POST OVERVIEW. This is a longer than usual post containing meditations on the sovereignty of God in the raising up and the casting down of nations according to His will for His divine purposes. Specific thoughts about the decline of the USA and how that decline is yet another example of God’s absolute rule over His universe.
Adoniram Judson was an amazing man whom God used mightily to bring the gospel to remote places, especially to the nation of Burma. I have begun a biography about Judson, and as I am reading through the book, I have mused about the various ways that the Lord has used the USA as an instrument for advancing His kingdom. I have already become convinced that our country has fulfilled its role and has been forsaken by the Lord. That is, our usefulness has passed and the Lord has now given us over to the corruption and wickedness and rebellion that is common in our rapidly decaying world.
But we are not unique in that progression, by any means. When the nation of Israel had fulfilled its purposes as the Lord’s instrument to prepare the world for Messiah, the Lord removed His hand of grace and blessing from them and abandoned them to their natural sin and wickedness, and they were destroyed in temporal judgment not once, but twice (586 BC and AD 70). In the waning days of the kingdom, during the reigns of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, the Lord raised up Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar to be His instrument of judgment for Judah and the surrounding kingdoms. Babylon flourished during these years when the Lord was using them as His instrument. Later, however, when Babylon had played its part and then had gone deep into pagan worship under Belshazzar (Daniel 5), the Lord raised up the Medes to destroy the Chaldeans. And so it goes. The history of the rise and fall of kingdoms is the history of God’s sovereignty at work on a macro level, raising kingdoms up so that they can accomplish His bidding and then retreating back into obscurity when their part has been played and their usefulness has been exhausted. Although Macbeth spoke about people, his words could just as easily apply to nations and kingdoms: “Out, out brief candle! Life is just a walking shadow, a poor player (nation) that struts and frets its hour upon the stage (of world history) and then is heard no more.” Kings and nations do not rise and fall because they have particular merit or ability, but because the Lord has chosen, by His own free, uninfluenced will, to raise up that king or that nation for His purposes. And when that king or nation has played their part and done what the Lord needed done, the way to dusty death will be lighted and they will be heard from no more. This is simply what we mean when we say that the Lord is sovereign over the nations. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).
The prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel and Judah over and over again that they needed to turn from their wickedness and get rid of their idols and give all their worship to the Lord, but Israel and Judah just scoffed. The word of the LORD declared the LORD’s anger with His people’s disobedience and rebellion, but they presumed on His grace and assumed they would exist forever. But consider this, that when we read the warnings of the prophets in the Old Testament, we are reading of warnings to the USA. The prophets’ calls for Israel’s repentance should ring like loud alarms in the ears of Americans. The only difference between ancient Israel and the USA is that we are able to sin to a much greater degree than Israel could have ever imagined. Any presumption that the USA is a nation that is too grand to fall is pure folly. We have played our part in the Lord’s drama, and now our fall is inevitable.
If you read Revelation 18 about the destruction in one day of spiritual Babylon, it takes very little imagination to read that chapter as speaking of the USA. There is no nation in history that better fits this description than the USA. We are the indulgent, sensual, immoral nation that is poised for disaster. Our destruction is imminent. It seems to me that the USA has played our part, and now we are being judged by the Lord.
In my view, the USA has lost our way. We have no purpose as a country, no vision, no direction other than down. Our government at every level, from federal to state to local, is filled with godless people bent on the destruction of our virtue as we race headlong into every kind of impurity with greediness (Eph. 4:19).
We must remember, however, that this is not the starting point. The Lord raised up the USA because He had need of an instrument like us to carry out His purposes. Despite our overt weaknesses and excesses, the USA prospered because the Lord had need of us. As long as the USA was needed, we enjoyed prosperity.
But now in the Lord’s unfolding drama of human history, our country’s role has been played, at least our role for usefulness. The Lord has removed His hand of blessing from the USA and has given us over to our lusts and our lawlessness, to our impurity and to our degrading passions (Romans 1:21-32). He has let go of us as a nation and we, therefore, are in full freefall. The only question remaining is when we will hit the bottom.
What I am saying is that there is a pattern in the Lord’s dealing with nations. The Lord raises up a nation from obscurity to prominence because He is going to use that nation as a player in his grand drama. And so the Lord raises up that nation and appoints the leaders He desires and allows that nations to prosper. In time, that chosen nation increases in prominence according to the Lord’s sovereign plan so that history and the nation’s emergence collide at just the right time. Then, in a single event or in a series of events over time, the Lord ordains that chosen nation to perform its appointed role with God’s predetermined results. Once the nation has played its part, the Lord removes His hand of blessing and takes away His special grace from that nation and allows that nation’s natural wickedness and sin to emerge unhindered. The prosperity that existed during the time of the Lord’s favor vanishes like smoke. Eventually the nation returns to its place of obscurity or ceases to exist altogether, and never rises again.
Before making some concluding comments about the Lord’s purposes and the demise of the USA, I wanted to discuss two necessary asides.
NATIONS THAT REMAINED LOST IN OBSCURITY
First, we have been talking about those nations that God has chosen to raise from obscurity to prominence for His purposes, but as we look at world history, it becomes immediately obvious that the vast majority of nations that have ever existed never emerged from their obscurity. Most nations, whether existing for a long time or only existing for a few decades, never appeared on history’s radar screen. They came and went without making so much as a ripple on the surface, from a human perspective a raindrop in the ocean of history.
There is, however, another way to see this reality. As we remember that the Lord raises up nations from obscurity for His purposes and sheds His grace on those nations for a time, we realize that most nations have never experienced a season of the Lord’s favor. The USA has experienced more than two hundred years of the Lord’s blessings as the Lord has used us for His purposes, but most nations have never known a moment of the Lord’s favor. The psalmist says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 33:12), but for the nation whose god is a pagan idol or a grinning Buddha, there is no possibility of blessing. Instead, the history of that nation will be marked by a featureless passing of years in abject poverty. In the Lord’s sovereignty, He chooses to pass over the vast majority of nations and leave them in their obscurity. Those nations never know the Lord’s prosperity and grace as a chosen nation. Instead, they remain crushed underneath natural sin and human wickedness and the misery this produces. Recognizing the favor that the Lord has shed on this country because He chose us to be His instrument, we who live in the USA should praise Him all the more loudly for His goodness, even though our prosperity is ebbing away.
SOVEREIGN SALVATION OF INDIVIDUALS
The second aside has to do with another aspect of God’s sovereignty. While God usually moves history along by using nations and empires, His primary work is the salvation of His people. Therefore, in the midst of this sweeping drama involving the rise and fall of nations, we need to realize that the Lord’s providence is also at work in the lives of every person on the planet, bringing some to the place where they encounter the Lord and begin an eternal relationship with Him or leaving the rest in their darkness and misery and sin so that their life on earth is a featureless passing of years. As the Lord is sovereign in the rise and fall and the passing over of nations, so He is sovereign over the salvation or the reprobation of every person who ever lives on His earth. In every stage of macro history, in the rise and fall or in the passing over of kingdoms and nations and tribes and tongues, the Lord is bringing every one of His elect to salvation and He is passing over the reprobate. This sovereign work of God has been going on since the fall and will continue until then Lord returns at the last trumpet.
Like many of you, I love my country and I am deeply saddened as I witness her demise. The USA, for probably a century or more, was a useful instrument for kingdom good in the Lord’s hand, and so enjoyed the Lord’s favor and prosperity. But our role has been played, our sun has set, and now we must watch as the Lord gives us over to our sin and wickedness. Now the nation is under the Lord’s judgment and we will continue to tumble into greater chaos and lawlessness as time progresses.
But this first-hand view of the fall of this nation reminds us that earthly citizenship is temporary and imperfect. Our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20) and we desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one (Heb. 11:16). We are looking for a city whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:10).
And we know that this demise of nations is necessary to prepare the world for the return of her true King. “Because lawlessness is increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). “When you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). All the kings of the earth will continue to defy their true Lord and will continue to rebel. “Why are the nations in an uproar, and the people devising a vain thing?” (Psalm 2:1). So, we should not be surprised when the very thing that our Lord told us must come to pass occurs. Rather, we should lament man’s refusal to repent (Rev. 9:20-21) and continue to obediently proclaim the gospel until our glorious King arrives on His white horse (Rev. 19:11ff).
SDG rmb 9/19/2022 #573