Many Americans would answer “No!” They would point to loss of jobs, shrinking 401K savings, devalued homes, and higher prices for gas, heating oil and other necessary goods. To be “better off” for many would be to have a stable growing economy, good paying jobs, greater personal wealth, and the ability to buy new things like cars and vacation “getaways”.
But are these the real indicators of being “better off”? Are our prosperity and security truly measured by our financial stability and growth?
In the last days of the ancient kingdom of Judah, God used the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim imminent judgment on them for their disobedience. Outwardly the people still claimed their allegiance to God, but their hopes for safety and prosperity were placed in their political alliances with Egypt. Jeremiah spoke, “the Lord has rejected your trusted allies, and you will not prosper by them” (2:37). Further, the people had forsaken the one true God and gone after false idols, “saying to a tree, ‘You are my father,’ and to a stone, ‘you gave birth to me.’ For they have turned their back to Me, and not their face” (2:27).
These people had adopted the values and false hopes of the surrounding culture. Even the priests and prophets were not speaking the truth. Instead of calling the people to repentance, they gave the people what they wanted to hear “saying ‘peace, peace!’ when there is no peace” (8:11). God said to them, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn themselves cisterns - broken cisterns that can hold no water” (2:13).
As a result, God stirred up the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar to invade Israel: “the destroyer of nations is on his way. He has gone forth from his place to make your land desolate” (4:7). A terrible catastrophe awaited the people and it would be the very means by which God would judge the land for their many transgressions of His law.
And yet the people did not believe they could be defeated by this invading army. In their minds there was no doubt that the Egyptians would help them fend off this invasion without any assistance from God.
But there would come a time when they would realize to their utter horror that the conquering Babylonian army could not be stopped. All of Egypt’s promises would prove to be in vain. The seasonable military campaigning time of summer would pass with no help from their supposed allies and the people would realize that, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (8:20).
In our day, people are looking to our present and potential leaders to bring a time of national prosperity and peace. But that can be a terrible illusion if people remain in rebellion against God. We can mouth “In God We Trust”, but if our hearts are not right and our real hope for safety and prosperity rests in financial good times and prosperity, then it’s a mere dream.
Think on it. If economic prosperity were to return to this country, could we really say that we’d be “better off” when the public posting of the Ten Commandments has been ruled an offense by one of the courts of this land? “Better off” when a student is prevented from offering up a prayer at a public commencement? “Better off” when God’s created order between male and female has been replaced by alternative lifestyles? “Better off” with the rampant promiscuity among our young people? “Better off” with a divorce rate greater than 50% in this country? “Better off” when public opinion becomes the moral rule instead of God’s absolute laws?
As one preacher put it during an earlier time of economic prosperity, “The Dow Jones average may be at an all time high, but morality in America is at an all time low”. Jeremiah wrote, “Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward” (7:24).
God still “commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
The summer of the year 2011 has ended, but let it not be said of us, or of you, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved”.