So it turns out the Bible is right.
“And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish” (Dt. 8:19).
We are living in days of manifest perish. This is sort of like manifest destiny except instead of falling down the stairs six at a time head first, there’s also an angry craftsman tool chest doing cartwheels behind you.
I can already hear some first year seminary student piping up in the back: But that was in the Old Testament! And that is most certainly correct, my fine sir, but the question we must follow up with is: But is Jesus King over every nation? Does the “all” in “all authority in heaven and on earth” include the authority over the US President, Congress, and Supreme Court? Do those leaders have to answer to Jesus Christ for their words, thoughts, and actions – not only in their personal lives but in the entirety of their public lives? Ok, then. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He judges the nations. He raises up kings and throws them down. And He judges righteously, according to the light given to every nation – though He calls everyone everywhere to submit to His reign now – now that He has risen from the dead.
America has sinned against great light. We have been blessed not merely with generic niceties, good wine, and joyful harvests, our land has experienced Deuteronomic blessings. What do I mean? I mean that America (and the west generally) has received massive and remarkable blessings over the last 500 years in particular that do not compare with the preceding centuries of human history. And the question is: where did that come from? Where did the economic progress and prosperity come from? Where did the scientific and medical breakthroughs come from? Where did the technological and industrial explosions come from? Where did our freedom come from? And you really only have two options. Either you say it was some kind of random, either dealt by the capricious hand of Darwin’s Tramp Chance or else some form of theistic inscrutability – God the Whimsical and Random. Or else you look at this mind-blowing wealth and progress and ingenuity and freedom and fall on your knees and worship the God and Father of our Lord Jesus because you see it as intentional, covenantal gift piled on top of His gifts of salvation, faithfulness, and obedience to His Word.
Now I suppose someone of the more Whimsical God persuasion could say that He too gives all the glory to God. But the point is whether we can look around us in any given moment and broadly trace the blessings of God or not. Are the gifts of God strewn about at random or are they bestowed with some (finite) measure of traceable patterns. In other words, the Bible (the New Testament even) says that God is not mocked and men reap what they sow (Gal. 6:7). And so we press the question: Do nations reap what they sow? Do cultures reap what they sow? And to our point: may nations and cultures sow faithfulness and consequently reap 30, 60, and a 100 fold when in the history of the world the most common grace saturated nations might find themselves with a real bumper year of 10 fold?
While to be sure, America is not in the exact covenantal position as ancient Israel was, and the new Israel proper is the Christian Church, nevertheless, the point is that God still deals with political nations today in analogous ways. The role of nations in the New Covenant continues so far as nations are to be discipled and taught to obey Jesus and nations will bring their treasures into the New Jerusalem, and in the seed of Abraham all the nations of the earth will be blessed (or cursed) (Mt. 28, Gal. 3, Rev. 22).
But this means that when a nation forgets God’s law, rejects God’s word, that nation’s world will come apart. It will perish. As sure as the sun comes up in the east and burns out in the west, as sure as water marches down, if you worship other gods, God will destroy you. Period. Full stop. And if a nation experiences Deuteronomic blessings, then it most certainly can fall under Deuteronomic cursing.
“How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?” (Dt. 32:30). How could a nation with so many millions of professing Christians put up with the wholesale slaughter of the unborn for 50 years? How could a nation with so many millions of professing Christians be cowed into socialized retirement funds, socialized schools, and nearly-socialized medicine? How could a nation with so many professing Christians be hiding the bushes, all masked up, and afraid to meet for worship, bossed around by tinpot dictators?
Our Rock has sold us, and the Lord has shut us up.
So what is to be done when our Rock has old us, and the Lord has shut us up? We must do what the righteous have always done in every generation. Repent of our sins, refuse to participate in the idolatry, testify against it, and then get back to work. The thing about Deuteronomic blessing is that when God sends it, it comes like a flood. “And it shall come to pass, if thou shall hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God… that the Lord they God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth; and all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee…” (Dt. 28:1-2). When the blessings of God come upon a people, that people can’t go anywhere or undertake anything without His blessing following them and covering them: in your cities, in your fields, in your flocks, in your baskets, in your cabinets, on your computer, in your garage, in the car, when you come in and when you go out (Dt. 28:3-6).
Do not misunderstand: this is all grace from first to last – it’s all God’s gift and kindness, but there is a kind of blessing that piles up, a kind of blessing that multiplies, that acts like compound interest, that multiplies exponentially. We have experienced that kind of blessing in this land in the past, and we are currently experiencing the consequences of thinking we are the ones who pulled those blessings out of the sky for ourselves. We grew obese with pride and claimed that our own hands have gotten this wealth and ingenuity and progress, and so God has given us over to our own devices, our own folly until we turn back to Him. But if we will turn back, He will bless us again, and perhaps the first sign of that blessing will be the restoration of our nerve.