Righteousness Exalts a Nation
Righteousness Exalts a Nation
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people (Proverbs 14:34).
“The wicked will return to Sheol, even all the nations who forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
An Ongoing Theme
The first example we have in Scripture of the above principle that sin can be a problem for any people, is when God brings the flood upon the world in the time of Noah because the text says, “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). Thus, sin has a national impact and can even have a world-wide impact.
When God bought Israel into the Land of Promise and gave them the Law He set out the blessings they would inherit if they simply followed Him. At the same time He set forth the curses that would come upon them if they rebelled (Deuteronomy 28:15). Among the terrible consequences, would be removal from the land (Deuteronomy 30:1). As history played out what God said happened. When they did obey, they were blessed and life was good. But when they rebelled they were eventually removed from the land (2 Chronicles 36:16-21).
The same principle in the book of Jeremiah is applied to nations besides the Jewish nation:
“At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it” (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
We find the same principle in many of the Old Testament prophets, for as men like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel warn God’s people, they equally pronounce judgments upon various non-Jewish nations because of their sins against God.
Jesus and This Principle
“Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:34-36).
Corrupt Only at the Top of Society?
When cultures or nations go off the deep end, when they become corrupt and brutal, is the problem just the leadership in that nation or culture? That is, are all the people or citizens in that nation really good people, but the problem is just the leadership? Well, let’s take a look at a number of Biblical and historical examples:
- When God brought the flood during the time of Noah the problem was not just among the leaders, rather the text says, “the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
- When the angels arrived in Sodom and Gomorrah we find corruption and depravity running all through the culture, “Before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, surrounded the house, both young and old, all the people from every quarter” (Genesis 19:4).
When God looked at the nation of Israel from time to time and was forced to bring a judgment against them, the problem was never just the leadership. For example consider the following passages:
- “Alas, sinful nation people weighed down with iniquity… from the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it” (Isaiah 1:4,5).
- “The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so” (Jeremiah 5:31).
- “For from the least of them even to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for gain, and from the prophet to the priest, everyone deals falsely” (Jeremiah 6:13).
- “Who say to the seers, ‘You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions’” (Isaiah 30:9-10).
I find it significant that when Jesus arrived, He did not merely condemn or expose the leadership in the nation (Matthew 23), He and His apostles equally condemned the present generation (Matthew 11:16; 12:39; 12:41). Observe that Jesus said that the men of Nineveh would rise up at the judgment and condemn His generation, not just certain individuals in positions of power. On the Day of Pentecost the apostle Peter said, “Be saved from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). As I read through the New Testament I find other statements that reveal that cultures become corrupt not merely because of a corrupt leadership, but because the corruption runs all through the culture:
- “In the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self..” (2 Timothy 3:1-2). This is one of those passages like Romans 1:29-31 where we learn that when we depart from God as a people or culture all of a sudden everything, absolutely everything is at risk.
- “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true” (Titus 1:12-13).
In Modern Times
If you have ever wondered how the Soviet Union could have killed upward to 60 million of its own people or how Communist China could have purged upward to 100 million of its population, or how Hitler arose to power and Nazi Germany exterminated 6 plus million Jews and others, the wrong answer would be that only the leaders were corrupt, and everyone else was a pretty good person. Or, that all the good people really didn’t know what was happening. History actually reveals and records what we have already learned from the Bible about corrupt cultures prior to the 20th century. It wasn’t merely the leadership. Writers who lived under communist rule noted that everyone in the culture lied. 2 out of 4 individuals were informers at times for the corrupt regimes. The whole system was corrupt from top to bottom, the same depravity and darkness was present at every step in the social or economic ladder.
How This Happens
- We start feeling that it is hopeless or there is no use in trying to change or fix things.
- There is a weakness of moral character. We would rather remain comfortable, avoid persecution, and hold on to what we have or the little we have left, rather than sticking out our neck. The attitude of “let someone else do that” prevails. Our popularity, physical lives, earthly pleasures become far more important to us than what is right.
- We are afraid of all the wrong things. We are afraid of men, of becoming unpopular, of losing friends, losing our jobs, losing our stuff (Hebrews 10:32-34), rather than losing our souls (Luke 12:4-5).
- We are envious and resentful of people who have more than us, so that we are not upset when they are arrested, imprisoned or their stuff is confiscated.
- We do not want to hear the message of do your homework, put in the hours, work hard, avoid wasting precious hours merely surfing the Internet or playing video games, be consistent, go to work every day (even when you don’t feel like it). And do this consistently for decades and life will probably turn out pretty good for you.
- We are lazy and are thus very receptive to a message that promises free this and free that and that says, “All your problems and failures are the fault of someone else. You are part of an oppressed class and life will be instantly better once we get rid of the oppressors”.
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017