"There were no blacksmiths in the land of Israel in those days. The Philistines wouldn't allow them for fear they would make swords and spears for the Hebrews. So whenever the Israelites needed to sharpen their plowshares, picks, axes, or sickles, they had to take them to a Philistine blacksmith. (The schedule of charges was as follows: a quarter of an ounce of silver for sharpening a plowshare or a pick, and an eighth of an ounce for sharpening an ax, or an ox goad.) So none of the people of Israel had a sword or spear, except for Saul and Jonathan." (1 Samuel 13:19-22)

It wasn't as if the nation had not been warned. Years earlier, God had graciously foretold the people of Israel what they could expect to happen to them if they chose the path of disobedience for themselves. In Deuteronomy 15:4-6 we read of God's promise to bless the nation if they remained true to Him. "However, there shall be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance to possess, if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all this commandment which I am commanding you today. For the Lord your God shall bless you as He has promised you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you."

However, in Deuteronomy 28:43-48 we also read of the curse that would befall the nation if they failed to honor the Lord. "The foreigners living among you will become stronger and stronger, while you become weaker and weaker. They will lend money to you, not you to them. They will be the head, and you will be the tail! If you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and to obey the commands and laws He has given you, all these curses will pursue and overtake you until you are destroyed. These horrors will serve as a sign and warning among you and your descendants forever. Because you have not served the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. They will oppress you harshly until you are destroyed."

And so it happened, just as God had told them. And what a sad, sad picture it is that we find here in the days of Saul. The disobedience of the nation was made worse by the disobedience of the king when he foolishly tried to supplant the Prophet Samuel by offering up the sacrifice in his absence (Read of this earlier in the chapter). So God brought upon them, as a people, precisely what He had promised - hardship, deprivation, humiliating indebtedness, and destruction.

The saddest thing, however, is when subsequent generations of people fail to learn from the past. It's as if we somehow come to convince ourselves that the principles of a bygone day are no longer valid for us and carry no weight. Therefore, we are free to live and conduct our affairs as if the past matters not at all. Is this not what America has done? Have we not foolishly, by our wanton disrespect for God and His precepts, managed to transform this great nation of such abundant blessings into a nation of debtors? Is it nothing short of fraud to promise what one is unable to perform - to borrow without the ability to repay? And how is it feasible in anyone's mind that this nation should ever be able to climb out from under a national debt of $16-20 Trillion?

I am reminded of something that Ted Williams once said to a teammate: "If you don't think too good, try not to think too much!" And yet that's the overwhelming impression I often get when listening to many of our national leaders - blind and ignorant individuals who seem intent on making the same mistakes of previous generations while hoping for different results. Everything gets turned upside down. A blessed nation becomes a nation enslaved with indebtedness to her enemies. The best system of medical care human history has ever known gets transformed into a mediocre profession that is the envy of no one. An educational system that shines in its accomplishments and is renown throughout the world gets trashed and slips quietly into the dustbin of other ineffective sociological human experiments. A people that once sought to honor the God of Providence by whose hand they were led to these shores and planted in this garden - by sheer maddening disobedience and self-indulgence, morphs into a society which flaunts its Jerry Springer-ish sinful conduct without shame or reproach.

But just as God promised Israel of old, a day of reckoning comes to a nation. A people that suffer under the delusion that they face no problem that cannot be resolved by throwing more money at it, will come to see that material possessions will not deliver. A nation like ours that shuns God while resting in a façade of power and prestige and international influence will come to see - and painfully so -- just what a shallow lot of pretenders we truly are.

The only recourse for America, is open and widespread repentance - a Nineveh-like (See: Jonah) acknowledging of our sinful and foolish ways and a turning of our hearts back to the Lord. The promise of 2 Chronicles 7 is still valid: "If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." It is not time for us to wake up and turn from our disgraceful neglect of the Lord?

The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.