I've been enjoying a Ladies' Bible Study at my church for the past few months. The main study has been on prayer, but we sometimes end up with side conversations that are just as involved as the lesson. A while ago, the question was brought up whether God deals with countries as a whole, depending on their collective actions. The consensus at the time was that we really didn't know. I know that different people have suggested that the woes of the United States are a result of God's judgement, from the attack on the World Trade Center to the various natural disasters that have taken place inside out borders. But is this true?
A search into the Bible reveals that God did indeed judge nations in the past. If you remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, where the only people who escaped total destruction were Lot and his two virgin daughters, you could believe that the cities were judged as a whole. However, it is clear from the conversation Abraham had with the LORD in Genesis 18 that those cities were totally corrupt. Abraham had bargained the LORD down to saving the cities if there were only ten souls who were righteous, and apparently that was not the case. Both cities were burned.
It is generally thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their perversions, but Ezekiel 16 actually reveals a deeper problem. Verses 49 and 50 read: "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me; therefore I took them away as I saw good." Notice that the main complaints seem to be pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness. In the NASB version, this reads "arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy." The abominations seem to be a result of these, rather than the cause.
I think I've found a pretty good passage to answer my question. It is from Ezekiel 14:12-23. It's rather long, so I'll paraphrase: God is telling Ezekiel that He is going to send four judgments upon Jerusalem: the sword, the famine, the wild beast and the pestilence. These are a result of their collective sin. He says several times that though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in the land, they would only be able to save themselves with their own righteousness, not even saving their son or daughter.
So, here is my tentative answer to this question, though I don't pretend to know if specific troubles are from God or not. I believe that He does deal with countries as a whole. However, He also deals with individuals. If you are in a country that is committing sins against God, especially those decreed by the government, you may expect to have trouble as a whole. However, if you are not following the corrupt laws of the government, and are instead following God's laws, you can be saved yourself.
In the Old Testament, everything was dealt with on a very physical level. Death meant bodily death. In the New Testament, though, I believe this changed. Jesus changed the rules with His own death. Physical, bodily death is no longer the punishment it used to be. Jesus said in Luke 18:29-30 "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting." And of course, there is John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
This life we are promised is beyond the grave life. Not just full life now, but perfect life forever. Our human minds can't even comprehend that much time. But we can have a glimpse of that kind of life. I know I try very hard not to lose anything. I am afraid that if I lose it, I won't get it back. But Jesus asks us to lose our very selves. Matthew 16:24-26 reads: "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
This is the deliverance we are promised. Not deliverance from difficulties in this life, or even from physical death, but deliverance from eternal punishment. And we are not saved because of our connection to our country, or our family, or even our church. We are saved because of our connection to Jesus Christ. He is our King, and our government is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is where our allegiance must lie. Not to any of the fallen governments of this world.
This is an election year in the United States, meaning that the country will be voting on a new president and congress this November. It is very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of trying to pick the best men and women to lead us. Christians have differing opinions about our duty to vote, and our involvement in politics. Some feel that we have to try to make a difference, and bring our country back to God through our votes and our activism. If God does in fact judge countries, I can see this point. However, the stakes are even higher than that. God judges each of us. No matter what our country chooses to do, we have to answer for our own actions, and our own hearts. We cannot follow laws that are against our Kingdom. We cannot follow leaders who are leading us to destruction. We cannot compromise by picking the best person for the country. We cannot vote based on the economy or health care or political party. And we cannot continue to have "arrogance, abundant food, and careless ease, but... not help the poor and needy." Our activism has to be to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.