National Repentance

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Conservative Christian commentators are right to give thanks for Hillary Clinton’s defeat this year. A candidate who declares that anyone who accepts the basic tenets of Christianity concerning human sexuality is “deplorable,” and, worse, “irredeemable,” is not a candidate who can be trusted to defend Constitutionally marked out freedoms like those found in the 1st Amendment. For that, and a variety of other reasons, it is good that Hillary Clinton lost the election.

On the other hand, Donald Trump won. Commentators should be equally disappointed by his opaque answer concerning the identity of Jesus Christ and distressed by his apparent belief that he would be surprised if he had to ask our Lord for “much forgiveness.” The doomsayers make a living insisting that the long-coming economic reckoning is upon us, though official GDP numbers continue to suggest otherwise. I highlight the economy because that, outside of a seemingly extremely unlikely military invasion, would be where American citizens would most “feel” the results of divine judgment. Though the economy may be continuing to chug along for now, judgment has without a doubt already begun, even if it is hardly felt by most people.

The most far-reaching result of Barack Obama’s presidency was the 2015 Obergefell decision which legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. The president hailed this subversion of morality (and federalism) by lighting up the White House in rainbow colors (a Roman-esque mark of paganism, for sure). Romans 1 tells us that the open acceptance of homosexual practices is a marker that God is removing the restraints that hold a people together and giving them over to their own sinful mind. It is an act of judgment.[1]

When the subject of judgment arises, a popular go-to verse is 2 Chronicles 7:14. Others have pointed out the misuse of the verse in applying it nationally to the United States. For one, it presupposes that God would call the United States, “my people who are called by my name.” In this age, that only applies to Christians, an international body, not America. Though this passage primarily concerns an Israel that doesn’t precisely exist in the same way it did when the verse was written, Scripture does provide guidance for Gentile nations facing divine wrath.

“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me” (Jonah 1:1 [ESV]). Jonah runs, the fish gets him, he begrudgingly delivers the message.

“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish” (Jonah 3:6-9)

The people obey and God relented concerning the decreed judgment. Outside of Jonah, nothing is known about this “king of Nineveh,” but he does not appear to be one who would use Social Media to, for example, attack comedians who are doing what comedians do: make jokes at the expense of those in power.

There is a Biblical example of one who might be more jealous of his own prestige than apparently was the king of Nineveh: Nebuchadnezzar. This despot ruled the Babylonian empire and though placed there by God, viewed himself as a self-made man. “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). It took a long-term personal judgment on the golden king to get him to recognize who the true King is, “for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan. 4:37). Of the two examples, the president-elect seems as though he would need the sort of humiliation experienced by Nebuchadnezzar to help him “honor the King of heaven” (Dan. 4:37). It also seems that while a nation’s leader experienced such embarrassment the nation itself would not be experiencing anything like stability and prosperity.

It may be appropriate to feel relief at Hillary Clinton’s defeat but there is no sign that the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States is a cause for Christian celebration. Morally the nation continues on a downward course and Mr. Trump does not appear to be the type of guy to lead the nation through anything like the national repentance examples cited in Scripture. But the church does not exist to serve the government, the government exists to (hopefully) provide a stable environment in which the church can prosper. The task, then, is not to look for salvation from the national government. In Washington, D.C. there is no salvation! Instead there are other examples in Scripture in which to find hope for our age in anticipation of the ultimate hope found in Christ for this age and the next.

First, Daniel was a God-fearing, principled person, whom the Lord placed at the highest levels of national government. The Podesta emails revealed that the Accuser has his people in high places, but so does our Advocate. I don’t  know who those people are but Mr. Trump is gathering an eclectic group of advisors for his administration and it stands to reason that some of them are God’s people for the job. Though not a foolproof way of identifying them, it might be those who face the most severe vetting by the national media and Democratic Party.

Second, God has placed His church here. By far the most encouraging passage related to how God’s people can intervene on behalf of a nation facing judgment is Abraham’s failed intercession on behalf of Sodom. He begins by inquiring if the Lord wouldn’t spare the doomed city for the sake of fifty righteous people in the city then whittles the number down to ten. “’Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it’” (Gen. 18:32). Though there weren’t even ten righteous left in Sodom there are in the cities across America. Let us not grow weary of boldly approaching the throne of grace on behalf of our cities. “Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Gen. 18:24-25). We can remind God of the righteous and reflect God’s righteousness ourselves to those in our sphere of influence through doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). In other words, by not following the example of our new president but of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

[1] It should be noted that the solution to this judgment is to not loudly condemn those who practice immorality. Christians are called to minister and serve the world regardless of our views of particular lifestyles.

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