As New Testament Christians, living in the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, we are daily working out our salvation. We meet with God in prayer and in the Bible and He shows us the sin still lurking in our hearts or points us to ways to be more Christlike. This is a wonderful blessing.
But while we are working on being renewed personally, I wonder if we forget to be concerned about being renewed corporately. As the body of Christ, we, a finger or an ear, cannot be unconcerned about the rest of the body, for if the other parts are sick or wounded, we will inevitably suffer. Similarly, if we, as a nation allow sin to prevail without repentance and reconciliation, we should also expect God’s discipline.
Many have been wondering in this last couple of years if the Pandemic is God’s judgement against us. Or if the rampant violence is, or if the lack of respect for authority is, or if the civil unrest is. Honestly, I don’t know. But I do know that the Old Testament is filled with God’s warnings to His people to remain holy and keep his commands. He sent warnings and prophets to guide them when they strayed from Him. And when they refused to submit and repent, He allowed some pretty bad things to occur.
The Book of Lamentations is filled with heart-wrenching cries for mercy from those who had to endure times of great suffering. And what is truly interesting is that in all of that, the writer never blames God. No, in fact, he thanks God for his compassions that are new every morning. He notes the importance of learning to ‘take a yoke’ or humble oneself completely. He trusts in the Lord’s compassion in not letting hard times last forever. He trusts that the Lord will see injustice and respond to it. And he acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and that sin is the cause of their suffering. His conclusion is that he and the nation must return to God, lift up their hands and hearts to heaven and repent.
We have had a front seat view of just how counter-intuitive this response to crises is. We see so many, and perhaps ourselves, decrying the government response, or expressing anger at neighbors over vaccinations, masking or politics. We see people protesting angrily from every political spectrum. We watch Congressional hearings try to pinpoint causes and point fingers. But do we see an acknowledgement that God is sovereign and hear prayers for mercy and forgiveness? Have we seen prayers of repentance from the Body of Christ, and from the nation?
I know that our little church certainly has been acknowledging and praying. But surveys are suggesting that many have fallen away from church in general, quite different from the nationwide response after 9/11. I can’t help but feel that the answer is, as it always has been, more Jesus, more prayer, and more repentance. So, join me in lifting your hearts and hands to God in heaven and begging God for his compassions and lovingkindness, even as we search our hearts and ask God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Jerusalem was eventually restored by God through the righteous – so great is His faithfulness. I pray our nation and world will be too.
19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the Lord has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For no one is cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
34 To crush underfoot
all prisoners in the land,
35 to deny people their rights
before the Most High,
36 to deprive them of justice—
would not the Lord see such things?
37 Who can speak and have it happen
if the Lord has not decreed it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that both calamities and good things come?
39 Why should the living complain
when punished for their sins?
40 Let us examine our ways and test them,
and let us return to the Lord.
41 Let us lift up our hearts and our hands
to God in heaven, and say:
42 “We have sinned and rebelled
and you have not forgiven.
With hope and repentance,