I’ve been thinking for months about writing this post, and having seen what has transpired so far in the new year, this seems like a good time.
To answer this question, let’s begin with Genesis 6-8, where we have the account of the flood. In Genesis 6:11-12, we read, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways.” Notice the word “corrupt(ed),” which appears three times. God sent a flood to wipe out all of mankind except for eight people: Noah and his family. Jumping ahead to Genesis 19, we see God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah with burning sulfur because of their pride, which manifested itself in gluttony, lack of concern for the poor, and homosexuality; Ezekiel 16:49-50 tells us, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and the needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.” Only three people–righteous Lot and his two daughters–survived.
If you read the history of Israel throughout the Old Testament, you will see that again and again, God brings judgment on His people. Sometimes it takes the form of invading nations; sometimes plagues; and sometimes extreme drought and famine. There is also a startling, remarkable verse, Hosea 4:17, which says, “Ephraim [the northern ten tribes of Israel] is joined to idols; leave him alone!” (More on that later.)
God’s judgment in the Old Testament had the purpose of turning His people from their sins. However, stubborn Israel repeatedly returned to their sinful ways after being graciously delivered by the Lord. After repeatedly warning and judging His wayward people for hundreds of years, the Lord sent the northern ten tribes (collectively called Israel) into Assyrian captivity in 721 B.C. In 586 B.C., the Lord sent the southern two tribes (collectively called Judah) into Babylonian captivity. 70 years later, Judah was allowed to return to their land. (If you read Isaiah chapters 13-23 and Jeremiah chapters 46-51, you will see that the Lord also judged the other Old Testament nations; in almost every case, those nations were utterly destroyed, never to exist again.)
By the time Jesus was born, Judah was under the oppressive thumb of the Roman empire. The Jews rejected Jesus and crucified Him, and two generations after that, in 70 A.D., Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jews ceased to exist as a nation.
Now I want to look at Romans 1: 18-32, where we are told about God’s wrath against mankind and the reasons for it. Rather than write the entire passage here, let’s focus on verses 24-28: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”
John MacArthur, one of my three favorite preachers, has preached on this Romans passage several times. There are three that I noticed in particular. The first one was in 1981, in a two-part sermon called “Abandoned by God.” The second time was in 1993, in a sermon called, “What’s Wrong with America?” In 2006, he preached a sermon called “When God Abandons a Nation.” Notice the theme of abandonment; if you reread the above verses, you will see the phrase “God gave them over,” which means abandoned by God, three times. In other words, God allows people to go their own way. Here’s a quote from his 1993 sermon: “God has just taken away the restraining grace that might preserve our nation and has let our nation run to its own doom.” When I heard this, it struck a chord with me, partly because of what was already happening in the U.S. and partly because of a sermon by another pastor I had heard in the 1980s. He gave the analogy of being in a rowboat that is tethered to a dock by a long rope. Over time, as the boat gets further and further from the dock, the rope becomes more and more frayed, until eventually, if the people in the boat are unaware, the rope breaks and the boat is adrift.
Let me be clear here: there is a distinction between a nation and God’s people within it. God never, ever abandons His people, but He can certainly abandon a nation. You may question MacArthur’s conclusion about the U.S., but it’s impossible to deny the rampant sin in our society, certainly including homosexuality. Not only has same-sex marriage been legal here since 2015, but it has also become more and more dangerous to speak against it. Beyond that, what does God’s judgment on the U.S. look like? How about the widespread riots last summer and the attack on the Capitol last week? I don’t want to get overly political here, but how about the left’s condoning of last summer’s riots contrasted with their rabid response to the attack on the Capitol? How about Cancel Culture in general, which means that those in power dictate what can be said and written, and what cannot? If the left follows through with its threats to add two more states and pack the Supreme Court, welcome to one-party rule, and so much for the First Amendment.
I can’t help but think of the OT Israelites in Egyptian captivity during the ten plagues; we are explicitly told in Exodus Chapters 7-12 that in the case of at least half of the plagues (flies, livestock, hail, darkness, and the firstborn), the Lord brought them only on the Egyptians, but not on the Israelites. Regardless of what happens, the Lord will never abandon His people. He calls us to stand firm, with grace and truth, and He calls us to live in obedience. If you are reading this and are not a Christian, I pray this will be the day you come to Jesus in saving faith.