Summary: We like to think of ourselves as "independent." We should never want or desire independence from God. Even in our independence, we must rely on Him for many things.
Each year, on July 4th, America celebrates its “birthday.” On the 4th of July in the year 1776 – some 242 years ago, a group of colonists (who were technically Englishmen themselves) drafted a document called the Declaration of Independence – declaring themselves to be “free” from rules of the British Commonwealth – meaning that – from now on – England was to remove its hand from what was once its colony – that these people would establish their own laws – their own government – their own constitution – and live by their own standards.
History tells us that one of the chief motivators for this declaration was the fact that the colonists were being taxed without having a voice to plead their case – “taxation without representation.” Yet – what is increasingly forgotten is that the initial reason that these people left England was because they wanted the freedom to worship God in their own way.
God was the driving force behind their actions – God was the center of their lives. And – as God took the unarmed Israelites and simply had them march around the wall to bring down Jericho – as God took Gideon and 300 soldiers and defeated 100 thousand – as God took a young David – armed only with a slingshot – and defeated the giant Goliath and routed the Philistine army – He took a group of tattered, untrained, ill-equipped farmers – and routed the best trained, best equipped and largest army in the world at that time. At that time, we remembered what God had done and we praised Him everywhere. “One nation under God” and “In God We Trust” became an interwoven part of this new nation’s development – and we prospered. (Facts – Industrial Revolution – universal lender – after the Civil War – no fighting on the shores of the 48 states.) We were happy to trust – to be dependent on God.
I stopped by today to tell you that – like some human beings – the older we get – the more foolish we have become. Like children, we were OK if we didn’t grow up. But we have - and we did – and so as our nation becomes older – it continues to declare its independence – even from God.
In Psalm 9:17 the psalmist says, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Judah, in the days of Jeremiah, was a nation which had forgotten God. All through the scope of this prophecy, across the forty years or more that Jeremiah ministered to this nation, we are watching a nation being turned into hell -- chaos spreading throughout the land, corruption widespread in government, morality constantly declining, evil infecting the people, the life of the nation gradually becoming more and more hellish -- exactly in accordance with the prediction of the psalmist.
In our own day, as you know, America is a nation which is rapidly forgetting God. And so, in our own time, we too are watching the phenomenon of a nation which has forgotten God being turned into hell -- with corruption spreading in the land, the moral fiber of our people losing its consistency, the government increasingly unable to govern properly, the institutions of American life being shaken by frequent panics and torn with dissension – parents being separated from their children – the truth being “trumped” by lies – our long standing relationships all over the world being “trumped” by us getting new friends – we’re out on the limb with Kim and we’re rootin’ for Putin.
Our independence from God has brought us a leader who cheats and tweets and insults our athletes. We were once a nation that represented hope for all – now we are a nation that is building walls. We operate in disrespect – our leaders have no self-respect – we are a nation with over 2,000 victims of child neglect – our love for each other is at best suspect – because we operate in self and making sure that we are politically correct.
In Chapter 17:9, Jeremiah was taught two great truths: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked," That is, "There is no hope in man." No nation, ever, has reversed the trend of deterioration simply by trying to gather up its own resources and gird up its moral strength and, through human wisdom, work out a remedy for the degenerative faculty in that nation. It has never happened. There is no hope in man. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt.
But Jeremiah was also shown "a glorious throne set on high from the beginning" (17:12), which, he tells us, is the place of our sanctuary. That is, "There is hope in God -- the present availability of God to an individual or a nation." And when that person, or that people, turns to that God, healing begins to come back into that life. This is in line with the well-known promise of Second Chronicles 7:14: "...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."