At the Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church we read through the New Testament in our AM services on the Lord’s Day, and the Old Testament in the evenings. Last night I read Isaiah 17. I noted the following as I was reading:

4 Now in that day the glory of Jacob will fade, And the fatness of his flesh will become lean. 5 It will be even like the reaper gathering the standing grain, As his arm harvests the ears, Or it will be like one gleaning ears of grain In the valley of Rephaim. 6 Yet gleanings will be left in it like the shaking of an olive tree, Two or three olives on the topmost bough, Four or five on the branches of a fruitful tree, Declares the LORD, the God of Israel. 7 In that day man will have regard for his Maker And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. 8 He will not have regard for the altars, the work of his hands, Nor will he look to that which his fingers have made, Even the Asherim and incense stands. 9 In that day their strong cities will be like forsaken places in the forest, Or like branches which they abandoned before the sons of Israel; And the land will be a desolation. 10 For you have forgotten the God of your salvation And have not remembered the rock of your refuge.

I bring the passage to the attention of our fine readers for two reasons. First, the passage contains an “oracle” of condemnation upon idolatry. God’s judgment falls, inevitably, upon idolatrous nations, and do not think that because we do not have hideous idols upon every mountain top that we moderns are not guilty of the very same deeds. America is filled with idolatry, from our universities to the capital. But note in the second place that judgment brings repentance in those who are of the remnant, the elect of God. The picture of the “two or three olives on the topmost bough,” the 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. They are rarely obvious to observation, but they are there, and it is God who preserves them. Further, that day of judgment brings the intended result: “in that day man will have regard for his Maker, and his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel.”

When we pray that God would bless a nation, do we really understand what that means? Most often, when a nation is buried in the filth of sin, as Western cultures are today in general, the greatest blessing they can receive is judgment that brings repentance. But that judgment can be very, very painful. But what should our highest priority be? We all know the answer to that question. So, the next time you hear someone say “God bless America,” add to the phrase the needed information: “…with repentance.”

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