History has an uncanny knack for repeating itself.
You may have read the following quotation. You can tell from the way it is written it is not a contemporary statement written about America today. But, indulge me for a few moments, and see if it reminds you of some of the problems we are experiencing today in this country – and in many other parts of the Western world.
“I do not think that it was by arms that our ancestors made the republic great from being small. Had that been the case, the republic of our day would have been by far more flourishing than that of their times, for a number of our allies and citizens is far greater; and, besides, we possess a far greater abundance of armour and horses than they did. But it was other things than these that made them great, and we have none of them: industry at home, just government without, a mind free in deliberation, addicted neither to crime nor to lust. Instead of these, we have luxury and avarice, poverty in the state, opulence among citizens; we laud riches, we follow laziness; there is no difference made between good and bad; all the rewards of virtue are got possession of by intrigue. And no wonder, when every individual consults only for his own good, when ye are slaves of pleasure at home, and, in public affairs, of money and favour, no wonder than an onslaught is made upon the unprotected people.”
Does that sound familiar?
It is attributed to Cato the Younger, circa 63 B.C., a statesman in the latter part of the Roman Empire.
I read this letter recently, and I was awestruck at how familiar it was – not just that I had read it before many times, but because, for the first time, it resonated with me in 2016 America.
Is America falling?
Is this the end?
Is it too late for us to recover?
Can a national election make any difference?
Or have our problems become much too systemic?
Have we merely gotten the kind of government we deserve over the last 28 years?
I’m an optimist at heart.
I would like to believe this election can make a difference – at the very least slowing our descent into cultural suicide.
But then I examine the trends – the long-term trends. They are not encouraging.
While I look forward to pulling the levers for change in November, I can’t shake the idea that we need to do much more than elect new leaders to Washington.
We need a spiritual revolution, a “fundamental transformation,” a revival.
As a nation we no longer know the difference between good and evil – even though we once did.
Today, in America and throughout the Western world, men and women do what’s right in their own eyes.
For those familiar with the Bible, that was one of the recurring curses of Israel. When people lost faith and trust in God, they did what was right in their own eyes. Just look up that phrase and see how often you find it in your Old Testament.
That’s where America is today.
We worship and covet all the wrong things, just like Rome did in the younger Cato’s time.
There is a recipe in the Bible for avoiding judgment from God at times like this.
It speaks to me so profoundly. It’s not pie in the sky. It’s not a cliché. It’s simply a call directly from God to His people when their nation descends to this kind of morass.
You can find it in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
That’s what we must do as believers today. It’s time to humble ourselves, pray, seek God’s face and turn from our sin.
Do you follow that? God is speaking to His people. He’s not speaking generally to all people. He’s calling on His followers to do these things – humble ourselves, pray, seek His face and turn from our sin. That means you and me.
What will he do if we follow this directive?
If we, His people, do those four simple things, He promises to do three things in return:
- Hear our prayers. Could it be God is not even hearing our prayers because they are not being spoken in humility and desperation? Could it be we, too, are not earnestly seeking His face and not repenting of our own sin?
- Forgive our sin. We are all in sin – yes, even His people. That’s important to remember. We sin perpetually, without even thinking about it – and unrepentant sin is unforgiven sin.
- Heal our land. Cato probably didn’t have the advantage we have today – the written Word of God at our fingertips. He probably didn’t have the advantage of that history, those practical lessons and the divine teachings of the Hebrew scriptures. What’s our excuse?
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