(Nov. 17, 2020) — How long will God be patient with the decline of Western culture? Where once it was modeled after Judeo-Christian values based on the Bible, it has increasingly become shamelessly corrupt and violent, calling evil “good” and good “evil.” There are those among us who have so thrown off restraint that they are seeking to remove all controls of law and order by abolishing both the police and the prisons as being oppressive.
At various times throughout history, once-great civilizations have fallen and are now scarcely remembered. In the book of Genesis, there is a passage where God promises Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan after they had spent several hundred years living in Egypt. An interesting statement in that passage says, “The iniquity of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Genesis 15:16)
Iniquity is essentially a premeditated choice to do evil. Synonyms include things like moral injustice, corruption, wickedness, depravity and perversity.
In this passage, the reason given for God not swiftly correcting the behavior of the Amorites was that He would not prematurely judge them. There was still some good left in them, both as a culture and as individuals in that culture. But although they were warned, the Amorites stubbornly continued in their sin until in His justice, judgment finally came in God’s own time. The Amorite people were continuing to heap guilt upon themselves until it reached the point where it could no longer be tolerated. In other words, as an expression of God’s mercy He was allowing time for the inhabitants of Canaan to repent and change their ways.
One thing this passage shows is the certainty that God will take action once a people have become irreversibly wicked. Leviticus 18 and 20 list the behaviors the Amorites had which were especially abhorrent to God. These include things that have become commonplace in America, such as uncovering their nakedness, committing adultery with a neighbor’s wife, lying with a male as with a woman, turning to mediums and familiar spirits, and offering children to the god Molech (a type of ancient abortion). The passage goes on to state that the land was defiled by all these abominations the men of the land have committed, so God punished them for their sin, and “the land vomited out its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 18:25)
You don’t hear people talking like that anymore. Maybe that is because we don’t like being told what to do. So, we need to ask, are we approaching the point where Western civilization’s rebellion against God has reached its full measure as well? Are there places where we have so polluted the land with our behavior that the land itself will expel us?
Most of us know when we are doing something wrong and the child in us is always looking over our shoulder to see if we are going to be scolded or disciplined for our behavior. We remember our parents correcting us as soon as they found out we had disobeyed them. So, we think that if we are doing something displeasing to God that we would similarly be quickly corrected. As a result, some of us reach the conclusion that either God is not there, or worse, that God approves of our behavior.
However, this passage makes it clear that this is not how God deals with us. The Amorites’ behavior had not escaped God’s notice. He was keeping track of their choices between doing what is good and what is evil, and during Abraham’s time the measure God uses was not yet “full.”
What if the parental disciplining that in our hearts we expect to receive is actually found in things like changes in climate, and the decreases in environmental quality, prosperity and general health that we are experiencing? Where once America was a lender nation, we are now a debtor nation. Are things like the 9/11 attack the cosmic version of being spanked and sent to our room, a warning that we had better change our behavior and attitude or we will be in for trouble? Nineteen years after 9/11, as we face multiple rounds of a pandemic, are we now experiencing a “Wait until your father gets home” moment?
Notice that in that same portion of Scripture is the account of God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, which were also part of the land of Canaan. They had already reached the point of no return. However, the “iniquity” of Sodom was not for the sodomy, which they have become notorious for, but pride, gluttony, the idleness of prosperity, neglecting the needy, arrogance and living obscene lives. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)
Recognizing God’s inherent goodness and mercy, Abraham pleaded on behalf of those who were not participating in such behavior. “What if there are … righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the … righteous people in it? … Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:24-25)
True to his character, God brings out Lot, who apparently was the only man in Sodom who was seeking to do what is right, along with his family, prior to its destruction. This is the same principle seen prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, when a portion of the people are taken away in exile before the city is destroyed.
What can we learn from this? “We are also warned, if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment.” (Hebrews 10:26-27)
Having said that, I return to my initial point: Are we as a culture reaching the full measure of iniquity and so will soon be disciplined far worse than a 9/11 attack or a pandemic that kills a fraction of a percent of our population? Does the phrase, “Wait till you father gets home” still mean anything to you? This is not a Republican or Democrat issue; it is merely a reminder that you need to cease your rebellion and make peace with God on His terms, because there will come a day when He removes the righteous in order to put a stop to unrestrained wickedness.
For those of you who know in your heart that you are still in rebellion against God, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) But there comes a point where patience is exhausted.
For those of you who are already his disciples, you are instructed to occupy until He comes. Be salt and light, the righteousness that holds back the judgment on the darkness so that more will come to know Him.