Rev. Richard Owen Roberts
Rev. Richard Owen Roberts has spent a lifetime studying Scripture and the history of revival in America and elsewhere. Like an Old Testament prophet, his words cut through our pretenses and expose our real condition. Speaking of sin, righteousness and judgment, Roberts expresses hope for America. Who else could have written Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel?
Repentance is required of entire nations! Just as the corporate sin of every entity [family, church, community, business, etc.] demands corporate repentance, so national sin demands national repentance. The national sins of which I speak are the gross sins that defile the whole land, making the nation guilty before God. They are the sins that result in the loss of at least some of God’s sovereign mercies and in the display of at least some of His righteous judgments. Several things must be said concerning these sins.
First, they are, as stated, national sins – sins that defile the whole land. The general population is corrupted by them. This was true in Sodom, where God could not find even ten righteous people. This was often true of Israel. Isaiah described a particular time saying,
“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts, and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil. Your land is desolate… Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a few survivors, we would be like Sodom, we would be like Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:5-7, 9).
Second, they are by their very nature sins that, if left in place, are not only grossly evil but also corrupting. They contaminate everything around them. Jesus warned against the leaven of the Pharisees. We often find that one bad piece of fruit spoils many around it. Any sin, left in place, will corrupt things around it.
Third, the leaders of the people are themselves sufficiently contaminated by sin that they make no serious effort to suppress it. Indeed, at a time when national repentance is urgently needed, it is not uncommon for leaders to alter long-standing laws to accommodate gross iniquities, rather than to repent themselves and to call others to do the same. We have seen this happen in recent years when our politicians have changed long-standing laws affecting abortion, usury, homosexuality, fornication, and adultery. At such a time, it is also common for leaders to grow lax in enforcing the laws that remain, sometimes because they themselves selves are guilty of gross violations.
Fourth, the nature of the sins themselves, and the degree to which they are happily entertained by both leaders and the masses of the people, may profoundly affect the churches. Rather than the churches altering the world for good, the world will alter the church for evil. The nominally religious are readily drawn into the web of iniquity, and eventually it is only with considerable difficulty that the church can be distinguished from the world.
Fifth, the prevalence of sin is so great that some of the remnant of faithful believers who remain are gripped by a spirit of pessimism and do little more than sit quietly by, hoping for an end-time deliverance.
Sixth, sin so profoundly impacts the nation that the few servants of God who speak out against it seem to have the ear of but a handful. They are generally treated, even by religious people, as foolish and unprofessional extremists.
Seventh, man’s extremity is still God’s opportunity. At the very moment when sin appears to have fully triumphed, the Lord may gift the nation with repentance and faith. It is wise and necessary to observe that nations are rarely ever destroyed before they have first been clearly warned of their sins and of the pending judgment of God, and second, have rebelliously refused to repent. As dark as the present hour appears, it is both refreshing and encouraging to realize that the voices of the true prophets of the living God have not yet been raised to such a level that the nations have heard the word of the Lord and have deliberately refused to repent. Thus far, most of the voices that have been heard have sounded a very uncertain note. No wonder national repentance has not occurred. The English-speaking speaking world, in particular, desperately needs to hear the clarion call to national repentance. Until it does, there is hope even for the Western world (Richard Owen Roberts, Repentance: The First Word of the Gospel, pp. 283-292; 2002).