I pray that our nation, these United States of America, a nation which has been so highly exalted, will not fall. But, if and when it does, we need to understand why it will be, what will be the cause. By understanding the cause, we may be able to prevent it.
History records the rise and fall of nations. In many ways they follow a common pattern. At least there is a basic formula that insures a nation’s greatness, and then its demise. God, who is the sovereign of the universe, clearly sets forth the truth which the profane never see, and that is: behind the scene of human activity God is in control. That is not to say that every event is predestined, but rather that He observes the conduct of men and, from time to time, influences the course of history. There is a basic principle that accounts for a nation’s rise and its fall, that determines God’s relationship to it to preserve it or destroy it, which we will note.
We can see the hand of God in human affairs through a study of His prophets of the old covenant, as He dealt with the nation of Israel. God called Israel out of all the nations, that through the descendents of Abraham the Messiah should come. He established them as a nation and made known unto them His will in the law given to Moses from heaven. As they were submissive and practiced justice and righteousness, the nation prospered. They enjoyed peace and prosperity. But when they rebelled and walked after their own ways, perverting justice and engaging in iniquitous behavior, God humbled them by allowing their enemies to subvert them. Not only did they have a law to govern their conduct, but God sent unto them prophets to warn them when they turned from it. In all of their conduct God was very patient, and only when their rebellion was full did He bring judgment upon them.
More was expected of God’s people than the nations about them because they had the advantage of knowing God and having the oracles of God. This explains why God would allow nations more wicked to punish Jerusalem and Judah. Then, having done so, judgment would be brought upon the avenging nation because of their wickedness. This is clearly stated in Jeremiah, chapter 25, where this prophet of God addressed the people.
"From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, even to this day, these twenty-three years the word of the LORD has come to me, and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened. And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; and do not go after other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no harm. Yet you have not listened to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘in order that you might provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.’ Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Because you have not obeyed My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, and against its inhabitants, and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them, and make them a horror, and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. Moreover, I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the LORD, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation. And I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the nations. (For many nations and great kings shall make slaves of them, even them; and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the work of their hands.)’" (Jeremiah 25:3-14, NASB.)
Notice that God calls Nebuchadnezzar, "My servant," in that he had been promoted to do God’s will. You see, God can raise up evil men to serve His purpose, in this case to punish Israel. Nebuchadnezzar himself learned that this is so: "That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men." (Dan. 2:17, NASB) Nebuchadnezzar was proud and boasted his might and majesty. While his boast was in his mouth, God said to him you that his sovereignty was removed,
"you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes." (Dan. 4:32) He lost his reasoning and lived as an animal until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. His body was wet with dew and he fed on the grass of the field. After seven years, when his reasoning was restored, he acknowledged: "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride." (Dan. 4:37)
Before Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire were the Assyrians who lead away the first captives from Israel. In punishment of Israel, God sent the Assyrians, whom God addresses in Isaiah 10:6:
"O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets."
Notice that Assyria is the rod of God’s anger and that his staff is God’s indignation. God raised up Assyria and used them to humble His people. Even so, Assyria didn’t recognize God’s hand in their victory; they boasted themselves, that the power was theirs. In response, God says,
"So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness.’ For he has said, ‘By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this’ – this is Assyria boasting – ‘For I have understanding; and I removed the boundaries of the peoples, and plundered their treasures, and like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants, and my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest, and as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth; and there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped.’" The foolishness of their supposing that by their own strength they were able to subdue Israel, God likens to idea of the axe boasting against the one wielding the axe. "Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, or like a rod lifting him who is not wood." (Isaiah 10:12-15, NASB)
The truth of the matter, God raises up powers to do His will, of which they themselves of ignorant.
The point we want to make is that God is in control, that he can raise up evil men to accomplish his will, even to the humbling and punishing of those less evil and corrupt. When a nation is to be brought down, God will exalt as its king or head a corrupt man, who exemplifies the corruptness of the people he rules.
We see this in the nation of Egypt, when Moses was sent to lead Israel from their bondage. God said to Pharaoh,
"For this time I will send all My plagues on you and your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, you would then have been cut off from the earth. But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you to remain" – the King James Version says, "I have raised you up" – "in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth." (Exodus 9:14-16, NASB.)
We can see that it is not the inherent strength of a nation that preserves it. Nations of lesser strength have overtaken those with greater armies and more power. What exalts and preserves a nation ultimately is not its armies, its treasures, its economy, its technology, its resources, etc. The strength of a nation is in the righteousness of its people. The general principle of prosperity and eventual fall of a nation is succinctly stated in Proverbs 14:34: "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people." This principle is observed throughout history … and it works in the world today.
It is the righteousness of citizens within a nation that preserves it. When that righteousness is smothered so that its influence is negated, a corrupt nation cannot stand. We see this principle when the city of Sodom was destroyed. When God had determined to destroy the city for its great wickedness, in going after "strange flesh" (homosexuality). He informed Abraham of His intentions, to which Abraham responded and pleaded:
"Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the Lord said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes." (Gen. 18:23-26)
If only fifty righteous people resided in Sodom, God would spare it. Abraham reasoned further, surely God would not destroy the city if there five less than this number. And God said He would spare the city if there were 45 righteous people there. He lowered the number to 40, then 30, then 20, and finally 10. If only ten righteous people had been in Sodom it would not have been destroyed! Sodom was destroyed … there was not enough righteousness in the city to save it.
This is the hope of any nation, that there are some righteous citizens, who have an influence, as the Lord taught, as salt, or light, or leaven. When the salt has lost its savor, it has lost its ability to preserve. Without righteousness a nation cannot stand.
Now let’s make an application of this principle to the United States. "Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people."
The United States has been exalted from the day of its inception. It was founded on a moral base, with its founders invoking the blessings of God. Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Righteousness has distinguished the American people generally. Of course, there have always been exceptions; we have had problems of ungodly men who attempt to frustrate righteousness. An examination of our national documents demonstrate the reverence our leaders had for God and efforts to establish a government which respects the persons and property of its people. Allow me to briefly establish the point.
Before this nation was born there was a debate on whether a militia should be raised and trained. Speaking before the Virginia Convention of Delegates, following the approval of the First Continental Congress, Patrick Henry made the following argument in response to those who contended that the colonies were too weak to cope with the British forces:
"Sir, we are not weak, if we make proper use of the means which the God of nature hath placed in our power, Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations; and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us."
In the Declaration of Independence, signed July 4, 1776, God is referenced twice in its Preamble, and the document closes with this sentence:
"And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our scared honor."
When George Washington was elected the first president of the United States, in his inaugural address in New York City, April 30, 1789, he said:
"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe — Who presides in the councils of nations — and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes; and may enable every instrument, employed in its administration, to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States."
Consider the closing sentence of Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, or November 19, 1863:
"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that his nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
In his inaugural address, March 4, 1865, Lincoln quotes God, from the Scriptures, and in the brief five paragraphs of his speech refers to "God" some 7 times.
Quotes can be given from Presidents and official documents throughout out history. Our pledge of allegiance recognizes God, and His name is on our treasury notes and coins.
"Righteousness exalts a nation," and the United States has been exalted. But, now the question is, has America remained righteous? Are there enough righteous people to preserve the nation?
Today, we are experiencing a concerted attack upon God and God-ordained morality, and upon righteous people who believe in God. Today, God is outlawed in our schools on the fallacious argument that that there is a separation of church and state, that the state must be alienated from religion. Therefore, any reference to God is a religious exercise and must be confined to places of worship and excluded from the public scene. Prayer, for the most part, has been outlawed in the schools; the ten commandments must not be displayed; the Bible may not be referenced, although the most salacious literature is welcome. Humanism dominates the public forum.
Let me speak briefly of humanism. Introduced in the 1930’s into the education system, principally by John Dewey, the father of progressive education, the tenets of humanism has permeated the education system. Those indoctrinated in the ‘30’s became the professors and heads of departments in the 60’s. Humanism spawned the hippie movement, when young people in the thousands rebelled against God and God-ordained morality. Free-love and drugs were escapes from morality and responsibility. They felt guilty about being in a privileged society, being beneficiaries of a prosperous economic system, and thereby embraced socialism in an effort to redistribute the wealth of America. They accepted the prospects of a one-world government and despised our independence. They refused to pay allegiance to the nation, and protested against our struggle against communism, the militant arm of socialism. A new set of "values," a misnomer because the philosophy of humanism is without value … a new set of values were adopted to replace faith in God, morality and ethics, and personal responsibility. What was sown in the 60’s has reaped a whirlwind in the 90’s.
The students of the 60’ s have taken their places in the system they revolted against, not in acceptance of the system but with a mission to redefine it. They have moved into positions of influence, and to a great extent control the communications industry.
As a result, righteousness is mocked. We find throughout the communication media those who attempt to justify adultery, which is a tenet of humanism. They justify lying and perjury. They talk about responsibility, but then place the burden upon others. And, what is most scandalous, justification of immorality is determined by national polls, that is, conduct that is approved by the majority is right and permissible.
This reminds me of the conditions in Jeremiah’s day. God describes the unrighteousness that characterized society of the time:
"For among my people are found wicked men: they lay wait, as he that setteth snares; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit: therefore they are become great, and waxen rich. They are waxen fat, they shine: yea, they overpass the deeds of the wicked: they judge not the cause, the cause of the fatherless, yet they prosper; and the right of the needy do they not judge. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the LORD: shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" (Jer. 5:25-29)
Though repeatedly called upon to repent, the people refused. Jeremiah then reveals:
"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means…" (vs. 30-31.)
The very persons who should have been insisting on doing what is right, who should have been preaching righteousness, were instead condoning what was happening. They accepted the status quo, all the time saying, "there is peace, there is no danger." They cried, "Peace, peace," when God said there is no peace. And those in positions of authority, those who ruled, were in league with the false prophets. So apparently, there was no one, outside of Jeremiah, who was alarmed and willing to warn the people and call upon them to repent. So where were the people? Where was there righteous indignation?
The sad conclusion in Jeremiah’s statement is the latter part of verse 31,
"A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?"
It was bad enough when those responsible for teaching and warning the people, to call them back to righteousness, failed to fulfill their charge. It was bad enough when the rulers were content to justify an unrighteous society … a society in which Jeremiah describes the prevailing immorality. He says, "They were as fed horses in the morning: every one neighed after his neighbour’s wife." (Jer. 5:8) They commit adultery. "And they will deceive every one his neighbour, and will not speak the truth: they have taught their tongue to speak lies, and weary themselves to commit iniquity." (Jer. 9:5) They lied. "And though they say, The Lord liveth; surely they swear falsely." (Jer. 5:2) They lied under oath; they perjured themselves. "As a cage is full of birds, so are their houses full of deceit…" (Jer. 5:27) They deceived or misled people with whom they dealt. But, not only were the teachers and rulers corrupt, but the people were satisfied; it was the way they wanted it. As a result, there was no hope for Jerusalem and Judah; they would be destroyed. And they were; the people were carried away as slaves!
This history troubles me. It is bad enough that we have false teachers who are willing to condone and justify immorality. What God calls an abomination, they say is acceptable to God. (Lev. 18:22) They justify lying, when one rationalizes as to why he felt the need to; and this includes perjury. And so it goes today, even as in Jeremiah’s day. Our rulers, taking comfort from these false teachers, lie and and deceive. And worse than that, the people don’t care; this is what we want.
And so, you see, I wonder if there are enough righteous people to save America. As Jeremiah, we must warn the people and call upon them to repent, to turn from sin which will bring the nation down, and embrace righteousness whereby we may be made strong.
Thus far, I have made application to the well-being of our nation. Let me take the discussion to a higher level. We need to embrace righteousness for a much more important reason, and that is: "Because (God) has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness" by Jesus Christ. (Acts 17:31) Yes, "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor. 5:10)
Righteousness will exalt a nation … and it will save a soul!