kings and where the priests and the prophets watched for the protection of Israel. There is a wine vat. Perhaps, we know a wine vat is where grapes are crushed and the juice flows out. It may be a reference to the sacrificial system. “I provided a sacrificial system where blood could be poured out to deal with your sins. I did everything I could do. I gave you the best land, and I gave you the best way to be protected from the encroachment of your pagan neighbors. I even took nations, judged them, and destroyed them to protect you. I gave you Jerusalem with the prophets and the priests as the watchmen on the tower, protecting you. I gave you a sacrificial system to deal with your sins. I expected good grapes. I got sour berries. Could I have done anything else? No. Therefore, I am going to judge you. I am not going to protect you anymore. You are gonna be consumed. Your wall is gonna be destroyed, and your ground is gonna be trampled over, laid waste, and so forth.”
Specifically, at the end of verse 7, there is a play on words that defines what Israel had done. He said, “I expected, I looked for justice. I expected honesty.” That’s what that word means. “I expected honesty and integrity and what was right. Instead I got bloodshed.” Oppression is another term here. “I expected you to do what’s right, but you oppressed people. And I looked for righteousness, and all I heard was the cry of people who were being abused, misused, and oppressed.” They were taking money from people they did not deserve. They were oppressing the poor, the widow, and the orphan. They were not carrying out justice. They were not punishing the criminals. This is sad, because God says, “I am going to judge you. I gave you everything to produce justice and righteousness, honesty and goodness, but got the opposite.”That is a sad song. It is the same sad song in America. As I said, we are not the covenant people. We do not have the promise of God’s covenant, and if God’s own covenant people could not avoid His judgment, why would we think we will? God did everything for them. Frankly, HE did everything for us. Could not have done anymore than He did. Nevertheless, judgment is going to come.
He gave to Israel the law, the prophets, the covenants, His promises, and He gave that all to us. Same pattern. Israel on whom God lavished so much love and so much labor and so much blessing. Now there’s nothing left, Isaiah’s says, speaking for God, “There’s nothing left. Just tear it down. Let it be trampled and destroyed until the purging is complete.” At the time, by the way, a man named Uzziah was king. He had been king for 52 years. There was great prosperity in Israel. Economically, great prosperity. Strength in the cold war. They had literally kept their enemies from attacking them, because they had such military strength. They had a strong cold war position, and they had tremendous prosperity. That superficiality of prosperity and power in the world brought a false sense of security. Underneath they were rotten and on the brink of judgment. Therefore, we go from the parable to the penetration. Look at verse 8. From the general assessment to a more particular look at the cancer, that was eating the life of the nation. On the surface, Uzziah was a good king, strong, capable. God had helped him in war so that they had kept their enemies at bay. The defenses of Judah and Jerusalem were strong. They had a large and well-disciplined army furnished with the best weapons, according to 2 Chronicles chapter 26. Underneath, there was this wretched iniquity and the sour berries of Sodom were abundant in the Lord’s vineyard.
God can see what man cannot, and He saw the truth. He tells Isaiah in a series of woes, as God goes behind the parable and penetrates the specific sins. Look at verse 8, “woe.” Verse 11, “woe.” In addition, verse 18, “woe.” Verse 20, “woe.” Verse 21, “woe.” Verse 22, “woe.” You have six woes. Woe means cursed, damned, sentenced to judgment. This is a final word of execution. It is never God’s way to denounce evil in general and stop. God wants to go behind the general denunciation to the specific sin and say, “This is the sin.” That is what He does here. Six specific sins are indicated here. The first one is in verse 8. “Woe to those who add house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, so that you have to live alone in the midst of the land!” We shall call this grasping materialism. Grasping materialism. Avarice, greed, the sin that corrupted Judas was true of Israel. Insatiable greed of landowners accumulating land and more land and fields and more field and houses and more houses. Wealthy men ruthlessly acquiring all the property, squeezing out the poor and the helpless and making them buy things at an inflated price. This societal behavior fuels inflation. It is materialism that that drives inflation. Remember that every seventh year, they were supposed to let the land rest? Every 50th year, everything that was acquired went back to its original owner. That was called the year of jubilee, which started the economy all over again and prevented continual amassing and passing on and squeezing out everybody, and so every 50th year, everything went back to the original owner. If you knew that, you would not pay too much for something if you had to give it back in a few years.
God had designed the system, but tragically, they violated those Sabbath years. They continued that grasping materialism. They did not let the land rest. They did not free the servants. They did not give back the property, and God sent them into captivity for 70 years. They were a year in captivity for every one of those years they violated. Grasping materialism. But what’s going to happen, verse 9, “In my ears the Lord of hosts has sworn, ‘Surely, many houses shall become desolate, these great and fine houses, these great massive estates that you are building, are going to be empty, because what is going to happen is the Babylonians are coming in here, and they are going to destroy and they are going to kill, and then they are going to take captive everybody who remains, and these houses are going to be empty. Not only, that, those wonderful fields that you have been adding are going to be non-productive. Ten acres of vineyard will yield only one bath of wine.'” Four gallons. “You’re gonna have ten acres producing four gallons. A homer of seed that’s 48 gallons of seed, would only yield a crop of grain of an ephah, 4.8 gallons.” That is a non-productive fee-production. You are going to go into the vineyards. You are going to get a tiny, little famine-condition kind of product. The same is going to happen in the fields. The fields are going to be untended, uncared for, and unproductive. God is going to take you out, because you stockpiled wealth, and it is all going to be deserted.
Certainly, in our own country, we can see a parallel with grasping materialism. That is what has been driving this economy. People today seem to be more concerned about how much money they have than truth and morality. American’s have become like an unloved child with an ice cream cone, fat, full of pimples, and screaming for more.
Materialistic grasping, greedy, indulgent, possessive, and there is some alleged Christians, who join in this materialism by preaching the false prosperity Gospel that Jesus wants you rich, and they’re getting rich in the process. We have been worshipping the golden calf and the church is like Aaron, aiding and abetting it. We are not called to stockpile. We are called to share and to give. We can enjoy the riches of what God gives us as long as we have an open hand and an open heart to those in need. To give to God Himself.
The second sin is drunken pleasure seeking. This was true in Israel. Look at verse 11. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning that they may pursue strong drink.” Characteristic of an alcoholic. They start drinking when? In the morning. People, who are consumed with drinking, they stay up late in the evening that wine may inflame them. In addition, it is just drunkenness; it is the pleasure seeking. Their banquets, their parties is their word, a drunken pleasure seeking is…is the combination of drinking and partying, accompanied by lyre and harp and tambourine and flute and wine. This is the good time Charlie’s. This is the nightclub. This is the dance club. This is the singles bars, etc. It is just the party crowd. In addition, verse 12 says, “They do not pay attention to the deeds of the Lord.” They do not have any interest in the things of God. They do not even consider the work of His hand. That is a phrase used in Amos 6 to refer to the physical body. The body is the creation of God, and they do not even think about the body. They dissipate. It is a funny culture. On the one hand, our culture in American, preoccupied with the body, preoccupied with looks, preoccupied with the cosmetics and cosmetic surgeries and the body beautiful and gyms and workouts and all of that at the same time plunging that same generation into a life of dissipation that attacks the very body they are trying to preserve.
Drunken pleasure seeking and he says in verse 13, “My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge.” This mindless merrymaking. “The honorable men are truly famished. The multitude is parched with thirst.” Here they are, and they are running at the party as fast as they can run, and they are filling it up as fast as they can fill it up. When they are done, they are hungry and thirsty. They have nothing. Verse 14 says, “The grave has enlarged its throat, opened its mouth without measure. Death swallows the mindless merrymakers. And Jerusalem’s splendor, her multitude, her din of revelry.” That is the party again. “And the jubilant within her descend into it.” The party goes right into hell, and “the common man will be humbled, and the man of importance abased.” Does not matter whether you are a nobody or a somebody, they all go down together. “The eyes of the proud will be abased, but the Lord of host will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness.”
You cannot live like that against the law of God, against the truth of God, against the Word of God, and expect God to prosper the nation. God did not do it in Israel, and He can not and will not allow it in America. He tells them in verse 17, “Your…your pastures you have spent so much money and time acquiring would be a place for lambs to graze and strangers will eat in the waste places of the wealthy.” All those empty houses are going to be occupied by the strangers. This actually took place. Arabs moved in after Israel was taken into Babylon and occupied the land and the houses.
There is a third sin here that’s shocking. Defiant sinfulness. Grasping materialism characterized Israel. Drunken pleasure seeking characterized Israel. In addition, defiant sinfulness. Now, remember, on the surface, everything looked fine. There was prosperity. However, underneath, this was what was going on. Defiant sinfulness. This is so graphic. Look at verse 18. “Woe, that’s another curse, of course, damnation to those, this is a category of sinners, who drag iniquity with the cords of falsehood, and sin as if with cart ropes.” Consider the sober imagery. So much, sin, so much iniquity they cannot carry it. So they have to get a wagon to put it in and pull it around like a like an ox. The cords that they pull with are the cords of deception, or the cords of falsehood. They are liars dragging around a wagonload of iniquity like a brute beast. Filled with sin.
Again, we must look at our country, and examine the sin, and it is just absolutely staggering. Peoples’ lives so full of sin they cannot carry it themselves. They have to put it in a wagon and hitch themselves up to it and drag it around. It is promoted in every avenue of media. It is promoted in every realm of education. This massive burden of iniquity. However, it is not just sin. It is defiant. Verse 19, one of the most powerful statements in the chapter. What do they say? They say, “Let Him, God make speed. Let Him hasten His work, that we may see it. And let the purpose of the Holy One of Israel draw near and come to pass, that we may know it!” This is mockery. This is sarcasm. This is saying, “Well, let’s see God do something about it if he doesn’t like it. Let us see God act. Let us see God hurry up. Let us see His purpose unfold. Let’s see it come to pass, that we may know it.” They are mocking God with sarcasm. This is a defiant sinfulness. Open, flagrant, mocking, cursing God, blatant. Consider Ernest Hemingway. He said that he had proven there was no God, because he had tumbled women anytime he wanted. He had fought in revolutions, and he had lived his life exactly the way he wanted to live it, and nobody had told him that he had to live by some restrained Victorian law or code. He had defied God all the way along. Fine, that all ended one day when he put a shotgun in his mouth and blew the back of his head off. “Be not deceived,” the Bible says, “God is not-what? Mocked.” Whatever you sow, you reap.
Consider Sinclair Lewis, who was the toast of the literary world when he wrote Elmer Gantry, a novel that assailed Christianity. It had a preacher as the main character who was a drunken sot, who was engaged with prostitutes, and who was taking money from people under the guise of preaching the Gospel. This was hailed as a great work, and it was ultimately made into a very famous movie. Sinclair Lewis was toasted around the literary world for his brilliance as a writer. Yet, very few people know how he died. He died as a drooling alcoholic in a third-rate clinic somewhere outside Rome in absolute obscurity. This is characteristic of our world. It is a kind of sin that laughs at God, mocks God, curses God, and defies God.
The fourth in these penetrations is to see the sin of moral perversion. Look at verse 20. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” This is that sin of overturning everything. We are living in that society. Fornication is good. Restraint is bad. Homosexuality is good. Lesbianism is good. Divorce is good. The murder of 1.5 million innocent unborn babies for the sake of expediency is good. A reversal of everything. It is of little consequence whether you tell the truth anymore. Lying is better if it achieves your goal. Loving God is bad, because it is politically incorrect. Believing in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation is bad, because it is unloving and narrow. The subversion and the twisting and perverting of everything. Lifting up the wrong standards, exalting adultery, manipulating the truth, or even setting it aside for the sake of lies, fornication, homosexuality, lust, mocking faithfulness, mocking purity, mocking marriage, moral disintegration, licentious movies, books, and television, twisting, perverting, trying to establish a whole new morality.
The fifth sin is arrogant conceit. Verse 21, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!” Are you sick of opinions? We have rejected the Bible so what does that leave us? Polls, surveys. Everybody is clever in his or her own sight. Wise in their own eyes. Giving their own opinion. We are left to that, are we not? The only right or wrong we understand is whatever the poll tells us. So it was in Israel. Can you imagine after all that Israel had, this is how they too ended up? Is this not where we as a nation, now find ourselves? Arrogant conceit marks us. We sit around with a smirk of self-congratulation as conceited fools who do not know how stupid we are. Then we have the polls that give us the sum of collective fools.
Finally, number six, a corrupt leadership. Don’t you wish we could trust leaders? Well, it was that way in Israel. Verse 22, “Woe to those who are heroes.” The word “heroes” in the Hebrew means leader. “The leaders were drinking wine, and the valiant men, (a different Hebrew word for leaders), were mixing strong drink.” They were drunk. In addition, verse 23, “They were justifying wicked people for a bribe.” In other words, they could be bought. “And they take away the rights of the ones who are in the right.” They abuse people. There was no equity. There was no true justice .People were buying offices, buying positions, taking bribes. They were not even in control of themselves, because they were drunk. Perverse leaders. Drunkenness, bribery, corruption, perverting of justice, and these were the leaders. That leads us to the third point, the punishment. This is just a brief, clear point. The punishment, verse 24. Therefore and you can know a transition coming because therefore makes that transition therefore, it is going to be,”Like a tongue of fire consumes stubble, and like dry grass collapses into a flame, like a rotted root disintegrates or a dead blossom blows away like dust.” That is what is going to happen. This nation is finished.
Isaiah says, speaking for God, “It is the end. It is the end.” Therein lies the problem. End of verse 24, mark it. It will always be this way, “For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” That is the problem. That is what brings it all about. You reject the word of the law, Lord of hosts, the law of the Lord of the hosts, and the Word of the Holy One of Israel, and God’s judgment will fall. You may be shocked at how fast it comes. Because, on the surface, everything looks like it is okay, as it did in Israel. And verse 25 says, “On this account,” that is, on the account of having rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despising the Word of the Holy One of Israel and look, it’s greater for the nation who has that than it is for the one who does not. There are some nations in the world that never did have the law of the Lord and the Word of the Holy One of Israel. We did. We have, “And on this account of rejecting it, the anger of the Lord has burned against His people.” If it burned against His covenant people with whom He had made eternal promises, you can imagine how it burns against the nation that has no such covenant. “And He has stretched out His hand against them and struck them down, and the mountains quaked, and their corpses lay like refuse in the middle of the street.” He is looking ahead at what the Babylonian hordes are going to do when they arrive. “For all His anger is not spent, but His hand is still stretched out.” It not only went through the slaughter but it ended in the captivity of 70 years.
How is He going to do this? It is going to be a hostile army led by God. The Babylonians. He is going to lift up a standard to the distant nation. The Lord is going to be the general. The Lord is going to lead the Babylonians. That bitter and hasty nation, as Sebeka called them. That Chaldean nation, that pagan nation is going to be the judge of Israel, God’s people. Amazing is it not?
“And God is going to summon forth that army, and it is going to come with speed swiftly. The language has the image of speed and unimpeded motion. That army is not going to be weary or stumble. Nobody is going to slumber or sleep. The army is not going to have to rest. They are not going to get tired. They are just going to come rapidly. The belt at the waist is not undone. When a soldier is finished with his day, he takes his belt off because attached to his belt is the apparatus with which he fights. He unloosens his belt, and his garment falls, and he is at rest. However, they are never going to take the belt off. No sandal strap will ever break. The arrows will all be sharp. The bows will all be bent. The hoofs of the horses are going to be like flint. That is like shining metal. The chariot wheels like a whirlwind. It is going to roar like a lioness, like a young lion growls when it seizes the prey and carries it off with no one to deliver it. So much power and so much force, it cannot be restrained. It will growl over it in that day like the roaring of the sea. If one looks to the land, behold, there is darkness and distress; even the light is darkened by its clouds.” The smoke that goes up from the holocaust is gonna blacken the clouds in the desolate land of Israel. That is the judgment and that comes on a people who are a vineyard, planted with blessing that produces sour berries.
Back to verse 24, superficial prosperity, but rotten roots, dead blossoms. Why? Grasping materialism, drunken pleasure seeking, defiant sinfulness, moral perversion, arrogant conceit, and corrupt leadership were all indicators that they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel. That is what is so painful about what we are seeing in America today. We are holding on in the hopes that there is still a majority of people who believe in the Biblical morality, and a place with a Christian faith. But it is hanging by a thread, and it is in decline, just as Christ said it would be in the last days. I do not claim to know exactly how it is all going to transpire, but I know precisely where it will all ultimately lead, because the judgment of God has already begun.
Can America hope to avoid judgment? I think not. Our founding fathers understood that while individuals will be judged in the hereafter, nations can not. They must be judged in the present. America will have to stand and account for what it has allowed to be done in the name of freedom. Look how quickly events have transpired in just the last 18 months, and to quote Churchill; “ This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is however, the end of the beginning.”