Sunday 11 November 2012

Repenting On Behalf Of A Country?

Now the glory of the God of Israel went up from above the cherubim, where it had been, and moved to the threshold of the temple. Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.”

As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion. Slaughter old men, young men and maidens, women and children, but do not touch anyone who has the mark. Begin at my sanctuary.” So they began with the elders who were in front of the temple. (Ezekiel 9:3-6)

The principle of marking those who would be protected from judgment was first mentioned in Genesis 4:15 when the Lord marked Cain as a warning to those who might try to kill him for murdering Abel.

It had also been hinted at when the Lord told Elijah He had reserved 7,000 faithful in Israel who had not succumbed to idol worship (1 Kings 19:18), but Ezekiel 9:4 stands as the clearest example in history of the Lord marking those who are His and protecting them from danger. In the spiritual world the mark is a sign that the marked person belongs to the Lord and is off limits to anyone else.

Have You Been Marked?
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory (Ephes 1:13-14).

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Cor. 1:21-22).

In these two passages Paul revealed that all born again believers were marked at the time they believed to show that they belong to the Lord. It’s the spiritual equivalent of a rancher branding his cattle with his mark of ownership. The presence of this mark will protect us like it has protected others He has marked throughout history.

They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. (1 Thes. 1:9-10)

But in our case, the mark doesn’t just protect us from the judgment taking place around us, it qualifies us to be removed from the judgment altogether. The Greek word translated from in the last phrase of the above passage means we’ll be separated (distanced) from both the time and the place of the coming wrath.

Peter used the example of Lot to describe this. (Note the similarity in the wording of 1 Thes. 1:9-10 above and 2 Peter 2:7,9 below).

If The Lord rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men, then He knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment (2 Peter 2:7,9). The angels sent to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah couldn’t do so until they had Lot safely out of the way (Genesis 9:15-16, 22).

This mark can only be received on an individual or personal basis. What I mean is we’re not marked because we’re part of the Church, we’re part of the Church because we’re marked. The concept of collective salvation is not Biblical. Nor is it possible for a person with God’s mark to transfer its benefits to someone with out it.

Let Me Make This Perfectly Clear
God has stated this in no uncertain terms. In speaking of the judgment about to fall on the Southern Kingdom he had Ezekiel say;

“Son of man, if a country sins against me by being unfaithful and I stretch out my hand against it to cut off its food supply and send famine upon it and kill its men and their animals, even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign Lord (Ezekiel 14:12-14).

Notice He didn’t have Ezekiel say, “If my people …”. He said “If a country …”.  This tells me He was giving us a general principle applicable to all nations, not one that would only apply to Israel, as is the case with promises like 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Jeremiah 29:11.

If any country persists in going against the will of God and doing things He has forbidden, and He determines to judge that country, the believers in it, no matter how righteous they may be, can only save themselves. In Ezekiel 14:15-20 He repeatedly said that even if their own sons and daughters would be affected by the judgment, the prayers of these righteous men could not save them. They could save only themselves by their righteousness.

(Rev. 7:1-8 shows the marking of certain individuals will happen one final time after the Church is gone when the Lord will put His seal on the foreheads of His 144,000 servants to protect them from the coming Trumpet and Bowl judgments. And once again His mark will only protect those to whom it will be given.)

Why Are You Doing That?
There is a currently popular trend in the US where groups of believers have been offering prayers of repentance on behalf of our country in an effort to stay the hand of God’s judgment. But the Lord had Ezekiel tell us this would not accomplish anything. If any nation continues to defy God by going against His ways, that nation will be judged and the prayers of the righteous people in it will only benefit themselves. Only those who have received the mark of God will be rescued.

Proponents of repenting on behalf of our country use the examples of Jonah and Daniel to support their position. I’ve written about Jonah in the past, showing how in that case every person in Nineveh, from the King to the lowliest servant, repented by clothing themselves in sackcloth and fasting (Jonah 3:6-9) in a united effort to avoid the judgment. It was not a case of a few repenting on behalf of the others. They were all repenting. Every one of them.

Those who propose Daniel’s prayer on behalf of Israel in support of this don’t understand that his case was not reflective of our situation either. According to Daniel’s own account, he was only reminding God of something He had already publicly promised to do;

In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years (Daniel 9:1-2)

Daniel had read the Book of Jeremiah, written almost 70 years earlier. He knew that the time of captivity was nearly over and that God had already promised to deliver them.

“This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.” (Jeremiah 25:11)

This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10).

And as for the claim that Daniel’s prayer brought Cyrus the Persian to conquer Babylon and free the Jews, Isaiah had foretold this 200 years previously, even naming Cyrus by name. In the message given through Isaiah, God called Cyrus His anointed (chosen one) and included a detailed description of the plan by which Cyrus would conquer Babylon without a battle (Isaiah 45:1-7).

Jewish tradition holds that Daniel showed this portion of the scroll of Isaiah to Cyrus following the fall of Babylon. In response Cyrus ordered the Jewish captives to be set free. This was not something prompted by Daniel’s prayer, it had been God’s published plan all along.

Where the judgment of the US is concerned God has offered no prophecy of duration and no promise of restoration. And now enough people have voted to continue on the path of rebellion to confirm the futility of offering prayers of repentance on behalf of our country.

Where Do We Go From Here?
Since I believe we’re at the End of the Age and that the US has no official role to play in bringing about God’s Kingdom, I see a future where the US continues to decline in power and influence while events increasingly become centered in the Middle East. I think the election results tell us God’s plan for the End Times is right on schedule and there will be no more delay.

Therefore, I believe we should continue living each day by trusting in the Lord and longing for His appearing to take us home. We should stop worrying about our life here and focus our time, our talents, and our treasure on preparing for our life to come (Matt. 6:19-34). And above all, we should remember that while there’s no such thing as repenting on behalf of our country, there is such a thing as asking the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of our unsaved loved ones toward repenting for themselves. While there is no collective salvation, there are untold millions of cases where the destinies of individuals have been changed through the prayers of others. I know because I’m one of them.

Every idol in our lives is being removed. Believing in our country, our leaders, our economy, our bank accounts or even ourselves is proving to be ineffective. The only one left to believe in is God, and that’s just the way He wants it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:4-6). You can almost hear the footsteps of the Messiah. 11-10-12?

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