None of us will ever forget where we were on Sept. 11, 2001. In a few hours we saw the world in which we live change forever. We watched unbelievingly, on live television, pictures of hijacked commercial airliners slamming into the towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Over the weeks since then we have remained transfixed before our televisions and radios listening to heart-wrenching stories of people searching for missing loved ones and experiencing mixed emotions as U.S. warplanes bomb Afghanistan. Many Christians wonder, “Is this the beginning of end-time events written about in the Bible?”
In the days that followed the attacks, Americans struggled with the numbness of a nightmare that just would not go away. On Sept. 14, interdenominational religious services were conducted in the U.S. National Cathedral. Religious leaders spoke of hope and God’s love. The comfort was encouraging and many felt it was exactly what the nation needed.
But is comfort God’s only message to this nation in this time of crisis? We will begin our search to answer this question by looking at a message God gave to an ancient people who were suffering internal social and moral difficulties and external strife much like our nation today.
The prophet Hosea
The biblical prophet Hosea lived in the eighth century B.C. God sent him to proclaim a warning message to the northern kingdom of ancient Israel concerning His view of their societal conditions. Bible students will recall that upon the death of Solomon, his kingdom was divided into two separate nations-the southern kingdom consisting of Judah and Benjamin (Judah), and the northern kingdom consisting of the other 10 tribes (Israel).
Hosea was inspired to clearly distinguish between the two kingdoms (Hosea 1:4 Hosea 1:4And the LORD said to him, Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will avenge the blood of Jezreel on the house of Jehu, and will cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel.
American King James Version×, 7). The northern kingdom went into captivity to the Assyrians in 721-718 B.C., while the southern kingdom (Judah) went into captivity to the Babylonians in 604-587 B.C.
It is obviously true that very often the name “Israel” refers to all 12 tribes. But God specifically sent Hosea to the northern kingdom. Since Ephraim was the leading tribe, the name “Ephraim” is oftentimes used by Hosea to refer to the northern kingdom-all 10 tribes. Hosea’s message was not just to the tribe of Ephraim, but to the entire northern kingdom.
Notice the indictment God brings against ancient Israel. Hosea cries out, “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hosea 4:1-2 Hosea 4:1-2 1 Hear the word of the LORD, you children of Israel: for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.
2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood touches blood.
American King James Version×).
Later Hosea writes, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children” (Hosea 4:6 Hosea 4:6My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.
American King James Version×).
This knowledge isn’t a lack of formal education, religious teachings or technical know-how. The northern kingdom was not lacking in religious fervor. They were very faithful to offer sacrifices. They had a form of religion, but lacked the real spiritual knowledge of how to live life by the blueprint given by the Creator of life.
Hosea’s message continues: “The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity. And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the LORD.”
Amid the current rush of patriotic fervor it’s easy to condemn this message as religious fanaticism. Or we can take another approach and shift personal responsibility by claiming that recent events constitute punishment from God because of homosexuals or abortionists. The reality is that recent events are a spiritual wake-up call for everyone. This doesn’t mean that God caused the acts of terrorism, but this horrific tragedy is a wake-up call for all people to return to the Creator. We proclaim “United We Stand,” but did the bombing of the World Trade Center stop crime in Chicago or Houston? Since the hijackings, how many illegal drug dealers have shut down operations? How many abortion clinics have closed their doors?
There is good news in the continuation of God’s message to His people, “Come, and let us return to the LORD; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1 Hosea 6:1Come, and let us return to the LORD: for he has torn, and he will heal us; he has smitten, and he will bind us up.
American King James Version×). The hope of this good news depends upon the response of people to God’s warning.
What Jesus taught
When Jesus walked the earth He used catastrophes of that day to accentuate the same message proclaimed by Hosea. An example of this type of teaching is found in Luke 13:1-5 Luke 13:1-5 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things?
3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem?
5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
American King James Version×. “There were present at that season some who told Him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.”
Here we have a terrible tragedy. Godly people bringing sacrifices to the temple were brutally executed. It would be easy to conclude that these Jews must have been especially grievous sinners who deserved punishment.
Luke continues: “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.’”
Jesus used these examples to turn His audience toward God as the only one with the solutions to humanity’s problems. What this country needs isn’t just a national day of prayer and mourning, but a day of fasting and crying out for repentance. A heartfelt seeking of God’s will, faith and obedience. A desperate return to the gospel preached by Jesus Christ.
God is merciful and not willing that any should perish. Even people who commit such heinous acts of violence and hate as those that were carried out against America on Sept. 11 can be forgiven if they will repent and turn to the God of the Bible. But if we are to call upon God to help us in our national time of darkness, then we must first look at ourselves in the light of His Word. We are a people who murder tens of thousands of fellow citizens every year. We are a people who promote homosexuality, divorce and pornography. A people on the one hand singing “God Bless America,” but on the other hand not even allowing prayer in public schools. We are a people who worship God in ways that are convenient for us, yet refuse to submit ourselves to Him.
Is this an unpatriotic message or fanatical Christianity? Or is this the message brought by Jesus who said “unless you repent you will all likewise perish”?
Our nations are in need of a spiritual awakening. Not “spiritual” in the New Age ecumenical way the word is commonly used, but spiritual in the sense of returning to the true God of the Bible. We need to take a hard look at the religious and materialistic idolatry that passes for spirituality in our post-modern world.
Do you even know what the Bible really teaches about God’s purpose for creating humankind? Do you know the real teachings of Jesus Christ? It is not enough to memorize a few of Jesus’ sayings and attend church to be a true follower of Jesus. Christ proclaimed, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15 John 14:15If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×).
This isn’t meant as a judgmental condemnation, but a sharing from one sinner to another the words of our Savior in a dark and evil age.
America’s wake-up call
We return to the biblical message of the prophet Hosea. Even most people who read the Bible haven’t spent much time in this small book contained in the section of the Bible commonly called the Minor Prophets. The story of Hosea is a tragic one. God actually commanded Hosea to marry a prostitute. On numerous occasions she would run away and return to selling herself to other men. God then instructed Hosea to go find her and bring her back to his home.
God’s consistent message to the northern kingdom through Hosea and Amos is that He loves them and pleads with them to return to Him. But they continued to commit spiritual whoredom just as Hosea’s wife was unfaithful. Thus God was forced to give them a bill of divorcement.
We can take the name Christian upon ourselves, but it is time we search the Bible, cry out to God and question if our religious beliefs are no more than habitual ceremonies based on human traditions.
Jesus Christ makes one of the most chilling statements in all the Bible at the end of His famous Sermon on the Mount: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 Matthew 7:21-23 21 Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
American King James Version×).
We must ask ourselves, are we a nation that cries “Lord, Lord,” but refuses to follow His commands? Do we claim to be a Christian people, while in reality we’re a society awash in moral relativism where the law of Christ is replaced with meaningless catch phrases like “just do what’s right in your own heart”?
We have received a wake-up call from our Creator. Will we answer? WNP