National Pride: Left, people gather at the White House as United States President Barack Obama announces the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during a late-evening statement to the press in Washington, D.C. (May 1, 2011). Right, a man holds a newspaper bearing the image of Osama bin Laden in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. (May 2, 2011).Source: (Left) Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT; (Right) Jewel Samad /AFP/Getty Images
The news felt surreal: “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” President Barack Obama announced during a late-night televised statement on May 1, 2011.
For many who lost family and friends on September 11, 2001, or the resultant “War on Terror,” the news brought closure.
Mr. Obama stated that “Americans understand the costs of war. Yet as a country, we will never tolerate our security being threatened, nor stand idly by when our people have been killed. We will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.”
It seemed the nation could now press forward.
The president continued, “The cause of securing our country is not complete. But tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”
Above all, the news brought the country together.
“Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” he said at the conclusion of his speech.
After nearly 10 years, it seemed America could breathe a sigh of relief. It had been a long 3,159 days, but now Osama bin Laden lay dead.
The celebrations following the announcement offered a glimpse of what America was before the 9/11 terror attacks—a proud nation, sure of its place in the world. And despite a gnawing feeling the euphoria would fade, just for a moment, the nation appeared to put aside its leaden troubles and dare to think, “Is America back on top?”
For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. public near-unanimously demonstrated American pride.
“Crowds gathered at the Lower Manhattan site where the World Trade Center towers were destroyed by terrorist-hijacked airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, in an attack at the nerve center of the nation’s financial institutions and networks,” USA Today reported.
In Washington, people gathered in front of the president’s home “chanted ‘USA, USA,’ and waved American flags as one man climbed a light pole to place a flag directly in front of the presidential residence. Students, Marines, young Capitol Hill staffers and Washington office workers mingled, hugged, chanted and danced together” (ibid.).
President Obama later remarked at a White House dinner, “You know, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11. We were reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve, that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.”
In some of the most telling celebrations after bin Laden was pronounced dead, crowds spontaneously burst into song: God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her, and guide her through the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam. God bless America, my home sweet home.
For just a moment, all troubles seemed to fade away for the nation, and America was reminded of its historical resilience. No matter the troubles that had beset its people, it had always faced them head on.
For two centuries, the United States, along with Britain, has had the greatest army, been the world leader in agriculture, manufacturing, production, technology and trade, and held crucial strategic sea gates and defensive strongholds throughout the world. The nation has repeatedly been given challenges—the Civil War, World War I and World War II, the Great Depression—and has almost always emerged victorious.
God certainly has blessed America.
With the death of bin Laden, the nation once again experienced old-style American patriotism—for just a moment. It had a sense of working toward a “greater good.” A sense of “justice.” A seemingly God-ordained sense of purpose.
Yet as the immediate elation at bin Laden’s death fades, the country’s current problems have come back into full view: $14 trillion federal debt, rampant unemployment, $4-per-gallon gas prices, two wars abroad, bickering politicians, bloated government budgets.
With this crashing reality, can the U.S. tap into that real “American” resilience permanently—and pull itself out of its current problems?
America sincerely wants God’s blessings. Politicians say it. Preachers preach it. People sing it.
Yet think of how this statement is used: Osama bin Laden was shot in the head, and the nation asks God to bless it? In addition, four other people died in the raid that killed the al-Qaida mastermind, and still America asks God to “stand beside her” and “guide her.” Does this make any sense?
Because of his terrorist tactics and history of violence, people naturally assume God wanted bin Laden dead. But there is no need to guess what He desires. Putting together a number of related passages in the Bible, which are God’s words, reveals His thinking on this matter.
“Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles: lest the Lord see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him” (Prov. 24:17-18).
This is plain: “Rejoice not when your enemy falls.”
Thousands died because of the actions of Osama bin Laden, but should the U.S. have sought revenge? Romans 12:19 answers: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”
God says revenge is His alone to administer. In effect, if a person takes revenge into his own hands, he is stealing something God has defined as His.
In light of these verses, how can America expect God’s blessings?
Look at Jeremiah 17:5: “Thus says the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm [strength], and whose heart departs from the Lord.” Any person (or country) that trusts in himself for protection is under a curse—the diametric opposite of a blessing. These are strong words—but they are God’s words!
If God is not blessing America now, how did it receive such abundant blessings throughout its history?
Most look to the founding fathers as the source of this nation’s greatness, citing the unique political ideology set down in the Constitution as the backbone of the country’s success. Others believe the nation was founded on strong Judeo-Christian roots, and this strong faith in God has guided the nation to preeminence.
The answer does in fact come from the lives of the fathers of the American people—but not in the way most think.
Abraham, the father of the descendants of the ancient nation of Israel, was given a promise from God for his obedience: “That in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and your seed shall possess the gate [sea gates] of his enemies; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because you have obeyed My voice” (Gen. 22:17-18).
The same promise was passed to Abraham’s son Isaac and later to Jacob: “Therefore God give you of the dew of heaven, and the [fertile places] of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine” (Gen. 27:28).
Jacob was later renamed Israel, and the promise was expounded on by God: “…be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of you” (Gen. 35:11).
Who fits this description? Certainly not the tiny slave nation of ancient Israel or the modern state of Israel on the Mediterranean! When these specific details align, only two countries emerge: America (a nation) and the United Kingdom (a company of nations).
Because of the obedience of these true “founding fathers,” America has enjoyed abundance during its meteoric rise to prominence.
Make this clear in your mind. The United States descends from the nation of Israel. While most assume Israel is synonymous with those of Jewish descent, these people actually come from Judah alone, just one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Abraham’s “birthright blessings” were eventually passed on to Joseph’s sons, who became the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48).
God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham. America (Manasseh) and Britain (Ephraim) have both risen to be the two greatest nations of all time. But these blessings are now waning: Britain’s empire is shattered, and America no longer remains unchallenged on the world stage.
Americans still desire to retain the blessings—the high standard of living, the abundance of food, the unmatched economic might—they have so long enjoyed. God’s blessings, however, require the same action today as in Abraham’s time: obedience.
This has been God’s desire for Israel since day one. Notice: “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you’” (Jer. 7:22-23, Revised Standard Version).
Simply put, God states, “Obey, and you will be blessed.”
The next verse continues, “But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward” (vs. 24).
God has been working with the peoples of Israel for thousands of years. He knows their tendency to flag in obedience. Thus, He states, “From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all My servants the prophets to them, day after day” (vs. 25, RSV).
Despite these constant reminders, “they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers” (Jer. 7:26).
The example of ancient Israel is meant to be a lesson for their modern-day descendants.
What are the consequences for persistent disobedience? National captivity. God warns repeatedly of this punishment:
This is where the modern identity of Israelite nations is key to understanding much of the Old Testament. It is also where the identity of these nations can be a hard pill to swallow. These verses are not directed at the people of Jeremiah’s time, nor Ezekiel’s—they refer to the modern-day nations descended from Israel.
While Jeremiah was in the land of Israel when he wrote the book named after him, the prophet Ezekiel could not be speaking of impending captivity on ancient Israel. When Ezekiel was written, Israel was already in captivity. This means one thing: Ezekiel recorded an impending captivity to fall on modern Israelitish nations, including America and Britain.
Throughout the Old Testament, God speaks directly to these modern nations, pleading with them to return to obedience so He may continue blessing them.
Do not lightly dismiss national enslavement as an impossibility. Ancient Israel also ignored similar warnings, only to be captured and nearly disappear from history.
Return to Jeremiah 7. The chapter details America’s national character—its national sins—that block it from receiving blessings.
Read verses 9-10. God says, “Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom you know not; and come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations?”
The Revised Standard version makes this verse plain: while leading lives brimming with sin, the modern people of Israel “then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations” (vs. 10).
In other words: “What I do in my personal life does not matter—God should bless me anyway.”
America thinks it deserves blessings. This is why its citizens cavalierly sing “God Bless America,” and why politicians often end speeches with the same words. The U.S. feels it is righteous. Most pastors believe the same, stating that America was founded on good “Christian values.”
Ask: Can God bless a nation where divorce is standard, sex before marriage is accepted, and theft is often understandable?
Does God approve of a nation with cities rife with murder? “With 10 homicides this week, Baltimore had more murders than days in the week for the first time this year,” Baltimore City Paper reported. “As of Monday, April 25, there are 12 more murders than at the same time in 2010.”
Does this behavior deserve blessings?
“Increasingly, consumers are pumping gas and driving off without paying, stealing from other motorists and ripping off large quantities from municipalities and businesses,” USA Today stated. “Gasoline thefts cost convenience store operators, which sell about 80% of the fuel sold in the USA, more than $90 million in 2009.”
Should God bless the 44 percent of adults, according to Pew Research Center data, who have cohabited at some point? What about if the politically correct word “cohabitate” were replaced with the phrase: “living together to make it easier to fornicate”?
All this without a hint of shame. Americans live debauched lives and unabashedly expect God to bless them. Notice: “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, says the Lord” (Jer. 6:15).
“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness” (Jer. 6:13).
Think of the endless malls, grocery superstores and restaurants with everything a person can imagine. Then think of everything available on the Internet—all with the click of a computer mouse. Americans think they deserve to “have it all.”
Most will dismiss the notion that everyone—including themselves—are given to covetousness. People do not naturally like to think they are wrong. Due to human nature, individuals love to point out the flaws of others, but loathe examining their own lives.
Chapter 6 continues, “…and from the prophet even unto the priest every one deals falsely. They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (vs. 13-14).
God is blunt. Mainstream Christian churches will not teach national punishment for national sins. They likely even scoff at the thought, instead declaring America will continue to live peaceably.
Consider. The words of these prophetic warnings have been in the Bible on your coffee table. They have been on bookshelves across America, and in the hands of preachers for hundreds of years. Yet hardly anyone has heard these words—even though God has repeatedly warned that slavery will come as punishment!
Why? People do not want to receive God’s instruction: “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? Behold, their ear is uncircumcised [closed off], and they cannot hear: behold, the word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jer. 6:10).
Without the nation turning to God, disobedient America (along with its brother nations) will go into captivity.
America seeks continued blessing. And God seeks what He always has since the beginning of mankind: “Thus says the Lord, Stand you in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).
The most common response to God’s plea has always been the same, “But they said, We will not walk therein” (vs. 16).
Yet to the individual God declares: “Seek you the Lord while He may be found, call you upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).
Such a person must admit he is wrong and diligently follow God’s instruction. Verse 7 continues: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
Just as God makes clear the consequences for disobedience, He expounds the blessings for those who follow His instructions, as detailed in Leviticus 26: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them” (vs. 3), then…
If America would walk in God’s statutes and keep His commands and DO them, He would “bless America”—He would “stand beside her”—He would “guide her through the night with a light from above.”
With continued national obedience, America could boldly sing: “God bless America, my home sweet home”—and God would answer.
(To learn about the future of the U.S.—both short- and long-term—read David C. Pack’s book America and Britain in Prophecy.)