In the modern era we suffer from hundreds of dangerous soundbytes. Some of them are a single word, others consist of a few words and may be a full sentence. Even if the words are factual the sound few soundbytes can compete for leaving the smell of death like “God and country” or “one nation under God”.
What is a soundbyte? It is an expression that is small and intentionally charged with meaning, positive or negative. Advertisements on television and radio are popular users of soundbytes: well-chosen words intended to seize attention and become part of the public’s thinking.
Nation under God
Where is that righteous nation? Why does a nation have transgression and sins? How do these two conditions get resolved? These are our concerns for the people who take the bible into their civic life as if one can make a car run on grape juice.
Isaiah had an assignment that helps us understand the values of any nation or kingdom that steps up to be registered as righteous. In 58:1-2 we read of the rebellion and misses.
Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
If these people who Isaiah addressed had the best instruction what hope can anyone clung to in quest of a righteous report card?
In every nation
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. Acts 10:34ff
The devil’s grip on the nations
That word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judæa, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him
The nation vs the righteous
- And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem;
- whom they slew and hanged on a tree:
- Him God raised up the third day,
- and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
- And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
- To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
There is no righteousness in the law, not for nations nor for individuals. So what could possibly constitute the righteous report card for the world’s modern nations? Will they turn their swords in farming tools? Will empty their prisons of condemned inncent and their jurisdictions of poor and disenfranchised citizens?
Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. Ps. 127:1
Nations are typically defined as republics, kingdoms, principalities, or states. The Bible recognizes all of them but only the kingdom, those having an effective head in whom resides both leadership and representation has a chance of getting a well-done from God. That is rare, and the entity that puts its own goals and concepts ahead of pure philanthropy can be expected to be part of the alliance that separates divine graces from its civic process can hardly be called righteous. Even when they claim to have Judaic and Christian foundations the politics turns out to be a mishmash of cruelty and oppression. The rich are the models while the messengers of the healing of the human family are despised and assassinated.
Here what Stephen had to say when he came face to face with the civic power of a religious entity. It is a severe warning about mixing political power with a religious agenda. No-one with a cleansed heart can want to be subject to the judgment of religious bigots as Stephen was.
Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, Acts. 7:52 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts. 7:53 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. Acts. 7:54
The search for the righteous nation with the same qualities as the redeemed person is futile. No mob rule – people blindly following traditon – can ever represent God’s idea of righteous. “Nations under God” are bound to be idolatrous comedies. The beast will never beome a man. The mixing of Caesar’s dominion with a corporate religious entity will give way to individual responsibility.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will sow the house of Israel and the house of Judah with the seed of man and the seed of beast. Jer. 31:27 And it shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the LORD. Jer. 31:28 In those days they shall no longer say: “‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ Jer. 31:29 But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. Jer. 31:30
The real regime
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, Jer. 31:31
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. Jer. 31:32
A righteous nation can only have righteous building blocks, as Peter calls them, living stones. No alliance with Caesar is acceptable. the guidance offered to earth’s nations in our times has been ignored: only a sense of collective security commitment to the human race can qualify the nations for righteous identity. The great and mighty have the greatest hurdles to getting there.