I just returned from a trip to Israel. BMI and First Baptist Jonesboro jointly sponsored a tour. If you have been to Israel you know that many things impact you while you are there. For one, you are struck by how many places there are in that small country that God did an amazing work or sent a messenger. We had a great tour guide. She was constantly pointing to an area and saying, “And somewhere over there, the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River . . . and in that region John the Baptist baptized Jesus . . . and over there Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind . . .” Over the course of many centuries, God performed many miracles and sent numerous messengers in a relatively small piece of real estate.
I am reminded of the Scripture, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much hasbeen committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48). Of course, no nation, not even the United States, has been given as much opportunity to know and experience God, as have the people of Israel. Yet as a people, they largely rejected God’s Messiah and the truth of the Gospel. The results have been horrendous. Their history since Jesus’ time has been heart wrenching. In 70 AD the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and systematically rid the land of all Jewish people. Throughout much of subsequent history, the Jewish people have been persecuted and hounded throughout Europe and the Middle East. The most infamous atrocities occurred under Nazi Germany but there have been many other pogroms over the centuries. In 1948, the modern nation of Israel was birthed. That same year it was attacked from every side by Arab nations intent on its total destruction. Since that time, it has been invaded twice and subjected to numerous acts of terrorism since.
But what struck me most was the spiritual climate. As I toured Jerusalem last week, the Muslim call to prayer repeatedly peeled throughout the air. Of course, the temple mount, which once housed the magnificent temple, now houses the Muslim, Dome of the Rock. Built into the temple mount is also ne of the largest mosques in the Middle East. I don’t recall seeing a synagogue in Jerusalem without a mosque noticeably nearby. I was told that when a prominent synagogue that had been destroyed by Muslims during their occupation of the Jewish quarter wasdedicated after it was reopened, the Muslim community bitterly protested because its dedication appeared to them as an act of proselytizing. There are also numerous churches scattered across the land, but many of these are simply commemorating something that God did many centuries earlier. When you hear the history of many of these churches you develop the distinct impression that many of them lost their focus and forgot their mission. In some of these churches today the most zealous people are those selling souvenirs outside the door.
If it is true that to whom God gives much, God expects much, then America has much to be concerned about. God is extremely longsuffering and merciful. But at a certain point He will allow people to reap what they sow. If a society continually rejects God’s commands and values, then a time will come when God will bring judgment. There may still be many places of worship dotting the land (as there are in Israel). But the worship conducted and activity performed will not be pleasing to God. It is a sobering experience to witness a nation that God has blessed in the past who has departed from Him. For God’s people, it is crucial that we redouble our resolve to be the salt and light our nation desperately needs us to be. If there was ever a time America’s churches need to be focused on their divine calling, it is now.