And often enough (and what I believe we've experienced) He installs wicked rulers, in part, as a judgment for the sinful acts of a nation (Prv. 16:4; cf. Judg. 2:11-15). Of course, thankfully, in His mercy He relents from judgment when a nation collectively repents (Jon. 1:2, 3:10; cf. 2 Chron. 7:14; Dan. 9:1-19). That's something to which we ought to pay great attention in our lives today!
Repentance is still an option; and a viable one at that!
But what of what kind of repentance are we speaking? And how do we go about doing it?
God has used the top-down approach before: see the history of Israel in the books of Kings and Chronicles for how God judged and relented from judgment based, in part, on the acts of the civil leadership. And He's also sovereignly seen to it that at times there is massive revival in nations from the least to the greatest all at the same time (Jon. 3:10).
However, while He is free to get a nation to repent in however He chooses, for us I think it's pertinent to see the prescriptive instructions of Scriptures regarding the building up of a nation and the repenting and rebuilding of a nation.
Biblical Instruction on Building a Nation
What was God's original blueprint for setting up a righteous society? It's found early in Scripture:
4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
There are three basic pillars here upon which a righteous society is to be built:
And this seems pretty clear. Individuals have a personal, saving knowledge of and relationship to the living, Creator-Redeemer God. They then instruct their families, and grow His kingdom in that way. And as the Kingdom grows, parents and children are instructed to apply His word in everything - not just the household ("doorposts of your house"), but also to their local communities ("You shall write them...on your gates").
It's no wonder that if and when societies do this, they will become the envy of surrounding peoples:
"Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?" (Deut. 4:6-8).
Of course, we know the history of Israel and that they did not keep His law as He commanded it. So then what happens next?
As to be expected: judgment. And with that, a call for repentance and rebuilding.
Biblical Instruction for Re-Building a Nation
We shouldn't be surprised to find the blueprint of rebuilding that different from building the original. The steps are pretty much the same: self -> family -> society.
This is summed up pretty well with Ezra's own life while rebuilding the nation of Israel after their return from exile:
For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
In setting his heart to study the Law of God, his first application was for himself to do it. It was only after applying it to himself that he sought to preach it to the societies around him.
Now, from the Biblical data, it seems he didn't have children to whom he could teach it; but as we can see in other places, seeing to it that God's word was being applied first and foremost in family settings was of utmost importance, for him and Nehemiah (Ez. 10:1-4, 5; Neh. 12:23-27).
And let's not forget the ministry of John the Baptist, also in a place of rebuilding a nation: he preached personal repentance (Lk. 3:7-14), family repentance (Mal. 4:5, 6; cf. Lk. 1:17), which then, in part, led to national repentance (Lk. 3:4-6; cf. Isa. 40:3-5, 42:16, 52:10; Acts 2:36-41).
The pattern is the same. If we want to see our nation repent, then it first starts with our own personal repentance, our commitment to discipleship in the family and our family's repentance, and then applying God's Word to the rest of society and seeing society as a whole repent and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Point(s) of Application
It's very easy to be upset with the ungodly state of our nation. I mean, it really is. We, by government approval (and even, horrifyingly, funding) murder around 3,000 innocent lives a day. Can you pause to let that sink in for a moment? 3,000 innocent lives are being murdered - each day - by our government approval and partial funding (this is far worse than Hitler's holocaust).
The country's civil government has become very corrupt in its statist and socialist practices. The rule of law does not apply - whether at the head of state level when the Secretary of State does not have to answer to or be held accountable for her illegal actions, to the local level of corrupt policemen being able to brutally murder innocent men with little or no punishment or accountability. And we don't have time to list the terrible policies of wealth redistribution and public funding of government schools meant to indoctrinate our children in these very same statist and socialist principles.
But what is our action for this? Vote for the one who we think will reverse it all in November? That hasn't yet worked in our history; and I don't see it happening in our near future (though I believe God can do it).
It's true, godly leaders can have a great effect in curbing evil and restraining certain heinous sins that are also crimes. And as I've said before, I do think we need to try to be thoughtful in voting for who we think would be most beneficial for our families, cities, states, and nation (Jer. 29:4-7). But the blueprint seen in Scripture for national repentance seems to be first and foremost personal repentance, family repentance and discipleship, then - as an application of the first two - societal or national repentance.
That actually is the call of the great commission, after all (Mt. 28:18-20). Call people to repentance (Acts 2:38ff, 3:19ff, 17:30, 31), which involves their whole families (Acts 2:39, 16:30, 31), and has as its goal all nations (Mt. 28:19, 20; Lk. 24:47).
We absolutely need to be holding our civil leaders accountable to God's standard for civil justice. We need to hold them accountable to what they've promised in their campaigns that aligns with God's Word, and challenge them on whatever points their philosophy departs from God's Word.
We need to do that!
But more to the point, we, as the body of Christ also need to clean up our own act as the first step. We need to ensure we're following Christ's commands in our own lives, in the lives of our families, and in the lives of our churches before we start lambasting our civil government. Obviously we won't be sinless in this life (Rom. 8:23-25; 1 Jn. 1:8, 10); but Jesus used the moral high ground approach for a reason - it's effective (Jn. 8:46)!
We can't be the "experts" in morality and call our civil government to conform to God's standards while we excel in personal sin and lack discipline in our own family and church governments. If we want a platform from which to cry out against the evils of our civil government, then we need, by the power of God's Spirit, to live lives of personal and family and church holiness.
I'm not going to get into specific sins here. Each one of us has their own battles. And again, I know we're not going to be perfect (nor have a perfect civil government) this side of glory. However, while we engage the civil government in taking them to task with the standard of God's Word, we must of priority remember that it is our first obligation to seek to follow Him (by His power) in our own personal lives, in our family lives, and in the life of our churches. And it is from that platform that we will be able to more effectively call our nation, as a nation, to repentance.
Some questions to ask yourself when seeing the outcomes of the party conventions and going to the ballot box this November:
These are just a few questions to ask. Something to remember though, assumed in the questions, is that part of our personal (and family, and societal) repentance is not to simply cast your vote in November; but it's to hold your civil (and religious) leaders accountable throughout the years. But that starts with holding ourselves accountable and living a fruitful life of repentance (Mt. 3:8).
In short, if we truly want to "Make America Great Again" we need to start by making our personal lives, our families, and our churches great again - through the power of the Holy Spirit - and from that foundation, permeate society with the glory of the gospel of God, calling all people to a lifestyle of submission to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life.
May God bless us in this endeavor!