When we think of Divine chastisements, thoughts often turn to the melodramatic: perhaps a gargantuan earthquake, or volcano, or tsunami-causing asteroid.
That all can occur — and has occurred, to various degrees, in the past. So it shall (and perhaps more so) occur again.
But at the same time, we forget the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 11:
“In return for their senseless, wicked thoughts, which misled them into worshipping dumb serpents and wormless insects, You sent upon them swarms of dumb creatures for vengeance, that they might recognize that a man is punished by the very things through which he sins.”
That’s worth repeating:
“That a man is punished by the very things through which he sins.”
The examples tumble at us.
There is abortion. Medical statistics indicate that women who terminate an unborn child are more prone to breast cancer. There are vices in the way of various addictions and the well-known consequences of them (see, smoking and alcohol abuse). There is intravenous drug use and illicit sex (which often leads to venereal disease, hepatitis, and AIDS).
Not pleasant stuff. But when we repent and expiate — when we clean our systems spiritually — those kinds of chastisements lessen and often vanish.
The point: God’s Creation is so exquisitely designed that straying from Him brings rapid deterioration. (See, the fruit of pollution.)
When we sin as a society, we have conflict; we have aberrant patterns of weather that look like a famous painting dubbed “The Scream,” record temperatures torch France at the same time as a court there orders removal of simple feeding and hydration tubes for a disabled man.
In California, mussels are found on the beach, cooked in their shell by the heat. At the Grand Canyon, visibility is sometimes smudged by air pollution wafting there from distant L.A.
When a society is out of conformity with God, so is all that is around it. The same is true of us personally.
What is going on in your life? What afflicts you? What do you watch on television? Do things in life mimic that? Do you stumble over the sin that has been swept under the carpet of your life?
It all can be banished, by handing it all to Jesus.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, let us purge lest we fall.”
Before considering chastisements for a nation or the entire world, let us look inwardly. Let us survey ourselves. Let us find rest this summer through Confession.
(But do pray for America, this week.)
Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty seventh.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward, Secretary of State