Due to its immense power and peaceful relations with its immediate neighbors, the United States has long enjoyed security at home. With the end of the Cold War, a sense of invulnerability settled on the world’s only remaining superpower.
Attacks on U.S. allies and its embassies abroad did not bring security concerns to the forefront of American thinking until the terrible morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Now the United States finds itself preoccupied with the safety and security of its land and people. “Homeland security” dominates American news. Not that enemies are attacking the U.S. homeland on a regular basis-at least not yet …
On Nov. 25, 2002, the president signed legislation that officially created the new Department of Homeland Security. Its mission statement outlines three principal objectives:
- Prevent terrorist attacks within the United States.
- Reduce America’s vulnerability to terrorism.
- Minimize the damage from potential attacks and natural disasters.
The White House projects a budget of $37 billion for the massive new department, with an additional $35 billion spent in the private sector on homeland security. The government will employ some 170,000 people directly in the department. But, theoretically, every loyal American citizen is a volunteer sentry, for the president has repeatedly asked all to be on the alert for potential security threats. At the time of this writing, there has not been a subsequent major attack on U.S. soil. (The FBI reports thwarting more than 100 planned attacks.) But will the United States continue to be so successful?
The crucial missing piece
Talk of homeland security brings to mind a biblical song or prayer that speaks of a people’s protection. Because of its comforting thoughts about home and family, undoubtedly millions of people have read it. But how many are aware of its prophetic message? Within a few words, it reveals the key to success or failure in securing any nation’s homeland.
It’s the second sentence of Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (New International Version).
“ Only the Lord can bless a home . Without the help of the Lord it is useless to build a home or to guard a city,” is the wording of the Contemporary English Version.
How is this prophetic? It reveals the consequences of lacking divine security. The missing dimension of homeland security is God’s divine protection . If a home-or homeland -has God’s protection, its sentries will be effective. However, if a home or homeland does not enjoy God’s protection, even hundreds of millions of sentries, multiple-billion-dollar budgets and the latest in technological devices will not guarantee its safety.
Yes, U.S. political leaders sometimes call on God for His blessing and protection in their speeches. And many of America’s citizens still consider themselves to be God-fearing. But is it enough merely to invoke God’s name publicly? Is that enough to meet the prescription laid out so plainly and forcefully in Psalm 127? How does a country ensure divine security?
A prophecy of homeland security
A remarkable passage in the book of Ezekiel specifically addresses the issue of homeland security. The first several verses of Ezekiel 33 explain what any country will normally do when an enemy threatens it. Its people will set up an early-warning system.
In biblical parlance, they post a watchman to be alert for danger.
In the following statements, God lays out a scenario in which He in fact stirs an enemy to threaten a nation neglecting an obedient relationship with Him: “The Lord said: ‘Ezekiel, son of man, warn your people by saying: “Someday, I, the Lord, may send an enemy to invade a country. And suppose its people choose someone to stand watch and to sound a warning signal when the enemy is seen coming” ’” (verses 1-3, CEV).
It sounds so simple and takes so few words-but this, in essence, describes the detailed work of a homeland security department with its complicated screening methods and warning procedures. The American government has chosen a numerical and color-coded threat alert notification system:
- Green, “Low,” for “Low threat of terrorist actions.”
- Blue, “Guarded,” for “General risk of terrorist attacks.”
- Yellow, “Elevated,” for “Significant threat of terrorist attacks.”
- Orange, “High,” for “High risk of terrorist attacks.”
- Red, “Severe,” for “Severe risk of terrorist attacks.”
A complex web of police, FBI, Secret Service, counterterrorism special forces, border patrol agents and military personnel-along with alert citizens-combine to form a formidable phalanx of “watchmen.”
Sounding the alarm is only the beginning. Americans are being told that they will have to sacrifice some of their cherished freedom of movement and seek appropriate protection, depending on the threat level. Since they all risk suffering injury or loss of life, both the watchers and those they warn must share the responsibility.
God’s conversation with Ezekiel continues: “If any of these people hear the signal and ignore it, they will be killed in battle. But it will be their own fault, because they could have escaped if they had paid attention. “
Then, He addresses the responsibility of the watchers, the guards: “But suppose the person watching fails to sound the warning signal. The enemy will attack and kill some of the sinful people in that country, and I, the Lord, will hold that person responsible for their death” (verses 4-6, CEV, emphasis added throughout).
Having the charge of keeping a nation secure is a grave responsibility. But, if you follow the drift of the conversation, God moves away from speaking of a nation appointing its own guards to speaking of His appointment of watchmen who will give the people His own warning. Why does He use this language?
God appoints a watchman
He explains: “Ezekiel, I have appointed you to stand watch for the people of Israel.
So listen to what I say, then warn them for me. When I tell wicked people they will die because of their sins, you must warn them to turn from their sinful ways. But if you refuse to warn them, you are responsible for their death. If you do warn them, and they keep sinning, they will die because of their sins , and you will be innocent” (verses 7-9, CEV).
What does this have to do with securing God’s protection as spoken of in Psalm 127? Although most people are unaware of it, God still thinks and works the same way. It would be simplistic to speak in terms of a singular watchman to provide God’s warning message to this vast world. Even in ancient Israel, each city or town had a watchman-and presumably more than one to handle more than one shift of duty. So Israel had countless watchmen. Similarly, in modern times, “the watchman” is the primary instrument He works through today, the Church that Jesus Christ founded.
Throughout the ages since Ezekiel, God’s faithful servants often have repeated Ezekiel’s warning. But the most direct application of that warning message is applicable in these last days to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa -along with other nations of the British Commonwealth and nations of northwest Europe. These peoples, by and large, have descended from the exiled kingdom of Israel of old. During the last two centuries they have received the generous benefits that God promised to their forefathers for this end time (to learn more, please request your free copy of The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy ).
Regardless of how secure these nations seem to be when one measures defense in terms of advanced technology and military might, God’s present message is that the nations have yet to face their greatest security threat.
Today most religious people are comfortable with relying on their own sense of what “being good” means-rather than carefully learning the biblical definition of what is good and then living up to it.
For example, Americans in general are generous people, often willing to help someone next door or even a continent away. To be sure, generosity is a godly trait. All nations can point to good within their citizenry, and most individuals can point to worthwhile qualities within their character. But, as the prophet indicates, a singular positive trait or even several fine qualities aren’t enough when we grossly neglect other major areas of righteousness.
For our well-being, God insists that we accept all of His definitions of right and wrong, and live accordingly. As Jesus Christ put it, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×).
These requirements, of course, seem old-fashioned and overly strict to many people. The very fact that they do, speaks to the times in which we live. People want God, but they want Him on their own terms -not His. We, as a nation, may temporarily fool ourselves into thinking that just being good according to our own terms is satisfactory, but the shocking truth is that this very attitude will deprive us of God’s protection.
Protection has conditions
If a people that has been especially blessed by God is unwilling to obey Him and seek His will, at some point in time any massive system of homeland security will be for nothing. If we desire God’s blessing, we have to live the way He says we should live . Just as with any physical system for security, we have to pay the price for divine protection.
God spoke in the same “all or nothing” terms in His conversation with Ezekiel.
Continuing from where we left off above: “Ezekiel, son of man, the people of Israel are complaining that the punishment for their sins is more than they can stand. They have lost all hope for survival, and they blame me. Tell them that as surely as I am the living Lord God, I don’t like to see wicked people die.
I enjoy seeing them turn from their sins and live . So if the Israelites want to live, they must stop sinning and turn back to me .”
In modern parlance, if people request or expect divine protection, they must stop their wicked ways that trample on God’s laws and teachings which define right from wrong. But telling people that they need to repent is most likely to evoke a response something like, “What about all the good things we do?”
We need to understand plainly that doing “some good” is not the same as surrendering oneself to live by all of God’s instruction in righteousness.
God’s words to Ezekiel pierce through the façade of “good people” today who refuse to submit to the laws and teachings He reveals to us in the Bible. Lest we misunderstand and think that this means God is harsh, take note of His ready promise of mercy along with His high standards for human behavior: “Tell them that when good people start sinning, all the good they did in the past cannot save them from being punished. And remind them that when wicked people stop sinning, their past sins will be completely forgiven, and they won’t be punished.
“Suppose I promise good people that they will live, then later they start sinning and believe they will be saved by the good they did in the past. These people will certainly be put to death because of their sins. Their good deeds will be forgotten.
“Suppose I warn wicked people that they will die because of their sins, and they stop sinning and start doing right … Then if they stop doing evil and start obeying my Law, they will live. Their past sins will be forgiven, and they will live because they have done right” (verses 10-16, CEV).
Hard to accept that we don’t please God
All during the 20th century there has been a steady shift among Western nations away from Christian or biblical values. America is virtually the only Western nation left that still makes at least some pretense at being a godly oriented nation, and even that is rapidly fading. Secularism has swept religion almost totally into the background in Europe, as it is increasingly doing in the United States.
So is it realistic to think that many Americans would respond positively to being told they do not please God? Or, if they don’t change their ways, the very God who gave them their vast wealth and power, will no longer bless them with protection from terror, war or natural disaster? They probably would not. Indeed, the Bible indicates that they are more likely to complain about how unfair God is to expect them to change their ways.
Why can we say that? Because God long ago revealed the predictability of human reasoning in people who reject the authority of His word over their lives: “Yet your countrymen say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’
But it is their way that is not just. If a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, he will die for it. And if a wicked man turns away from his wickedness and does what is just and right, he will live by doing so. Yet … you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ But I will judge each of you according to his own ways” (Ezekiel 33:17-20 Ezekiel 33:17-20 17 Yet the children of your people say, The way of the Lord is not equal: but as for them, their way is not equal.
18 When the righteous turns from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, he shall even die thereby.
19 But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby.
20 Yet you say, The way of the Lord is not equal. O you house of Israel, I will judge you every one after his ways.
American King James Version×, NIV).
God promises to withdraw His assistance in securing a nation’s welfare when its people turn their backs on His commandments. When He does, they lose the most important and valuable aspect of their national security.
How do you think the United States-or your own homeland-measures up to God’s expectations? Do you think He will grant His protection? Read our booklets The Ten Commandments and The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to find out. GN