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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Nothing to Fear from God




While you did all this, I remained silent, and you thought I didn't care. But now I will rebuke you, listing all my charges against you. (Psalm 50:21, New Living Translation)

I posted a video to one of my online social network sites which suggested 9-11-01 was part of God’s judgment on America because of its many sins. One reader took great umbrage with that idea. He believes 9-11 was simply the sinful act of “misguided” men, and is unwilling to believe God would permit all those innocent people to die because of the nation’s sins. Of course, that reader is not alone in his belief. I have witnessed the same idea promoted for years from pulpits and in religious magazines and newspapers.

I suppose the idea that God does not personally mete out judgment against sin can be traced to the God is Dead movement that gained ascendency in America during the 1960s. “I’m OK, You’re Ok” became a popular mantra, followed by, “There are no absolutes: No absolute truth, no absolute right or wrong moral choices -- everything depends on the situation.” As that philosophy slowly permeated the culture through the universities and the media, it ultimately found its way into the Church where, in the last few decades, parishioners hear from the pulpit more often than not, “God is Love” without the equally true biblical injunction, “Be holy, for God is holy.”

The morning after my online exchange I sat in my recliner and began my usual time with the Lord. I opened the Bible to chapter 8 of 1 Kings to read Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple. The prayer extends from verses 12 through 53, but my attention focused on only a small section of the prayer. Beginning with verse 33, Solomon asked this of God:

“When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, if they turn to You again and confess Your name and pray and make supplication to You in this house, then hear in heaven, and forgive the sin of Your people Israel, and bring them back to the land which You gave to their fathers.

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name and turn from their sin when You afflict them, then hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants . . . .”

“If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence, if there is blight or mildew, locust or grasshopper, if their enemy besieges them in the land of their cities, whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel . . . then hear in heaven. . . that they may fear You.”

Solomon is not the only one in Biblical history to associate disasters – whether of nature or of man – with God’s judgment of sin. One cannot read Moses, or the prophets, or the epistles, or Revelation, and come away with a philosophy popular in much of today’s Church that God does not use nature or Man to judge sin – whether personal or national sin.

America has mercilessly killed more than 55 million babies in abortion clinics since 1973. Grasp the magnitude of that bloodshed. Fifty-five million. And in that time America has also elevated sexual perversions of all sorts to the place of protected legal status. We vote into political power men and women well-known for their deceit, thefts, murders, immoralities, treasons . . .  and we love it so.

If we choose to believe earthquakes, floods, droughts, and other ‘acts of God’ are simply random acts of nature, and not God’s ‘wake up’ call to repentance, then there is no need for a sinful nation to repent, to change, and beg God’s forgiveness. If we choose to believe the tragedies caused by planes crashing into buildings on 9-11 were simply the work of evil men acting on their own free will, then we will not be open to the possibility that God is removing His protective shield over America because of our national sins. Therefore, there is no need to gather on our knees in churches across the land and repent, and change, because we have nothing to fear from God. After all, God is Love.

Do we really think God does not see?  Or care? Or judge sin? In another of his writings, Solomon noted, Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.  (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

There is, of course, a better way to live, and that is in accordance with the historic teaching of the Church, and the historic teaching of Scripture, which can be summed up in this axiom: When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning, unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.

From one end of the Book to the other, Scripture tells us not only is God Love, but that He is also a Holy God. We say that sometimes too quickly and too easily. But let’s now say it slowly: God is Holy. Righteous. Sacred. Pure. Undefiled. And He demands of us the same. When we choose to live otherwise, then we have good reason to fear, as the historic Church and all the Biblical writers have warned.

God is not one to be mocked, wrote Saint Paul. Whatever we sow, we will reap (Galatians 6:7). The writer to the Hebrews added: “Our God is a consuming fire”, (Hebrews 12:29) and, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

God is not dead. And He is not asleep.

10 comments:

juanrbalboa said...

Thanks for your reflection. It really makes me reflect on my understanding of sin and its effects. I was wondering, however, how your reflection holds up against some scriptural references. For example, in Luke 13:1-4, doesn't Jesus tell us that the accidents don't reflect on the particular sinfulness of the victims? Also, in John 9:1-3, doesn't Jesus disprove that our suffering is caused by the sins of others? This echoes Jeremiah 31:30, which reminds us that we're each to feel the impact of our individual sins: "all shall die because of their own iniquity." And Ezekiel 18:20: "Only the one who sins shall die."
I'm not saying that America is without sin. But I don't think that skepticism of your conclusion that 9-11 was the direct result of America's collective sins necessarily mean that the skeptic believes that "God does not personally mete out judgment against sin."
I think your logic is flawed in your paragraph that begins: "if we choose to believe earthquakes, floods, droughts, and other ‘acts of God’ are simply random acts of nature...then there is no need for a sinful nation to repent, to change, and beg God’s forgiveness." Even if God didn't cause 9-11, don't we still have good reason to repent, change and beg forgiveness? Isn't the best motive because we love Him?
Just some thoughts. Thanks for your reflections.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

I agree with you completely. God's rain falls on the just and the unjust which is why innocent people, if anyone can be called innocent in the eyes of God, are killed in all kinds of disasters and wars. We had best stop looking around to see what everybody else is doing and face God begging mercy for all. It was no accident that Jesus gave St. Faustina the Divine Mercy Chaplet in the 1930s. We need it more than ever today.

Rich Maffeo said...

I always write these kinds of posts with a measure of fear and trepidation because we have, for at least two generations, been fed the Satanic lie that God does not intervene in history or with humanity in judgment. I have heard hundreds of homilies since coming into the Catholic church, and can count on one hand how often I have heard about sin, righteousness, judgment, and personal holiness, but probably 99% of the time it is on God loves you.

Of course, God loves us. But what about our response to His love?

Our Catholic brethren in the pews are not catechised well at all about what God requires of His children.

Rich Maffeo said...

Hello, Juan. Thank you so much for your reasoned response, full of scripture. I just returned home from work exhausted, and found your comment. It deserves more than a sound bite answer, so give me some time and I will get back with you. Probably by tomorrow so I can read your scriptural texts.

Rich Maffeo said...

Hello, Juan. I am sorry for the delay in response, but my work schedule is pretty hectic these days. So, let me now try to respond to your comments.

You wrote in part: Thanks for your reflection. It really makes me reflect on my understanding of sin and its effects. I was wondering, however, how your reflection holds up against some scriptural references. For example, in Luke 13:1-4, doesn't Jesus tell us that the accidents don't reflect on the particular sinfulness of the victims? Also, in John 9:1-3, doesn't Jesus disprove that our suffering is caused by the sins of others? This echoes Jeremiah 31:30, which reminds us that we're each to feel the impact of our individual sins: "all shall die because of their own iniquity." And Ezekiel 18:20: "Only the one who sins shall die."
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Juan, I will not presume that I know what God is doing at any given time, or in any given situation. However, we can know some things about God and how He responds to humanity based on the Biblical text.

For as long as I have been a Christian I have followed this axiom: “When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise.”

With reference to the Luke text: I am not sure I understand your point. Whether the accidents Jesus talked about were simply accidents, or judgment for personal sin – that was not my point. I was talking about God’s judgment of national sin with regard to 9-11, or earthquakes, or other disasters. I simply asked if 9-11 might reflect part of God’s judgment on America’s many national sins (e.g. abortion, legalized sexual perversions, unbridled thievery, etc).

(Blogger is forcing me to post this in several sections)

Rich Maffeo said...

As for John 9:1-3, yes, Jesus is saying exactly what you say He is saying (tying in with Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 20). But again, this addresses personal sin (in this case the sins of the parents) and not national sin.

Perhaps the clearest example in Scripture of God’s eventual response to national sin (or, in the case of Revelation, global sin), is found in the Passover account in Exodus. The ten plagues, culminating with the death of the first born in Egypt, fell upon all Egyptians, men, women, children, babies, we are told, because of Pharaoh’s arrogance, his sin and rebellion (e.g. his derisive comment, “Who is the Lord that I should let the people go?” (see Exodus 5:2).

Certainly the entire nation was not 100% guilty and worthy of such devastation (likely there were many who did not want to lose their free labor), but the judgement of God fell upon the entire nation, and so all suffered as a result.

Then there are Israel’s two captivities: The northern kingdom in 722 BC to Assyria and the southern kingdom to Babylon in 605 BC, 597 BC, and 586 (my dates may be a little off here. I am typing from memory). The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, and Joel (to name only five of the nearly dozen others) warned the nation would happen because of their national sins (e.g. Isaiah 5:3-13ff; chapters 28-29; Jeremiah 7-8, 15-17 (actually, chapters 2-38 is one long mournful plea and warning from God about their impending judgment); Ezekiel chapters 4-24 . . . I could go on to cite chapters in Amos, etc, but I think you get the point. God has always meted out judgment on Nations for continual national sins. (Psalm 106:6-43 is a pretty good synopsis of how the Biblical writer viewed God’s response to Israel’s sin)

And then there are those passages in the NT which also warn nations (and the globe) about God’s judgment of arrogant sin. For example, Luke 10:10-15, Romans 11:1-23, 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12, and Jude 5-15. And then, of course, there is Revelation. The Lord’s warning to the seven churches in chapters 2-3 speak specifically to Christian groups who lose their first love, or become lukewarm, or tolerate sin, and so on through the two chapters. And then beginning with chapter 4 of Revelation until the 18th chapter, the seals, trumpets, and bowls unleash enormous disasters on the world and those who would not “repent of their murders, nor their sorceries, nor their thefts” (9:21).

(see next section)

Rich Maffeo said...

I skipped over God’s judgment on personal sin, but I might as well mention only two examples here: Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 is one. The text says it was the Holy Spirit who took their lives. Herod (Agrippa I) in Acts 12:23 is another. Then there are the multiple warnings in the epistles such as 2 Thessalonians 1:5-9; Galatians 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Roman 3:23, and 6:23, and dozens of similar NT passages.

St. Paul, in referencing the Old Testament writings, said this in 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 - 11 "Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall."

The evidence, to me at least, in the OT (as well as the NT) is overwhelming in its demonstration that God does judge personal and national sin.
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You also said you think my logic is flawed when I wrote, "If we choose to believe earthquakes, floods, droughts, and other ‘acts of God’ are simply random acts of nature...then there is no need for a sinful nation to repent, to change, and beg God’s forgiveness." You responded, “Even if God didn't cause 9-11, don't we still have good reason to repent, change and beg forgiveness? Isn't the best motive because we love Him?”
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Oh, yes! It is always and in every way the best motive that we repent and change because we love God. As St. Paul wrote in Romans 2:4 - "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?"

But human nature being as it is, history has proven too many times that we typically and too often refuse to do right unless there is fear of punishment. How many times have drivers on the highway slowed down when a patrol car was traveling in the next lane?

That’s a simple example, but the principle is I think valid.

(see next section)

Rich Maffeo said...

Deuteronomy 28 is a good example of how God use threats of judgment to ensure obedience. And then we read a few chapters later (chapter 30): 19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Would to God! that the Church would accept even the possibility that the massive destructions we are slowly witnessing across our land might be the hand of God sent to warn us (perhaps especially in the Church, as well as those outside the Church), that we better mend our ways or worse will happen to us. Would to God! that our leadership might be as Daniel and Nehemiah, who believed the earlier prophets (e.g. Daniel 9:23 with Jeremiah 25:11) and recognized God’s hand in Babylon’s invasion of Israel and subsequent pillaging of the land and the people. They then set about to pray, to confess their national sin to God, and seek His deliverance. You can read the prayers of both men in Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 9. The prayers would make a good template for America.

I have to wonder what would happen to America if our Church and national leaders fell on their faces before God, as those two men did, and confessed likewise.

You will remember God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

But I am also reminded of God’s comment to the prophet Hosea about the religious leadership of his day (4:6): “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”

I know I have written a lot in response to your questions, but I did so because your question deserves a reasoned and Scripturally supported response. I hope I have succeeded in at least answering some of your questions.

Helen said...

I think of Germany. Surely not all Germans were complicit w/Hitler. We know there were "righteous among the nations" to borrow the Jewish term. However, all of Germany was collectively punished for the sins of the Nazis.

Bombing took its toll on the just and the unjust. Famine did the same. Communism and division separated families and communities.

Did all Aztec people partake in or support blood sacrifices of fellow humans? Probably not, but they all were punished by the Conquest for the sins of their culture.

God does give time for repentance and thus restoration. He gives less time to return for those who have His written word, but He still gives time to reconsider the rebellion.

America is not a heathen nation. We have the Bible and fine teachers. We know better but we choose to do no better. Ultimately, this will result in God's heavy hand of punishment since His kind discipline seems to fall on deaf ears and paralyzed persons.

Like Abraham before Sodom and Gomorrah, we must pray that the Lord could find just one more righteous soul before tearing the whole thing down to dust and ashes. Then again, we may be Lot and just have to get out of the way, for the judgment IS coming.

Rich Maffeo said...

Helen, Amen to both your last comments.