Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people he chose for his inheritance.
No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
(Psalm 33.12, 16)
What does it take to make a country great? No, not to make a country great, again. To make a country a nation that is held in high esteem and seen as one who is run with wisdom and Godly guidance. What does it take for us to be a part of the people of God?
You often hear people calling for our country to return to its “Christian roots,” that is, to be a Christian nation as our forefathers intended it to be. One could argue the validity of the latter point, but I do not think anyone would question that our sense of morality has waned over the years. It’s not even on the fringes where we find people’s action running counter to the things that just a few years ago most people would consider “wrong.” So how do we return to being a nation centered on Godly living?
If you take the four passages we find in our reading for this week, you discover four things that I want to list here.
First, our military power does not make a great nation, just like brute force is never the answer for Godly living for each of us individually. The psalmist says that you may have strong horses (perhaps today the psalmist would write: you may have powerful weapons), but their strength cannot save the ruler. I think what is most ironic is that we lament the fact that America is no longer a Christian nation, yet most of what America espouses as greatness centers on those things that are completely self-reliant. It is no wonder that our strength does not save us. We were created to be dependent on God, not ourselves.
Second, from the Genesis story, we discover that strategic planning does not make us a great nation. Again, this seems counter intuitive. Were you to seek a loan for a new business, you would be asked to provide the lender with a “business plan,” which would include the strategies you would use to go about creating this wonderful—and for the bank’s sake, profitable—business. Abraham wasn’t given a plan. His plan was just to pack and walk until God told him to stop. God, however, used Abraham’s willingness to go (even if Abraham did at times question God’s promise) to create through him a great nation.
Third, when we fast forward to the time of the Apostle Paul, we discover he wrote celebrating Abraham’s faith. Trust in God, rather than our associations with the right people or a glorious upbringing, is essential for God to be able to use us to make a great nation. Paul’s argument in Roman’s 4 is essentially that the people who were that great nation of Abraham (this would be the people of Israel) could not claim that their privileged status was the result of following the rules and regulations applied to God’s people from the time of Abraham. Abraham was not a good person and the nation he was promised was not built because of the way he followed all of God’s rules, but because Abraham believed that God said he could do what he promised. Whether you think you have your life under control or not, your trust in God versus your status or privilege indicates your willingness to allow him to work in you.
Last, being a member of God’s kingdom happens as the result of belief in Jesus, who was lifted up as a sacrifice for our sins. It is not a physical thing, like the rebirth Nicodemus was confused about in John 3, nor is it something we are able to do (Nicodemus, you were right. An adult cannot start the birth process over again). No, our inclusion into that great nation that is the kingdom of God happens through the Spirit of God. That Spirit comes only through a belief in Jesus to give eternal life.
I hope you recognize that this idea of “great nation” really has very little to do with a physical, tangible kingdom, like America, or Canada, or Mexico. It instead has everything to do with being a part of the people God calls to himself through his Son. The real question is: Will you believe in the power of God to bring you into his kingdom with him? That is what makes you a part of a great nation.
•What sort of things do people use to show their power and worth? Why are these things considered valuable in the world we live in? How are they viewed in light of God and his kingdom?
•How willing would you have been to pack up all your stuff and head out to an unknown place like Abraham did? What do you think would have been Abraham’s biggest challenges in doing this? What things did he have to help him trust in God’s instructions?
•How well do you have faith in the promises of God? What events in your life have proven those promises to you?
•John tells us that Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. How well do you think that message has been proclaimed to the people around you? In what ways do you think the opposite message has been communicated? What can you do to ensure the proper message about Jesus is told to others?
•How can you live a life that demonstrates your faith in God as the ruler of your kingdom, even if that means living a life counter to the values of the world around you?