National Sins and National Punishments
1 Samuel 15:2-3
Thus said the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way…

We turn from Saul to the case of those against whom he was sent. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt." Then God does remember sin. He not only notices it, but remembers it. A lengthened period had transpired since the Amalekites had thus manifested their sympathy with the enemies of Israel, by throwing hindrances in the way of God's chosen people as they came out of Egypt to Canaan. And, to all appearance, their sin might have been regarded as consigned to oblivion. But God had declared that it should not be forgotten. (Exodus 17:14, Deuteronomy 25:17-19.) Upon the oblivion of four centuries there broke the awful tones of Almighty Justice: "I remember that, which Amalek did" From that Infinite Mind there had been no obliteration of the crime; clear as the day on which it had been committed, that sin stood out to view. "I remember." Divine forbearance with generation after generation had been long, but upon them that forbearance had been lost, and it is evident they had not profited by it. They still remained the foes of Israel; their conduct as a nation was marked by excessive cruelty; and it was a horrible notoriety which their king had obtained for the multitudes of mothers whom, in his bloodthirstiness, his sword had rendered childless. In the determination on the part of God now to punish, the utterance of which was prefaced by those emphatic words, "I remember," we are distinctly taught the lesson that the conduct of nations is a point to which the eye of God is directed, and that it is the matter for which His just penalty will be reserved. Whole nations come within the reach of His rod. By the individuals composing a community, and whose personal welfare or woe is necessarily identified with the condition of the community, there is a great danger that national sin should be regarded rather as an abstraction than as a reality, rather as an ideal than a substantial criminality. But it is not thus that God, in the incident before us, deals with it. He affixes it, as a substantive charge, upon the community. We have a rule here to which we find no exception. But nowhere does this rule meet with so fearful an exemplification as in the case of that very people whose guardian God showed Himself to be in this act of visiting Amalek's transgression — that very Israel on whose behalf He was now standing up to repel insult and to avenge injury. "I remember" — read it in those seventy years' exile from the land which had been given for an inheritance — that long and dreary period, during which Zion's history was thus announced in plaintive tones by the prophet, "How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow!" etc. "I remember" — read it in its reiterated and double-telling tones in that second destruction which succeeded a second opportunity given to the Hebrew people of a sound national repentance and reformation — that second opportunity which was lost when formalism was substituted for spiritual religion. Hark to the words of mingled compassion and judgment which fall from His lips as He stands over against the city and wasps, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets," etc. If national sin brings with it national calamity, then the lengthening out Of our prosperity must depend on the caution which is exercised, lest any sin should be permitted and indulged, until it shall become distinctive of our national character. Is there nothing among ourselves over which there floats, audible to the men who seek the best welfare of their country and deprecate its woe, the sound of that sentence, "I remember?" Are not its murmurs to be heard at this moment, amid political excitements and difficulties of administration? "I remember" the Sabbaths which are systematically broken by those who take their pleasure on my holy day. "I remember" the intemperance of those who "rise up early in the morning that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them." "I remember" the want of truthfulness in the manner of conducting business, the unjust advantages taken of the buyer, the false representations made by the seller, although my word has declared that "a false balance is abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight." "I remember" the concealed iniquity of men who, with a fancied impunity, perpetrated the foulest crimes, reckless of every consideration but that of inconvenient exposure. Our patriotism, to be effective, must be of the right stamp; and to prove itself of this stamp it must itself consent to learn its lessons from that chief source of all instruction, the Scriptures — confirmed, as the sacred teachings are, by the dispensations of Divine Providence There may be a diversity in the manner in which individuals may have been guilty, in reference to the sum total of the public guilt. Some may have been the direct actors, and others may have been partakers in their sins. From all which has been stated it will follow —

1. That it is a duty constantly incumbent upon us, as members of the community, to inquire into our personal relation to that public criminality of which God says, "I remember it," and to make it the matter of our individual repentance and humiliation. If personally, and through God's grace, these things cannot be described as committed by me, yet do I give any sanction to them in others? Do I protest against them? Do I exert my influence to lessen their amount?

2. The sins of nations, which call down wrath, being thus the accumulation of the sins of individuals, those will do most to prevent public calamity, to ensure national prosperity, and thus will do most for their country, who make a stand for God against that which would displease Him; who, in their own immediate spheres, seek, in dependence upon His grace, to yield to His authority, and to illustrate His religion; and who "let their light so shine before men that they may see their good works, and glorify their Father which is in heaven." Personal religion is the best patriotism. The fear of God pervading men's hearts is the surest provision against national calamity, because it is the opposite of national sin. Go, then, and exercise your civil privileges, your social rights, in the fear of the God of nations. Set Him at your right hand.

(J. A. Miller.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Thus saith the LORD of hosts, I remember that which Amalek did to Israel, how he laid wait for him in the way, when he came up from Egypt.

WEB: Thus says Yahweh of Armies, 'I have marked that which Amalek did to Israel, how he set himself against him in the way, when he came up out of Egypt.

Recalled to the Path of Duty
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