Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God
(Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)
197 Years Ago in the News
August 24, 2011
Did you know that 197 years ago today, on August 24, 1814, British troops marched on Washington,
D.C., captured it, and burned several public buildings?
This episode in the history of our nation is called the Burning of Washington that took place during
the War of 1812 between the British Empire and America. For the first time and the only time since the
American Revolution, a foreign nation occupied the nation's capital.
During this brief occupation, the British army burned the White House, the US Capitol, the Library of
Congress, and several other public buildings. The exterior structures remained but the interiors were
pretty much destroyed. A torrential rainfall during this time may have saved the buildings from total
But here is the interesting thing about this historic event: Shortly after the attack, a tornado hit the area,
resulting in deaths of both the British and the Americans. Fortunately, the rain helped to put out the
fires. However, military equipment was tossed about and the British suffered damage to their ships. The
British occupation of the capital lasted only 26 hours, and the US government, along with President
Madison, was restored to its capital quickly.
Was this a judgment of God upon the young nation? Was it the providential hand of God that protected
our capital from total destruction, even overthrow of our government by the British? Was it both?
As I see it, most people fall into one of two groups.
They deny altogether the providential hand of God in the history of men and nations, including the
possibility that God is speaking through natural events, which are often called either acts of nature or
acts of God . In the case of the latter, it is another way of saying acts of nature and does not
necessarily imply the judgment of God. After all, if God is not in the history of men and nations, then
how could He be in the cause and effect of natural events?
Others don't deny the hand of God in the history of men and nations. They might attribute really bad
things that have happened to God's doing, but when they do, they often see these things as punitive
rather than corrective on the part of God. They attribute man's "get even" anger and vengeance to God,
as if He were like man rather than the God of love [ God is love ] who disciplines those He loves. Let us
not forget that God so loves the world . Who and what nation do we want to leave out of His love?
It seems that those in the second group pick and choose the events they ascribe to God's judgment,
and that they see them applying to the other guy (as in nation, region, etc.) and not to them. Especially
when it comes to the overall nation, it seems that people don't want to acknowledge the possibility that
God might be trying to get their attention or that they are suffering through some event or crisis
because, as a nation, they have broken some divine law of God. Simply, they are so self-centered that
they are blind to the sins of the nation and what part they might have played in bringing on judgment.
If you have a difficult time grasping this concept, then you are encouraged to study the history of
ancient Israel and Judah. God told them what He would do if they broke His divine law or His covenant
with them. He was true to His word regarding every breach of His law and covenant to the point of even
divorcing Israel. Consider the 10 tribes of the house of Israel that were removed from their land and
cast out among the nations. They lost their national identity as the nation of Israel. As a reminder, the
modern-day state of Israel is not an indication that the tribes have regained their name, as if they have
been found. Modern Israel has usurped the birthright name Israel that was given to Joseph and his two
sons. Today, the lost tribes of Israel are to be found in most of the western nations. In fact, America
was founded by descendants of the lost tribes and, as such, is more an Israelite nation today than
modern Israel in the Middle East, which should more rightly be called Judah or even Judah-Edom.
The point I want to make is that God's judgments are a good thing, even though they might seem
severe at times; nevertheless, they are meant for good for those who discern His hand in them as well
as His lesson. Consider what Isaiah had to say about His judgments.
( 8) Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O LORD, we have waited for You eagerly; Your
name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. (9) At night my soul longs for You, indeed, my
spirit within me seeks You diligently; for when the earth experiences Your judgments [ mishpat ] the
inhabitants of the world learn righteousness . (10) Though the wicked is shown favor, he does not
learn righteousness; he deals unjustly in the land of uprightness, and does not perceive the majesty of
the LORD. (Isaiah 26:8-10 NASB)
The Hebrew word mishpat , translated as judgments , signifies a judicial verdict , like a sentence or
formal decree for a crime. Thus, it is a legal term and refers to a ruling in a court of law. In this case, the
court of law is the righteous throne of God that renders judgments based on the divine law of God.
But take special notice of the reason behind God's judgments. When the earth experiences His
judgments, it is for a purpose, and that purpose is to learn righteousness. This sure does not sound like
a vengeful God who simply desires to punish people who don't agree with Him and His law. His
judgments are so that people will learn righteousness. This is a good thing!
But there is more, for, according to Isaiah, the wicked have a hard time learning this lesson, even
though in good times they are shown favor (grace). Instead, they continue on in their unrighteousness
and fail to behold or perceive the other lesson of God's judgments, that is, to perceive the majesty of
the Lord.
So, the inhabitants of the earth experience God's judgments in order to learn His righteousness so that
through His righteousness they will behold His majesty. What a loving God the world has!
Now, I must conclude with a brief word about the number 197.
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and
she will call His name Immanuel [gematria = 197] . (Isaiah 7:14 NASB)
Truly, God's judgments are a sign, but He gave us the greatest of all signs when He gave His only
begotten Son to the world. In the above verse, the word Immanuel has a gematria of 197. As if God
wants to drive home the point, if we take the entire surface of the earth and smooth it (i.e., remove
mountains and valleys), the entire surface area of the earth would be 197 million square miles.
Coincidence or the hand of God pointing to His Son? I'll take the latter.
I am not trying to connect the event that occurred 197 years ago to our day. However, what I do want to
leave you with is this: The next time a national event occurs, either in the natural realm or man's realm
of governments and institutions, don't be so quick to pass it off as just another event in the life of a
nation. Turn to God and seek Him for understanding of His judgments. Is it a sign? Then, praise God
that He has given the world the greatest of all signs in His Son, the Lord Jesus, the Messiah, the King
of kings and Lord of lords. He came to this earth the first time to conquer sin and death and take the
scepter of Judah . He is coming a second time to conquer the nations and take the birthright of
Israel-Joseph and usher in His Kingdom .
The Upward Call: #05-1144
by: Stuart H. Pouliot