I try hard not to embrace national pessimism, the polemic attitude that says “the other guys” are ruining the country. I don’t even like to think that our country is beneath the headsman’s axe, beyond all hope. I certainly do not believe that our national morality is at historic lows – that is just a forgetful view of history.
However, like Jeremiah, we do seem to feel a wind blowing, and I pray it is not the wind Jeremiah felt.
At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.” (Jeremiah 4:11-12)
We can benefit as a people from a little hardship, something to remind us to be grateful for what we have and to value what matters most. But what Jeremiah felt was not a winnowing or cleansing wind. That breeze had already passed and been ignored. This was the whirlwind of annihilation. What follows in his description of it is to me the most frightening passage in his entire book of prophecy.
He claims that the Creator would now unmake this nation (Jeremiah 4:22-28).
Why? He does not sugarcoat his accusation.
“For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’–in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.”
Stupid children. For a people who forget how to do good and become wise only in evil, God promises a doom that is best described as a winding back of the week of creation. It is the moral consequence of banishing the Creator and Sustainer of reality from our midst.
The Uncreation Week
I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light.
God once shaped us out of chaos by his Spirit who hovered above the formless waters. If he takes away his life-giving Spirit, chaos would surely return. God once spoke and gave the world light. If he stopped speaking, the heavens would be dark again. Day one, unmade!
I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro.
God once parted the seas and made dry land appear. When we tell him that he is no longer needed, even the earth rebels against our foolishness. Day two, unmade!
I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
Here, the green life that blooms is replaced with barren land, and of course the human cities that live off of nature’s bounty go with it. Day three, unmade!
For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark;
This judgment is cosmic, darkening even the sun, moon, and stars. Day four, unmade!
I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled.
At the end, humanity is no more. Birds flee from the horror. Day five and six, unmade!
Day seven was a day of rest where the Creation would reflect glory to God. When the creation – us – stops reflecting God’s glory, his rest is interrupted and his creative work spoiled. Why would he continue to hold reality together when it no longer accomplishes the task for which he created it?
A Nation Unmade
For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. … For I have spoken; I have purposed; I have not relented, nor will I turn back.”
Clarifying the passage, Jeremiah hears God say that this grim scene is not a “full end.” Lest we be confused, he has been speaking in hyperbole, exaggerating his intent by reminding us of his power. He is still speaking of the unmaking of the nation, not the creation. The God who makes and sustains the universe would have no problem unmaking a nation. And for Judah, that was precisely what he intended to do.
I do not know what God intends for America or for any nation on the earth today, but I know that the nations should never forget the God who graciously allows their very existence, lest we too become a nation unmade.