Sunday, November 4, 2012

What Happens to a Stubborn Nation?

Thirty million Christians did not vote in the last presidential election in 2008.  That number just astounds me.  But this isn't a post about why you should vote or who you should vote for this coming Tuesday.  There have been enough heavyweights weighing in with the call for Christian men and women to cast their vote.

Instead, I want to look at what Scripture says about the destiny of a land that refuses to be refined by God.

When God tests a nation, gives it a chance to repent, what happens when that land refuses the purification process? When it flagrantly insists on clinging to wickedness and persistently, continuously defiling God's laws?

Throughout Scripture, God speaks of Himself as a silversmith, one who stands before a furnace of intense flames and works to melt the rough silver, bring the impurities to the surface, and then skim this "dross" off.  The divine metal worker repeats the process again and again until that silver is purified to the point where He can see His reflection in the melted metallic pool.

The Psalmist explains that the Father seeks to purify all men in this way: "For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined" (Ps. 66:10). Such a refining process may be accomplished through the refining Word of God (Ps. 12:6) or through trials where "the Lord tests hearts" (Prov. 17:3).

Yet, it is possible for individuals and nations alike to refuse to be cleansed by the refining process.  They may, instead, cling stubbornly to their impurities, refusing to be separated from what is not holy and pleasing to God in their own lives.

The nation of Israel did just this.  As a result, the Lord said, "the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver" (Ez. 22:18).

In this passage, Israel had become not the purified silver but the dross, the part composed of nothing but worthless impurities that were destined to be skimmed off and discarded. In short, Israel had become unrefineable, irredeemable

The nation's problem was that she had refused to be purified by the refining process.  No matter how hot God made the testing and trials, Israel was "a land that is not cleansed or rained on in the day of indignation" (Ez. 22:24).  No amount of heating over intense flames had caused (or would cause) her to relinquish her death grip on idolatry, harlotry, wickedness...her sin.

The Lord gives a similar image of Israel's stubbornness through the prophet Jeremiah:

"The bellows blow fiercely,
The lead is consumed by the fire;
In vain the refining goes on,
But the wicked are not separated.
They call them rejected silver,
Because the Lord has rejected them." (Jer. 6:29-30)

Here, the image is of a workman pumping up and down on the bellows, forcing more and more air into the furnace, thereby increasing its temperature.  The hotter the fire, the more the impurities would be released to rise to the surface as dross to be removed.  

Yet, again, no matter how hot God caused the fire to become for the nation of Israel, it has all been "in vain." Israel refused to let the trials sent by God separate it from its wickedness, and as such, God had no choice but to reject what would not be purified.

This is where I believe our nation stands today, as liquid silver in the crucible of the heavenly refiner.  Every Supreme Court decision, every election of a public official, every citizen's choice to uphold or trample upon God's Word in his / her personal life---no matter how large or small these choices may seem, each one is a choice to submit to the refiner's fire or cling to impurities. 

Tuesday's presidential election is one of those choices. 

No matter the results, though, the prophet Zechariah speaks hope to those of us who have submitted to the refining process and allowed our hearts to be purified:

And I will bring the third part through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’" (Zech. 13:9)

If we are breathing, we can choose to keep a death grip on our sin or let it go and be purified.  It is not too late.  Praise God, in Christ, there is hope.

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