The idea that America could fall is no longer a joke—if indeed it ever was. But what does the Bible truly warn will happen when a nation forgets God completely?
“Is God punishing the United States of America?” That is the question Sherwin Pomerantz recently asked in the Jerusalem Post. He continued, “I am certainly not one to dare assume to know what goes on in the mind of the God I believe in, and consider it a bit arrogant to go down that path. Nevertheless, at the risk of being labeled an old fool, it is a challenge for me to believe that the series of ‘plagues’ that have befallen the United States of America of late are not part of some heavenly master plan” (August 24, 2022).
American-born Pomerantz has lived in Israel for the last 38 years. What he sees in his homeland is a less-than-perfect country that has nevertheless served as a policeman to keep the world from self-destructing after World War II, and where most people have lived their lives in relative peace and prosperity. “However, 77 years after the end of the war, it all seems to be falling apart,” and he wonders, “Why? What happened?”
Pomerantz points to problems understood by most Americans—the intractable divide between the two major political parties, gun violence, homelessness, and catastrophic weather. Of course, the items he lists are only a few of the “plagues” affecting America today, but let us take a brief look at them.
Not only is America divided politically, but the gap between “liberal” and “conservative” is widening with seemingly no common middle ground and no end. Social media and cable news networks stoke the flames of anger as both sides become ever more entrenched in their positions. As a result, one very troubling thought is that the United States could fall into another civil war. William Gale and Darrell West of the Brookings Institute raised this question in a September 16, 2021 report:
Is it really possible that America could face the possibility of civil war in the near future? It may seem unthinkable, and yet there’s much to worry about. A 2021 national survey by pollster John Zogby found a plurality of Americans (46%) believed a future civil war was likely, 43% felt it was unlikely, and 11% were not sure. War seemed more likely for younger people (53%) than older ones (31%), and for those residing in the South (49%) and Central/Great Lakes region (48%) relative to those in the East (39%) (“Is the US headed for another Civil War?,” Brookings.edu).
Opinions aside, it remains to be seen whether there will be civil unrest, some other form of disruptive civil disobedience, or an outright shooting war. And one must wonder how ready the country is to deal with any kind of serious unrest when police morale is dropping amidst a small but vocal anti-police movement in the nation. Violent crimes and gun violence are evidence of growing lawlessness and have risen sharply in the last few years. Through October 27, 2022, the United States had 562 mass shootings—so defined by four-or-more people having been injured or killed, not counting the shooter—putting the country on a path toward exceeding 650 mass shootings this year! This does not count the thousands injured or killed in shootings wherein there were fewer than four victims. The total number of people murdered by perpetrators of gun violence stood at 16,729, with another 19,800 cases of people turning a gun on themselves in suicide (GunViolenceArchive.org, October 27, 2022).
As though political division and gun violence were not bad enough, Pomerantz also wonders whether God is punishing America with catastrophic weather. There have always been natural disasters, but the exceptional drought in the American West has far-reaching consequences for the country and for the world. Consider this sobering report:
Over 60 percent of the American West, Southwest, and Central Plains are considered under D3—severe droughts or higher. Seventeen states that account for nearly half of the nation’s $364 billion in agricultural production are struggling with water shortages, including California... [which] is the largest agricultural state in the country producing 60 percent of all U.S.-grown fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts (“California droughts spur ‘Water for Farms’ video series,” AGDaily.com, September 7, 2022).
While some temporary relief came to the Southwestern U.S. in mid-September due to tropical storm Kay, the long-term effects of severe and exceptional “megadrought” conditions are causing western lakes to dry up, creating alarm on two fronts. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are, by volume, the two largest reservoirs in the United States. Together, they supply water and electric power to tens of millions in the U.S. Southwest, including the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. And water is critical to agriculture as well as for household needs. Note this concerning report from CBS News:
The American West is facing its most severe drought in human history. Research suggests conditions are drier now than they have been for at least 1,200 years, and, compounded by the effects of climate change, will likely persist for another decade.
Communities across the region are contending with the consequences of less water…. But mounting concerns about the mega-drought seemed to reach a peak in recent months, when its repercussions became startlingly clear at Lake Mead.
The reservoir, the country’s largest by volume, sank to record-low elevation levels this summer. Photos revealed cracked earth and barren canyons while satellite images showed the reservoir’s shrinking shorelines from space (“Lake Mead’s water level has never been lower. Here’s what that means,” September 4, 2022, emphasis mine).
Less publicized is what is happening to Utah’s Great Salt Lake. Due to greater demands for human use, including agriculture, the amount of water flowing into it has been on the decline; add to this the extreme drought conditions of recent years, and the lake has dropped to its lowest level since records began in the mid-1800s. What many are not aware of is the economic impact of this unusual body of water. “Brine shrimp are harvested by the billions... [and] account for one-third of the world’s supply.” This “contributes $57 million to Utah’s economy” (“Get To Know Great Salt Lake,” Utah Department of Natural Resources, accessed September 14, 2022). And brine shrimp are only a small part of the economic picture. Minerals and fertilizer are major Salt Lake industries, and evaporation from the lake supplies moisture for winter snowfalls that feed the lucrative winter recreation industry.
Why is everything seemingly going wrong? Why would an observer in Israel ponder the question of whether God is punishing America? And when the country that has provided relative stability for more than 70 years has problems, what happens to the rest of the world?
It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that our scientific and technological progress has made us wiser than the “ignorant” people of the past. But that would be a mistake. Many leaders and historians are recognizing that something is going wrong in our world—that something very bad is on the horizon and that it is naïve to think that good times will continue because we are somehow wiser than previous generations. In 2018, American historian and foreign-policy commentator Robert Kagan reminded us of the fragility of the geopolitical balance in the world:
If the last century has taught us anything, it is that scientific and technological progress and the expansion of knowledge, while capable of improving our lives materially, have brought no lasting improvement in human behavior. Nor is history rightly viewed as a progressive upward march toward enlightenment…. When it comes to human behavior, history is a jagged line [of enlightenment and darkness] with no discernible [upward] slope (The Jungle Grows Back, p. 5).
Kagan, like Pomerantz, sees ominous trends in America and the world—and Kagan’s reminder came prior to COVID-19 and its fallout: lockdowns, economic upheaval causing inflation and supply chain disruptions, and political divisions over masks and vaccine mandates. Since then, the world has also suffered from the war in Ukraine and saber-rattling between the U.S. and China.
But, unlike Kagan, Pomerantz suggests that more than the failure of leaders is to blame for the problem. He may risk “being labeled an old fool,” but a fool he is not! He has recognized something others fail to see—that the problems America faces at this time are the results of God’s displeasure due to our arrogant rejection of Him and His moral laws. These problems are hardly limited to America, but what happens in America has consequences for the world. Canadians often say, “When the United States sneezes, Canada catches cold.” And when America catches cold, it spells trouble for nations everywhere. Those who would cheer the downfall of America should carefully consider what they desire!
Tomorrow’s World looks at the big picture from the pages of the Bible. We understand that there is a cause for every effect (Proverbs 26:2). We recognize that ancient prophecies explain what is happening today to the U.S. and the British-descended peoples.
Most people, even theologians, assume that the terms Israelite and Jew are essentially interchangeable in modern context. Yet this is patently false, both biblically and historically. The biblical patriarch Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel, had twelve sons—one was Judah, the father of the Jewish people. Centuries later, King Solomon took over the throne of the nation of Israel as ruler of all twelve of its tribes upon the death of his father, King David. But unlike David, Solomon fell away from God, and God took ten of the twelve Israelite tribes away to form a totally separate nation. From the time of Solomon’s son Rehoboam until now, the house of Israel (ten tribes) and the house of Judah (the Jewish people) have been separated. You can read of this breach in 1 Kings 12. You can also read of the many conflicts and wars fought between the two separate nations in the biblical books of Kings and Chronicles.
The northern ten tribes of the house of Israel went into Assyrian captivity around 720 BC, and the house of Judah went into Chaldean captivity around 590 BC. However, some of the Jews returned to their homeland 70 years later and remained in the area that today we think of as the small nation of Israel. Jesus would later descend from the line of David, some of whose descendants were among these returning Jews.
In 135 AD, the Jews were removed from their homeland and did not form a nation there again until 1948. But at no time in their history, from their initial separation until now, have these two nations been united as a single nation. That not only is a historical fact, but is also corroborated by Scripture. These nations are prophesied to be reunited, but not until after the return of Jesus Christ at the end of the age. You can read of this in Ezekiel 37:15–28, where it is evident from context that this reunification is still in the future.
I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them (Ezekiel 37:22–24).
We also read in the first book of the Bible the future of all twelve tribes of Israel at the end of the age, according to Jacob’s prophecy concerning his sons. Notice what God predicted through the patriarch Israel for his children: “And Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days: Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob, and listen to Israel your father’” (Genesis 49:1–2).
God then prophesied through Israel what would become of each of his twelve sons at the end of the age. Several are described with just one sentence each, but five verses are devoted to Judah (the Jewish people), focusing on the promises of rulership. Then there is a lengthy section devoted to Joseph—the son whose descendant Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:26; Genesis 48:3–6) led the northern ten tribes in rebellion against Judah to form a separate nation.
Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall. The archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him. But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel), by the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers (Genesis 49:22–26).
Why such emphasis on these two brothers, Judah and Joseph? The answer is partially found in 1 Chronicles 5:1–2: “Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel—he was indeed the firstborn, but because he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph, the son of Israel, so that the genealogy is not listed according to the birthright; yet Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came a ruler, although the birthright was Joseph’s.” The kingly line that culminates in Jesus Christ would come from the Jews, but the birthright—the promise of incredible national wealth and power—would come through a different brother: Joseph and his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.
People today know who the Jews are descended from, but what about the descendants of Joseph? And what does this have to do with whether God is punishing the United States of America? Everything!
God told the Israelites that if they looked to Him, kept His Sabbaths, and obeyed His other commandments as well, He would give them “rain in its season” (Leviticus 26:4), there would be no scarcity of food, they would dwell in a peaceful land, and their enemies would fall before them. He sums up these wonderful promises: “I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people” (Leviticus 26:1–13). But God also tells us the inevitable results of rejecting him:
But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you. And… I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze (Leviticus 26:14–19).
Sherwin Pomerantz is no fool. Even if he does not fully understand who Americans are descended from, he is onto something when he muses that “it is a challenge for me to believe that the series of ‘plagues’ that have befallen the United States of America of late are not part of some heavenly master plan.” The Americans and the British-descended peoples do not know who their ancestors are, why God has blessed them above all peoples on the face of the earth, or why God is removing those blessings. Sadly, instead of giving God the credit for these blessings, we have arrogantly taken credit for them ourselves.
Soon, we will decline to such a degree that we will cease to be a superpower, and we will be taken captive by our enemies. Only then will we learn that God will not be mocked!