Then Shaphan the scribe told the king, saying, Hilkiah the priest hath given me a book. And Shaphan read it before the king. And it came to pass, when the king had heard the words of the law, that he rent his clothes. And the king commanded Hilkiah, and Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Abdon the son of Micah, and Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah a servant of the king’s, saying, Go, enquire of the Lord for me, and for them that are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that is found: for great is the wrath of the Lord that is poured out upon us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the Lord, to do after all that is written in this book. And Hilkiah, and they that the king had appointed, went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvath, the son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe; (now she dwelt in Jerusalem in the college:) and they spake to her to that effect. And she answered them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Tell ye the man that sent you to me, Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon this place, and upon the inhabitants thereof, even all the curses that are written in the book which they have read before the king of Judah: Because they have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore my wrath shall be poured out upon this place, and shall not be quenched.
The above passage is just one of many which could be plucked, more or less at random, from the pages of the Bible. In a sense, the Old Testament is nothing but a long history of mankind’s continual rebellion against God. In the story of the Great Flood, judgment befell the human race as a whole, and only a remnant (Noah and his family) were saved. In 722BC the northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed following its long and mournful history of idolatry, and the above passage refers to the destruction which, for the same reason, is about to befall Judah.
There is a tendency nowadays to talk as if the wrathful God of the Old Testament somehow disappeared in 1AD, and was replaced by the nice God of the New Testament. This God is prepared to tolerate any amount of idolatry, and he would never inflict eternal punishment upon sinners. Which, of course, is nonsense. God is immutable, and his nature is unchanging. Given that our current age is perhaps more idolatrous than any age which has gone before it, the above passage (amongst many others) ought perhaps to give us pause for thought. Today the problem is not pagan religions, with their attendant child sacrifices, but is instead that of rampant materialism, and never before has Jesus’ warning that we cannot serve both God and mammon seemed more apposite. In the case of the new atheists, science perhaps runs a close second to material wealth as being the idol which is worshipped above all others.
Even ten years ago it wouldn’t have been that easy to discern what form the God’s judgment might take, but today it is only too clear what it might be. I am no economist, but I have heard more than one economist predict that the crash of 2008 was nothing but a foretaste of what is to come. Only a few weeks ago America seemed to be on the point of defaulting on its debts, and a default was only avoided by allowing it to borrow still more money in order to pay off its existing debts. Even worse, governments all around the world are doing the same. That house of cards is likely to collapse sooner rather than later, and, when it does, governments which have already cut interest rates to the bone in an attempt to stimulate recovery, will not be able to cut them any further.
Now this is not an economics blog, and I do not want it to become one, but the God who has brought judgment upon nations in the past is alive and well. Furthermore, the mercy of God, revealed in the salvation which came with the advent of Jesus Christ, in no way negates that fact.