By Dave Armstrong (21 September 2001)
Biblical passages (Revised Standard Version) teaching divine judgment or chastisement of nations (as opposed to individuals):
14 "But if you will not hearken to me, and will not do all these commandments,
15 if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my ordinances, so that you will not do all my
commandments, but break my covenant,
16 I will do this to you: I will appoint over you sudden terror, consumption, and fever that waste
the eyes and cause life to pine away. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies
shall eat it;
17 I will set my face against you, and you shall be smitten before your enemies; those who hate
you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.
18 And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, then I will chastise you again sevenfold for
19 and I will break the pride of your power, and I will make your heavens like iron and your
earth like brass;
20 and your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the treesof the land shall not yield their fruit.
21 "Then if you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring more plagues upon
you, sevenfold as many as your sins.
22 And I will let loose the wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and
destroy your cattle, and make you few in number, so that your ways shall become desolate.
23 "And if by this discipline you are not turned to me, but walk contrary to me,
24 then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will smite you sevenfold for your sins.
25 And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall execute vengeance for the covenant; and if you
gather within your cities I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the
hand of the enemy.
26 When I break your staff of bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and shall
deliver your bread again by weight; and you shall eat, and not be satisfied.
27 "And if in spite of this you will not hearken to me, but walk contrary to me,
28 then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and chastise you myself sevenfold for your sins.
29 You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.
30 And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and cast your dead
bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols; and my soul will abhor you.
31 And I will lay your cities waste, and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell
your pleasing odors.
32 And I will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be astonished at it.
33 And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you; and your
land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.
15 "But Jesh'urun waxed fat, and kicked; you waxed fat, you grew thick, you became sleek; then he forsook God who made him, and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominable practices they provoked him
17 They sacrificed to demons which were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods
that had come in of late, whom your fathers had never dreaded.
18 You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 "The LORD saw it, and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his
20 And he said, 'I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a
perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness.
21 They have stirred me to jealousy with what is no god; they have provoked me with their idols.
So I will stir them to jealousy with those who are no people; I will provoke them with a foolish
22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 "'And I will heap evils upon them; I will spend my arrows upon them;
24 they shall be wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat and poisonous pestilence;
and I will send the teeth of beasts against them, with venom of crawling things of the dust.
25 In the open the sword shall bereave, and in the chambers shall be terror, destroying both
young man and virgin, the sucking child with the man of gray hairs.
26 I would have said, "I will scatter them afar, I will make the remembrance of them cease from
27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should judge amiss, lest they
should say, "Our hand is triumphant, the LORD has not wrought all this."'
28 "For they are a nation void of counsel, and there is no understanding in them.
29 If they were wise, they would understand this, they would discern their latter end!
30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had
sold them, and the LORD had given them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomor'rah; their grapes
are grapes of poison, their clusters are bitter;
33 their wine is the poison of serpents, and the cruel venom of asps.
34 "Is not this laid up in store with me, sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.
36 For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees
that their power is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, 'Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise upand help you, let them be your protection!
39 "'See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I
wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and swear, As I live for ever,
41 if I whet my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will take vengeance on
my adversaries, and will requite those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh--with the blood of
the slain and the captives, from the long-haired heads of the enemy.'
43 "Praise his people, O you nations; for he avenges the blood of his servants, and takes
vengeance on his adversaries, and makes expiation for the land of his people."
2 Kings 17:22-23 The people of Israel walked in all the sins which Jerobo'am did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.
26 "Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against thee and cast thy law behind their
back and killed thy prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to thee, and
they committed great blasphemies.
27 Therefore thou didst give them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer; and in
the time of their suffering they cried to thee and thou didst hear them from heaven; and
according to thy great mercies thou didst give them saviors who saved them from the hand of
28 But after they had rest they did evil again before thee, and thou didst abandon them to the
hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; yet when they turned and cried to
thee thou didst hear from heaven, and many times thou didst deliver them according to thy
29 And thou didst warn them in order to turn them back to thy law. Yet they acted
presumptuously and did not obey thy commandments, but sinned against thy ordinances, by
the observance of which a man shall live, and turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their
neck and would not obey.
30 Many years thou didst bear with them, and didst warn them by thy Spirit through thy
prophets; yet they would not give ear. Therefore thou didst give them into the hand of the
peoples of the lands.
31 Nevertheless in thy great mercies thou didst not make an end of them or forsake them; for
thou art a gracious and merciful God.
32 "Now therefore, our God, the great and mighty and terrible God, who keepest covenant and
steadfast love, let not all the hardship seem little to thee that has come upon us, upon our
kings, our princes, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and all thy people, since the time of
the kings of Assyria until this day.
33 Yet thou hast been just in all that has come upon us, for thou hast dealt faithfully and we have
34 our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept thy law or heeded thy
commandments and thy warnings which thou didst give them.
35 They did not serve thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness which thou gavest them,
and in the large and rich land which thou didst set before them; and they did not turn from
their wicked works.
36 Behold, we are slaves this day; in the land that thou gavest to our fathers to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts, behold, we are slaves.
Isaiah 19:4 and I will give over the Egyptians into the hand of a hard master; and a fierce king will rule over them, says the Lord, the LORD of hosts.
3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken
lies, your tongue mutters wickedness.
4 No one enters suit justly, no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak
lies, they conceive mischief and bring forth iniquity.
5 They hatch adders' eggs, they weave the spider's web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from
one which is crushed a viper is hatched.
6 Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make.
Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.
7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts
of iniquity, desolation and destruction are in their highways.
8 The way of peace they know not, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their
roads crooked, no one who goes in them knows peace.
9 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we look for light, and
behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom.
10 We grope for the wall like the blind, we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at
noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
11 We all growl like bears, we moan and moan like doves; we look for justice, but there is none;
for salvation, but it is far from us.
12 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us; for our
transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:
13 transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning away from following our God, speaking
oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words.
14 Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth has fallen in the public
squares, and uprightness cannot enter.
15 Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it
displeased him that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intervene; then his
own arm brought him victory, and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; he put on
garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as a mantle.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay, wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies; to
the coastlands he will render requital.
Jeremiah 5:1-31 (all)
1 Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, look and take note! Search her squares to
see if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth; that I may pardon her.
2 Though they say, "As the LORD lives," yet they swear falsely.
3 O LORD, do not thy eyes look for truth? Thou hast smitten them, but they felt no anguish;
thou hast consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces
harder than rock; they have refused to repent.
4 Then I said, "These are only the poor, they have no sense; for they do not know the way of
the LORD, the law of their God.
5 I will go to the great, and will speak to them; for they know the way of the LORD, the law of
their God." But they all alike had broken the yoke, they had burst the bonds.
6 Therefore a lion from the forest shall slay them, a wolf from the desert shall destroy them. A
leopard is watching against their cities, every one who goes out of them shall be torn in pieces; because their transgressions are many, their apostasies are great.
7 "How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me, and have sworn by those who are
no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of
8 They were well-fed lusty stallions, each neighing for his neighbor's wife.
9 Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD; and shall I not avenge myself on a
nation such as this?
10 "Go up through her vine-rows and destroy, but make not a full end; strip away her branches,
for they are not the LORD's.
11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly faithless to me, says the
12 They have spoken falsely of the LORD, and have said, 'He will do nothing; no evil will come
upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine.
13 The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them!'"
14 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: "Because they have spoken this word,
behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall
15 Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, says the LORD. It is an
enduring nation, it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you
understand what they say.
16 Their quiver is like an open tomb, they are all mighty men.
17 They shall eat up your harvest and your food; they shall eat up your sons and your daughters;
they shall eat up your flocks and your herds; they shall eat up your vines and your fig trees;
your fortified cities in which you trust they shall destroy with the sword."
18 "But even in those days, says the LORD, I will not make a full end of you.
19 And when your people say, 'Why has the LORD our God done all these things to us?' you
shall say to them, 'As you have forsaken me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall
serve strangers in a land that is not yours.'"
20 Declare this in the house of Jacob, proclaim it in Judah:
21 "Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but
22 Do you not fear me? says the LORD; Do you not tremble before me? I placed the sand as
the bound for the sea, a perpetual barrier which it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they
cannot prevail, though they roar, they cannot pass over it.
23 But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and gone away.
24 They do not say in their hearts, 'Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives the rain in its
season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for us the weeks appointed for the
25 Your iniquities have turned these away, and your sins have kept good from you.
26 For wicked men are found among my people; they lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a
trap; they catch men.
27 Like a basket full of birds, their houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich,
28 they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of wickedness; they judge not
with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights
of the needy.
29 Shall I not punish them for these things? says the LORD, and shall I not avenge myself on a
nation such as this?"
30 An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land:
31 the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it
so, but what will you do when the end comes?
Jeremiah 12:17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, says the LORD."
5 Then the word of the LORD came to me:
6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? says the LORD. Behold,
like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.
7 If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down
and destroy it,
8 and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil
that I intended to do to it.
9 And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it,
10 and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will repent of the good which I
had intended to do to it.
11 Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: 'Thus says the
LORD, Behold, I am shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every
one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your doings.'
8 "Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words,
9 behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, says the LORD, and for Nebuchadrez'zar the
king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and
against all these nations round about; I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, a
hissing, and an everlasting reproach.
10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of
the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the
11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of
Babylon seventy years.
12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the
land of the Chalde'ans, for their iniquity, says the LORD, making the land an everlasting
13 I will bring upon that land all the words which I have uttered against it, everything written in
this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.
14 For many nations and great kings shall make slaves even of them; and I will recompense them
according to their deeds and the work of their hands."
15 Thus the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: "Take from my hand this cup of the wine of
wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.
16 They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword which I am sending among
25 The LORD has opened his armory, and brought out the weapons of his wrath, for the Lord
GOD of hosts has a work to do in the land of the Chalde'ans.
26 Come against her from every quarter; open her granaries; pile her up like heaps of grain, and
destroy her utterly; let nothing be left of her.
27 Slay all her bulls, let them go down to the slaughter. Woe to them, for their day has come, the
time of their punishment.
28 "Hark! they flee and escape from the land of Babylon, to declare in Zion the vengeance of the
LORD our God, vengeance for his temple.
29 "Summon archers against Babylon, all those who bend the bow. Encamp round about her; let
no one escape. Requite her according to her deeds, do to her according to all that she has
done; for she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.
30 Therefore her young men shall fall in her squares, and all her soldiers shall be destroyed on
that day, says the LORD.
31 "Behold, I am against you, O proud one, says the Lord GOD of hosts; for your day has
come, the time when I will punish you.
32 The proud one shall stumble and fall, with none to raise him up, and I will kindle a fire in his
cities, and it will devour all that is round about him.
33 "Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah
with them; all who took them captive have held them fast, they refuse to let them go.
34 Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause,
that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon.
35 "A sword upon the Chalde'ans, says the LORD, and upon the inhabitants of Babylon, and
upon her princes and her wise men!
36 A sword upon the diviners, that they may become fools! A sword upon her warriors, that they
may be destroyed!
37 A sword upon her horses and upon her chariots, and upon all the foreign troops in her midst,
that they may become women! A sword upon all her treasures, that they may be plundered!
38 A drought upon her waters, that they may be dried up! For it is a land of images, and they are
mad over idols.
39 "Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her; sheshall be peopled no more for ever, nor inhabited for all generations.
40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomor'rah and their neighbor cities, says the LORD, so
no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.
41 "Behold, a people comes from the north; a mighty nation and many kings are stirring from the
farthest parts of the earth.
42 They lay hold of bow and spear; they are cruel, and have no mercy. The sound of them is like
the roaring of the sea; they ride upon horses, arrayed as a man for battle against you, O
daughter of Babylon!
43 "The king of Babylon heard the report of them, and his hands fell helpless; anguish seized him,pain as of a woman in travail.
44 "Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a strong sheepfold, I will
suddenly make them run away from her; and I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For
who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me?
45 Therefore hear the plan which the LORD has made against Babylon, and the purposes which
he has formed against the land of the Chalde'ans: Surely the little ones of their flock shall be
dragged away; surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate.
46 At the sound of the capture of Babylon the earth shall tremble, and her cry shall be heard
among the nations."
14 "My transgressions were bound into a yoke; by his hand they were fastened together; they
were set upon my neck; he caused my strength to fail; the Lord gave me into the hands of
those whom I cannot withstand.
15 "The LORD flouted all my mighty men in the midst of me; he summoned an assembly against
me to crush my young men; the Lord has trodden as in a wine press the virgin daughter of
16 "For these things I weep; my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to
revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed."
17 Zion stretches out her hands, but there is none to comfort her; the LORD has commanded
against Jacob that his neighbors should be his foes; Jerusalem has become a filthy thing among them.
18 "The LORD is in the right, for I have rebelled against his word; but hear, all you peoples, and
behold my suffering; my maidens and my young men have gone into captivity.
Ezekiel 7:1-16, 22-27
1 The word of the LORD came to me:
2 "And you, O son of man, thus says the Lord GOD to the land of Israel: An end! The end has
come upon the four corners of the land.
3 Now the end is upon you, and I will let loose my anger upon you, and will judge you
according to your ways; and I will punish you for all your abominations.
4 And my eye will not spare you, nor will I have pity; but I will punish you for your ways, while
your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD.
5 "Thus says the Lord GOD: Disaster after disaster! Behold, it comes.
6 An end has come, the end has come; it has awakened against you. Behold, it comes.
7 Your doom has come to you, O inhabitant of the land; the time has come, the day is near, a
day of tumult, and not of joyful shouting upon the mountains.
8 Now I will soon pour out my wrath upon you, and spend my anger against you, and judge
you according to your ways; and I will punish you for all your abominations.
9 And my eye will not spare, nor will I have pity; I will punish you according to your ways,
while your abominations are in your midst. Then you will know that I am the LORD, who
10 "Behold, the day! Behold, it comes! Your doom has come, injustice has blossomed, pride has
11 Violence has grown up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain, nor their
abundance, nor their wealth; neither shall there be preeminence among them.
12 The time has come, the day draws near. Let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn, for
wrath is upon all their multitude.
13 For the seller shall not return to what he has sold, while they live. For wrath is upon all their
multitude; it shall not turn back; and because of his iniquity, none can maintain his life.
14 "They have blown the trumpet and made all ready; but none goes to battle, for my wrath is
upon all their multitude.
15 The sword is without, pestilence and famine are within; he that is in the field dies by the
sword; and him that is in the city famine and pestilence devour.
16 And if any survivors escape, they will be on the mountains, like doves of the valleys, all of
them moaning, every one over his iniquity . . .
22 I will turn my face from them, that they may profane my precious place; robbers shall enter
and profane it,
23 and make a desolation. "Because the land is full of bloody crimes and the city is full of
24 I will bring the worst of the nations to take possession of their houses; I will put an end to their proud might, and their holy places shall be profaned.
25 When anguish comes, they will seek peace, but there shall be none.
26 Disaster comes upon disaster, rumor follows rumor; they seek a vision from the prophet, but
the law perishes from the priest, and counsel from the elders.
27 The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are
palsied by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their own
judgments I will judge them; and they shall know that I am the LORD."
Ezekiel 14:19 Or if I send a pestilence into that land, and pour out my wrath upon it with blood, to cut off from it man and beast;
29 Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not just.' O house of Israel, are my ways
not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?
30 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.
31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get
yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel?
32 For I have no pleasure in the death of any one, says the Lord GOD; so turn, and live."
22 Therefore, O Ohol'ibah, thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I will rouse against you your
lovers from whom you turned in disgust, and I will bring them against you from every side:
23 the Babylonians and all the Chalde'ans, Pekod and Sho'a and Ko'a, and all the Assyrians with
them, desirable young men, governors and commanders all of them, officers and warriors, all
of them riding on horses.
24 And they shall come against you from the north with chariots and wagons and a host of
peoples; they shall set themselves against you on every side with buckler, shield, and helmet,
and I will commit the judgment to them, and they shall judge you according to their judgments.
25 And I will direct my indignation against you, that they may deal with you in fury. They shall cutoff your nose and your ears, and your survivors shall fall by the sword. They shall seize your
sons and your daughters, and your survivors shall be devoured by fire.
26 They shall also strip you of your clothes and take away your fine jewels.
27 Thus I will put an end to your lewdness and your harlotry brought from the land of Egypt; so
that you shall not lift up your eyes to the Egyptians or remember them any more.
28 For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will deliver you into the hands of those whom you
hate, into the hands of those from whom you turned in disgust;
29 and they shall deal with you in hatred, and take away all the fruit of your labor, and leave you
naked and bare, and the nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered. Your lewdness and
30 have brought this upon you, because you played the harlot with the nations, and polluted
yourself with their idols.
31 You have gone the way of your sister; therefore I will give her cup into your hand.
Ezekiel 24:13-14, 20-21
13 . . . Because I would have cleansed you and you were not cleansed
from your filthiness, you shall not be cleansed any more till I have satisfied my fury upon you.
14 I the LORD have spoken; it shall come to pass, I will do it; I will not go back, I will not spare,
I will not repent; according to your ways and your doings I will judge you, says the Lord
20 Then I said to them, "The word of the LORD came to me:
21 'Say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will profane my sanctuary, the
pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and the desire of your soul; and your sons and
your daughters whom you left behind shall fall by the sword.
15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in
16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the
midst of the stones of fire.
17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of
your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on
18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your
sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you.
19 All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end
and shall be no more for ever."
20 The word of the LORD came to me:
21 "Son of man, set your face toward Sidon, and prophesy against her
22 and say, Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, and I will manifest
my glory in the midst of you. And they shall know that I am the LORD when I execute
judgments in her, and manifest my holiness in her;
23 for I will send pestilence into her, and blood into her streets; and the slain shall fall in the midst of her, by the sword that is against her on every side. Then they will know that I am the
Ezekiel 33:29 Then they will know that I am the LORD, when I have made the land a desolation and a waste because of all their abominations which they have committed.
Ezekiel 36:17-18 "Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their doings; their conduct before me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood which they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it.
21 "And I will set my glory among the nations; and all the nations shall see my judgment which I
have executed, and my hand which I have laid on them.
22 The house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God, from that day forward.
23 And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity,
because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into
the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword.
24 I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them.
9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness; because we have rebelled against him,
10 and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God by following his laws, which he set
before us by his servants the prophets.
11 All Israel has transgressed thy law and turned aside, refusing to obey thy voice. And the curse
and oath which are written in the law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out
upon us, because we have sinned against him.
12 He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us,
by bringing upon us a great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done the
like of what has been done against Jerusalem.
13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us, yet we have not
entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and giving heed to thy
14 Therefore the LORD has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us; for the LORD
our God is righteous in all the works which he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice.
Hosea 4:1-2, 6-10
1 Hear the word of the LORD, O people of Israel; for the LORD has a controversy with the
inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or kindness, and no knowledge of God in the
2 there is swearing, lying, killing, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds and
murder follows murder . . .
6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I
reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also
will forget your children.
7 The more they increased, the more they sinned against me; I will change their glory into
8 They feed on the sin of my people; they are greedy for their iniquity.
9 And it shall be like people, like priest; I will punish them for their ways, and requite them for
10 They shall eat, but not be satisfied; they shall play the harlot, but not multiply; because they
have forsaken the LORD to cherish harlotry.
Amos 2:4-5 Thus says the LORD: "For three transgressions of Judah, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment; because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept his statutes, but their lies have led them astray, after which their fathers walked. 5 So I will send a fire upon Judah, and it shall devour the strongholds of Jerusalem."
Micah 6:13 Therefore I have begun to smite you, making you desolate because of your sins.
29 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you build the tombs of the prophets and
adorn the monuments of the righteous,
30 saying, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in
shedding the blood of the prophets.'
31 Thus you witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.
32 Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers.
33 You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?
34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and
crucify, and some you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,
35 that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent
Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah the son of Barachi'ah, whom you murdered between the
sanctuary and the altar.
36 Truly, I say to you, all this will come upon this generation.
37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How
often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her
wings, and you would not!
38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.
13 "Woe to you, Chora'zin! woe to you, Beth-sa'ida! for if the mighty works done in you had
been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and
14 But it shall be more tolerable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
15 And you, Caper'na-um, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
41 And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it,
42 saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are
hid from your eyes.
43 For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and
surround you, and hem you in on every side,
44 and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one
stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation."
45 And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold,
46 saying to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer'; but you have made it a
den of robbers."
Acts 7:6-7 And God spoke to this effect, that his posterity would be aliens in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and ill-treat them four hundred years. 7 'But I will judge the nation which they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.'
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take
part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues;
5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double
draught for her in the cup she mixed.
7 As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and
mourning. Since in her heart she says, 'A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never
8 so shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall
be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her."
9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep
and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning;
10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, "Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon! In one hour has thy judgment come."
God used (among others) the Babylonians and Nebuchadnezzar to judge Israel when they had strayed:
. . . Behold, I will bring upon Tyre from the north Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon . . . He will slay with the sword your daughters . . . I will make you a bare rock . . . (Ezekiel 26:7-8,14; cf. Jer 27:6 - where God calls him "my servant" - Jer 46:26, Ezra 5:12, Isaiah 9:11-17, many others)The fact that God used them doesn't make everything they did right. Babylon was eventually judged, after being used by God to punish Israel for its sins. But God can use even objectively evil acts for His own ultimate benevolent ends, over the long term, in His inscrutable Providence (see, e.g., Gen 45:4-8; 50:15-20). The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses this:
311. "Angels and men, as intelligent and free creatures, have to journey
toward their ultimate destinies by their free choice and preferential love. They
can therefore go astray. Indeed, they have sinned. Thus has moral evil,
incommensurably more harmful than physical evil, entered the world. God is in
no way, directly or indirectly, the cause of moral evil.[Cf. St. Augustine, De
libero arbitrio I, 1, 2: PL 32, 1221- 1223; St.Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II, 79, 1.]
He permits it, however, because he respects the freedom of his creatures and,
mysteriously, knows how to derive good from it: For almighty God. . ., because he is supremely good, would never allow any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself.[St. Augustine, Enchiridion II, 3: PL 40,
312. "In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring aGod allowed Satan to persecute Job, for His larger purposes:
good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his
creatures: 'It was not you', said Joseph to his brothers, 'who sent me here, but
God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about
that many people should be kept alive.'[Gen 45:8; Gen 50:20; cf. Tob 2:12
Vulgate).] From the greatest moral evil ever committed - the rejection and
murder of God's only Son, caused by the sins of all men - God, by his grace
that 'abounded all the more',[Cf. Rom 5:20 .] brought the greatest of goods: the
glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes
...'Behold, all that he has is in your power' . . . (Job 1:12)The most rebellious nations (by definition), and the most worthy of judgment, are the most Judaism- or Christianity-saturated nations. They are all the more accountable for their rebellion, just as ancient Israel became an abomination to God time and time again because she was given so much, and rejected it. We know from revelation that God clearly judges nations in direct proportion to how much moral truth they know and deliberately reject.
One might argue that mass media (now including the Internet), literacy, centuries of further development of moral and theological teaching, more awareness of the gospel and Christianity; more familiarity with its good fruits and blessings resulting therefrom; revivalism, stated belief, and any number of additional factors would be criteria for determining which countries today might possibly be "ripe" for judgment. having rejected so much true knowledge of the faith and of God and His teachings and moral laws. It is the contrast or relationship between how much of Christianity a nation knows and has rejected, which is the key factor, and what that nation has done or permitted (legally or otherwise) since having rejected it as a culture.
Better for a nation to not even claim to be Christian than to pretend it is while, for example, slaughtering babies by the millions, or sanctioning legally and culturally a host of sexual sins and other sins not harmonious with traditional Christianity. To whom much is given, much is required. This is utterly obvious, given God's treatment of His own chosen people, the Jews, throughout history. They knew much more than the Gentiles, so God judged them accordingly. The presence of many good things in a nation would not necessarily comprise any sort of disproof of this opinion. The very fact of undeniable and great amounts of good supports the contention that a nation has been especially blessed by God's grace (for where else does good come from?). That nations fall so low despite that is their indictment, much like ancient Israel.
Our Lord reasoned precisely in this way, in condemning Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum, in relation to Tyre and Sidon (Luke 10:13-15). There, the idea is that the former places knew more; therefore they were more culpable for rebellion: . . for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon . . . (10:13) In fact, our Lord mentions Sodom in contrast to those towns which reject the disciples' message, in Luke 10:12 (compare to Ezekiel, chapter 16, and Romans, chapters 1 and 2). All quite biblical, all quite divine, being from our Lord.
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nin'eveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. (Matthew 12:40-42)Natural law is also binding on all persons and cultures. The key lies in Romans 1 and 2. Those two chapters refer specifically to individual culpability, rather than national. But they can also be applied by extension or analogy, to nations. It all depends on what one knows of God's law and/or natural law. All men have the potential for knowing how to act morally, in the main, even without revelation, and they are judged accordingly, as St. Paul explicitly informs us.
So the following theoretical/philosophical scenario would apply, I think. I don't pretend to know how one would quantify degrees of sin in all particulars. That is for God to ultimately determine (in terms of both judgment and individual salvation), not men, but here is my scenario :
1. Nation X has "degree 99" of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity and has (institutionally, and in terms of societal norms) rejected 85% of it.Now which nation is more worthy of judgment? Clearly, Nation X, because it knew more, having received and accepted more of God's revelation, therefore incurring a higher culpability, than Nation Y, which received none. The sin and hypocrisy is proportionate to how much the nation knew and rejected. One can argue, of course, over degrees and culpability, as it is a largely subjective matter, but the bottom line principle of to whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48) stands, I think.
2. Nation Y has "degree 0" of knowledge about revelation/Judaism/Christianity - therefore it cannot reject it (insofar as revelation goes beyond the moral knowledge achievable through natural law).
3. Nation X has "degree 50" of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.
4. Nation Y also has "degree 50" of the sins of abortion, materialism, oppression of the poor, racism, lack of piety, sexual sin, etc.
The context of this saying of our Lord was the parable of the faithful and wise steward (Luke 12:41-48). Here is its conclusion: verses 47-48 (RSV):
And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.The parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) makes a very similar point. It is noteworthy that the servants received different amounts of talents: 5, 2, and 1, to each according to his ability (25:15). The servants with 2 and 5 talents multiplied them by the same amount (25:20,22), while the servant with one did nothing. He was damned (25:30), while the others were greeted with well done, good and faithful servant (25:21,23). So they were judged by what they did with what they had, just as those with and without the law are judged by what they know and (more importantly) do (Romans 2:12-16).
James makes the same point in another fashion:
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1; cf. Romans 2:17-24)Jesus echoes this same thought in his conversation with the Roman centurion, where he contrasts his strong faith with the spiritual hypocrisy of the disobedient among the Jews who knew more but who would be damned (Matthew 8:5-13; cf. 21:28-32).
That said, I believe there could indeed be (and often have been) nations which were so exceedingly wicked, even never having received or accepted any significant knowledge of revelation (but still being responsible for moral law and conscience), that they are worse than a nation receiving revelation and rejecting part of it. So e.g., I would say that the ancient Aztecs, with their human sacrifice, were worse as a society than Rome in 430, or America in 1960, or even France in the throes of "Enlightenment" tyranny in 1795. No contest.
But once (particularly) the millions of slaughtered babies start adding up in so-called Christian countries, with legal and societal sanction ("all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke), then I say that the latter countries are far worse, according to Scripture, just as an individual who truly didn't know what abortion entailed, and had one, is far less guilty than one who committed this horrible sin, knowing full well what it was, and perhaps even knowing that it is utterly contrary to the Bible and Christianity.
One must think about these matters biblically, as opposed to being a fish wholly contained by the "aquarium" of their own culture and how it predominantly thinks; beholden to the currently fashionable zeitgeist. It is always an ongoing task for Christians to think "biblically" and "Christianly" in the midst of an overwhelmingly secular culture, whose influence affects us all. Oftentimes, unfortunately, people come from a perspective of sheer emotionalism or arbitrary opinion, rather than from a biblical worldview, with regard to this matter of when God might be construed as "judging" or "chastising."
That is quite understandable (as it is an unpleasant, frightening topic), but at the same time, it is the duty of the Christian apologist to explain and defend a biblical worldview, especially if it is being snickered at, attacked, and dismissed as of little import, or relegated to the sole domain of "fanatics" or so-called "fundamentalists." God doesn't change. He judged nations in the past; He still does today, and He will judge the entire world and everyone in it at the End of the Age.
Oftentimes in the Old Testament, the prophets would give a conditional prophecy: "If you act righteously you will win battle X with nation Y. But if you continue in your idolatries [substitute any serious sin], you will be defeated, and led away with hooks in your noses, [etc.]" So repentance was urged, without being thought of as a substitution for military action against enemies. Prophets (as I recall) didn't say very often, if at all, not to fight, but rather, to repent so that the battle would be successful. The evil nature of the enemy did not change, whatever Israel decided to do with regard to its own sins:
1 Samuel 12:15 but if you will not hearken to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king.
2 Chronicles 7:11-22:Nations are as contradictory as every human being is: we are mixtures of radical good and radical evil, due to original sin, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Alexander Solzhenitsyn correctly noted: "the line between good and evil runs through every human heart." Nations are much the same. Many of the inhabitants of a country could be very righteous and perform many good works, but there is a common motif in the Old Testament, whereby God ceases to even acknowledge the goodness of spiritually or morally good, pious acts, if enough evil is tolerated that even the pious acts become overtly hypocritical:
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's house; all that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished.
12 Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: "I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.
13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.
16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
17 And as for you, if you walk before me, as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances,
18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, 'There shall not fail you a man to rule Israel.'
19 "But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments which I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them,
20 then I will pluck you up from the land which I have given you; and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
21 And at this house, which is exalted, every one passing by will be astonished, and say, 'Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?"
22 Then they will say, 'Because they forsook the LORD the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this evil upon them'"
Proverbs 28:9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
Isaiah 1:4, 11, 13, 15-17
Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged . . . "What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats . . . Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies--I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly . . . When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Isaiah 59:2 . . . your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you so that he does not hear.
Jeremiah 14:12 Though they fast, I will not hear their cry, and though they offer burnt offering and cereal offering, I will not accept them; but I will consume them by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence."
Amos 5:21-24 "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
See also Matthew 23:1-31 (Jesus' condemnation of the "pious hypocrisy" of the Pharisees).The need for self-examination and national repentance in the face of chastisement or judgment (if it is not final judgment) is a strong biblical theme. The sin of murder, and particularly child-killing (abortion), tolerated by a society on a large scale, would seem to be a prominent reason for the judgment of a nation to occur. No nation that legally sanctions murder can be a "righteous nation," according to God (e.g., Lev 18:21; 20:2-3; Ps 9:12; 106:38; Pr 6:16-18; Is 26:21; 59:7; Jer 2:34; 7:6; 19:4; 22:3, 17; 32:35; Ezek 9:9; 16:20-21, 36; 20:31; 22:4; 23:37, 39; 35:6; 36:18; Joel 3:19; Rev 19:2).
Many Christians today apparently think that God no longer judges, or does in a fashion much different than what He did in the Old Covenant. This is simply false, for anyone who accepts the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible in toto. God doesn't change. The short answer to this is found in Jesus' words in His Sermon on the Mount:
Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17, RSV; cf. 5:18-20).Revelation 19:11-16, which speaks of Jesus judging the nations at the end of the current age, should disabuse anyone of the "meek and mild Jesus" stereotype, which is thoroughly unbiblical. Does God not love the countries He judges? Of course He does love them. Likewise, we can love our own country even while believing that it might be ripe for judgment, just as Jeremiah did, just as Jesus did as He wept over Jerusalem:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! . . . . . Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. (Matthew 23:37a,38)To deny that, one would have to believe that Jesus didn't love His country, the Chosen People of Israel, because He pointed out their grievous sins and predicted that their Temple would be destroyed within a generation. Jesus didn't often emphasize all the good things that had occurred in Jerusalem. He dwelt on the bad things (which is the function and purpose of preachers and prophets), thus causing (according to the fashionable psycho-babble of today) irreparable harm to their self-esteem. Jesus spoke of an Israel that featured prophet-killing, hardness of heart, money-making in the Temple, hyper-legalism, and nationalistic pride. As He said, He "came not for the righteous, but for sinners."
God judges. He has the power of life and death in His hands. Jesus implied that Israel was to be judged because of its disobedience. The Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Now, according to the reasoning of some, it would then follow that Jesus must have positively willed this destruction, and that the Roman troops were therefore "good guys." But this simply doesn't follow. God doesn't positively decree evil. He cannot do so. Such a view is rank blasphemy. He merely uses it for His ends.
Evil is evil. How could God have used Judas to betray His own Son? How could He have devised the plan of redemption whereby the Crucifixion occurred at the hand of evil men? The Roman Emperor Nero was not exactly a Boy Scout troop leader. Plenty of Christians died under him, and this was God's plan, too, because martyrs' blood is the seed of the growth of the Church. The Assyrians or the Babylonians (or for that matter, the Nazis and Communists) are no less evil than any agents of judgment today that God might use (in the sense of passively permitting the evil they devise). God used all these stooges and buffoons as shadows in the "screen" of history, in His Providence.
People tend to see the situation they themselves are in as intrinsically different because they are in the midst of it, and often, still grieving and suffering from it. We should no more expect a people to see the overall picture of what may be happening to them, than we would expect Job to understand his sufferings while they happened, or the disciples to understand the Cross while it was happening. Job never was told why he suffered so much. He was told to trust God, who set the universe in motion, etc. All we can go by in such a matter is biblical revelation, example, and precedent.
Again, evil is evil. If one mortal sin can send a person to hell, then there is a limit to how much we can quantify the degree of evil. There are exceptionally, diabolically, demonically evil acts (such as the Nazi Holocaust, or acts of terrorism) and institutionalized evils such as abortion, slavery, religious persecution, or systematic deprivation and economic oppression. Yet God can and does use all of these to bring about good. The saintly and wise Fr. John A. Hardon (with whom I studied in person) used to say: "Everything, repeat, absolutely EVERYTHING, is part of God's Providence." This is orthodox Christianity, both Catholic and Calvinist.
A fellow Catholic discussed God's Providence on a public discussion list:
A good example of recent times where God has intervened is when the Nazis were invading Russia (USSR)....the Germans were winning the war 'big time'....until the worst winter in 100 years came upon the continent of Europe. The Germans weren't prepared and then they were slaughtered from that point on. Yes, God permitted the Nazis to prevail on the Continent for a while, but he helped destroy them with a very harsh winter.This doesn't have to necessarily be interpreted as a supernatural intervention. It was probably simply a rotten winter in the usual course of nature (in this case, meteorology). God's Providence, however, can operate so that it "conveniently" worked out that this was when the Nazis invaded.
In the same fashion, God "saw to it" that the Spitfire fighter-planes were superior to the German ones in the Battle of Britain, where the Allies destroyed the Nazi planes at a 4-to-1 ratio and thus were victorious. History is filled with such examples of good "luck".
Whatever God did in His Providence in the course of World War II, however, it remains true that Britain could have easily prevented the tragic conflict in the 1930s, but they were Utopian socialist head-in-the-sand wimps in those years, and wouldn't listen to "warmonger" Churchill. So whenever I hear the lament "How could God allow the Holocaust?," I always say, "how could England [i.e., men, not God] have been so blind as to not see what was happening, after Hitler came to power?"
Finally, it is almost inconceivable to imagine an official Catholic teaching, declaring that such-and-such an act against nation X or individual Y unquestionably constituted divine wrath, judgment, or chastisement. The Church doesn't even declare that any given individual is in hell (not even Judas). Catholics don't even believe in the absolute assurance of personal salvation, let alone thinking that we know for sure that God is judging in any particular context. In that sense, judgment is similar to the fulfillment of prophecy. As with the judgment of nations, it is a very tricky business indeed to determine if it is actually taking place in any given circumstance.
Furthermore, she noted that the sheik who is in jail for planning the World Trade Center bombing of 1993 was the same man who ordered her husband to be killed. Yet he was allowed into the US, and was issued a "green card." Would that not suggest some complacency and senseless irresponsibility of the US in this regard? But that is also quite unpopular to state, because (as a Rabbi I cited above noted), victims are always regarded as inherently righteous.
Just because one may make a case that America may have precipitated some of the atmosphere in which terrorism has flourished, by some unjust and unwise policies, does not mean that the one saying that is trying to justify the terrorists, or claim deliberate malicious intent of American policy. All it means is that - in any realistic social/cultural view - there are precipitating causes and remote causes that can lead to ill societal results and effects.
E.g., the Great Society and War on Poverty and Affirmative Action and all the well-intentioned policies of LBJ and the liberals in the 60s, have had a disastrous effect, helping to almost destroy the black family and the black communities. It was a failed, wrong-headed, immoral policy from the beginning. But it takes a near-decimation of traditional family values for people to finally wake up and see what ruinous damage these policies have wrought. That does not mean that they intended this outcome at all. What it means is that they were ignorant, utterly shortsighted, and unable to admit that the policy was an abysmal failure, once that was clear for one and all to see (no later than the mid-70s, I would say).
I was considered an outrageously controversial racist among some black people I discussed this with 15 years ago (I couldn't possibly understand, being a white guy, and so forth). Now that black leaders are saying it all the time (the Million Man March, etc.), it is quite a respectable and fashionable position. I guess it takes about 20 years for a society to see the obvious, when it doesn't want to see or admit something.
Likewise, because we fought Iraq and Saddam Hussein, apparently we can't comprehend any unjust policy on our part towards the people of that country, who have been treated far more dreadfully by their own leader than he ever treated us. He is the embodiment of evil, so we don't care that a million of his people (many of them children) starve to death or die because of inadequate medical care. Nor do we seem to realize how that would make us look in the eyes of Arabs otherwise inclined to support our efforts in the war against extremism and terrorism among their ranks. So we help to create our own problems, to some extent.
One can look at facts from simply a Catholic perspective, without the right-left cliches and supposed ironclad positions entering in. This is one of the many marvelous attributes of the Catholic Church that I so admire and thank God for. It simply follows the paths of truth and justice, with no regard whatever for the opinions of polls and editorial pages.
The legal structures (i.e., laws) of a nation are most important because they are a reflection of what a nation tolerates; what it will allow to possess legal sanction, which has almost taken the place of theological or ecclesiastical sanction (the ultimate bases of law, along with natural law). The objective criteria of religiosity would be identifiable sociologically in demographic and polling data.
The US has been far more religious on this basis than Europe, with the possible exception of Ireland. Many nations in Africa are far more "Christian" in outlook than we are. But I have always agreed that it is ultimately a very subjective enterprise, known in its completeness only to God, just as are questions, e.g., of who is (or will be) saved, who is in the elect, and so forth. Likewise with nations. It is very difficult to say for sure, and I have been careful not to positively assert (as to judgment or chastisement).
Spirituality or "discerning the signs of the times" is never an exact science. That doesn't make it less potentially or actually true. It just can't be viewed epistemologically in the same way that more exact forms of knowledge like natural science or engineering or geometry can be. That said, I think it is far more than "gut-level" though. The objective basis of my viewpoint on the judgment of nations is found in Holy Scripture, whose teachings are quite objectively discernible, even while not all that easy to apply to the particulars of concrete history and current-day events.
In any case, it is far more biblically correct to say that God still judges nations and to speculate (with all due self-reflection and willingness to repent) on which nations might be so liable, than to deny that God still does this (with little or no biblical basis) and to say it is illegitimate to talk about at all, simply because we can't achieve philosophical certainty of the highest order (which can't be attained in most fields of inquiry, anyway). Therefore, I think this line of thought leads to a rhetorical and philosophical dead-end.
This undue demand for certainty is a hallmark of secularist, post-Enlightenment thought. It is not (strictly speaking) a biblical (Hebrew, Semitic) mode of thinking, which is, rather, far more practical and concerned with concrete obedience to God and justice and charity, than with abstract philosophical questions. We are all influenced by many things, and Lord knows, any educated person has been bombarded with secularist modes of thought and theorizing.
The rejection of an undue demand for certainty does not mean that the discussion therefore descends to a mere "gut-level" subjectivism, akin to the classic example of the Mormon "burning in the bosom." And that is because Scripture speaks to the issue fairly clearly. My analysis is based on both that and sociologically-determined "facts" as to the level of stated adherence to Christian or traditional moral teaching.
Instances of God's mercy do not mean that He can't execute "strict" or "severe" justice (from a purely human standpoint) in other instances. We know from revelation that He does do so, so one exception to the rule (I've seen this reasoning often used with regard to possible judgment of America) is not conclusive in and of itself.
These are very deep, complex subjects, and people come up with all sorts of warped understandings of God and how He operates. The very fact that God is always blamed for every catastrophe proves that the rebellion potentially inside all of us, and original sin, give us a cast of mind which always seeks to blame God first, rather than look at ourselves.
It is undeniable that more knowledge creates more culpability, per the explicit words of Jesus. We make this distinction as Catholics concerning mortal sin. Three things must be present: sufficient knowledge, grave matter, and full consent of the will. So yes, people are less guilty if they don't know something is wrong. Fornication, contraception, or masturbation would be examples today where people are massively ignorant as to the objectively grave sinfulness of these acts. The difference in knowledge means, in Catholic theology, quite possibly a difference between going to heaven and winding up in hell.
But ignorance (or invincible ignorance) itself is a very tricky thing to determine (for us, but not for God). The evil of child-killing, e.g., is, in my firm opinion, very obvious to one and all who know anything about the development of a preborn child. Natural law is sufficient for a person to know the evil of abortion (and, I would argue, fornication and adultery and sodomy and even - to a somewhat lesser extent - contraception).
I knew what developing fetuses looked like at 9 years old, back in 1967 or whenever the famous Life Magazine article with those incredible, beautiful pictures came out. I knew this even before I learned the facts of life, if I recall correctly. What I didn't know was that these creatures were being legally slaughtered. I thought abortion involved putting away a few cells, which were not yet human (as one would expect from a product of our secular schools and media and the radical feminism of that era, and before having been exposed to any great amount of traditional Christian thought).
It is very difficult to be that ignorant today, unless one chooses to deliberately ignore the issue out of convenience or fear of what one might find out. And that degree of deliberate ignorance or refusal to attain knowledge would itself be culpable. But the evil of abortion itself is obvious. It is obvious to 8 out of 10 women who refuse to abort upon hearing the heartbeat of their child, etc. And this guilt applies whether a nation as a whole has received revelation or not, being part of natural law.
I don't claim to understand why certain nations seemingly worthy of judgment have been spared (including my own). I can imagine, however, any number of reasons why they might be spared, in theory, in "God's mind." E.g., they might be needed to judge other, more wicked nations, or someone might be born there who would cure cancer, or help cause a revival which would have far-reaching, positive consequences (a guy like John Wesley). Only God sees all things, and the whole of history, being out of time.
My "thesis" is not intended as an instance of the philosophy of history. It is much more so an attempted application of biblical theology to nations, with particular emphasis on the example of ancient Israel. It is not in any way, shape, or form, an elaborate, sophisticated historical theory such as Cardinal Newman's development of doctrine, and suchlike. I'm simply trying to grapple with the biblical data and anomalies such as a country like ours - admirable in so many ways - which can live with 44 million deliberately-inflicted executions, while mourning, weeping and wailing and achieving extraordinary unity over some 7000 deliberately-inflicted executions.
The current casualties are a mere 0.000159% of the legal deaths in America at the hand of abortionist "doctors." Yet we as a nation have a hundred, a thousand times more grief over that than we do about the mountains of dead babies, now over seven times as large as the number of Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust. We look down our noses at the terrorists, who deny the "sanctity of life" (as if we don't, as a society). We despise Hitler, while we have murdered five, six, seven times more than he did (depending on how the casualties of WW II are figured in).
We are even approaching Mao's estimated 60 million murders of his own people. He killed his own without Christ and Christian revelation. We kill ours with those spiritual benefits. We even allow mothers to kill their own children. God help us. This is the sort of utter, abominable moral hypocrisy that I have been trying to point out. I know it is difficult to see, but it is undeniable.
"Religiosity" in a demographic or sociological sense can be discussed, but we can never make any sort of compelling determination as to exactly how "wicked" a nation is, or if in fact it is being judged. What we can do is say that a nation has institutionalized evil, and to that extent it is clearly liable to divine judgment, based on its espousal of that which is against God and therefore (by that fact alone) worthy of judgment (whether said nation possesses revelation or not: because natural law and the conscience of persons made in the image of God exist universally). Stated another way, such institutionalized, legalized evil endangers the nation which espouses it, subjecting it to quite possible judgment or chastisement (based on the clear biblical data).
I shall now re-state my "thesis on judgment" briefly and more precisely, and draw some additional distinctions which might be helpful to promote further discussion and thought on this issue:
1. Significant amounts of institutionalized evils or illegitimate, immoral social norms in a nation/society (whether "Christian" or pagan) render it worthy of judgment, according to biblical teaching. Nations which possess relatively more revelation and reject it, will tend to be more spiritually hypocritical and rebellious in degree (thus more worthy of judgment, according to "to whom much is given, much is required") than nations not possessing revelation which also have institutionalized evil and illegitimate, immoral social norms, though there may be exceptions to the rule in the case of extraordinarily wicked nations which had never been Christianized or "Judaized."
2. Being worthy of judgment is determined by lack of adherence to biblical and natural law morality, whereas a possible scenario of being in fact judged by God cannot be determined with certainty, since many other factors with regard to Providence and the "timing" of God's actions must be taken into account, and man doesn't have enough information to render such a conclusion beyond all doubt (and no biblical information, excepting some extraordinarily clear prophecies).
3. Given #1 and #2, it is altogether permissible and proper to believe that it is plausible or possible that a given nation is in fact being judged or chastised, based on its disobedience to moral law and/or spiritual hypocrisy (which God clearly disapproves of in the strongest terms in Scripture).
4. Repentance on an individual level and in a corporate sense (e.g., as the Ninevites did in response to Jonah) is consistent with either an acceptance of moral failure, based on #1, or belief that judgment may in fact be taking place, as in #3, or both. Belief that judgment is indeed occurring (like a belief that the End of the Age or the Second Coming is near) often produces deep repentance among those in the society who are still spiritually "reachable." Even if that belief is mistaken, the repentance based wholly or in part on that belief is still a positive social good. And of course it is good (at all times) for a nation to examine itself and its laws and norms and moral teachings. History teaches us that this usually doesn't happen unless and until some serious calamity occurs.
Addendum: One might also possibly argue (I'm basically thinking out loud and exploring this notion) that since whole nations do not usually repent unless serious calamities occur (and/or revivals), that therefore, the presence of widespread repentance and self-examination might be taken as evidence (given what history teaches us) that indeed judgment or revival had occurred. The purpose of judgment (unless it is final) is to purify a nation, so increasing moral purity in turn might lead one to reasonably suspect that the judgment that usually produces it was present."Discerning the signs of the times" is a quite-biblical notion, right from the lips of Jesus (Matthew 16:3; "interpret..." in RSV). Following that, He said:
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign [the Pharisees had asked for a "sign from heaven" - Mt 16:1], but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. (Matthew 16:4a; RSV)So He thought that the Resurrection was sufficient proof, but of course it was not for many people (see Luke 16:30-31), and it continues to be argued against on hyper-rationalistic and skeptical grounds to this day. All we need to know in order to repent and reform is that we are in disobedience to Scripture (if a Christian nation) or natural law (if a pagan nation).
We certainly can know what nations are particularly worthy of judgment, based on their sins. America is worthy, I have little or no doubt, based on legal abortion alone, as well as a host of other evils, including soon-to-be-institutionalized homosexuality (which reminds me just a wee bit of Sodom and Gomorrah). Does this prove therefore that September 11th was in fact divine judgment? No, not at all. Yet a belief that it was is not at all implausible or incoherent or impermissible, given the biblical data on the topic.
One taking a contrary position would be forced (by logic) to state dogmatically that it was definitely NOT a divine judgment (or explain why 44 million legal slaughters of children are assuredly not worthy of judgment, if one holds that America is not worthy of judgment), and I think that is far more problematic than even a hasty positive assertion - much more controversial - biblically-speaking - than Rev. Falwell's remarks, for which he was excoriated, tarred and feathered . On the other hand, if one refrains from stating an absolute denial that it was judgment, then it follows that they can't logically object to a position (my own) maintaining that judgment/chastisement was merely a possible interpretation of the events, based on clear biblical teaching and precedent.
If we know "what" makes a nation worthy of judgment (immorality), then we can know "which" nation is worthy, at least on a purely objective basis (as we know, the subjective element of culpability is another issue), based on what it is doing. Surely, abortion in this day and age is a deliberate act of savagery, which is inexcusable for all but the most ignorant, head-in-the-sand dolts or the most temporarily-insane due to stress or whatever, and therefore a sin sufficiently serious to make a nation which permits, extolls, and sanctions it worthy of divine judgment, per the many biblical passages on shedding innocent blood which I have already produced.
Also, God may choose to exercise His mercy at any time, even if a nation is worthy of judgment. He did that with Israel repeatedly; so I believe He continues to do (as He does not change). Determining actuality, on the other hand, is a quite different proposition, due to the complexity of Providence and the place of evil in it. I think it is every bit as hard to determine as fulfilled prophecy, if not more so. Hypocrisy is surely a prominent motif in Scripture, for those who know more of revelation, and it is by no means confined to nations possessing revelation. God is not mocked. The scales will be made right in due course, whether in history or at the end of it.
The Christian must incorporate natural law into his biblical worldview, since it is taught in Scripture itself (notably, in Romans 1 and 2). I have done so, and have always done so. But a Christian cannot use a natural law analysis to the exclusion of a biblical approach. Many Christians appear to be minimizing Scripture (in effect) at every turn, when it comes to the discussion of America possibly being judged. They act as if not knowing the EXACT level of hypocrisy of a culture or person somehow overturns the undeniable maxim "to whom much is given, much is required" or liability to judgment. It does not.
We have more than enough scriptural data to ponder the question of possible judgment, as a function of Jesus being Lord of all of life (including geo-politics, ethics, and history). Doing so fosters more awareness and the need for repentance and continual reformation and revival (the three R's). For heaven's sake: ancient Israel committed far less heinous sins than we have, it seems to me, and the prophets railed endlessly to her about it (and were, of course, despised as naysayers and unpatriotic for doing so).
But in this day and age, the "prophetic function" (i.e., speaking in the same sorts of ways that prophets spoke, as opposed to, e.g., a "pastoral mode") or what might be called "speaking truth to power" seems to have become so unfashionable that even hinting at such a thing is considered abominable (rather than the sins themselves). Yet I have heard Scott Hahn refer to the statement by Ruth Bell Graham that "if America isn't judged, God will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah." I've now heard Karl Keating and Mother Angelica and Johnette Benkovic talk about the possibility of judgment here, and the need to repent. The prominent evangelical magazine Christianity Today published a similar article by Frederica Mathewes-Green, a well-known Orthodox writer and pro-life activist.
Such a position is far more legitimate and respectable than Falwell's hated and flawed exposition of it. If one wishes to quibble with a person stating that September 11th was "definitely" a judgment, I can see that, but to not even allow one to believe it is a plausible possibility: that I can't comprehend. Nor do I accept the proposition made by some Christians that God no longer judges, and has changed somewhere in the period between the Old and New Testaments.
Jerry Falwell is regarded as the most intolerable, dogmatic, arrogant hypocrite of all time while the sins he opposed so clumsily are winked at and ignored. We don't dare mention abortion in a public, national context, because there is too much division, and it is impolite and uncouth to do so. Even Billy Graham wouldn't dare do that - not in a setting which isn't merely the Christian cultural ghetto (like one of his crusades). George Bush certainly won't. After all, his wife and mother and sister (so I hear) are all pro-aborts. But the pope does so. He opposed Clinton to his face. Mother Teresa did so whenever she pleased, at the United Nations and other secular settings.
We are already far beyond worthiness for judgment, as far as I am concerned. What does it take (I ask anyone who denies this)? I haven't seen anyone who denies this possibility arguing as to how 44 million savage executions of children are somehow not serious enough to merit judgment. Would 100 million be? Would one billion? Or maybe blowing up the whole earth and killing 7 billion or whatever it is now? We rightly detest the evil of 6 million Jews being killed in the Holocaust . . .
Obviously, little people are placed out of the category of people (even by many Jews, who ought to know better, one would think), just as blacks and Indians and Jews and other groups were placed historically. Otherwise, our culture wouldn't think in these radically contradictory and absurd terms.I think it is reasonable and permissible and helpful to make a determination that a particular instance may in fact be God's judgment. That follows by adherence to the Bible, which refers to such events in no uncertain terms. If it was so unimportant, then why is it so stressed in Scripture? So I'm simply trying to approach this biblically, and no one can disabuse me of this desire of mine by arguing with abstract philosophy and doing epistemology. One has to show me how I am mis-applying the Scripture I claim has relevance to the issue at hand.