Calling On God
For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God [is to us] whenever we call on Him?
When God prepared the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land, He gave them laws to direct their steps and to remind them to trust Him. The laws prescribed their choices and the consequences for disobedience. Unlike any other country that was created, the nation of Israel would be guided by God’s decrees. For many years,mGod had also given them two undeniable signs- the Tabernacle in the camp and the pillar of fire and smoke over the Tabernacle- to reassure them of His presence and guide them on their journey. These signs were an open invitation to come to Him in prayer, day or night, formally or informally, collectively or individually.
Our nation’s laws are derived from a long history of Judeo-Christian ethics. They provide an amazing balance of freedom and direction, reward and punishment. Throughout our history, secular and Christian leaders have called us to pray in difficult times of wars, famines, floods, and earthquakes and to give thanks for God’s wonderful blessings of peace, prosperity, family, and homes.
Many of our nation’s founders looked to God for direction as they crafted the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and they thanked Him for leading them as they saw the nation begin to flourish. But how quickly we forget Him! Today, as never before, we enjoy God’s blessings, and we need His continued care. We need to remind one another to call upon Him in the good times and the bad so that we don’t forget the One who has given us so much.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
The Bible teaches that righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a reproach. In other words the nation that chooses the path ordained by God will be blessed and the nation that ignores the principles laid down by God will suffer.
“Righteousness [moral and spiritual integrity and virtuous character] exalts a nation,But sin is a disgrace to any people.”
Perhaps no other nation illustrates this truth more than the nation of Israel. They started well as Abraham followed the leading of God and settled in Canaan. As He honored and worshipped God, God blessed him with increase and miraculously provided an heir in Isaac. Isaac, too, followed the Lord and God continued to bless him and gave him two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob didn’t start well but after an life-changing encounter with God, he settled down in Canaan and God changed his name from Jacob-trickster to Israel- Prince of God. God blessed him with twelve sons that eventually became the twelve tribes of Israel. The boys grew up and because Joseph was the favorite son, his brothers plotted to get rid of him. They first put him in a pit and were going to leave him to die but a slave trader happened by and they sold him instead. Some time later famine came to Canaan and Jacob’s sons made the journey to Egypt to buy grain. They encountered Joseph, who because of the favor of God, had become the second in command and in charge of the wheat. After a series of events, Jacob and the family moved to Egypt and settled there. After a season and perhaps because they were living in Egypt instead of Canaan, they became slaves. After about four hundred and thirty years, God raised up a deliverer named Moses and they started on the journey home. Along the way they had moments that they followed God and He took care of them and they had moments that they rebelled against God and suffered because of it. As you continue to read their story you discover that the pattern of walking with God and abandoning God to serve idols and false gods. And when they chose to serve God, He blessed them and they prospered and were safe from their enemies. And when they chose to forsake God and lay aside His laws and principles and give themselves to idol worship and serving false gods, trouble came to them. Again and again they found themselves in bondage and slavery every time they left God. Yet when they turned back to Him, in His grace and mercy, He delivered them and restored them. One would think that after a few such lessons they would have learned and made the choice to stay with God. But they didn’t even when their suffering increased.
Whatever we might believe about our nation, history records that many of the founders relied on the Bible and its teachings. Much of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is founded on Biblical laws and teachings. In our attempt to be tolerant and inclusive, we have unfortunately laid aside many of the truths of Scripture. And it appears we are reaping the harvest of such decisions. Most of us are aware of the daily news reports of increasing evil, violence, hatred, and wrong doing. We are inundated with the numbers of those who push and press to abandon morality, integrity, honor and honesty. We hear loud voices railing against any law and restrictions. Even in the church, there is pressure to silence the teaching of the truths of God’s Word. The authority of God and the authority of His Word is being questioned in sanctuaries, study groups, classrooms and seminaries. Worldly cultural and social norms are being substituted for Biblical truths and principles.
Our text today tells us that great nations are those who have God near and who call upon Him. It’s easy to become complacent or even discouraged to the point of giving up and saying it’s a hopeless cause. That would be true if it were up to us to bring about the necessary changes. No matter how many round-table discussions we have, how many study-committees we form or any other human means we may seek to address our ills, the only means we have to ever hope of a turnaround has already been given to us by God. In His wisdom and foreknowledge, He knew we would find ourselves in a place of need, so He gave us the only solution with a guarantee. Here it is:
“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. If I shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or if I command locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence and plague among My people, and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer offered in this place. For now I have chosen and sanctified and set apart for My purpose this house that My Name may be here forever, and My eyes and My heart will be here perpetually. As for you [Solomon], if you will walk before me as your father David walked, and do everything that I have commanded you, and observe My statutes and My ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne just as I covenanted with your father David, saying, ‘You will not fail to have a man as ruler in Israel.’ “But if you [people] turn away and abandon My statutes and My commandments which I have set before you, and you go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will uproot Israel from My land which I have given them; and I will cast this house, which I have consecrated for My Name, out of My sight, and will make it a proverb and an object of scorn among all nations. And as for this house, which was so exalted, everyone who passes by it will be astonished and appalled and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then people will say, ‘It is because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity and evil on them.’”
2 Chronicles 7: 12-22
As we begin a new year with the awareness of our troubled nation, may we the people of God- His church- make the decision to put these instructions into active practices. May we choose less round-table or other forms of discussion and more prayer gatherings. May we seek God’s guidance and direction as we forsake our sinful, selfish ways. May we cease trying to force God and Scriptures to conform to our preferences and may we instead come before God with repentant hearts confessing our arrogance, pride and rebellion. May we choose to bow in humble submission to the Lord of Lords and may we choose to place ourselves under His authority and the authority of Scripture. Perhaps if we will do this we just may find hope for our troubled nation. One thing’s for sure, if we choose to continue to push away from God, there is no other source of hope. Just ask the people of Israel.
Dr. John Thompson