Title: Does God Bless and Curse Nations?
Text: Genesis 4:9-12, 12:1-3
Date: January 17th, 2010
I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrible earthquake that hit the tiny island of Haiti this past week and how it has left the country in devastation. I’m praying for that nation, as I’m sure you are, that it can recover and the people can once again have homes to live in and water to drink and food to eat and the other basic necessities of life. I’m also sure that by now you’ve heard the comments by Pat Robertson which have caused so much controversy in the news media, but if you haven’t here’s what he said on the 700 Club television show: “Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. They were under the heel of the French … and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, ‘We will serve you if you’ll get us free from the French.’ True story. And the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’ Ever since, they have been cursed by one thing after another.” Wow! What a statement – especially in the midst of all the tragedy and suffering those people in Haiti are now experiencing in the aftermath of a category 7.0 earthquake. Now the secular press have repeated endlessly this quote and have made fun of it as a total absurdity. And it certainly is an example of pastoral insensitivity – coming at such a terrible time for the people of Haiti, and coming from the comfortable chair of a prosperous American. It’s not the kind of thing you’d say in the midst of so much suffering and pain, such as they have now in Haiti. But apart from pastoral concerns, what about the statement itself? Could there be any truth to it? Does God bless – or in this case – curse nations? Of course the secular news reporters and media outlets of today think the whole question is absurd because they don’t really believe in God, or if they do acknowledge God or a god, he’s only a far away and transcendent figure incapable of knowing or being known. But I suspect that most modern journalists and media executives, along with most of the secular establishment today, are either atheists or at best agnostics who either don’t believe in God or don’t believe in him very much. And if that’s the case, talk of God cursing or blessing people or nations is absurd, from that perspective. But for genuine Christian believers, for those of us who believe the Bible and the teachings of classic Christianity, there is nothing absurd about the idea of God blessing or cursing nations or individuals. Now in the midst of the tragedy in Haiti, in the light of all the pain and suffering taking place there now, I don’t think I would take the time to open up a discussion about whether God is cursing Haiti now or not, instead, I’d rather spend time recruiting people for prayer and assistance to help the people recover from the earthquake. Then, afterwards, when Haiti’s population has somewhat stabilized or recovered, then, it would be important to discuss whether there might be anything to ask, “Is God cursing Haiti?” But since so much scorn and ridicule has been heaped on someone – Pat Robertson – for merely suggesting the possibility that God can curse or bless individuals and nations, I wanted to respond from a biblical perspective. The idea that God blesses and curses nations is not absurd. The idea that God has cursed Haiti is not absurd. We need only turn to the Bible to find that indeed God has blessed and cursed individuals and nations before; there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t do the same again. In fact, many of us have warned the United States and other nations of the Western World that unless we repent we too may fall under the curse of God as a nation. That concept is not absurd, even though it isn’t pleasant or inspiring. But the hope would be that whatever nation or individual under a curse might be rescued from it through repentance and faith and obedience in God. But we must first deal with the truth and not deny its possibility. So let me take a few minutes to demonstrate from the Bible that individuals and nations might be blessed or cursed by God. Then, finally, I’ll say a few more things about the island of Haiti.
First, sometimes God blesses nations and individuals. Genesis 12:1-3, “The Lord has said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through you.’” Of course, this is the famous call of God to Abraham, the beginning of the Jewish nation and religion. But it’s interesting to notice that within the initial calling of Abraham we see God promising blessings to the individual man Abraham and also to the future nation of Israel. We also see a curse upon anyone who would oppose the purposes of God through Abraham and his descendents the Jews. Now from a strictly historical perspective, when we look back upon history from our vantage point today, we can indeed see that God has fulfilled his promise to Abraham – and is continuing to fulfill it. The nations of the world have been truly blessed through Abraham and the Jews. To name but a few blessings – monotheism, or the belief in one true God, has been spread to all corners of the globe chiefly through the Jews or those faiths coming from the Jewish faith. What a blessing it has been, how it has freed men and women from the superstition of believing in many gods. The whole earth has been blessed by God through the Jewish monotheism teaching. Most important, the whole world has been blessed through the Jewish Messiah Jesus Christ and the salvation he brings to every humble and trusting heart – although Jews sadly reject Jesus as their Messiah, most of the world has accepted him to one degree or another. And wherever the Bible and Christianity have gone, long term, God’s blessing has followed. Overall, the acceptance of the Christian faith by a person or a people is a blessing from God. When individuals or entire populations begin to trust and obey God through Jesus Christ and the Christian faith, they are blessed. God’s blessing generally comes upon a person or upon a people, nation, or civilization that receives the message of Christianity. Returning to the Bible, the Old Testament is full of illustrations of how God blessed Israel for its faith and obedience. There are simply too many examples to give from the pages of the Bible to review. All anyone needs to do is open his or her Bible and start reading; pretty soon they’ll find an example of God blessing some individual figure or nation. So the concept of God’s blessing is totally valid and reasonable; there’s nothing absurd or crazy about it. The only people who reject it in principle are atheists, skeptics, agnostics or unbelievers. But no true believer-in-God would reject the notion of God’s blessing upon individuals or nations. It’s clear from the Bible. But what about the curse of God? That’s more the question before us today, in light of the statements made after the earthquake in Haiti. Does God curse individuals or nations? Let’s find out.
Second, sometimes God curses individuals or nations. Genesis 4:9-12, “Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is you brother Abel?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.’” Of course, here’s the classic account of the curse of Cain by God after the murder of his brother Abel. Clearly we see God cursing Cain. It’s clear, there can be no doubt – God curses individuals sometimes. There are other examples in the Bible where God curses individuals. If we believe the Bible – and we must as Christians – then we acknowledge that God for whatever reasons at times curses individuals. But what about entire nations? Does God curse entire populations? This question is very important because it touches directly on the possibility that God could or might curse the island of Haiti. For now, the question isn’t whether God is cursing Haiti, or whether God might curse the United States for its sins and unbelief, the question is, could God do it? Does God curse nations in general? Has he ever cursed a nation before? Is the possibility a valid option? According to the Bible, yes, God may curse a nation. I’ve already mentioned the Genesis 12 promise of God to Abraham – “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.” It’s not limited to any individual; it seems to apply to any person or persons who attempt to thwart the plan of God through Abraham and the Jews. So here we see God’s curse on anyone – individual or nation – that opposes his plan of salvation. But perhaps the best early example of a nation cursed by God is Egypt. Later in the Bible, we even see God cursing his own people the Jews for their unbelief and disobedience; he allows them to go into exile, among other punishments. But let’s look at the example of Egypt more closely. The Book of Exodus describes in detail the whole process of God cursing a nation. The Jews were in slavery, Moses was sent by God to deliver the slaves from Egypt, but Pharaoh refused to let them go, so God cursed the nation. Isn’t that what the ten plagues were, a curse? Pharaoh’s counselors urged him to release the slaves, saying, “How long will this man be a snare to us? Let the people go, so that they may worship the Lord their God. Do you not yet realize that Egypt is ruined?” – Genesis 10:7. The curse of God was upon Egypt as long as they held the slaves captive. Here is but one example of God cursing a nation; there are many other examples recorded in the Bible, like I said before, including God’s own chosen people, the Jews, being cursed at times for their disobedience and unfaithfulness at times. So in answer to the question, “Could God curse a nation?” The answer is – Yes, and he has done it before and he will probably do it again. But let’s now move to the real question – is God cursing Haiti?
Third, sometimes it’s difficult to know whether God is cursing an individual or nation. The reason it’s difficult to make judgments about such things is that we need revelation from God to interpret circumstances – unless things are obvious. For example, in the case of Israel and Egypt, Moses and Pharaoh, it wouldn’t be too difficult to determine that Egypt was experiencing the curse of God for holding the slaves. If one knew the whole story of Moses going to Pharaoh and in God’s name demanding freedom for the slaves; then, if all the plagues began to come upon Egypt, it wouldn’t be too hard to connect the dots and come to the conclusion that God was indeed cursing Egypt until they released the slaves – that’s what Pharaoh’s officials concluded, which is why they urged Pharaoh to quickly release the slaves. They didn’t need God’s special revelation to determine that they were under a curse as long as they held the slaves. So there are times when it’s possible for people to identify God’s curse even without official divine revelation. But most of the time we must rely on revelation from God to know how to interpret circumstances. For example, in the Bible, in the Old Testament particularly, the Jewish prophets interpreted the events of history for the Jewish people and helped everyone know what was the curse of God and what was the blessing of God. After all, sometimes bad things happen to good people, and sometimes good things happen to bad people. All bad things that happen are not the curse of God, by the same token, all good things that happen don’t mean God’s blessing. However, why is it permissible to speak in terms of God’s blessing, but not God’s cursing? For example, there are plenty of Americans who would easily say, “God has blessed our nation so abundantly.” Such a statement would hardly raise an eyebrow for anyone. It seems that it’s ok to talk in terms of God blessing our nation, or God blessing an individual. We even say it to people – “God bless you.” The President of the United States ends his speeches with, “God bless America.” Now if God can and does bless nations – which we hope and pray he does in the case of our nation – then why is it so hard to believe that God could and does curse nations for their unbelief and disobedience? The problem isn’t believing that he has or could or will curse a nation, but the problem is making the determination that he is doing so. It’s a pretty harsh judgment to say an individual or nation is under the curse of God. Short of specific and certain divine revelation how would we know for sure? And because we don’t know for certain that God is cursing an individual or nation, maybe we should just refrain from making such a judgment. I realize that it’s tempting to judge Haiti as under God’s curse, what with especially its popular Voodoo religion and its continued troubles spanning hundreds of years. It just seems that this island can’t get it together for some reason no matter how much help is administered to it from other nations in the area. There are other nations just as small, in the same region, with similar advantages and disadvantages as Haiti that are thriving, but for some reason, Haiti continues to languish in poverty and despair. Then, an earthquake hits and now it looks like it has nearly destroyed the nation. It’s tempting to begin to talk about God’s curse and look for explanations why. This is a valid response. But maybe we should do so quietly and in private. Maybe we should pray that Haiti’s Voodoo religion would be thrown off by the people, that they would embrace true Christianity, that they would trust and obey the God of the Bible. Then, if there is a curse upon their land, it might be lifted in response to their faith and commitment to God. And at the same time, we shouldn’t get too comfortable ourselves, because after all, God’s blessing and curses apply to any individual or nation based on their faith and obedience. We need to put our own houses in order as well.