Albert N. Martin
Beginning on what is considered to be the birthday of the United States of America, July 4, 1983, Pastor Albert N. Martin of the Trinity Baptist Church of Montville, New Jersey, preached a series of sermons entitled God’s Word to Our Nation.
Decades later, the biblical warnings contained in those sermons are even more pertinent. As the nation anticipates the 2016 presidential election, opinions abound as to just what will bring about prosperity and safety for our nation and its people. Popular spokesmen, as well as private citizens, are calling for such things as stronger political leadership, increased national security, and economic reforms.
Although there are voices raised to deplore what one group or another may consider to be moral decline, little consideration is given to the question of the relationship of this nation—or any nation in the world—to the God who created this world and all its inhabitants. Attention is paid to the laws of the United States and its constitution; but very little is paid to the relationship of our nation and its citizens to the Lawgiver of the world.
In the midst of much discussion of what our country allegedly needs, even professing Bible-believing Christians seem to focus on pragmatic needs. Yet the Bible asserts that our greatest needs, not only as individuals, but as a nation, are indeed spiritual. Jesus Christ said, I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! (Luke 12:4-5, English Standard Version)
The author of this miniseries of sermons demonstrates from Scripture that God deals with His creatures not only as individuals, but also as groups of people; and that He does indeed have strong words of warning for this nation and every nation—words which we ignore to our own peril.
He has updated the material in the original sermons with some minor edits (for clarity) and a few additions; yet it is still only a general overview and introduction. It is not intended to be a thorough nor detailed treatment of the difficult topics which it touches, with their many ramifications and nuances.
Nevertheless, we have thought it helpful at this critical time in our nation’s history to begin to sound some of the vital but largely unheard notes of a clarion call to recognize, to hear, to heed, and to respond to God’s Word to Our Nation.
God’s Word to Our Nation I
God’s Relationship to the Nations
In taking up the subject, “God’s Word to Our Nation,” I must begin with at least two disclaimers. First of all, in writing these words I make no claim whatsoever to have received direct revelation from God or any unique inspiration from God. I do not come with the “Thus says Jehovah” of a Jeremiah or an Isaiah, who could rightly claim that God had made them the very instruments by which he spoke his infallible word to the nation of Israel and to some of the Gentile nations of their day.
I write, rather, as one who believes that all special revelation is now contained within the pages of the Old and New Testaments. As a servant of God, all I need to be thoroughly equipped to bring the Word of God to our nation is “God-breathed” Scripture. This is the clear teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
If I properly expound and rightly apply God’s Word, that word comes to every individual who hears or reads it with the same authority as did the words of Jeremiah, when he said, “Thus says the Lord.” This assertion is simply a biblical, evangelical, and Reformed view of the divine authority inherent in the preaching of God’s holy, Spirit-inspired, and now fully inscripturated Word.
My second disclaimer is that I make no one-to-one equation between the nation of Israel and the United States of America and any other nation in existence today. Many sincere preachers and teachers have made such an equation when preaching, for instance, on a text such as 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves,” etc. They assume a direct equation between the nation of Israel and the United States.
I believe that making this equation is an irresponsible handling of the Word of God. In all the history of the human race there has been only one national entity with which God entered into a special covenant. Through the prophet Amos, God could say to the nation of Israel, “You only have I known among all the nations of the earth.”
In Romans 9:4, the apostle Paul delineates the peculiar privileges of the nation of Israel. It is to that nation that God gave his oracles; it is with that nation that he made his covenants; it is with that nation alone that God entered into this peculiar covenantal relationship. Therefore I intend to avoid at all costs an irresponsible equation between the United States and the nation of Israel.
With such disclaimers in mind, what biblical justification do I have for addressing such a subject? The very title, “God’s Word to Our Nation,” assumes that God sustains an intimate and present relationship to the nations of the earth, our nation included. Though God has not entered into any special covenant with the United States, to take up this subject assumes that God does have some relationship to our nation, as well as to every other nation on the face of the earth.
Subjugation of All Nations to God’s Rule
First of all, we need to understand the subjugation of the nations to the sovereign rule of God. We will never be prepared to receive God’s word to our nation unless we are convinced from the Scriptures of this important truth.
To put it simply, God rules over the nations. This is a truth that is both presupposed and taught throughout the entirety of the Bible. It is highlighted very graphically in an incident recorded in the fourth chapter of the book of Daniel. The great world power in Daniel’s time was Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was Babylon’s supreme ruler. God gave Nebuchadnezzar an unusual dream. He then called all the wise men of his kingdom, but none could interpret the dream for him. But Daniel was able to tell Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of his dream.
There is one part of the dream which actually provides an interpretation of the dream—or at least presents its purpose—in Daniel 4:17, where the “watcher” from heaven says, “This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the most high rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever he will, and sets over it the lowest of men.”
Nebuchadnezzar is informed that the purpose of the symbolism in the dream he received is that the living may know that it is Jehovah God who rules over the nations of men and gives the kingdom, not to the wisest, not to the mightiest, not to the most clever, but to whomever He will—even to the lowest of men. And this message is for all “the living”—not only in Israel, but the living in this heathen world power of Babylon. In such an unusual way, God taught the most powerful ruler on earth this great lesson: all of the nations, whether they acknowledge the presence of Jehovah or not, are in subjection to the sovereign rule of Almighty God.
Job understood this truth and gave vivid expression to it in these words:
He makes nations great, and destroys them; he enlarges nations, and guides them. He takes away the understanding of the chiefs of the people of the earth, and makes them wander in a pathless wilderness. They grope in the dark without light, and he makes them stagger like a drunken man (Job 12:23-25).
In the New Testament age, the sovereign rule of God resides in the pierced hands of the exalted and enthroned Son of God, who said that the privilege and the power to rule and to govern the world in its entirety has been deposited with him (Matthew 28:18). Where principalities and powers operate, where kings sit and rule, where the President sits in his Oval Office, the Son of God ultimately possesses all authority to rule and govern.
As Paul said of Christ in Ephesians 1: 22, “He [God the Father] put all things under his [Christ’s] feet and gave him to be head over all things.” For this reason, the Lord Jesus Christ is designated in Revelation 1:5 as “the ruler of kings on earth.” Towards the end of the book of Revelation He is again designated as the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).
The Scriptures clearly teach the subjugation of the nations to the sovereign rule of Almighty God. If I were not convinced of that truth, I would have no basis for addressing this subject, “God’s Word to Our Nation.”
If the fate of the nations is left to the wisdom and power of men, or to the forces of blind fate, then there is no word to bring to the nations. But if Almighty God holds the reins of government and governors, whether good or evil, then indeed there is hope that there is a word from this God to the nations which He governs.
Accountability of the Nations to God’s Judgment
In the second place, a biblical justification for this subject includes the fact of the accountability of the nations to the just judgment of God. He not only rules the nations, but he also sits as judge over the nations.
Romans 1:18-3:19 teaches that all of the nations, whether they have received the Scriptures (special revelation) or whether they have only the revelation of God in the heavens and in their own moral consciousness (general or natural revelation), they are accountable to the just judgment of Almighty God (see Romans 1:19-20; 2:14-15; 3:19). This fact is why David could say in Psalm 9:17, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
Another instructive statement in this regard is found in the Lord’s words to Abraham as he foretells the future of Abraham’s heirs, including their four-hundred-year captivity in the land of Egypt. He says in Genesis 15:16, “But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.”
The Amorites were not a nation with whom God had made a special covenant. They were a pagan nation, yet God was taking account of all their sins, and he said that the scales were not yet full. But when the scales were full and tipped in the direction of his judicial judgment, then he would bring forth the nation that came from Abraham’s loins to dispossess the heathen lands, including the Amorites.
At least part of the reason that the Canaanites were driven out by the Israelites was that Israel served as the executor of God’s judgment upon their sins, for which they were accountable to him—sins of such an aggravated nature that the land vomited out entire nations (see Leviticus 18:24-30). Those nations had never heard the ten words of Moses and they did not know a word of the Mosaic legislation, yet they were answerable to the law of Almighty God.
If this principle of the accountability of the nations to the judgment of God is true, then God does indeed have a word for our nation. He is not affected by our nation’s present and inaccurate understanding of the principle of the “separation of church and state.”
Even if the Supreme Court makes a thousand declarations to the contrary, this nation is still accountable to God. Let the American Civil Liberties Union stridently articulate its agenda, and multiply its lawyers and try to wrench this nation from accountability to God, but it cannot do it. The Scriptures declare that God is judge of the nations.
Responsibility of the Nations to Hear God’s Word
A third biblical justification for such a subject is the responsibility of all nations to hear the word of God. God has a right to address his own subjects in all the earth.
Even though Jeremiah was a member of God’s covenant nation and was primarily a prophet to God’s covenant people, yet we read in Jeremiah 1:5, “I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” The Lord appointed Jeremiah a prophet to nations other than Judah.
Jeremiah had the temerity to stand in the covenant nation and proclaim the word of God concerning God’s impending judgments to the conscience of non-covenant nations, Babylon included. Though they ignored the God of Israel, God “reserved the right” to address them.
When the sin of Nineveh cried out to God, he didn’t consult with his angels to see if the Ninevites ranked themselves among the peoples belonging to him. He sent his prophet Jonah, unwilling though he was, to call them to repent.
The teaching of the prophets on this point is clearly summarized by Isaiah when he says, “Draw near, O nations, to hear, and give attention, O peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that fills it; the world and all that comes from it. For the Lord is enraged against all the nations, and furious against all their hosts; he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter (Isaiah 34:1-2).
One can feel something of the urgency of the prophet and something of the yearning of his heart that the nations would hear. Whether the nations acknowledge it or not, they are under the rule of God and are answerable to the judgment of God, and it is their wisdom to hear what Jehovah will say to them.
Solidarity Among a Nation’s People
It has always been God’s right to address any of the nations of the earth with his own holy and infallible word. But not only does a justification of this theme demand at least this threefold understanding of God’s relationship to the nations, but we must also understand something of the biblical doctrine of human solidarity. Permit me to explain what I mean by the words “the biblical doctrine of human solidarity.”
We Americans love our individual liberty. It never ceases to amaze me how the nation that sent men to the moon and that has accomplished so many marvelous things in the realm of technology cannot develop a decent functional mass transportation system.
One can travel almost anywhere in Europe on clean, safe, reliable, functional, on-time means of public transportation, but not in our country. I am convinced that one of the fundamental reasons for this paradox is because we are such a stubbornly individualistic people. If we want to leave home at 8:25 to travel to our place of business, but the commuter train leaves at 8:20, we say, “Forget the train, I’ll take my car.” We are a crassly individualistic and independent people.
Now there’s an element in such individualism that is good and necessary. You were born an individual; you will die as an individual; you will go to judgment as an individual. If you are to enter heaven when you die, you must be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ as an individual.
But the fact is that, although God does deal with men individually, he does not deal with them simply and only as individuals. God also deals with men and women in solidarity: that is, he deals with men and women in groups which he has ordained.
This has been in the experience of the human race from the very beginning. Romans 5:12 reminds us, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” When did the “all” sin? The answer is that we all sinned in Adam—even though you never went into a voting booth to vote that you would like Adam to represent you.
God made the choice, appointing Adam to stand as the head, then the representative, of the entire human race. This was God’s sovereign prerogative to make such an arrangement, and there is nothing you can do to negate or suspend that fact.
We see throughout the Scriptures that God deals with men in terms of various relationships of solidarity. He dealt with the entire human race in Adam. He judges families on the basis of the sins of the head of the family (Exodus 20:5; Joshua 7:24-25). Likewise, he visits nations with judgments in which righteous men suffer with the wicked (Acts 11:28-29). Sometimes, wicked men are blessed because of one righteous man (Genesis 39:5).
The solidarity of the nations is a vital truth for us to grasp, as we prepare to consider God’s word to our nation. Much of it will be a word of rebuke and denunciation for aggravated sins. Your temptation will be to say that such words do not apply to you personally, since you are not personally, presently, and willfully indulging in the prominent sins of our nation.
But you need to remember three great national penitential prayers in the Old Testament found in Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9. In those prayers we see three righteous men—Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel—confessing the sins of the nation, not using the second person, but first person singular and plural nouns and possessive pronouns. Read over and consider those godly prayers.
O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today (Ezra 9:6-7).
Ezra understood the principle of solidarity. He stood as a member of the nation that had departed from God. As surely as every individual shared in God’s blessing when it was given on the basis of solidarity, so they shared in the judgment. Remember the instance of Achan, when the whole nation was brought to an impasse through the sin of one man (Joshua 7).
We must remember that we are part of our nation. Through no choice of our own and through very little effort of our own, we have reaped the great mountain of blessing that has come to us because we are part of this nation. We have benefited from our forefathers’ vision, prayers and shed blood that were given to secure our liberties. The peace and prosperity we enjoy can be attributed in part to our solidarity with those who have gone before us.
But we must face the reality that we are likewise in a relationship of solidarity when it comes to accepting responsibility for the sins, declensions and apostasies of our nation. To refuse to face that reality is naiveté at best and criminal self-centeredness at worst.
Once God was about to bring judgment upon his ancient people Israel, we are told that a godly remnant would be spared. What marked them out as a godly remnant is that they sighed and cried for the abominations that were done in the land (Ezekiel 9:4). They differed from the rest of their countrymen not only because they remained faithful to Jehovah and did not participate in the rank ungodliness of the rest of the nation, but also because they were conscious that they stood in a relationship of solidarity with a nation that had grievously sinned. Because of this reality, they did not detach themselves in a state of Stoic indifference to the wickedness, but they “sighed and cried” that God would show mercy to their nation.
We will never feel the weight of God’s word to our nation unless we are prepared for the spiritual pain of regarding its sins to be our sins. We must bear the weight of our solidarity with a nation whose sins cry out to the God of heaven and tax His longsuffering as perhaps it has never been taxed in all of human history. If there is any hope for a nation such as ours, which has sinned in the face of, arguably, more light and privilege and blessing than any nation other than ancient Israel has ever enjoyed, it will be when people who long to please God are prepared for the spiritual pain and agony of identifying themselves with the sins of this very nation.
We must identify ourselves with this sinful, iniquitous, apostate nation. We must sigh and cry to the God of heaven—not that He will come and preserve our affluent lifestyle, or grant us more opportunity to buy more things, or help us invent more sins that we can export to the rest of the world. Rather, we must be willing to pay the price of being stripped of all our possessions, if necessary, and be brought into a way of righteousness that will avert the total and final judgment of Almighty God.
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