How Close Are We to the Point of No Return?

By Tom Gilson Published on March 20, 2024

America is in danger before our righteous and holy God, practically begging His judgment to fall upon us. We are stumbling blindly along dangerous hills, proud but blind, believing we have nothing but gentle slopes ahead on our journey, ignorant of the cliff ahead, oblivious to the loose and shifting stones under our feet. Deep in the crevasse beneath, there is economic failure, infrastructure collapse, maybe military attack … who knows? One way or another, in our rebellion we are asking for God’s judgment. 

We can turn back — there is still time! — but if we don’t, we will reach that fatal loose edge. The stones will let loose. We will feel the terror, falling with nothing to save us: no ropes, no tree limbs, nothing to hold on to but the same hopelessly falling stones that have carried us over the edge.

There is always hope, but from the prophet Jeremiah we know there may come a time when even hope turns grim. There is a point of no return. I hear the crunch of loose rock under our feet. I do not think we have reached that moment. We can still turn around. We had better — before it’s too late.

I do not say this to discourage, only to awaken the realistic awareness that we have responsibilities to fulfill before God, and pride to repent of. We are a proud nation, the military and economic superpower, the country that can do it all! Still the rocks crunch as we walk, a sound of warning. We are not invulnerable. We would not be the first great nation to fall. And it isn’t about guns and soldiers, commerce and cash. That matters, no doubt. Mostly, though, it’s about rebellion against God.

Warning and Hope, Hope and Warning

I think there is still time. I would not say plenty of time, though. We must heed the warnings God has given. Like a “Danger” sign at a cliff’s edge, the prophets gave warning, but they spoke hope as well: warning and hope, hope and warning, alternating in a rhythm to call the people to repentance. In Isaiah 1, for example:

Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord;
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

If you are willing and obedient
you shall eat the good of the land,
but if you refuse and rebel,
you shall be eaten by the sword,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

What Fault Did We Find  In God?

Later came Jeremiah, whose plaintive in chapter 2 sounds all too familiar today:

This is what the Lord says:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.

I brought you into a fertile land
to eat its fruit and rich produce.
But you came and defiled my land
and made my inheritance detestable.

The priests did not ask,
‘Where is the Lord?’
Those who deal with the law did not know me;
the leaders rebelled against me.

Has a nation ever changed its gods?
(Yet they are not gods at all.)
But my people have exchanged their glorious God
for worthless idols.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

Doesn’t this remind you of America? The fertile land with its rich produce, defiled by sin, our religious leaders abandoning God to accommodate the idols of our age? Telling God we don’t need His living water, and we can dig our own cisterns just fine without Him?

This Warning Is for Us

Some will say, “These prophecies are not for America.” Think that if you like, but if it sounds so much like us, shouldn’t we pay it attention? Some will add, “But we are not Israel, the people of God.” Yes, but we bear His name regardless. On my first overseas trip, to England in 1980, there were two things I was told about America.

First, we were known there and around the world as a “Christian nation.” I have heard the same many times since then. Even if God didn’t plant His name on us, the world has.

Second, when the English thought of America, they thought of the steamy prime-time soap opera Dallas, or Hollywood in general. This “Christian nation” of ours was known worldwide for that which dishonors the name of Christ.

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God will guard His name. He says so often through Jeremiah, especially against the dishonor Judah had brought on the temple, “the house that bears My name.” In 25:29, He widens that to “the city that bears My name.” Will He not guard His name today? If we do not heed His voice, will He let the dishonor go on forever?

God was indeed slow to act against Israel and Judah. For years He put up with their idolatry, their immorality, the oppression they committed. He sent prophet after prophet to warn them of disaster and remind them of hope if they would turn.

The Point of No Return

Finally His patience reached an end. There came a point of no return. It was too late — too late even for prayer:

“Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress.” (11:14)

“Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people. Send them away from my presence!” (15:1)

If it’s too late for prayer, it’s too late. May we never reach that stage.

If it’s too late for prayer, it’s too late. May we never reach that stage.

Jeremiah lived to see siege and famine so severe, I dare not even tell you what some of them chose to eat. The city fell, and its weeping survivors got carted off to Babylon.

Grim Hope, Glorious Hope

Jeremiah never forgot the reality of hope, but the only immediate hope could offer was grim: life, yes, but only for those who would submit to their conquerors (21:8-10). For the future, he gave them hope of their grandchildren’s return (ch. 25).

Most importantly, he spoke the promise of new life under a new covenant to come.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel.

It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.

No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.

“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”

Believers, you and I can accept that as settled fact, not just some future hope. We have seen it fulfilled in us through Christ. This hope is certain.

The Time to Turn is Now

For the nation as a whole, though, we must ask whether there might be such a thing as a point of no return. If it was true for the people God had named with His own name, why couldn’t it be true for a country like ours?

We must remember how little God wants us to get there. In Jeremiah 18, He shows Jeremiah He might even snatch a people back from disaster He had declared would come on them, if they would only turn to Him.

Nothing on earth can overcome the infinitely greater reality of God.

God is good. Nothing earth can overcome the infinitely greater reality of God. I live with hope in my heart. I still have hope for our country, too.

But we must heed the warning. Are there stones crunching underfoot as we walk? Should we stay and play at that fatal edge, as if there is no danger there? Will we go on pretending we are the great, invulnerable country that cannot fall? When will we turn around?

You can answer that question for yourself: The time can be now. Turn around! Trust in God, in all His goodness, all His truth, all His saving power! And pray the nation will hear and heed, too, before it’s too late.

 

Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the highly acclaimed Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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