July 3, 2011: Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Let us pray: Dear Savior, today as we celebrate our country’s birthday, remind us that America’s might is not in her armaments or economic prowess, no it is found in You alone. You are the One Who humbles the proud and exalts the humble. You are the One Who saves souls and allows countries to keep on going. Today we join in thanking You for preserving us another year and also ask that through us You may preserve America, too. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE RULER OF ALL NATIONS

TEXT: Hosea 5: 15-6:6

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

I believe it was George Santayana who once wrote: “Those who refuse to study history are bound to repeat the mistakes of history.” That’s one of the reasons why God records so much history in the Old Testament. Or, as the NT states: “All things have been written for our learning.” Today, America is 235 years old. Tomorrow we celebrate that birthday. So, what do you think the future will hold for our nation? Will we remain great and strong? Will we continue to be a beacon of liberty around the globe? Will growing up in America be a blessing or a curse for our children? I don’t know of any politician who will tell you the truth I’m going to lay before you today. But, the fact of the matter is:

RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION

I

I know, I know, we’re told by almost everyone that there is a great big wall which separates church and state in America. We’re told to never cross that boundary or some sort of religious war will break out in our land. But, is that really true? Has it ever been true—or any nation? Religious principles shape how people think. Since nations are composed of people, they obviously shape how nations think and act. Thus, the future of any nation is ultimately reliant on the religious grounding of her people. Their attitude and actions will determine whether God extends the hand of blessing or the hand of curse upon them as a whole.

The prophet Hosea lived around the year 750 BC and ministered to God’s people for 60 years. His nation, Israel, was in turmoil politically. The superpower of the day, Assyria, was on their border. The 10 northern tribes of Israel had already given up any true worship of the Triune God. They placed their faith in making political alliances with others, and in trying to play one power off against another, instead. And as a result, God had withdraw His gracious hand and Assyria had snapped them up, carted them away in to slavery, and they ceased to exist. The southern kingdom of Judah has escaped the same fate only when King Hezekiah prayed to the Lord directly. But now Judah, too, was becoming less and less reliant on the Triune God. Yes, they still had temple worship and still went through the motions of righteousness—sacrificing animals and engaging in perfunctory worship services. But, their hearts and minds weren’t really in it. Ritual for ritual sake doesn’t smell very sweet to God Almighty, He wants the heart behind it. So, our God threatens national annihilation to them, too. He tells them through Hosea: “Then, I will go back to my place until they admit their guilt. And they will seek my face; in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”

Folks, is that same thing occurring in America today? Does our country “go through the motions of religiosity” without the heart? And has God turned His back on us unless and until we repent of our political and economic arrogance?

II

God’s people, His faithful in Christ, always must lead the way back to God. We are the point of the spear of repentance. If we don’t lead, no one will follow and the nation will be lost. And so, God’s people under His guidance now tell us what we must do. “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”

When was the last time outside of church that you heard the words: “Our help comes from the Lord Who made heaven and earth.”? That’s right. Never. You and I have a lot of work to do. We must never be afraid to talk about our reliance on God. In social settings, in business meetings, even among our fellow citizens, we must not be afraid to give God His due and recognize His blessings and give thanks to Him for them. The unbelievers never acknowledge God and never give Him thanks. Their influence is pervasive. It has become the status quo. But, to preserve America we need to fight it with repentance, faith, and the confidence that comes with the Gospel. Giving God His due is never out of place! And yes, when the economy suffers and social setbacks occur, we must remind people that for a short time God allows such suffering in order to make us more attune to His blessing which will follow.

III

Ephraim is code for the already doomed 10 northern tribes. Judah is code for the southern kingdom of Israel that still clung to existence. The next words tell us that by God’s standards both suffered from the same religious malaise. “What can I do with you, Ephraim? What can I do with you, Judah? Your love is like the morning mist, like the early dew that disappears. Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.”

Does anyone ever talk about America’s problems that way in the news? Does anyone pay attention to God and ask for His help when the stock market crashes or terrorist attacks occur? Does anyone ask: “How have we offended God?” Yet, His signs are given for a reason—to lead us to repentance. And finally, the definition of true repentance is spelled out for us. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”

God isn’t into window dressing and us playing religious dress-up. He wants people’s hearts. He wants them to base their lives on mercy, on the forgiving love that He extends to all in and through Jesus Christ. He wants to change people by changing their attitude from Me-first, to God-first. And He accomplishes that change only when we embrace Christ’s forgiving heart in true faith and genuine thankfulness. That’s what Scripture means when it says: “In Him we live, move, and have our very existence.”

Righteousness exalts a nation. Rightness with God is possible only because He made us right with Him by sacrificing His Son for our lives. Seizing that rightness by faith lifts up you and me as individuals and also our entire nation. Likewise, it rubs off on others. It’s good you’ve come to church to worship this day before the 4th. For in so doing, your heart-felt faith builds up a better country for all—more than any fireworks displays or parades can ever hope to achieve. Amen