O Lord, Renew Thy Church!
Scripture reading: Daniel 9:3-19
Not infrequently in Scripture we find clearly indicated the relationship between the righteousness of God and His indignation with unrighteousness. In Daniel 9:16 we see that relationship alluded to:
"O Lord, according to all Thy righteousness, I beseech Thee let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away from Thy city Jerusalem, Thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us" (Daniel 9:16).
"...according to all Thy righteousness...let Thine anger and Thy fury be turned away..." God expresses and demonstrates righteous indignation with sin. Why shouldn’t He? Sin and unrighteousness is that which contaminated and continues to contaminate His perfect creation.
"And the Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation..." (Deut. 29:28). "I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him..." (Micah 7:9).
In the second chapter of Romans we are told that God renders indignation and wrath to those who "do not obey the truth" but rather "obey unrighteousness" (Romans 2:6 and 8). Yes, a holy God is perfect in expressing His anger, His wrath, His indignation against sin.
Look with me now at the phrase in the 16th verse of Daniel 9, "according to all Thy righteousness." Everything God does He does for His own name’s sake and according to His righteousness. God becomes indignant with those who attempt to frustrate His acts of righteousness. How wonderful that He does! If He didn’t, He wouldn’t be God. He would be less than perfect.
I believe we are safe in stating that "righteous indignation" is a holy attribute of a perfect God. God is characteristically indignant of unrighteousness wherever it exists...even in His own children. It is noteworthy that the prophets of old in Scripture were often conscious of and sensitive to their own unrighteousness.
Above we mentioned Micah who confessed that he would bear the indignation of the Lord because he had "sinned against him."
Isaiah said, "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips" (Isaiah 6:5). Jeremiah wrote, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). The prophet John the Baptist cried in John 1:27, "He it is who coming after me is preferred before me whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Then later, in chapter 3, he declares, "He must increase but I must decrease."
In Matthew Henry’s volume, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, he states, "Those are fittest to be employed for God who are low in their own eyes and are made deeply sensible of their own weakness and unworthiness." (Volume 4, Page 40).
Most of us have a very limited concept of the holiness of God and the wickedness of man....The prophets of old were always gifted men who had a clearer vision of the holiness of God than the average person. They had a great opinion of God and a small opinion of themselves.
The second half of Daniel 9:16 says, "...because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us." What the prophet is saying here is that the sin of God’s own people, the sin in the camp, was causing them as God’s people and the Lord God Himself to be looked upon with reproach, with censure, with contempt, by those nations that were round about them. God’s own precious children were a disgrace to Him!
When Daniel spoke these words, the Jews were in the Babylonian Captivity and were being severely chastised for sin. They knew that they had transgressed the Law of God and they knew their chastisement was deserved. Their response to their suffering was what it should be. Ultimately, they were repentant for their sinful ways and wanted to return to God and their former state of fellowship with Him.
In Lamentations 5:21 Jeremiah prayed on behalf of the people, "Turn Thou us unto Thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew our days as of old." If the attitude of Daniel and Jeremiah represent that of the people, if their words represent the voice of their people (and I believe they do) then we can be certain that the people have reacted to divine chastisement favorably. They had sinned against the Lord and were reproached and laughed at, scorned and scoffed at by the heathen nations around them. I believe God’s enemies looked upon His people and said, "What poor excuses for a people of God! Why, their lives are no different than ours! They live just like we do!"
But then they, God’s people, confessed and repented of their sin (Lamentations 5:15-21). They realized that they had been acting like those nations that were scoffing at them. They looked and acted like the world. It would have been difficult to distinguish them from the godless nations round about them. Eventually they recognized and acknowledged their error and came out of their sinful ways.
A key point is that God’s people, the Jews, in their sinning against the Lord, looked and acted like the world, but they did not intend to copy the world. I know of no biblical evidence indicating that the intention of God’s people in that day was to deliberately emulate the lives of the godless nations about them. They weren’t trying to copy the ways of the heathen. The use of the word "reproach" in Daniel 9:16 makes that evident. The fact that God’s people were a reproach, that the heathen scorned them and censured them, shows that those heathen nations knew that the Jews were behaving "out of character," contrary to their former life style.
The heathen knew that it was wrong for the children of God to live like heathen. They said among themselves and to the Jews something like, "What? You people consider yourselves children of your great God? How can it be? Each one of you looks like one of us!" And God’s people knew it. They knew that their sin and disobedience made them into a nation resembling the contemptuous heathen.
But they wanted to change! God’s people wanted the Lord God Jehovah to turn them back to Himself. They saw the error of their ways and how wrong it was to resemble the God-hater.
The Church Today
Come with me to the day in which we live. I submit to you that much of the Church in the hour in which we live not only looks and lives like the world about us, but incredibly, makes every attempt to look and live like the heathen of our day. The Church intends to look like the ungodly.
Today the appearance of the Church as a whole is similar to the world and it is not simply coincidental to sin and disobedience as was the case with the Israelites. Her resemblance to the world has not come about more or less simply as an afterthought or side effect of sin in some way. The fact that the Church as a whole is today the world’s look-alike is no accident, no simple coincidence.
Much of the Church of this hour has intentionally tried to and has succeeded in resembling the world about her. This resemblance has been her goal. She wants to look like the world. She plans and schemes and desires that look. She does not want the world to look upon her as different.
The Church today wants to hear and is hearing the worldling say, "You know, you people aren’t so bad after all. As a matter of fact, we kind of like you. You don’t seem to preach by word or deed that righteousness and holiness and purity of life are any big thing. We can get along with you. You’re not offensive to us as you once were. You don’t challenge our style of living. In fact, for the most part you live like we do. You’re all right!"
A. W. Tozer says: "The radical element that once made Christians hated by the world is missing from present-day evangelicalism...We are busy these days proving to the world that they can have all the benefits of the Gospel without any inconvenience to their customary way of life. It’s all this and heaven too." (From Keys to the Deeper Life, Page 16).
Daniel prayed for the children of God of his day that God’s "anger and fury" be "turned away" and that the oppression his people were suffering would be withdrawn, that God would exercise His mercy and grant them respite and deliverance. The children of God in the day in which we live I do not believe have even tasted of the "fury" and the "anger" of a long-suffering Lord who continues to withhold His hand of judgment against an unbelievably blind and carnal Church.
O how we should pray that the Lord God Almighty would open the eyes of a sick Church in this hour, a people suffering from, yet seemingly unaware of a malady which is perhaps more insidious, more damaging, than any other she has suffered in her history. Like the chameleon, going back just a few decades ago, the Church began changing her color, O, ever so slowly at first, but nevertheless successfully, into the color of the world. Now there is virtually no difference between the world and the Church. The Church is nearly a perfect replica of the world.
R. C. Sproul makes the following observation: "Most Christians according to the Gallup Polls seen recently live according to cultural, social conventions and not according to the Law of God. Percentage-wise just as many evangelicals are having abortions as secular people...pagans. You can’t tell the difference between a pagan and a Christian in our culture because the dominant basis of our morality is not coming from thoughtful meditation of the Law of God but it is coming from what is acceptable in our environment...what the ‘herd’ is doing." (From lecture, "How Does Truth Command Me?" from the series "Blueprint for Thinking," Ligonier Ministries, 1993.)
Yes, immense changes have occurred in the Church and she doesn’t seem to know it. She is blind to her great sin of compromise and blend with the world system. She hasn’t noticed the color change taking place. Like the proverbial frog in the gradually heating pot of water, her danger increases by the moment and she’s hardly aware of it.
How we should pray, "O God, God...that You would burden our hearts to pray for the Church, Thy people! Thy Word declares, ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will’ (Prov. 21:1). Lord, turn the heart of Thine own people before You must exercise Thy judgment upon us!"
Incredible as it may sound, the greatest need of the Church today is the need to pray for the Church itself. The contemporary Church needs desperately to have her eyes opened by the Holy Spirit of God Almighty. Those of us who detect this plague that has moved upon her, must hold our brothers and sisters before the Throne of God and beg Him to open blinded eyes, eyes that can no longer see that the ways of the world are not to be aped, but avoided, not to be coveted but despised. We are to hate the wicked and their wickedness. Yes, I said, "Hate."
The Church of the hour has an ongoing love affair with the world, the ungodly. Satan has scored a great victory over the compromising Church in recent decades. The Great Deceiver has successfully wooed us into an adulterous relationship with his own children. And those whose souls we should love, but whose life styles we should abhor, we have now come to not only accept but even love.
The Church of Jesus Christ, as happened numerous times in the history of the Israelites, has fallen in love with those that hate the Lord. David cried, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies" (Psalm 139:21-22). The question is asked in 2 Chronicles 19:2, "Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?" Do you know what follows that question?
Listen to the warning that follows: "Therefore is wrath upon thee from the Lord." The Lord says to His people, "If you choose to love the ungodly be prepared for Me to execute My wrath against you."
O, how the Church needs to lift her voice unto Almighty God and cry out with Daniel in Daniel 9:17: "Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of Thy servant, and his supplications, and cause Thy face to shine upon Thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake."
– J. N. J.