I believe that there is always a time for national repentance, and for seeking the Lord, and now is that time.
- Jeremy Wiggins
American Family Association/American Family Radio just wrapped up its Fall Sharathon 2015. The theme was “Bringing America Back to God.” This got me thinking about what will happen to America if she doesn’t turn back to God, and the impending wrath we are storing up for ourselves because of our national sins.
God’s wrath and judgment are coming, but that doesn’t mean it will happen today. It is shown throughout the Bible that God is willing to stay His hand when His people humble themselves before Him and repent. That takes individual men and women falling on their knees before a mighty and holy God.
We can pray for God to withhold His wrath during our time, and we can teach our children, grandchildren, and all future generations to do the same. We can become the people God speaks about in 2 Chronicles 7:14, and perhaps the Lord will restrain His wrath, for a time.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
We have become a wicked nation, led by wicked men. We freely embrace the killing of unborn children, the perversion of marriage, and the blasphemy of the name of God all across our nation.
But it is not too late. We can learn from the example of two kings mentioned in the Bible and take the same course of action that they did: We can humble ourselves, repent of our sin, and pray for God’s mercy.
There’s a repeated theme throughout 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament. Time and time again we read about how the kings of Judah and Israel “did evil in the sight of the Lord.”
The wickedness that was done by these kings would eventually cause the Lord to allow His people to be carried off into a foreign land, as prophesied by Jeremiah.
Let me give you an example of a particularly wicked king whose name was Ahab. The scene 1 Kings 16; it’s after the rule of Omri where Ahab, his son, takes the throne. Verses 30-33 describe Ahab:
And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Ahab did some seriously wicked things in his lifetime. Just from these three verses we can determine that he took for himself a wicked wife, he served a false god and erected an altar to it, he made an Asherah (a fertility goddess), and did more evil to provoke the wrath of the Lord than all of the kings who came before him.
Ahab was so wicked that the Lord pronounced the coming wrath against not only the king, but also his entire family. In 1 Kings 21:19 it says, “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.” Naboth was a vineyard owner who had false witness borne against him and was executed for blasphemy, all due to the schemes of Jezebel. The prophet Elijah, having a history with Ahab, is the one God uses to pronounce judgment in verses 21-24:
Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.
This is where the unexpected happens, well, two unexpected things really. The first is Ahab’s response. Here is a person who has demonstrated that his heart is entirely wicked. This is not really a surprise because the Bible clearly demonstrates that the heart of man, left on its own, is completely wicked. It takes God’s intervention to change a man’s heart. The expected response is that Ahab would curse God and Elijah and continue on in his wicked ways. But it is what happens in the in-between that is surprising.
Verse 27 records this act of repentance:
And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly.
Being confronted with God’s impending wrath does have a way of humbling even the most proud of hearts. Ahab was no different. We may not understand the cultural significance of tearing our clothes or putting on sackcloth, but I believe the message is loud and clear.
The second unexpected thing that happens is God’s response to Ahab. Instead of sending a lightning bolt to make the king a smear on the pavement, God accepts this act of humility and responds to Elijah in verse 29:
Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster upon his house.
The humble acts of Ahab before God’s impending judgment caused the Lord to stay His hand and put off His wrath.
The spiritual lesson here is that acts of repentance and humility by an individual may be enough to move God to mercy, even if it is only for a short while. Ahab did not change his ways but continued to walk in rebellion and sin. Eventually his life is taken as recorded in 1 Kings 22.
Some might say then that Ahab did suffer the disaster prophesied by Elijah, but did he really? God said he would cut off all of Ahab’s descendants, including his wicked wife. But Ahab died before any of this happened, so he was spared the heartbreak of seeing his entire lineage wiped out.
Jezebel was not so fortunate as to die from an arrow.
Now, let us turn our attention to another king, a very different type of king.
King Josiah enters the scene in 2 Kings 22, and here is what is recorded about him:
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and walked in all the way of David his father, and he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
Under the reign of Josiah the following items were accomplished: The temple was repaired, the Book of the Law was found and read out loud, the priests from the temples at the high places were removed, the altars were torn down, the Ahserah was burned, and the Passover was reinstated.
Josiah was a very different king from Ahab, but the message from the Lord was very similar.
Second Kings 22:18-20a records the message the Lord delivered to Josiah from Hilkiah the prophetess regarding the humble way he had lived and ruled:
‘But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was penitent, and you humbled yourself before the Lord, when you heard how I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants, that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place.’
In both cases, judgment was coming. In one case it was judgment for a family, and in the other case it was judgment for an entire nation. In both cases, however, that judgment was stayed by the humility and repentance both men exhibited. Unfortunately, Ahab would again turn from God and commit atrocities in the eyes of the Lord, and Josiah instituted massive religious reforms for the good of the people, but both men were fully aware of the judgment that was coming, and I think we are aware of it even now.
The family of Ahab was cut off by Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, in 2 Kings 9, and the kingdom of Israel was carried off to Babylon in 586 B.C., not even 25 years after the death of Josiah. The question then is this: How close to judgment have we come?
America desperately needs to turn back to God, and all of this begins with individual men and women humbling themselves, repenting of their sins, and praying for our country, specifically, that the Lord would indeed turn His wrath from us. I believe that there is always a time for national repentance, and for seeking the Lord, and now is that time.
Jeremy Wiggins is the host of In The Trenches heard Saturday mornings from 6-7am CST on AFR TALK. Email him at email@example.com