Flames That Threaten America

This sermon considers some of the conditions that are threatening America’s future. The nation is on fire and there must be a remnant of God’s people to answer the bell and fight these fires before it’s too late.

By Tim Patrick

Isaiah 9:18-9:21

How many of you have ever been near a fire that was raging uncontrollably? This is a scary sight. I can recall at least two such occasions in my life. One occurred when I was a boy. A fire burned about 20 acres of pasture land on our family farm. We had to fight that fire. It was a scary scene. The other occasion was the time I found a neighbor and fellow church member’s home burning. The house burned to the ground before the fire department could get to the fire. I have also read stories of fire fighters who have fought forest fires out west and in America’s northwest. Sometimes those fire fighters lost their lives in such blazes. Fire is a frightening thing.

In the Bible, we find wickedness compared to a fire. We understand the analogy. Isaiah used such a comparison. Look at Is. 9:18-20. “For wickedness burns as the fire; It shall devour the briers and thorns, And kindle in the thickets of the forest; They shall mount up like rising smoke. Through the wrath of the Lord of hosts The land is burned up, And the people shall be as fuel for the fire; No man shall spare his brother.” The reason I use this text is because we celebrate independence day this week. However, I wonder how long this will continue. I see wickedness burning like a flame across America.

Join me in making the comparison. Isaiah had witnessed the corruption and degradation of the Israelite people. He had seen the jaws of sinful pride sink her teeth into this great people. As he witnessed her downfall he described what he
saw as burning like a fire. I believe that the same fires which destroyed Israel may well be flickering in the background in America. Let’s examine God’s word and think about the comparison for a few moments.

I want to share a simple outline tonight. I want to examine four conditions that were present when God judged the nation of Israel. These conditions were present when the fires of judgment were ignited. We will pull these principles directly from the text.

1. The first condition was a people filled with pride. Look at verses 9 & 10. The people “say in pride and arrogance of heart: The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with hewn stones; The sycamores are cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.” (NKJV) God was sending judgment on the Israelite people. They made two mistakes. First, they ignored the cause of the calamities. Second, they arrogantly boasted that they would rebuild. It is as if they thought they did not need God.

The Bible says “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov. 16:18 NKJV) The Bible tells us “God is opposed to the proud.” (I Pet. 5:5 NKJV). “A man’s pride shall bring him low.” (Prov. 29:23 NKJV)

Illustration: I once read a story about a little frog that wanted to go south for the winter. It was too far to hop and he did not have wings to fly. Two birds felt sorry for the frog and together they came up with a plan. The birds would hold each end of a stick in their beaks, the frog would clamp down on the stick with his mouth and the birds would carry him to his destination. The sky was clear and everything seemed hopeful for the frog and his two new found friends. Two farmers were standing in a field and saw the birds carrying the frog. One said to the other, “That was a brilliant idea, I wonder who came up with the plan.” The frog couldn’t keep his mouth shut and he said, “I-I-I-I-I-I”. All he had to do was keep his mouth shut. However, his pride got the best of him.

(Contributed by Robert Travis )

Illustration: In 1972, America had a young swimmer named Mark Spitz who predicted he would win five gold medals at the Olympics. He came home with none. His pride stood in his way.

As I look at America I see an extremely proud people. We are proud of being Americans but we are also arrogant toward other people in our world. In addition, we are blind when bad things happen to us. We wander along showing little concern for the tragedies that strike us.

Listen to what Abraham Lincoln said of us almost 150 years ago. “We’ve grown in numbers and wealth and power as no other nation has grown. We’ve vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our own hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient, too proud to pray to the God that made us.” (p. 80, as quoted in America, Return to God; edited by Thomas Wang)

2. A second condition was internal confusion. Look at verse 16. “For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.” This concept is repeated in verse 19. “No man shall spare his brother.” This refers to anarchy. Thus, there was poor leadership from their national leaders, confusion and anarchy among the people.

Illustration: Dr. James Dobson has said, “We are involved in nothing less than a civil war of values, a collision between two ways of seeing life. This is not an issue of two alternatives from which to choose, but a life and death struggle. One value system is going to predominate. One is going to rule the country.” (James Dobson as quoted in America, Return to God; edited by Thomas Wang; p. 97)

3. A third condition was ignoring warning signs. When conditions are ripe for a forest fire, our forestry officials will issue warnings concerning the danger. They will discourage people from burning trash, building camp fires or the like. When people neglect those warnings and build fires they are flirting with danger. Look at verse 13. “For the people do not turn to Him who strikes them, Nor do they seek the Lord of hosts.” I believe, by and large, we have gotten to the place where we do not heed the warnings of God’s judgment.

If God is consistent, in his dealings with America, the way he has always been consistent throughout history, he will warn us of approaching judgment. In speaking of the end of the age, Jesus spoke of the warning signs we should notice. He said, before God judges He will warn of the approaching judgment. Jesus said the times before His second coming would include warnings. He reminds us to keep our eyes on the fig tree, which is Israel. When it begins to blossom you know the end is near.

Israel is the historical miracle in world civilization. She had been extinct as a nation for over 1,900 years, ever since Titus and the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem in 70 AD and nearly obliterated the Jewish people, forcing them out of their own country. The people were slaughtered and Israel died as a nation that day. But she was born again in one day. Isaiah predicted it would happen. On May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. David Ben Gurion signed the Declaration of Independence. Jesus said when the fig tree buds the kingdom is at hand.

(Contributed by James O. Davis, Co-Founder/President Global Pastors Network)

Illustration: This happened in Nazi Germany. People tried to warn them what was happening. A man named Martin Niemoller tried to warn the people. He saw the warning signs on the horizon. Listen to what he said:

“First they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.”

4. A fourth condition was a progressive worsening of wickedness. Notice verse 18. “For wickedness burns as the fire; It shall devour the briers and thorns, and kindle in the thickets of the forest; They shall mount up like rising smoke.”

Illustration: When my boys were small I would often carry them camping. I remember teaching them how to start a camp fire. We would take dried grass, twigs, paper and the like for our kindling. Once we got those items burning we would move to sticks and progressively move to larger items until we were able to place logs on the fire.

Illustration: In 1947, sociologist and historian Dr. Carle Zimmerman studied the deterioration and ultimate disintegration of various cultures. He found that in each society the disintegration of the culture was preceded by the disintegration of the family. He discovered 11 common elements that were always present. Let me mention five of those eleven common elements:
1) An increase in rapid, easy and “faultless” divorce.
2) Fewer children, and less respect for parents and parenthood.
3) A break down of most inhibitions against adultery.
4) The rapid rise and spread of juvenile delinquency.
5) Common acceptance of all forms of sexual perversion.
(Carle Zimmerman, Family and Civilization, (New York: Harper and Brothers) 1947. pp 776-77)

What can we do?
1. We can pray and ask God to send revival.
Illustration: In January 1996 Rev. Joe Wright prayed a prayer in the Kansas Senate that should stir us. It should stir us to pray. This prayer inflamed many liberals but it was the truth. Listen to his prayer.
“Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, ‘Woe to those who call evil good’, but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We confess that,
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it Pluralism;
We have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism;
We have endorsed perversion and called it alternative lifestyle;
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery;
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare;
We have killed our unborn and called it choice;
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable;
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem;
We have abused power and called it politics;
We have coveted our neighbor’s possessions and called it ambition;
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression;
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent to direct us to the center of Your will and to openly ask these things in the name of your Son, the living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

2. We can get involved in reshaping our nation.
Illustration: A man by the name of Richard Hogue said something about our involvement that we need to heed.
“If our country survives, and I realize that’s a big IF, it will be because there is an awakening in the lives of committed Christians across our nation who finally begin to realize that it is not only their opportunity but also their absolute responsibility to be intricately involved in the political process of our country and to use that involvement to turn this nation once again to the Lord. For much too long we have allowed our government to grow farther and farther away from the direction that God has always demanded our nation to take.

At the same time we have yielded the control of our country to a godless, secular, humanistic philosophy that has absolutely zapped the strength and spiritual vitality America has always had. Never before, in the history of Christendom, have so many believers been willing to forfeit their liberty and freedom without even putting up a struggle. (Richard Hogue as quoted in America, Return to God; edited by Thomas Wang; p. 127)