America may be on the brink of an economic collapse. Panicked experts tell us that we are staring into an abyss that can only be compared to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Wall Street is reeling from the effects of the housing slump and the resulting credit crunch. But it doesn’t stop there. Europe is struggling. Asia is struggling. We live in a global economy. What happens in New York affects New Dehli. The financial foundations of civilization as we know it are being shaken.
What will tomorrow hold? One can only guess. Are we going to see mass unemployment? Are we only witnessing the beginning of a tidal wave of foreclosures? Will we, in prosperous America, stand in bread lines again?
This, as all economists and politicians are telling us, is a true crisis. Bernanke and Paulson, President Bush and both candidates, Obama and McCain, are agreed.
But what is a ‘crisis?’ We throw the term around, but what are we really talking about? Usually, we talk of a ‘crisis’ in terms of a catastrophe in the marketplace that eventually impacts our everyday lives. A crisis triggers the vanishing our retirement accounts. It hobbles businesses and forces layoffs. It makes even the basics of life harder and harder to secure.
We need, however, to understand the word more deeply. In our minds, a ‘crisis’ is a blind, impersonal force that lays us to the ground. It is bad luck on a monumental scale. It is Fate – cold, unfeeling, uncaring. But the word originally (from the Greek, krisis) signified an action originating from heaven, expressing divine anger and outrage at the evil of men in society. Literally, it meant ‘judgment.’ A krisis is a judgment from heaven upon men for their sin.
The Bible took this term over from the Greeks and applied it to express the wrath of the one true God. The world before Noah was filled with violence, and God judged them with a flood that wiped away all but eight righteous souls (Gen. 6:5-8). Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with sexual deviance, and God judged them with fire from heaven (Gen. 18-19). Israel turned from God and worshipped idols, and so God judged them by a severe drought for 3 ½ years (1 Ki. 17-18). This world has witnessed crisis upon crisis. And each of them has been – as the word signifies – a judgment. The judgment of an angry God.
The Lord through His prophet Amos once prophesied against Israel that He would punish them for all their iniquities (Amos 3:2). Then followed a number of rhetorical questions, designed to convince the heart of Israel that this punishment was reasonable. “Can two walk together except they be agreed? Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he have taken nothing? . . . Shall a trumpet [an alarm] be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it” (Amos 3:3-6)? Judgments, Amos is saying, are not blind and senseless. There is reason to them. They follow as a matter of course. Where there is sin, there must be judgment. And where there is judgment, there must be God. Amos is telling us that nothing evil, no crisis, no economic catastrophe occurs in a city, unless God is behind it!
God is behind the crisis on Wall Street, America! He is stretching forth His hand to punish. Yes, there were many secondary causes. The banks too easily gave loans to people who shouldn’t have had them. The people bought houses that they should have known that they couldn’t handle once the rates adjusted. There is blame to go around – in Washington and right here in Warwick. But the ultimate cause is God. Shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?
There is ‘evil in the city’ – evil on Wall Street and evil on Main Street. And it is God punishing us for our sins. We have turned from Him; we have neglected His worship every Sabbath. We have hired slick-talking motivational speakers who tell us what we want to hear and have stopped our ears from faithful preachers of truth. We have corrupted ourselves, polluting our bodies with multiple partners and divorcing at the drop of a hat. We have created a culture of disrespect for all authorities. We have given ourselves over to greed and lust. And God is striking us at the place where it hurts us most – in the marketplace. It is only fitting that God should blight our financial system since we have, in greed, got in way over our heads in debt. We are only reaping what we have sown.
This crisis should open our eyes, our ears, our hearts, and our mouths.
Let us open our eyes! God is behind this catastrophe. “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; because ye have spoken vanity, and seen lies, therefore, behold, I am against you, saith the Lord GOD” (Ezek. 13:8). ‘I am behind this, America! Look, and see me! Do not be blind! See my hand on Wall Street!’ What a tragedy, when we can identify all the causes of this economic collapse except the ultimate Cause!
Let us open our ears! God is speaking to us in this judgment. He is telling us that sin, disobedience to God, is the greatest evil of all. It is not our dwindling 401(k)s nor our jobs that we are losing. It is not any of these things. Better to lose all and be in the favor of God. But because we want to gain all without even a thought of God, God reverses everything. He is not only telling us that sin against Him is the greatest evil of all, but He is also in this crisis calling us to repent. Turn, turn back to me, America! Be taught – open your ears to hear the voice of God! “The LORD’s voice crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom shall see thy name: hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it” (Mic. 6:9).
Finally, let us open our hearts and open our mouths! Let us feel deep in our souls that we have brought this upon ourselves. “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled . . . therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us” (Dan. 9:5, 14). Let our hearts be broken for our wickedness. And so let us cry to Him for mercy! “O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake” (Dan. 9:18).
And here is a ray of hope. Because this evil in the city is not blind fate, we can take heart. We are dealing with a personal God. A God who can be appealed to – One who can be begged for mercy. And “who can tell if God will turn and repent [change His mind], and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not” (Jonah 3:10)?