It seems almost surreal to realize that during a brief time in our nation’s history, presidential candidates were debating how to spend an anticipated budget surplus resulting from a dramatic change in the politics of the world. It was called the peace dividend. This term, largely attributed to former President George H.W. Bush and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, described the economic benefit of the fall of the former Soviet Union and the end of the cold war hostilities. For the first time in decades, the world was largely at peace. It was the year 2000 and the candidates, George W. Bush and Al Gore, were engaged in the first of three presidential debates. No one wanted to discuss doom and gloom nuclear scenarios which had dominated politics for decades. Expenditures for the military were on the decline. Discussions focused upon issues like stabilizing the social security system and climate change.
Less than one year later, the world was embroiled in a new conflict, the war on terror. In the years leading up to September 11th, 2001, our military forces and readiness were weakened. Politicians of both parties ignored the warnings of our military experts that our fiscal policies were an invitation to our enemies to attack. But what enemies? There was no more Soviet Union. The cold war had ended. 9/11 changed the United States and the rest of the world, an impact that still reverberates to this day. There was no more peace dividend.
You push away every thought of coming disaster, but your actions only bring the day of judgment closer. How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall. You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David. You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation. Therefore, you will be the first to be led away as captives. Suddenly, all your parties will end.
Amos 6:3-7 (NLT)
The Prophet Amos had the thankless task of preaching doom and destruction to the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. While other prophets had preached a similar foreboding prophecy, Amos’ task was made more difficult because both kingdoms were enjoying times of great prosperity. Who would listen to a prophet when the traditional enemies of the two kingdoms were on the decline? Who would listen to a prophecy of famine and destruction when wealth and prosperity abounded? It was a familiar theme that has been repeated throughout history. Like many prosperous nations, the Jews had grown complacent, overconfident in their wealth and rejecting God who had blessed them. The rich abused the poor and neglected the weightier issues of the law. God would judge both kingdoms for their sins of neglect and injustice. Within thirty years, judgment would come from relentless attacks by rejuvenated enemies.
The circumstances of the world may lull us into a false sense of security. When we are at peace and prospering, we may fail to acknowledge it is all because of the goodness and graciousness of God. Instead, we exalt our cleverness and wisdom, averring that we are more than capable than God to solve the problems of the world. Pundits pointed to the peace dividend! Sadly, it was gone in less than ten years. Like Israel and Judah, all our lavish parties did end. It does not have to be this way. God has told us what we must do.
Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)
Love and trust in the Lord; seek His will in your life.