Originally published in Pulpit Helps, March 2009.
Text: "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34).
Thought: Perhaps no verse in the entire Bible speaks to the constitution and condition of a nation like this one. And yet, by some ingenious, satanic design, morality has seldom been sufficiently applied to politics. Men have yet to learn that what is wrong in the individual is equally wrong in society. King Solomon wrote these words out of a rich experience of government and glory, and we need to heed the implications of this deeply significant statement if we would know the reign of righteousness in personal and national life. Observe.
I. The Reputation of a Nation
"Righteousness exalteth a nation." It does not take much thinking to reach the conclusion that a nation is made up of leaders and members with corresponding responsibilities. Certain moral obligations rest upon leaders. Their first considerations should be the security of the people they govern, and through wise leadership they should work for harmony and peace. Leaders must set a good example, both by their beliefs and behavior, and seek to recapture a new sense of integrity in the nation. As with the accountability of the national leadership, individual citizens likewise have a responsibility toward those who have the rule over them. They are to pray for them and to respect their office, regardless of party affiliation.
II. The Ruination of a Nation
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." No one can read history without being impressed, as well as shaken, with the rise and fall of nations throughout the centuries. If you were to analyze the cause of such collapse they would amount to three important principles.
First, a nation is ruined when it fails in its dependence on God. When we change our motto from "In God we trust" to "In man we trust" we are lost; for the Scriptures teach conclusively that "vain is the help of man" (Psalm 60:11).
Furthermore, a nation is doomed to ruination and damnation when it fails to obey God. The Bible teaches quite clearly that "there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1); and both leaders and members of any given nation are accountable and responsible to the laws of God, as revealed in the Word of God and taught by the church of God.
Finally, a nation is ruined when it fails in its repentance to God. The Bible says: "The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17). Although we have a God of judgment and wrath, He is likewise a God of grace and mercy. Where there is true repentance, there is forgiveness, blessing and favor.
Thrust: If we love our nation and desire God's best for it, let us take the first step toward repentance by yielding our own lives to the changing power of Christ; let us remember that only as the individual is transformed can society be changed.
David L. Olford teaches expository preaching at Union University's Stephen Olford Center in Memphis, Tennessee.
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