Much of the United States is suffering from excessive heat and a shortage of rainfall, and it is hurting our crops, raising food prices, and hurting our economy. God is able to provide rain in due season or to withhold needed rain as a punishment for sin (Deuteronomy 11:13-17, 28:9-12, 28:15, 23-24, Amos 4:7-8, Zechariah 14:17-19). So this drought may be a punishment from God, for the United States has an abundance of sin.
Nevertheless, we in the Church of God should not rejoice over the troubles that come upon the United States, even if they are punishments from God, but rather we should beseech God to have mercy on our country and provide needed rain for our crops.
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men," (1 Timothy 2:1). "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16).
There may come a time when we should not pray for the well-being of the country. "Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you" (Jeremiah 7:16). See also Jeremiah 11:14 and Jeremiah 14:11-12. In my opinion, we have not reached that point yet.
While much of the population of the United States is materialistic, having little or no interest in God, there are still millions of people who are trying to obey God to the best of their understanding. They think they are Christian. They think they know the true God, but they don't. They are deceived, by Satan, by their church ministers, by their traditions, and by their own faulty reasoning. But as Mr. Armstrong often pointed out, a deceived person does not know he is deceived. These religious people may be very sincere. As Paul said of many of his own countrymen, they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (and Paul himself was in that category till God dealt with him personally) (Romans 10:1-2, 1 Timothy 1:12-16, Acts 8:1-2, Philippians 3:6).
They observe Sunday. They keep Christmas and Easter. Some of them use pictures and images in worship. They believe the false religious doctrines they grew up with. They violate God's weekly and annual sabbaths and do not know they are doing wrong.
Are they guilty of sin unrepented of? Yes. But they don't know it yet.
These people, many of them, see the sins and abominations in our country, and are apposed to them. They are against sexual immorality. They try to teach right moral values to their children. They are faithful to their spouses. The show kindness to strangers and the poor. They are against abortion. In regards to the sins they see in our country, some of them may be like those God describes who "sigh and cry" over these abominations (Ezekiel 9:4).
But they don't see their own abominations and sins. They do not sigh and cry over their Sabbath breaking, use of images in worship, and support of false doctrines. Not yet, anyway.
Christ gives a principle in Luke 12:47-48. He who knows he is sinning has the greater guilt than he who sins but does not know that he sins. This people do not know they are sinning.
Most of these people never heard the truth. They never heard a warning message from the Church of God, partly because the Church has become so lukewarm and carnal that we have become divided amongst ourselves, wasting resources fighting among ourselves instead of focusing on warning our nation.
Look at the waste that has occurred in the split of United Church of God, all because of ministers who are not willing to live by every word of God, and because of the members who support them instead of those who are effectively warning the American people.
No wonder Christ says He will spit us out of His mouth (Revelation 3:16).
The religious segment of the United States, and all other segments in our society, need and deserve a WARNING. But they are not getting it because we in the Church of God are not effectively giving that warning, except in very tiny measure. And our ineffectiveness and lack of power in delivering that warning is because of OUR sins, not theirs.
The people's blood will be on our heads (Ezekiel 3:18).
I pray that God will give our nation rain. I pray that God will give our nation more time, time to hear a warning from the Church, time for the Church of God, or some small part of it, to wake up, repent, and get zealous for delivering that warning. I pray that God will protect our economy, give us good weather, and bless our country until the Church gets the warning out to everyone. If that means the tribulation needs to be delayed to give us more time to deliver the Ezekiel warning (Ezekiel 3:16-21, 33:1-20), even if that means the delay of the return of Christ, then I pray the tribulation will be delayed.
And I pray that God will grant repentance to the Church and will empower it to deliver the warning.
Some members may feel encouraged by the signs of the times that indicate the return of Christ is near, and those signs can include national problems, drought, and disasters for the United States and Britain. Christ said, when we see certain events we should look up because our redemption draws near (Luke 21:28). But this encouragement should not become a rejoicing over the suffering and the disasters that come upon our nation. We should not rejoice to see prophesied disasters because they prove "we are right about prophecy."
We should love or country and desire the long-term good for our people, and we should pray that the Ezekiel warning go out to all Israel before the tribulation begins so everyone can know that God was fair to warn them while there was time for them to repent and escape.
"Now the LORD had said to Abram...I will make you a great nation...I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you" (Genesis 12:1-3).
"How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel!...Blessed is he who blesses you, And cursed is he who curses you" (Numbers 24:5, 9).
"He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 17:5).
"Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light" (Amos 5:18).
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
The Great Tribulation, Chapter 3
The Blessings and Curses, Chapter 3
The Responsibility of a Watchman, Chapter 3
The Ezekiel Warning, Chapter 3
The Two Witnesses and God's Fairness, Chapter 4
Why the Gospel Must Still Be Preached to the World, Chapter 4
A Brief History of the Scattering of the Church, Chapter 5
The Cause of the Church's Scattered Condition, and the Solution, Chapter 5
We Need to Repent, Chapter 9
Laodicea and Philadelphia, Chapter 9
We Need to Be More Zealous for the Things of God, Chapter 9