by Ken Yates
In my last blog I discussed Luke 12:54ff and how Jesus told the nation of Israel in His day that if they looked around they would be able to see that judgment was coming. He was speaking of the coming judgment of AD 70. That judgment was coming because of their sin. Later, in the book of Acts, Peter says the same thing to the nation of Israel. They are a sinful nation (Acts 2:40). Judgment is even closer.
The Bible recognizes that God has a special relationship with the nation of Israel. Because of the privileges they had as the chosen people, they had greater responsibility. God sent them prophets in the Old Testament to speak to them when they were violating the covenant with Him and inviting judgment. Jesus’ words are example of this.
But what about other nations? No other nation has made a covenant with God. No other nation has had the privileges given to Israel. There has not been a succession of prophets to tell a particular nation that judgment is coming upon them for their sin. Does God judge other nations for their sins as well?
Even though the relationship between God and other nations is different, the Bible does say that God punishes other nations for their rebellion against Him. The most well known example of this involved the cities around the Dead Sea, Sodom and Gomorrah. The judgment that fell upon them was the result of their sin and occurred even before God made a covenant with the nation of Israel.
Another well-known story concerns the prophet Jonah and Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. There, God specifically told the nation through a prophet that would be destroyed unless they turned from their sin.
In Jeremiah 18 God says He is going to judge the nation of Israel because they have disobeyed Him and broken their covenant. But God also applies judgment for sin upon nations in general in Jer 18:7-10. Basically, God says that if any nation does evil they are in danger of His judgment. If they turn from that evil He will not do so.
A passage of Scripture that I have always found interesting is Genesis 15:15-16. God tells Abraham that the Jews will not enter the land of Canaan in the very near future. It will occur after his death and four generations. The reason given for this delay is that that sins of the people in that land has not yet reached its limit. In other words, God will not judge them until their sin merits that judgment.
In Romans 1:18-32 Paul writes that people bring the wrath of God upon themselves because of their sin as well. These verses apply to the individual but it is easy to see that the sins Paul discusses have negative ramifications upon a culture and society at large. He discusses sexual sins, sins that harm the family, and sins that impact one’s neighbors.
When we look at these verses we see that the Bible does suggest that God does indeed punish nations because of their sins. Such judgment does not involve a prophet coming with a specific statement from God that gives the specific details of that judgment (Nineveh was an exception). Perhaps we could say that in many cases, based upon Romans 1, sin brings its own judgment. A nation can destroy itself without that destruction coming from an outside enemy.
When we look around us today, do we see the proliferation of sin? Do the sins of people seem to be done in a more “bold” manner? Do we see things occurring that we never would have imagined even a few years ago? Even though He spoke to the nation of Israel, can we wonder if the words of Jesus in Luke 12 have significance for us?