God Keep Our Land
How quickly we forget the fate of an Israel that abandoned her God.
Over forty years ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote a little book called Death in the City. Even back then he preached the message that his beloved Europe was under the judgment of God for having abandoned Him. He gave the lectures upon which the book was based while on tour in the US. and applied the statements he made about Europe to North America.
Our drift away from God is easily seen. I was told recently by a missionary friend that the country she has served in for over forty years has been officially named a “Christian” country. My own country, Canada, was officially proclaimed a “secular” country some years ago—and unhappily it lives up to that title. The US still names itself as Christian but while Zambia jails homosexuals (not that I think that’s a solution to the problem), the US has recently passed law that demands that all its states allow same-sex marriages. This is only one more product of a society that has long-since failed to deal biblically with many other issues about which God has spoken, and we have ignored. It is a country where the name “Christian” has no real meaning. The “word of the LORD,” which gives life and breath to everything, and about which the psalmist speaks is all but ignored, exiled even in some of our evangelical contexts to mere reference points in a sea of human philosophy.
We seldom learn from history. But we need to understand that God recorded the fate of Israel for our edification, to show us what happens when a nation abandons Him. Schaeffer’s book grew out of lectures on the message of Jeremiah to Israel. He writes: “I must say that when I pray for my country and our culture, I do not pray for God’s justice. I can only plead for His mercy. If we had the justice of God, we would not have peace. We would have a situation like Jeremiah’s. How dare we pray for justice upon our culture when we have so deliberately turned away from God and His revelation? Why should God bless us? Jeremiah was counted a traitor because he spoke like this, but it is what God put in his mouth: ‘Yes, you’re the people of God; yes, externally you seem to have the real religion in the temple, but it’s worth nothing to me, and because you have turned from me and from the propositional truth that I have given you, I am going to send an overwhelming judgment upon you.’ So I must say, for my generation I only pray for one thing—God’s mercy” (Death in the City, page 51).
Like the proverbial frog in the kettle, unaware of his fate as the hot water is added slowly, we seem totally unaware and unconcerned about what is happening around us and to us. But, as the psalmist writes: “The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him…” (Psalm 33:13-18). God is paying attention.
On Canada Day we Canadians all sang with fervour: “God keep our land glorious and free.” Our American sisters and brothers may sing the words of that patriotic song they hold dear: “America! America! God shed His grace on thee.” Some may even know the words to the third stanza of The Star-Spangled Banner which read: “Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!…And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’”
As nations we deceive ourselves. We are frogs sitting in a hot tub that is getting hotter by the moment. Paul warns Timothy about people like us: “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, —having a form of godliness, but denying its power….” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, emphasis mine).
Do we honestly think God will continue to bless us as nations when we continue to walk away from Him? Israel didn’t believe their covenant God would judge their sin—but He did. And God hasn’t changed—what happened to Israel can just as easily happen to us. as nations, and if Schaeffer is right, it is already happening.
Much of Schaeffer’s warning was directed at churches. He noted the tendency, even forty-five years ago, toward a gospel that was more psychological and sociological than it was truly evangelical. “…we are the first generation in history to do away with crime. He [ referring to Terry Southern] doesn’t mean there is no crime, but that we no longer call it crime: we explain everything as only psychological…So when modern man 9whether he is educated or not0 thinks he needs salvation, usually he is not thinking of salvation from moral guilt but rather relief from psychological guilt feelings. I am convinced that many men who preach the gospel and love the Lord are really misunderstood. People make a ‘profession,’ but because they haven’t understood the message they are not really saved. They feel a psychological need and they want psychological relief, but they don’t understand that the Christian message is not talking only about psychological relief (though it includes that) but is talking about true moral guilt in the presence of a holy God who exists. The real need is salvation from true moral guilt, not just relief from guilt feelings” (Death in the City, page 93). Most of us know that in many cases, ours is a “feel-better-about-yourself” religion rather than one that highlights the depth of our sin, and names it as such, and the extent of our rebellion against Almighty God.
As I sit between two celebrations of nationhood, Psalm 33:12 takes on new meaning and I pray for God’s mercy on both of nations. He knows how much we need it—and Him!