If we are in the inception of judgment here in America, well, why is that?
The Bible affirms that the Father shall not be put to death for their children, nor shall children be put to death for their fathers. I have always read that and still kinda wondered then why often in the Old Testament God seemed to do just the opposite? He would often say because you have humbled yourself I will not bring about the calamity I have spoken upon you, but upon I will upon your children’s house? What? how does that work? Didn’t he promise people will only die for their own sins? (Deut 24:16)
Well in reading through the Old Testament again I recognize that this has more to do with the idea of iniquity. God may not directly punish someone for someone else’s sin, but sin has consequences that may carry over. Sometimes there is a lasting iniquity. God himself told us in Exodus 34 when he describes himself that while he is gracious and merciful, he does not overlook the guilty and sometimes the effect carries over into others. He says he will visit the iniquity upon the later generations.
Generations not directly responsible for the trespass may very much still experience the loss of favor from God while they enter into their own sins. God will not treat everybody the same. Iniquity is a twisting of what is right. It is like a qualifier for the sin. It is like a twisted and bent old barbed wire nearly impossible to untangle. It only cuts and tears when you get close to it. You could say it is adjective for sin. The sin grows like a thorn-bush or a vine entangling everything until it is covered and passage is restricted. We see this carried out time and time again in Kings and Chronicles. Evil kings reign because a wicked father ruled and enticed the people to sin, so another wicked man rises from the example and the iniquity grows. The people get farther from God as a result.
In a sense God allows a lack of justice to dwell in the land as consequences of sin, even long dead sin. This distortion affects the sin and things grow worse. This may call into question God’s justice but only for a minute. We need to understand that he is still ready to show compassion and mercy to those who turn to him. But our sin does sway the air of the day. We make it harder on ourselves, but God still wants us to return to him even under a sticker hand, in fact it is the very purpose of it.
This is what Saul experienced from God. The book of 1 Chronicles 17: 13 records God speaking through the prophet Nathan to David that he will not remove his mercy from him as he did to Saul. This is a hard truth, but this is why in the new covenant God has placed the very law within out hearts. We have access to the restoration. The passage to the King of Kings even if the king of the land is enticing the people into sin. Even if our leaders are blinded by corruption, even if our country seeks its morality from a garbage heap, even if people would rather celebrate sin rather than righteousness, God is near.
Are we in America experiencing iniquity? I would say very much so. It is not that God has withdrawn from the land but he has allowed the removal of his favor and even visible justice as consequences for sin; the sin snowballs. This is very much a biblical pattern. The question is what do the people in the land do? Do they join with the wicked king and offer in the high places and run after Molec and Baal or do we fall on our knees and cry to God and remain as a remnant?
This is what Ezekiel 18 is all about. Even though there is iniquity in the land. Even though it seems like more and more people are falling for sin and the temptation to stay out of it grows more difficult each day. God still says it is possible to “withhold your hand from iniquity” (verse 17) and if so:
21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23 Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
This is always the choice we have. Sometimes God allows the people to experience judgment so that they will return to him. God wants to know if we hold his name in awe.
This is what David reflects on in Psalm 32. He sings about seeking forgiveness for what is traditionally considered his response to sinning with Bathsheba. He knows he has sinned and he is in the results of iniquity. He outright says blessed is the man who the Lord does not impute iniquity upon. In a sense he describes the effects of iniquity as God’s hand being heavy upon him, he was not in God’s favor. His vitality was turned into drought. He says he did not hide that fact that he was experiencing the iniquity and thus he confessed his sin and Lord forgave him.
David admits though, that because of the weight of iniquity it was hard to come near to the Lord, he calls it the distance of the great waters. So he reminds us to make sure to draw near to the Lord when he may be found. When one is still in his favor. He ends the Psalm saying that many sorrows shall be with the wicked as they live under the burden of iniquity but those who trust in God will receive mercy. The obvious interpretation is respond to the heavy hand and seek forgiveness as David did.
Iniquity has spread over the land. The sin of the people is twisted and continues to barrel ahead into what could be described as a godless America. But when we look around and see the high places where we give sacrifice, the idolatry, the evil shepherds, the immorality in the land we should recognize that God is yet not far off. There is mercy to be found if the people would only go on the hunt for it.
So go on the hunt for it.