“At what instant shall I speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to put down and so destroy it, if that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I had thought to do unto them” (Jeremiah 18:7-8).
The question today is: Has God spoken? Has not the voice of God been heard in the heart-rending national convulsion which is desolating the face of the earth, and bringing bereavement and bitter sorrow to nations and kingdoms by the war? The “instant” of such a speech cannot be denied, for it has come, but, whether the separate nations, or even their leaders, have recognized that voice is more than questionable.
The particular cause may be attributed to very different things. As to these we need not here speculate; but the plucking up, and pulling down, and destroying of nation after nation is only too plain. The ear may be deaf, but God has “pronounced,” and, in sore chastening, has allowed evil to fall on every nation and kingdom.
Yes, God has allowed it, and why? That is a question for each nation concerned to solemnly and seriously answer for itself. A reason there must be. It is impossible to think that He who has “no pleasure in the death of the wicked”—nay, who in love for a guilty world spared not His own Son, can find it in permitting affliction and misery to come upon His creatures without a very sufficient cause. That were incredible.
What then is the prime cause, the terrible root of this convulsion?
It is national unrighteousness. It is the specific “evil,” as seen by God, of each separate nation.
Why the Flood of Noah, by which the “old world” was destroyed, or the fiery deluge whereby the iniquitous Sodom and Gomorrah were burned to ashes? We know the cause full well.
Each of these judgments was a divine protest against the abominations of that day.
Are things better today? Do you think so? Did not Roosevelt, the ex-President of the United States of America, tell us, some years ago, that “our present civilization would end in a cataclysm”? That prediction has been verified. There must have been something radically wrong in this civilization—something intolerable in the very idol that cultured, educated, philosophic and scientific man had set before him as the goal of his ambition. If this be true of man “in his best estate” what of his lowest?
It is surely not difficult to reason back from effect to cause, or to see that the reaping must agree with the sowing. We may therefore safely conclude that seed of a desperately bad kind has been sown, freely and long, by these suffering nations, ere the frightful harvest of today could be reaped. It is, like the Flood, a divine protest against some form, or forms, of evil grievous to the Majesty of Heaven. The saving grace of God, though it marks His way throughout the period of Christianity, does not set aside the holiness of His government; that holiness must be conserved at all cost.
What then is to be done—what should be done? “If that nation,” says God, “turn from their evil I will repent of the evil that I had thought to do unto them.” That is as plain as it is gracious.
“Turn from their evil!” Who, which will do that?
Will prayer suffice? No, not alone.
Add fasting to prayer; proclaim a day for both together. Will not that avail? Intensify this, add, still further, humiliation in the acknowledgment of sins both national and personal. Can more be done?
Yes, the conditions are more stringent than all these things, however becoming. They are that the nation or kingdom should “turn from its evil.” Such a turning would prove sincerity in a way that mere lip-confessions could not.
What nation has turned, or is turning from its evil as the effect of this chastening? You cannot tell; you despair of any such result; you fear that “evil” has got such a grip on the nations that turn from it they will not.
Your fears may be well founded, for there is, alas, no common evidence of any such “turn”; so that the present convulsion only paves the way for a greater, and speaks of an Armageddon of blood to which the slaughter of today bears no comparison.
A prophet’s voice was heard in the street of Nineveh. It was the voice of God to that proud and guilty city. The king rose from his throne, laid aside his robes, covered himself with sack-cloth, and sat in ashes. He charged his subjects to cry to God, and to turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence of his hands. They did so, and God saw their works (what were they?) that they turned from their evil way, and God repented of the evil that He said He would do unto them; He did it not.
The king set a noble example, and exercised the rightful authority of his throne to enforce a line of practical conduct in his city which would counteract the threatened judgment of God. He acted like a king, and Nineveh was spared. Would not something similar happen to these distracted nations if only they too turned from their evil ways?