To inquire is to investigate and really look into something. To assume something is true is the opposite of inquiry because assumptions stop us before we begin asking questions. When it comes to the issue of American restoration, there are many assumptions and a fresh spirit of inquiry is essential.
STATE OF THE UNION:
America has historically been known as the land of opportunity where anyone who was willing to work hard and sacrifice could build a financial future. But there is an increase in economic inequality and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.
✓ In America today 20% of the population holds 85% of the nation's wealth.
✓The economic meltdown increased inequality; median family net worth fell 40% across the country between 2007-2010.
✓ A child born into the middle class is now more likely to fall into poverty as they get older rather than be financially better off or the same as their parents.
The news is even worse for the very poor. Almost every major metro area saw suburban poverty not only grow during the 2000s but also become further concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods.
There has always been and always will be a gap between rich and poor but that gap is growing. A system of pronounced inequality that is not properly redressed will eventually implode as those locked in the growing ranks of the poor express the frustration and hopelessness of their position.
Balaam is a stark example of someone who had a flawed process of inquiry filled with wrong assumptions. Messengers came to Balaam and offered to pay a fee if he would curse God’s people, and Balaam told the men, "Spend the night here…and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me” (Num 22:8). Right away it is clear that Balaam is corrupt, for he’s willing to ask God to do something that violates God’s nature and principles. For Balaam to even entertain the thought of going with the men is a transgression. His question is not authentic because he doesn’t really want to know – he sought permission from God to do what he wants.
But before the false prophet could bring his wrongly motivated question to the Lord, God preempted him: “ God came to Balaam and asked, ‘Who are these men with you?’” (v 9). I have emphasized the words “with you” because they indicate God was questioning Balaam’s relational alliance with those who opposed God’s purpose. God wasn’t actually asking Balaam to recite the men’s names; He was giving the false prophet a chance to repent because the question Balaam had in his heart to ask the Lord – if he could go with the men to curse Israel – was incorrect. The first thing on God’s agenda is to get us to inquire of Him correctly. If we don’t, God may begin to inquire of us as He did with Balaam and many others:
- Adam, where are you?
- Cain, where is your brother Abel?
- Elijah, what are you doing in the cave?
- Saul, why are you persecuting me?
When God asks questions they are meant to reveal our heart and lead us into repentance and knowledge of Him. When God asked Balaam who the men were, it was a chance for this greedy prophet to confess and repent. Instead Balaam tells God who the men are, as if God is ignorant and really wanted to know (v 10-11). Realizing how darkened the prophet was, God made it even more clear, telling him plainly “"Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed” (v 12). He received the answer to his question in the form of a command: Do not go! You must not! Balaam went anyway, and there are several things to note from his flawed process of inquiry that ended in his disobedience:
- We can ask questions but still not possess the spirit of inquiry. Balaam asked questions of God, but he didn’t really want to know God’s response. Many approached Jesus with questions but their intention was not to learn but to try and entrap him (Mt 22:35). A heart of humility and genuine searching is required – a pure heart is more important than the questions we ask, for it is the pure of heart that will see God (Mt 5:8).
- It is dangerous to approach a matter with an already formulated agenda. Balaam’s pre-existing agenda was to find an excuse to do Balaak’s bidding. The Bible plainly says he was greedy (2 Pet 2:15). Unlike Balaam who had a predetermined answer he would accept, we have to begin the quest with complete willingness to hear any answer He gives.
- We must be willing to be instructed. We cannot begin to fast, pray and believe for the nation to be restored until we have heard from God. If we proceed in doing so no matter what He says, we are like Balaam: asking but disregarding Divine instruction. Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). Hearing from God will adjust our lifestyle and our priorities.
A Biblical Template for Spiritual Inquiry
The parable of a woman who lost a coin contains principles that can guide us as we engage in our own search for the will of God regarding the possibility of America’s restoration.
Luke 15:8 "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.'
a) The Search is for Something of Value: The woman lost 10% of her net worth – a substantial amount in any household, and she set about to find it. You don’t search for something unless you place value on it. If we don’t think that knowing the will of God about the nation is important then it won’t be a priority for us seek what God is saying and doing. If you don’t even know something is lost there is no search – if we begin with the assumption that the nation will be restored we won’t look beyond that.
b) She lit a Lamp. Lighting a lamp speaks of light and illumination; there has to be a dispelling of darkness in order for us to find our way. We don’t need human opinions about the nation; we need illumination or insight from God. One of the signs of the Church that exists at the End of Time is they are a people who walk in light when gross darkness is covering those around them (Is 60:1-3). We must have the glory of the Lord rise upon us and light shining in our hearts. Light is a symbol of understanding and illumination, and while the nation is growing darker and more oppressed on every level we must walk in light: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Is 9:2)
c) She swept the house. A housecleaning was involved in the woman’s search for the coin and we must also remove things that clutter and hide what is precious. Sweeping our own house involves removing mentalities and nationalistic biases that try and conceal the answer. Ambition, pride, national definitions and assumed superiority – all of this is clutter that will keep the will of God hidden from our eyes. Kings who were raised up by God as reformers often started their work by removing the rubbish from the holy place in the temple, a picture of clearing out our own hearts and minds from that which contaminates (2 Ki 23:4, 2 Chr 29:5). We must deal with any sin, attitudes, habits or hardness of heart that constitutes rubbish in the holy place - sweep the house!
d) She searched carefully. How we go about examining this word from the Lord is important. The search cannot be haphazard or casual. The word “careful” that Jesus used to define her search means to give thoughtful concern to an activity. This series of articles is arranged to allow you to carefully and systematically search out and discover what God is saying. Reading through them requires diligence, commitment and thoroughness. Searching carefully involves prayer, studying the Bible, reading articles like this one, but behind the actions there must be a commitment in our heart to search diligently and very thoughtfully. The spiritually lazy will not find the will of God.
e) Until she found it. There is only one outcome for the search – discovery. We cannot go search for God and come back empty, or report to our friends that we couldn’t find it. That which is lost must be found because it is essential for the church to reach its full functionality in the earth. Jesus never told a parable about searching that ended in failure. In Matthew he urges us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” (Mt 7:7-8). Everyone who genuinely asks receives; a promise that forms the basis for our quest.
f) She shared her joy with her friends and neighbors. Whatever we apprehend in God is meant to be shared with others. The journey is not primarily selfish nor is it entered into for the sake of personal advancement only. When you find something of value you want to share it with your friends – that is the basis for this series of articles. The woman could not be condemned because she found what she was looking for, nor thought of as arrogant for her joy in recovering her treasure. We have found answers we are sharing with the Body of Christ, and like the woman who found the coin it is our joy to possess: a) A spiritual understanding that forces beyond human control are involved in the breakdown of society b) A view above politics which allows us to view the upcoming 2016 elections from a correct standpoint c) Hope when the trajectory of the nation is downward.
An On-line Discussion: Developing the Spirit of Inquiry
Here are some questions you can consider as you seek to grow spiritually. Join the discussion in our forums and post your thoughts to these questions and read the responses of others.
- What stops you from inquiring of the Lord for your life?
- Do you feel it is valuable and important to know what God's will for America holds?
Why or why not?
- What does it mean for you personally to "sweep your house"?
- Can you describe how you are "searching carefully"?
- How will inquiring of the Lord regarding America impact your ability to respond to the present crisis?
For Further Reading:|
The Price of Inequality, How Today's Divided Society Endangers our Future, Joseph E. Stiglitz, (New York, NY; 2012) W.W. Norton & Company
Who Stole the American Dream?, Hedrick Smith, (New York, NY; 2012) Random House