I wonder what God’s word would sound like if God spoke through a prophet, or evangelist, or apostle to America today.
Would it sound like Isaiah 30:8-14 –
Go now, write it before them on a tablet,
and inscribe it in a book,
so that it may be for the time to come
as a witness for ever.
For they are a rebellious people,
children who will not hear
the instruction of the Lord;
who say to the seers, ‘Do not see’;
and to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’
Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
Because you reject this word,
and put your trust in oppression and deceit,
and rely on them;
therefore this iniquity shall become for you
like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant;
its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
that is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a sherd is found
for taking fire from the hearth,
or dipping water out of the cistern.
Ouch. But also on target in many ways.
Or maybe more like Micah 6:9-16 –
The voice of the Lord cries to the city
(it is sound wisdom to fear your name):
Hear, O tribe and assembly of the city!
Can I forget the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked,
and the scant measure that is accursed?
Can I tolerate wicked scales
and a bag of dishonest weights?
Your wealthy are full of violence;
your inhabitants speak lies,
with tongues of deceit in their mouths.
Therefore I have begun to strike you down,
making you desolate because of your sins.
You shall eat, but not be satisfied,
and there shall be a gnawing hunger within you;
you shall put away, but not save,
and what you save, I will hand over to the sword.
You shall sow, but not reap;
you shall tread olives, but not anoint yourselves with oil;
you shall tread grapes, but not drink wine.
For you have kept the statutes of Omri
and all the works of the house of Ahab,
and you have followed their counsels.
Therefore I will make you a desolation, and your inhabitants an object of hissing;
so you shall bear the scorn of my people.
Again, ouch. But also on target in many ways.
Maybe you prefer one of Paul’s scathing letters, or one of the unknown authors who have spoken on God’s behalf.
Or maybe you see things different – that God would only offer words of blessing and be truly proud of this nation.
There is a great challenge in all of this. None of these passages were writing to us or to this nation. They are not about us or this nation. They were written for a time and place that is far away from our own. To a culture that is very foreign from our own. In a language that most do not understand. That doesn’t means the words are meaningless. They have great meaning. They aren’t written about us, but they inform us of many things – things about God and what God likes and dislikes. Of what God’s ways are.
The Hebrew Scriptures can come off as harsh on the surface. But it helps to understand some context. Often words of judgement were thrown at Israel for a reason. They chased after other gods. Even just saying that seems like it gets lost in our cultural context. We Americans like to think we are more advanced – not having idols and gods that we chase. But what else can we possibly call the massive wealth that we have, our military might and ability to destroy a great amount of life on earth, great differences in economic levels, ecological destruction in the name of corporate profits, racial division and strife, and far too often valuing nation over everything else? All of these things are idols, or gods, that our culture worships very readily, putting our faith in them to provide salvation for the nation and the people. Idolatry isn’t just a problem of the ancient world. At the very least, they were more honest about calling these things idols and gods directly. We like to pretend that they aren’t and yet still treat them as gods to listen to and put our trust in them.
So what would God’s word sound like today for us here in America? I don’t know. I sense it would sound something like this:
“Hello? Are you there? Are you listening? Seriously, are you listening? I see you looking, but as soon as we make eye contact, you are too busy to listen – you are checking your phone again.
“You seem distracted America. You want to claim to be my follower, but you keep coming up with excuses why you can’t follow my teachings. You have enemies to watch out for, that’s why you can’t follow the way of peace. You have an economy to take care of, that’s why you can’t provide for the health of the populace or the land you occupy. You are afraid of the strangers who come seeking a better life. You have excuses for why the poor are poor and until we take care of (pick any convenient group), then we should be doing anything for the poor/homeless/etc. Excuses, excuses, excuses.
“I’ve heard then all America. They aren’t new. You aren’t fooling anyone. I see through them.
“You put your faith in politicians who promise strength and might as if strength and might are values that I care about. You wrap me in your flag claiming that to follow me means to be Uber-patriotic. Yet your policies and laws have nothing to do with my ways.
“Micah 6:8 says it clearly what I want – to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. I’m not sure how that happens when you are too busy maintaining unjust systems, stubbornly refuse to consider your neighbor’s health and wellbeing, and certainly push away pride claiming that you are exceptional among nations.
“I have blessed you with many things America. Great wisdom and knowledge. People who are visionary and creative. You have invented incredible things. You have improved people’s lives. You have fought against evil too when necessary. But something happened. Was it your pride? What is that you outgrew me? Did your massive wealth cause you to go blind like many before you – that you could not see that you are the created and I am the creator?
“Hello? Do you hear me? Are you listening? Or do you just want your fictional deity who affirms everything you have become?
“Take heed. I won’t have to judge you – you’ll do it yourself. Pride brings a downfall. Not because I have to punish you. But because pride is a heavy burden. Selfishness leads to paranoia. You’ll shoot yourself in the foot. And it will come crashing down.
“But it doesn’t have to be that way. It never does. Take the blessings that I have given you and turn back towards me. Turn away from the false gods in the wealth you have amassed. Turn away from the false messiahs of partisanship that promise the American Dream while rejecting the Kingdom of God. Turn away from the addiction of might and strength that is always fleeting. Turn away, recognize how far off track you have gone. And come to me. I’m right here waiting. Waiting to bless you again that you may be a blessing to many.”
Maybe that’s what God’s word would sound like to America. Or maybe I’m way off. I don’t know.