“Woe be unto thee, Assur, thou that hidest the unrighteous in thee! O thou wicked people, remember what I did unto Sodom and Gomorrha; Whose land lieth in clods of pitch and heaps of ashes: even so also will I do unto them that hear me not, saith the Almighty Lord.” (2 Esdras 2:8-9 )
What does it mean to be Godless? If you get the “Sip of Scripture” emailed to you, or if you view the verses online you will see that the Anabaptist theme for this verse is “Punishment of the Godless”. So if one is unsure, it might be prudent – in the light of what God did to Sodom and Gomorrha – to determine what it means to be Godless.
Some clue might be in the verse itself. Not hearing God is one grave offense. I suspect though the word ‘heed’ might be more precise then ‘hear’. This technicality rests on the fact not hearing might have less to do with not having been told about God, and more with not paying attention to God. A second offense is simply being ‘wicked’. Modern slang aside, being wicked or evil has been an offense against God ever since Adam and Eve made a mistake in the garden of Eden. It is, however, the offense that is mentioned first that captures my thoughts.
If a country or nation ‘hides’ the unrighteous this is an offense against God. Just like hearing/heeding God needs explanation, ‘hiding’ the unrighteous might has need further examination. If the unrighteous are in a country or nation, but the righteous are ignorant of their presence, does that condemn the whole nation? Or is it more a matter of the entire country or nation is unrighteous, and ‘hiding’ is just a metaphor to explain the insidious nature of their presence?
Dirk Philips speaks to the warning when he says, “These promises are the clear words of the Lord, by which we have testimony that God wishes just as well and equally to punish those who support and suffer the evil ones, by not separating them from themselves, as the same evil ones themselves.”
But be wary gently reader. This is a path which may wind and meander to places best left unvisited. If humanity decides to determine for itself what being Godless means, then there could be grave consequences. But wait a minute! Humanity already has! Who among us has not heard the epitaph “they’re a godless nation!” flung at some point on the globe. And has that not been the reason, rationale, and excuse for many a ‘purging’ of the ‘godless’.
On the spectrum of being utterly humble and self-effacing to arrogant and supremely confident in one’s righteous, all of humanity is sprinkled along that spectrum. It is an old warning to be sure, not assuming one’s place in God’s eyes. But then, it is an old text. And when it comes right down to it, Christianity is an old religion.
But we are not here to delve deeply into history, theology or any other ‘ism’. There is a simple solution. To avoid being ‘Godless’, one need only be filled with God. May you gentle reader be filled with the light of God and the hope and promise of Christ. Selah!