Turn! Turn! Turn!

One of my favorite old music groups is The Byrds. I love the sweet sound of that Rickenbacker electric 12-string and the gorgeous harmonies. My favorite Byrds song is “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season.) The lyrics for the song, with the exception of two lines, were written by King Solomon who ruled Israel from 970 to 931 BC. These lyrics were put to music in 1959 by folk musician Pete Seeger, who added the lines, “turn, turn, turn” and, “I swear it’s not too late.” These extra lyrics have taken on an apocalyptic significance in our 21st century world, and specifically in America.

America in 2012 is in a desperate condition. It is clear to anyone with knowledge of scripture and even a modest level of spiritual discernment that our country is experiencing the beginning of the judgment of God. As did Israel before us, we have forsaken the commandments of God and have become an apostate, backslidden condition. God has been long-suffering with us, desiring us to repent and to return to Him with all our hearts. But a just God cannot tolerate rebellion and disobedience forever and just as Israel experienced the judgments of God in an increasingly frightful manner, so we too are now entering into judgment.

The prophet Joel was one of several men raised up by God to warn Israel of impending doom if they would not repent. Joel warned the nation that events were coming that would be worse than anyone of them had ever seen. (God spoke the same warning to the prophet Habakkuk, telling him that events on the horizon would be so bad that he wouldn’t believe it even if told.)  God then spoke of severe agricultural and economic judgments, which would be followed by a military invasion if the nation did not turn back to God.

This is what the Lord said to Joel, son of Pethuel. Listen to this, you leaders! Open your ears, all inhabitants of this land! Nothing like this has ever happened in your lifetime or in your ancestors’ lifetime. (Joel 1: 1-2)

Like many Old Testament prophecies, there was both a short-term partial fulfillment and a long-term complete fulfillment to Joel’s words. The long-term fulfillment takes place during what the bible calls the Day of the Lord. This refers to cataclysmic events that occur at the end of this present historical age. Joel gave his prophecies to Israel about two decades before they were in fact invaded by Babylon and taken into slavery for 70 years. The book of Joel makes it clear however that the full application of these prophetic warnings will take place during the Day of the Lord at the end of this age. Many centuries later on the Day of Pentecost, Peter proclaimed that the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Church was a fulfillment of a promise in Joel chapter 2. A careful reading of this chapter as well as chapter 3 indicates that the book of Joel will have its fullest impact in the final years immediately preceding the return of Jesus. But the principles of national judgment and repentance are timeless and provide for us a divine outline of why judgments come and how God wants us to respond.

It is important to note the progression of the judgments that Joel wrote about. God always brings the least severe judgment necessary to turn the hearts of the people. Then the judgments escalate if the people ignore the warnings from God’s prophetic voices. We see this same principle in the book of Revelation. The judgments progress from the least to most severe with the intention of bring change. Ultimately, an individual or nation that chooses to ignore the warnings will suffer greatly. Israel chose to ignore Joel’s warnings along with those from Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and others. The natural plagues that brought agricultural and economic losses were explained away as simply nature taking its course. Secularism always removes God as the source and orchestrator of events including natural disasters, but scripture is clear that God uses natural disasters, weather, and ungodly governmental leaders to bring judgment and turn the hearts of the nation back to Him. In His fiery zeal for our hearts, He will allow increasingly severe events to take place in order to make us cry out to him for help. Israel did not respond to God and suffered the consequences of a foreign invasion.

The same picture is emerging for America. The American culture is deeply backslidden and has embraced secular humanism as the new religion. This national apostasy has developed over many decades and is now firmly entrenched. God has been thrown out of our schools, the arts, news media, and our government. Christianity is openly mocked by an increasingly intolerant society. Recently, the owner of the Chic-Fil-A restaurant chain dared to say that he supports the biblical position of marriage being defined as a covenant before God between one man and one woman. The humanistic culture went ballistic, with governmental leaders in several large American cities illegally blocking Chic-Fil-A from developing in their areas. This is just one example of the rabid intolerance for God’s Word and His commandments that have overtaken our nation.

There have been several warnings from God to America, but on September 11, 2001 the spiritual atmosphere in our country was changed. 911 was nothing less than a full-blown warning from God to turn from our sin and corruption and return to Him. I remember the secular media howling in protest and ridicule when a few Christian voices suggested that the attacks on the World Trade Center were the result of God taking His protective hand off of us due to our sin. For a few brief days and weeks, the American people seemed to turn to God. Churches experienced record turnout in the weeks following the attacks. But our churches and pastors failed the American people by not identifying the attacks as the judgment of God and calling for national repentance. Patriotism grew, but patriotism without God is just human pride. In the years following the attacks, our culture has only continued to grow more depraved and our churches have entered into even more compromise. Over the last few years I have sensed in my spirit that life as I have known it growing up in America is over. Judgment is upon the land.

God’s increasing judgment over America can be seen in three more areas: In natural weather disasters, in the collapse of our once vibrant economy, and in our ungodly leaders.

As I write this, a severe drought has decimated the food-growing heartland of America. Months without rain were combined in July 2012 with days of consecutive temperatures well over 100 degrees. Food prices are soaring, unemployment is at critical levels, mobs are “occupying” our cities, and the Middle East is on the brink of war. Our economy is on the brink of collapse. Some estimates indicate that we are facing catastrophic financial events in as short a time as 2-3 years at the time of this writing. God warned of impending financial judgments in Joel chapter 1:

Israel’s fields are ruined, and the ground is dried up. The grain has been destroyed. The new wine has dried up. The olive oil has run out. Be sad, you farmers! Cry loudly, you grape growers! Mourn for the wheat and the barley. The harvest is destroyed in the field. The grapevines are dried up. The fig trees are withered. The pomegranate, palm, and apricot trees, as well as all the trees in the orchards, have died. (Joel 1: 10-12)

These economic woes were caused in part by natural disasters such as drought and fires.

Food disappears right before our eyes. Happiness and rejoicing disappear from our God’s temple.  Seeds shrivel up in their shells. Storehouses are destroyed. Barns are ruined. The grain has dried up. The animals groan. Herds of cattle wander around confused. There’s no pasture for them. Even flocks of sheep are suffering. O Lord, I cry to you for help! Fire has burned up the open pastures. Flames have burned up all the trees in the orchards. Even wild animals long for you. Streams run dry. Fire has burned up the open pastures. (Joel 1: 16-20)

Perhaps the most significant sign of God’s judgment upon America is the raising up of ungodly leadership in our national government.

I believe that Barack Hussein Obama is nothing less than God raising up an unrighteous ruler to repress our liberties, to facilitate the impending economic crash, and to severely weaken our national security and make us vulnerable to foreign attack. This belief has nothing to do with President Obama’s race or political party affiliation; it has to do with his ideology and the fruit of his policies. I do not write this as political commentary but as a watchman on the wall declaring the truth of our spiritual condition.

Mr. Obama has withdrawn US support for Israel while sympathizing with Muslim extremists; he has presided over the dismantling of the US economy while spending billions of dollars that don’t exist; he has filled his administration with far-left radicals who hate God; he supports infanticide under the guise of partial-birth abortion; and he has played golf while the nation collapses. Mr. Obama referred to the people of the heartland of this country as “bitterly clinging to guns and religion.” The documentary 2016: Obama’s America reveals a man bent on bringing America to its knees economically and militarily because of his ideology.

In the natural, it was not possible for such an inexperienced, unknown, radical leftist with a Muslim-sounding name to have been elected president! And yet, here he is facing possible re-election after four years of arguably the worst presidency in our history. This is the hand of God allowing an oppressive ruler to shake the nation. To those who are shocked by such a statement, I would echo the words of Jesus that, “You do greatly err, not knowing the scripture or the power of God.” That God uses unrighteous, oppressive rulers during times of national judgment is an established biblical truth. Those who blindly ignore the escalating signs of divine judgment on our nation do so at their own peril, and they are guilty of the same apostasy that led to Israel being taken into captivity by Babylon in 586 BC.

America! It is time; in fact it is past time, to Turn, Turn, Turn! Pete Seeger added the words, “I swear it’s not too late!” to those of Solomon. Seeger was referring to peace, and of course there will be no true, global peace until the Prince of Peace returns; the scriptures are absolute on this point, although a counterfeit false peace will deceive many for a short time. But in the context of turning our country, is it too late? There is a time when a nation can no longer repent and when destruction is certain; The ancient city of Nineveh is an example of this (see the book of the prophet Nahum.)  Only God knows when the time is past for a nation to turn, for example God told Jeremiah that even if Moses and Samuel prayed for Israel they would not be spared (Jer. 15:1). God is fervently calling intercessors to pray for American; we may yet have space in God’s eyes to repent as a nation. But this will only happen on God’s terms and he has told us what to do in circumstances just such as this:

Therefore also now, says the Lord, turn even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and he regrets sending of evil. Who knows if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly:  Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and the nursing babies: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare your people, O Lord, and give not your heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.  Yes, the Lord will answer and say unto his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, and you shall be satisfied therewith: and I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen. (Joel 2: 12-19)

God’s instructions are not symbolic. He wants us to actually fast, actually call solemn prayer assemblies, actually weep for an awakening, actually cut short your honeymoon and attend to this crisis. This call to turn is much more than having some good intentions, turning over a new leaf, or trying to be a better person. What America desperately needs is another Great Awakening where the presence of God sweeps through cities and towns, causing the very culture to shift. The church needs to abandon the Sunday morning template and make each day a day of prayer and sanctification. Pastors of area churches need to abandon their doctrinal differences and host solemn prayer assemblies, crying out to God for mercy and revival over their cities. We must fast, pray, seek God, turn from every one of our wicked ways, and plead with God to turn the heart of our nation back to Him.

We may not know the result, but it is the only and last chance we have to see our country survive. If we fail to turn, worse judgments are just ahead and it will be worse than you have ever seen, worse than any of your ancestors have ever seen.

Turn! Turn! Turn!