Eze. 14:13 Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it:
Eze. 14:14 Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.
In this scripture God is citing Daniel as a paragon of righteousness. He is placed in very exclusive company. Yet look at the prayer Daniel prayed in Daniel chapter 9:
Dan. 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans
Dan. 9:2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Dan. 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
Dan. 9:4 And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, 0 Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;
Dan. 9:5 We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:
Dan. 9:6 Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
Dan. 9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee.
Dan. 9:8 O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.
Dan. 9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him;
Dan. 9:10 Neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Dan. 9:11 Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him.
Dan. 9:12 And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem.
Dan. 9:13 As is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.
Dan. 9:14 Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice.
Dan. 9:15 And now, 0 Lord our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly.
Dan. 9:16 O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people a reproach to all about us.
Note that in Eze. 14 God identifies Daniel as a paragon of righteousness. Then how are we to understand all of the sins he shoulders in his prayer in Daniel 9? We understand that the Bible teaches that we're all sinners, but as we read Daniel's confession we recognize that the things he says go far beyond a general acknowledgement of human depravity. For instance, he confesses not having hearkened to the prophets, but we know this was not true of him personally. In fact, the thing that drove him to this prayer was reading Jeremiah. Similarly, in v.13 he confesses having failed to pray, but we know from Daniel 6 that he got thrown into the lion's den for praying. The conclusion is nigh inescapable that he is not so much confessing his own sins as he is shouldering the national sins as his own. DO we do that? SHOULD we do that? Let's look at some other scriptures.
Hezekiah was, by any measure, one of the three most righteous kings to ever rule in Judah. But at the tender age of 39 the prophet Isaiah brought him word from the Lord that he should set his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah was devastated and pled with God. In response to his prayers God said he would add 15 to his life. That prayer may have been the worst mistake Hezekiah had ever made because in the third year of that life extension he sired the worst king Judah ever had, Manasseh.
II Chron. 33: 1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem:
II Chron. 33:2 But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
II Chron. 33:3 For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.
II Chron. 33:4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever.
II Chron. 33:5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD.
II Chron. 33:6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.
II Chron.33:7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:
II Chron. 33:8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.
II Chron. 33:9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
II Chron. 33:10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.
II Chron. 33:11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon.
II Chron. 33:12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers,
II Chron. 33:13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.
II Chron. 33:14 Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah.
II Chron. 33:15 And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and a the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city.
II Chron. 33:16 And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel.
II Chron. 33:17: Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only.
II Chron. 33: 18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they in the book of the kings of Israel.
II Chron. 33:19 His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they (Ire written among the sayings of the seers.
II Chron. 33:20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house
There are so many important things that we could say about this scripture and the history that surrounds it, but we will attempt to stay with the topic tonight. Long after the northern kingdom of Israel had fallen under the judgment of God at the hand of Assyria, Judah, the southern kingdom continued as a free kingdom. When Assyria tried to extend their list of conquests to include Jerusalem they suffered a crushing defeat at the hand of God's angel Himself. This occurred during the reign of Hezekiah. Yet what Assyria could not accomplish by conquest, Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, "accomplished" by idolatry. He brought the irrevocable judgment of God on Judah. Notice that every sin enumerated for Manasseh had to do with false worship and neglect of the true God.
In the passage we have just read we saw the deep repentance of Manasseh after God humbled him, but it was not enough to reverse the mandate of God. We saw last week how Manasseh's grandson, Josiah, sought wholeheartedly to turn Judah back to God and, at least from an external viewpoint, it seemed he succeeded. Yet all he really succeeded in doing was deferring the judgment of God for a few more years. In the eyes of God the sins of the leaders of the nation were attributed to all the people of the nation. Note how God directly attributes the judgment on Judah to the sins of Manasseh in this passage from Jeremiah:
Jer. 15:1 Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.
Jer. 15:2 And it shall come to pass, if they say unto thee, Whither shall we go forth? then thou shalt tell them, Thus saith the LORD; Such as are for death, to death; and such as for the sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and such as for the captivity, to the captivity.
Jer. 15:3 And I will appoint over them four kinds, saith the LORD: the sword to slay, and the dogs to tear, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the earth, to devour and destroy.
Jer. 15:4 And I will cause them to be removed into all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah king of Judah, for that which he did in Jerusalem.
We may be inclined to think this is pretty severe of God to not forgive and allow massive deaths and worse in Judah for their idolatry - especially after their repentance. There are three biblical responses to that:
1. God is not overreacting to idolatry, but we under-weigh its seriousness. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He said “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 22:36-38) If this is the first and greatest commandment, then breach of it has to be the greatest sin. How many people today consider that failure to love the LORD is the greatest sin of which man is capable?
2. A study of the rest of Jeremiah will show that the promised judgment on Judah has two other causes - violations of the Sabbath rest of the land for 490 years and massive social injustice. And contrary to the socialist dreams of most world leaders today, social injustice does not consist of some people having more money than others. This is not to deny the biblical exhortation that we share with those in need. That’s what charity is. There are three differences between charity and socialist welfarism:
a. For the giver: Supplying the needs of others in the NAME of the Lord and in OBEDIENCE to the Lord brings the REWARD of the Lord. (Mark 9:41) Goods exacted from you by government for redistribution to others garner no reward for the “giver”.
b. For the recipient: Benefits received through the charity of others reinforce the recipient’s sense of self-worth as an individual as well as providing motivation for advancing beyond his dependent state. By contrast, welfarism destroys incentive in the recipient, fosters an entitlement mentality and suppresses individual initiative.
c. For the politicians who mandate welfarism: They create a class of people who can generally be counted to support the politicians who have made them publicly supported serfs. For this reason these same politicians can be counted on to misrepresent biblical charity as demeaning to the recipient.
3· As we read onward in this Jeremiah passage we read in v. 5-7 "For who shall have pity upon thee, O Jerusalem? or who shall bemoan thee? or who shall go aside to ask how thou doest? Thou hast forsaken me, saith the LORD, thou art gone backward: therefore will I stretch out my hand against thee, and destroy thee; I am weary with repenting. And I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land; I will bereave them of children, I will destroy my people, since they return not from their ways.” This passage suggests that although the people will suffer for the sins of the king, they are also suffering for their own national sins. We shall examine the ramifications of this in greater detail. For now we just note that the implications of this principle are not those that will conduce to your winning friends and influencing people. The idea that God holds a people are responsible for the sins of their leaders is not a message that even Bible-believing folks want to hear.
Let us see a third scriptural illustration of this principle.
I Chron. 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.
I Chron. 21:2 And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know .
I Chron. 21::3 And Joab answered, The LORD make his people an hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
I Chron. 21:4 Nevertheless the king's word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem.
I Chron. 21:5 And Joab gave the sum of the number ofthe people unto David. And all they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword: and Judah four hundred threescore and ten thousand men that drew sword.
I Chron. 21:6 But Levi and Benjamin counted he not among them: for the king's word was abominable to Joab.
I Chron. 21:7 And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel.
I Chron. 21:8 And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly.
I Chron. 21:9 And the LORD spake unto Gad, David's seer, saying,
I Chron. 21:10 Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do unto thee.
I Chron. 21:11 So Gad came to David, and said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Choose thee
I Chron. 21:12 Either three years' famine; or three months to be destroyed before thy foes, while the the sword of thine enemies overtaketh , or else three days the sword of the LORD, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel. Now therefore advise thyself what word I shall bring again to him that sent me.
21:13 And David said unto Gad, I am in a great strait: let me fall now into the hand of the LORD; for very great his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man.
I Chron. 21:14 So the LORD sent pestilence upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.
We may well wonder what was wrong with David ordering a census of Israel. In Gen. 22:17 we see God promising Abraham that his descendents would be as numerous as the sand grains of the sea. Although the Bible does not record God repeating this promise to Jacob, He apparently did so because Jacob says so in Gen. 32:12.
It would be humanly impossible to count all of the grains of sand on the seashores of the world - the more so since the number changes every second of every day. So God was effectively saying that it would be impossible to count the seed of Jacob but David said "I'll count them." It was rebellion. Even Joab, certainly not a righteous man, first remonstrated and then rebelled against this ungodly decree of David’s.
When Gad came with God’s message for David he gave him a choice of one of three punishments. Two of the three would directly punish the whole population for David’s sin – the famine or the pestilence. Fleeing before his enemies would not directly do so, but might do so indirectly. As we saw later in his career when David fled from Absalom another sought to seize the throne. David's choice of punishment was not made by considering its effect on the people, but on his desire to place himself directly into the hands of God. Thus he chose the pestilence and 70,000 of Judah died for their leader’s sin.
In summary, the scripture gives ample reason for believing that God holds a people responsible for the sins of their leader(s). What should be our response to that? There is one answer that is applicable to all people of all nations. We must pray for our leaders. I confess that my reaction to the evils of our government at all levels is to disapprove in every way possible and so attempt to divorce myself from those evils. As we have just seen, this does not work.
· As we pray for our leaders, let us express our sorrow for our national sins – not just those of the leader.
· Since righteousness exalts a nation let us pray for a return to national righteousness – starting with ourselves.
· To exalt a nation in this way is good, but to exalt God is much better. Thus, let us pray for a return to the values that once made our nation (to use the words of Puritan John Winthrop) “a city on a hill”. Winthrop’s concern was not that the people of the world marvel at America but at the God that made it great. He desired that New England should be a beacon to the world showing what a nation governed by God’s Word should be like:
· “…when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations [settlements]: the Lord make it like that of New England: for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world, we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all professors for God’s sake; we shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into Curses upon us till we be consumed out of the good land whether we are going”
No student of the Bible and this nation’s history can deny that the italicized words of Winthrop’s quote are happening before our eyes. May God grant us repentance.