Summary: It was the task of the prophets to help Israel see herself as God saw her. As one such prophet Jeremiah’s task was to help Israel understand what it meant to be a nation under God. And while Israel was, and ever will be, the only nation chosen by God, any
“A Nation Under God: An Exalted Nation”
Prov. 14:34; Jer. 17:5-13
One of our sons and his family spent some time vacationing at our home. I took some days off to spend time with them – especially to play with our grandchildren. Some months later they went to California to spend time with the other set of grandparents. One evening our 4 year-old grandson was playing with his other grandpa, who had worked during the day, and said to him, “I like it better when we’re at my other grandpa’s. He only works on Sundays.” Oh to see ourselves as others see us!
It was the task of the prophets to help Israel see herself as God saw her. As one such prophet Jeremiah’s task was to help Israel understand what it meant to be a nation under God. And while Israel was, and ever will be, the only nation chosen by God, any nation can experience God’s blessing by seeking to be a nation under God. Therefore the message of Jeremiah holds significance for our nation as well. So to begin this series we turn to these passages in Jeremiah and Proverbs to discover how to be a blessed, exalted nation.
To be a nation under God RIGHTEOUSNESS MUST BE THE FOUNDATION. Righteousness is a relative term in that it pertains to relationships and right dealings with others. It means DOING WHAT IS RIGHT, WHAT CONFORMS TO THE ACCEPTED NORM. Note that there must be a standard of what is right and wrong – otherwise there cannot be righteousness.
In the Bible that norm, THE STANDARD IS GOD. Right and wrong is established by God. To be a nation under God is to conform to His standards. The Psalmist wrote (98:2): “The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations.” (119:142 GNT) “Your righteousness will last forever, and your law is always true.” It’s important to understand that America was founded on Biblical tenets – several of which we will see throughout this series. For now it’s enough to state that many of our founding fathers greatly revered the Bible and had a commitment to the principles and righteousness of God. One important story is recorded in the annals of the Supreme Court. Someone brought a case before the court to remove the teaching of the Bible from the schools. One of the justices – who was one of the signers of the founding documents of America – stated that if someone wanted to have a school where the Bible was not taught, then he should start a private school for that purpose. The standard, the foundation of life in America was to be the righteousness of God.
God’s norm, His standard, is clear throughout the Bible. A nation under God, is one which, first, ENCOURAGES AND PROVIDES OPPORTUNITIES FOR HER CITIZENS TO BUILD AND CELEBRATE THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND, SECOND, WHICH PROMOTES AND ENFORCES EQUITY. The Psalmist said it succinctly (146:7-9) “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind, the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” God spoke to the prophet Zechariah (7:9-10), “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.”
Two of the best known summaries of righteousness were spoken by Micah and Jesus. Micah told the Israelites (6:6-8 GNT), “…the Lord has told us what is good. What he requires of us is this: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with our God.” Jesus stated it succinctly in the SUMMARY OF THE LAW. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. In this spirit Dr. William Brownson, in preaching on righteousness, asked some clear, concise, pointed questions: “Does a nation nourish the growth and dignity of all its people? Does it labor to create a wholesome environment for every man and woman, boy, and girl within its borders? Does it embody God’s concern for the despised and dispossessed?” (1)
Such righteous living, says Proverbs, LEADS TO EXALTATION. The launching pad for this promise is Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Ps. 37:34 – “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.” This blessedness, this ongoing fruitfulness, is the root of exaltation for individuals and nations.