In God We Trust?

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.
(Psalm 46:1-3 ESV)

“In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States in 1956. The phrase has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864 and on paper currency since 1957. Strict Separationists have questioned the legality of this motto because they state that it violates The United States Constitution which forbids the government from passing any law respecting the establishment of a religion. However, the United States Supreme Court has rejected the legal basis for this claim. Religious accomodationists, on the other hand, state that this entrenched practice has not historically presented any constitutional difficulty, is not coercive, and does not prefer one narrow sect over another. Outside of constitutional objections, President Theodore Roosevelt took issue with placing the motto on coinage as he considered it sacrilegious to put the name of God on money.

As we draw to the end of of another year and into the new year, it is a time for reflection. The media reviews the top news stories and events that occured during the past year. Many people plan New Year’s Resolutions to put into effect on New Year’s Day. A New Year’s Resolution is generally a goal someone sets out to accomplish in the coming year. Some examples include resolutions to donate to the poor more often, to become more assertive, or to become more environmentally responsible. A key element to a New Year’s Resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year, and new beginnings. People committing themselves to a New Year’s Resolution plan to do so for the whole following year.

At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions. There are other religious parallels to this tradition. During Judaism’s New Year, Rosh Hashanah, through the High Holidays and culminating in Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), one is to reflect upon one’s wrongdoings over the year and both seek and offer forgiveness. People may act similarly during the Christian fasting period of Lent, though the motive behind this holiday is more of sacrifice than of responsibility. The concept, regardless of creed, is to reflect upon self-improvement annually.

Presently, the United States is suffering from financial and economic crises. Unemployment is high and jobs are virtually nonexistent in many places. Crime rates are increasing and religion and morality are under complete persecution both nationally and internationally.The last year brought the “Arab Spring” to the Middle East, many regional wars, several asteroids, comets and solar flares either passing within close proximity to the orbit of the earth or directly impacting the atmosphere or planet.

The great Tōhoku earthquake (it was the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since record-keeping began) and a subsequent tsunami which left 15,844 people dead, 5,890 people injured, and 3,451 people missing. The tsunami resulted in the still ongoing level seven meltdowns at the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plants and worldwide fallout of nuclear isotopes. Hundreds of thousand of animals died with no apparent cause around the world. The United States saw severe weather outbreaks that produced record numbers of tornadoes decimating many areas through tornado prone areas. Haboobs on scales not seen before occurred in Arizona and the southwest. Medical professionals have been compelled to provide abortions against their will. Homosexuals are gaining the right to marry and clergy is being compelled to preside over their weddings under threat of criminal prosecution. We have seen many false prophets either proclaiming to be the Messiah or predicting the end of the world. This list could continue for pages, but you get the idea.

Yeshua was sitting on the Mount of Olives and His disciples came to him privately and asked Him, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?” Yeshua answered them saying, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:4-14, 37-44).”

Obviously, many of the warning signs that Yeshua proclaimed would be a warning that the end was near are occurring  Many prophecies from the Tanakh have been fulfilled in the Middle East and the stage has been set for the fulfillment of many more of these prophecies in the very near future.

We undoubtedly have a problem. The question is, can we do anything about it? Can we convince God to delay His judgement or wrath on this wicked earth? It would appear so. Consider the story of Jonah the Prophet and the city Nineveh in the Tanakh.

Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
(Jonah 3:1-10 ESV)

Jonah named the place and the date of the judgement that was to come upon Nineveh. When the people heard it they repented of their sins. When God saw this he changed His mind and did not destroy Nineveh as He said He would. The key is repentance. What is repentance? Repentance is confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to His laws (Torah). It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: “shuv” (to return) and “nicham” (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as “repentance” is the Greek word metanoia, “after/behind one’s mind”, which is a compound word of the preposition “meta” (after, with), and the verb “noeo” (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by “after” and “different”; so that the whole compound means: “to think differently after”. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. A description of repentance in the New Testament can be found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in the Gospel of Luke.

Immediately after King Solomon finished construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, he consecrated (made sacred) and dedicated the Holy Temple to God. King Solomon and the Children of Israel sacrificed 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep to Hashem at this time. God accepted their sacrifice and told them exactly how to stay under His mercy and protection.

Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the LORD done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.'”
(2 Chronicles 7:12-22 ESV)

So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
(Hebrews 6:17-18 ESV)

In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.
(Psalms 56:11 KJV)

Best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

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