Who Has Heard of Such a Thing?
INTRODUCTION: Interesting passage in Jeremiah this morning. You see, in the ancient world it was unheard of for a people to change gods. Gods tended to be localized and territorial. If you moved from one region to another, you had to find out who the god was when you arrived, and that became your god. An example of this is a conquered people who were resettled into the area of what was once the Northern Kingdom of Israel. They began to worship the local God, named Yahweh or Jehovah, but using the worship techniques they had used with their old god. These people were called Samaritans – you may have heard of them!
The exception to this rule was Israel. Abraham worshiped and served God in Ur of the Chaldeans, in what is present day Iran, moved to Haran (Iraq) then on to Canaan (Israel). His descendants moved to Egypt, where they were enslaved, back to Canaan, were exiled to Babylon, returned to Judah, until they were eventually scattered all over the world. Yet everywhere they went, they took the worship of the one true God with them. From Egypt they called out to God. God called Moses in Midian to deliver His people from Egypt. During the Babylonian captivity one particular Psalm was written, Psalm 137 in our Bibles, saying, “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” Zion, Jerusalem, the place where God’s name dwelt and where He was worshiped. And now, all over the world, the Jews still worship the one and only God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I remember hearing Sammy Davis, Jr., himself having converted to Judaism, tell one time of travelling to Japan and finding a synagogue of Japanese Jews there – his response to them was, “Funny, you don’t look Jewish.”
The point is, from Abraham through the Israelites to the Jews, wherever they have gone, God Almighty was and is their God. “Shama, Israel, Adonai elihenu. Adonai echad.” “Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God. The Lord is one.”
This is what makes this passage so interesting – or perhaps we should say, shocking. The charge that God brings against Judah, all that remains of the Davidic kingdom of Israel, is that they have done what no one in the known world of the time would do: they have changed their God. In particular they were worshipping Baal, the ancient Canaanite bull god. This is idolatry. In fact, this was the very reason the Israelites, when they entered the Promised Land after leaving Egypt were ordered by God to slay all the people of Canaan – so they would not be tempted to worship their false god, Baal.
I. At this point, you might be wondering, what this ancient history has got to do with us? Well, in spite of the current fashion of saying that America is not a Christian nation, in spite of the denials that our founders were people of faith, and in spite of the attempts to remove Christianity from the Constitution, from government, from schools, and from society as a whole, the fact is America was founded by Christians as a Christian nation. That reality is being scrubbed out of text books, ridiculed on college campuses, and attacked by the media.
But John Adams, 2nd President of the U.S. said, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” In 1854 the Congress of the United States stated, “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Patrick Henry, the “Give me liberty or give me death” guy, wrote, “The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.” George Washington, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” And John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration of Independence and a Presbyterian pastor who became the president of Princeton Seminary, said, “[H]e is the best friend to American liberty who is the most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy of God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.” These are just a few of 143 citations from founders, signers of the Declaration of Independence, statesmen, judges, and others in positions of political authority during the first 75 years our nation’s history hat show that America was founded as and intended to be a Christian nation, albeit one that would not force the Christian faith on its citizens. Still, America was supposed to be a bastion of faith, morality, and service to God.
II. But America has done the unthinkable. America has done what Israel did. We have changed our God for that which is not God.
For example, in the new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey of 1,000 Americans, 50 percent cited a commitment to religion as very important; that's down 12 points from 1998. And keep in mind that figure would include not just Christians, but Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and cultists. And a 2017 Barna poll found that only 31% of American adults identified themselves as born again Christians. In 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that only 37% of all Americans attended church on a weekly basis. We, as a people are not worshipping God.
In the area of morality, according to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, national surveys indicate that 35 to 45 percent of married people have had extramarital affairs. As far back as 2006 a study showed that by age 20, 75% of Americans have had premarital sex. That number rises to 95% by age 44.
In an article on “The New American Morality,” Joel Hilliker wrote, “The old, biblically based morality was unchanging and absolute. It emphasized the inviolability of marriage, and the responsibility of parents to teach and train their children. It stressed the sanctity of sex between husband and wife. It instilled respect for authority and duty to country. It encouraged personal virtues like temperance, moderation, sobriety, modesty and thrift.
“The New Morality changes with time: What was once unacceptable may now be encouraged, and what was once tolerated may now be utterly intolerable. It is inconsistent and self-contradictory. It emphasizes the preeminence of the individual, and the importance of personal fulfillment over duty to spouse or offspring. It encourages unrestrained sexual license…. Depending on who is in authority, the New Morality either seeks more-authoritarian control or an overthrow of the entire system; and it considers patriotism akin to tribalism. There are no absolute virtues: Depending on the individual and the circumstances, excess, indulgence, intoxication, arrogance and greed may all be praised as Moral….” We, as a people, are not obeying God.
Nor are we serving God as we ought. Consider these sobering statistics: Church giving is down about 50% since 1990; on the average, Christians give only 2.5% of their income to churches ( and note that during the Great Depression it was 3.3%); people with a salary of less than $20,000 are eight times more likely to give than someone who makes $75,000. Unfortunately, we also see that volunteer rates have been steadily declining for over a decade; from 2005 to 2015 the rate of all volunteerism in the U.S. (not just church) dropped from 29% to 25%. While this might not seem terribly significant, ask those organizations that depend on volunteers to get things done how drastically it impacts their ministries.
III. As I stated earlier, I am afraid that America has done what Israel did in Jeremiah’s time. We have abandoned our God, the one true and living God, in favor of the false gods of money, power, sex, drugs, celebrity, partisanship, hatred, rebellion, and more.
Jeremiah was sent by God to the people of Israel to proclaim impending judgment for their rebellion against Him and their rejection of His Word. I fear that same judgment is coming for America. Ruth Graham once said, “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”  And that was in 1965! My own opinion is that we are already experiencing the judgment of God in America. There is a phrase that keeps popping up in the Bible, especially in the Book of Romans: “God gave them up to….” He gave them up to a debased mind or dishonorable passions or lusts of their hearts or uncleanness or vile affections or to worship creation rather than the Creator. I believe that the very immorality, the turning away from the worship and service of God, the rebellion of young and old alike against God and His standards –this is the beginning of the judgment of God on our nation. He as given us up to these things.
CONCLUSION: There is only one solution to this utter rejection of God and His standards. There is only one way to avoid a total judgment of God against America. Repent and turn back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the founders of this nation, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As believers, we must be a part of that solution. As God told Solomon, “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.” (2 Chron. 7:14) We must repent of the part we have played in the fall on our nation. Also, as we are told in Hebrews, “Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” We must remain faithful to hear and proclaim right teaching, the true Gospel. And just as Paul called upon the Christians of Philippi, saying, “you are all partakers with me of grace … and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:7) We must stand up for the truth, for faith, for the standards of God, and for the Gospel, even in the face of the opposition of the culture around us. Rise up, Christians. Be the men and women God intends us to be.
 Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Washington D. C.: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), Vol. XIII, p. 292-294. In a letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813. Cited on https://wallbuilders.com
 Journal of the House of the Representatives of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Cornelius Wendell, 1855), 34th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 354, January 23, 1856. Cited on https://wallbuilders.com
 Patrick Henry, Patrick Henry: Life, Correspondence and Speeches, William Wirt Henry, editor (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891), Vol. II, p. 592, to Archibald Blair on January 8, 1799. Cited on https://wallbuilders.com
 George Washington, The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778. Cited on https://wallbuilders.com
 Letters of Delegates to Congress: January 1, 1776-May 15, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1978), Vol. 3, pp. 502-503, Oliver Wolcott to Laura Wolcott on April 10, 1776. Cited on https://wallbuilders.com
 Joel Hilliker, The New American Morality, “The Trumpet,” March, 2018, https://www.thetrumpet.com/16859-the-new-american-morality
 Church Giving Statistics, 2019 Edition, https://pushpay.com/blog/church-giving-statistics/
 Tess Srebro, The U.S. Volunteer Rate Is Still Dropping. Why?, https://blogs.volunteermatch.org/engagingvolunteers/2016/03/25/the-u-s-volunteer-rate-is-still-dropping-why/