Facing up to the Lord’s Reproof

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates of the city she utters her sayings: “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you” (Prov.1:20-23).

Reproofs are God’s way of getting His people’s attention, and they can come in a number of ways. One way that God repeatedly employed in the nation of Israel, was defeat in war. It was God’s way of saying to the nation,

You’ve turned away from Me, ignored My Word and sought other gods. Now, My hand of protection has been removed from you, and you’ve failed to have victory over your enemies. It’s time to repent, to put away from yourselves the false gods, and to obey My Word.

When Israel entered the promised land and initially defeated their enemies at Jericho, it was an amazing event. Unfortunately, it was a flawed victory, because of Achan’s sin (Joshua 7:1). But the nation only figured this out, when soldiers went up against their next opposition, which was Ai. The Bible says that “The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent…” (Joshua 7:5).

Thus Ai was initially a place for defeat/reproof for Israel, which God explained to Joshua:

Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them…Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban in your midst (Joshua 7:11-12).

The Bible instructs us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Heb.13:8). Clearly, the same God who gave either victory or defeat to Israel (depending on its obedience), will do the same things today for the Church, even within a specific nation.

Let me give you an example.

In the latter half of the 1800’s, the German Church was significantly influenced by a group of theologians using an approach called Higher Criticism. Higher Criticism was heretical: a means of downgrading the authority and importance of the scripture, particularly the Old Testament.

Six day creation? Don’t think so. A literal Garden of Eden? Maybe not. What about a world-wide flood? Sounds a bit much to me. The Exodus via the parting of the waters at the Red Sea? You’ve got to be kidding.

And all of this was in the period immediately after the propagation of Darwinism, out of England. As a result, the German Church over 50 years was significantly weakened within the nation. Even though there may have been millions of people in Church every Sunday, what they were hearing and believing and what they were living out, rapidly became a far cry from the accuracy of scripture. The German Church (along with most of the rest of the world) was in a theological free-fall.

The result? In 1914 and then again in 1939, Germany became an initiator of two massive World Wars. These took the lives of millions of Germans, and brought untold destruction to Germany, and other nations as never before. And both times, Germany lost.

This is the downward trend: a doctrinally compromised, weakened Church becomes an ineffective Church in the nation. The Church then has little salt (a preserving agent) and light (representing the truth of God’s Word) to bring to the nation. As a consequence, the nation itself turns to all manner of foolish, unjustifiable schemes, including (but certainly not limited to) socialistic beliefs about government, or godlessness and aggression towards other nations. Jesus had warned us,

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men (Mat.5:13).

In case you think, “Well, Germany was aggressive, but my country’s different,” think of this example. Especially since 1945, the U.S. has been increasingly involving itself in conflicts all over the world, none of which have had anything to do with U.S. defence, all of them being totally unproductive, and all of them resulting in a loss or a stalemate. Think of Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. The cost in lives and dollars has been stupendous; Vietnam took the lives of 58,000 U.S. men, and the Iraq war so far has cost the U.S some $2 trillion. And for what? Has anything changed?

David Swanson writes that

Since the end of World War II, there have been 248 armed conflicts in 153 locations around the world. The United States launched 201 overseas military operations between the end of World War II and 2001, and since then, others, including Afghanistan and Iraq ….[1]

Madeleine Albright [former U.S Secretary of State, 1997-2001] said, “If we have to use force, it is because we are America. We are the indispensable nation. We stand tall. We see further into the future.”

Albright was asked by Leslie Stahl regarding the U.S. sanctions on Iraq: “We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright replied,

I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.[2]

The U.S. still maintains 64,000 troops in Germany, 33,000 troops in Japan, and 10,000 troops in Italy, with a total of 700 bases on foreign soil. Then there has been a War on Poverty, on Crime, on Drugs, on Terrorism, on the unborn … what next?

The fact is this: the U.S. Church has lost its savour, and in my country Australia, which has fought alongside the US in many of these foolish, fruitless wars, we’re no better.

Conclusion:                                                                                                                                   

The Bible teaches us that “…reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Prov.6:23), and that “… he who hates reproof is stupid” (Prov.12:1). It encourages us that “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise,” and that “…He who listens to reproof acquires understanding” (Prov.15:31, 32).

Reproofs come to individuals, families, churches and nations, so that we will take God’s gracious advice, repent and change our ways so that we’re acknowledging and obeying Him. That’s how we can avoid further judgment.

Isn’t that the wisest way?

 

[1] American Journal of Public Health , June 2014.

[2] Mike Rozeff, “The World, American Style,” (www.lewrockwell.com), 26/3/2011.

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