Derek comments on spiritual conditions in America by comparing to Ezekiel's writings, looking at the condition of secular rulers, then at the church, and questioning how it has dealt with sin. Comparing the iniquity of Sodom—which was pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness, and a failure to take care of the poor—he stresses the need for intercession for America.
Then it says:
“Her princes [that’s the secular rulers, the presidents, the prime ministers]... the princes in her midst are like wolves, tearing the prey to shed blood, to destroy people and to get dishonest gain.”
Now I’m very little acquainted with the situation in American politics. Really, to say the truth, I’m not interested in politics, I just make it a confession. But, I understand, I read somewhere that President Clinton carries a Bible and calls himself a Baptist. I would like to ask this question, and I don’t think there’s any answer, in all the times he apparently attended church, did he ever hear a clear, honest exposition of God’s attitude towards homosexuality? I would guess not. Who failed? The priests. Did he ever hear a clear, honest scriptural explanation of God’s purpose for Israel? I would guess not. Who is primarily responsible? Not President Clinton but the church. If he had heard the truth and turned against it, he would be responsible. But if he listened to professing Christian leaders who did not clearly delineate the line between the holy and the unholy, they are responsible and God holds them responsible.
And finally, we come back to the prophets, verse 28, then we’re coming to the people last.
“Her prophets plastered them with untempered mortar, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God,’ when the Lord had not spoken.”
What does that mean “to plaster them with untempered mortar”? Elsewhere Ezekiel says they built a wall but the plaster was untempered, and when the rain came the wall fell down.
There’s a lot of untempered plaster in the church today. I’m not out to attack the church, I’m simply stating things that to me are simply incontrovertible facts. There’s a lot of preaching that doesn’t really deal with the issue of sin. What’s happened to sin? somebody said. Well, it’s just the same as it always was. It’s deadly, it’s totally destructive. You can turn your back on it but it will stab you in the back.
It’s really interesting in a way, some of the secular media are more concerned about this issue than most of the church. The last issue of Newsweek dealt with the issue of shame. Probably some of you have seen it. Shame for psychologists is a dirty word, you have to get rid of it. You can get rid of it by sweeping it under the carpet but under the carpet it’s still there.
And then we read verse 29:
“The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery...”
Is that true in America today?
“...and mistreated the poor and needy, and they wrongfully oppressed the stranger.”
Now, I’ll turn there because — I happen to know it by heart, but we’ll turn there. In Ezekiel 16 there is a condemnation of Israel and Jerusalem comparing them to Sodom and Gomorrah. In verse 49 God lists the sins of Sodom and it’s very interesting he doesn’t mention homosexuality. But, He states the social and spiritual conditions which will inevitably produce homosexuality. Listen.
“This was the iniquity of your sister Sodom. She and her daughters had pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.”
How much does it apply to contemporary America? Pride, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness, and a failure to take care of the poor. Those conditions are what produced homosexuality. So we cannot stand back and say, “Well, we’re not responsible,” because if we fostered and tolerated and enjoyed those conditions, we are responsible for what they’ve produced.
I am not here with a negative message. About a month ago, just about a month ago when we were in Auckland in New Zealand, the Lord woke me up at about 2 am. And that’s the time He tends to wake me up if He’s got something to say. This was so serious that I did something I very seldom do, I had to get out of bed, kneel by my bed and pray. God was dealing with me also but He said to me, dear Lord, He said, “Are you willing to ask me [Jesus] to give you my heart for America?” I said, “Lord, what are you asking? I don’t have any way to understand the depth of your grief over America. And you want me to ask for your heart for America?” It came to me the word that really sums up the attitude of Jesus toward America at this time is disappointment. He is disappointed. He has done for this nation more, I believe, in many ways than He’s ever done for any other nation in human history, spiritually and materially. And what has been the response of the nation? I think disappointment is the mildest word you could use to express the reaction of Jesus. He said, “Are you willing to ask me to give you my heart for America?” This was a very real interview. I said after a while, “Lord, the people of America have been so kind to me. They’ve honored me, they’ve supported me, they’ve brought my ministry forth, how could I ever say I won’t ask you to give me your heart for America?” So, I didn’t say that reluctantly, I said, “Okay, Lord, if that’s what you want. Give me your heart for America.” And a little while later Ruth and I prayed together on that. We said, “Lord, give us your heart for America.” I want to tell you, it’s a broken heart; it’s a heart that’s deeply, deeply grieved. He said, “What more could I have done for that nation than I have done? And see how they’ve responded.”
Now I am aware God has His precious saints in America, many of them. Some of them are here this morning. But, listen to what God says. Now this is God’s response to the situation that he described.
“So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall and stand in the gap before me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it.”
One man. And one of the most tragic statements in the Bible was:
“I found no one.”
Not even one man. And He said:
“Therefore I have poured out my indignation on them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath, and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads.”
Notice that “therefore.” If I could have found one man I could have spared them. How is it with you? Can the Lord find somebody? More than one person? Can the Lord say to His church, “Will you stand before Me in the gap for this land? Will you make up a wall that I do not have to pour out the last drops of My wrath upon them?”
That’s a question I’m asking you this morning. Some of you have been bringing personal needs to us, needs for healing and prayer and other kinds. We are not indifferent. But I have stalled because I had a feeling that until this issue was dealt with, God would not release much of His grace. And I do believe if we respond rightly this morning, God can do some wonderful things here.
I want to go now to the prophet Amos. I owe something to John Anderson for directing my attention to Amos and Hosea. They are two of the most up-to-date prophets for America today. And unfortunately, most American Christians hardly know what they say. Let me tell you this, all Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness. All Scripture. If you don’t study the whole Bible you’re depriving yourself of God’s provision for you. And let me say the minor prophets are minor only in length, not in content. One real good example of this is that Paul based his whole doctrine of justification by faith on part of a verse in the prophet Habakkuk. How many of you know about Habakkuk?
I’ve heard people say there are so many millions of born again Christians. Some people say thirty, some say even forty million in the United States. I say well if they are, where are they and what are they doing and why is the nation going downhill steadily all the time? There’s only one explanation. If they really are Christians, they are salt that has lost its savor. And you know what Jesus said about salt that has lost its savor? It’s thenceforth good for nothing. Good for nothing. That’s bad language, isn’t it? But to be thrown out and to be trampled underfoot by men. And I want to tell you that if the Church in the United States does not change, it will be trampled underfoot by men. And there are a lot of men pretty eager today to trample the Church underfoot. Is that right?