This article is an edited adaptation of Albert Martin's message God's Word to Our Nation: Part 1 preached on 7/4/1983 at the Mid America Family Conference in Bluffton, Ohio.
In taking up this subject of God's Word to our nation, it is vital that you understand that I disclaim, first of all, any fanatical statements or intimations that I have received direct revelation from God or any special inspiration from God in the preparation of these messages. I do not come to you as Jeremiah and Isaiah came to the nations of Israel and Judah and said, "Thus saith Jehovah," whose redeemed personalities, mental faculties, and organs of speech became the very instrument by which the living God spoke His infallible Word to the nation. All of the raw materials of God's Word to our nation, as I attempt to bring it to you, are contained within the pages of the Bible. I speak to you as one who believes that all special revelation is now contained within the pages of the Old and New Testaments, and that as a servant of God all I need to be thoroughly equipped to bring the Word of God to our nation is these divinely inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and surely this is the clear teaching of 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
However, though I make no fanatical claims to direct revelation or special inspiration, this Word, if properly expounded and rightly applied, comes to every man, woman, and child just as much as the Word of the living God as though God were to send Jeremiah back from the dead to say, "Thus saith the Lord!" We hold the highest view of the authority of the Word of God when rightly expounded and applied to the consciences of men.
I also want to disclaim and avoid at all costs any irresponsible equation between the nation of Israel and the United States of America. Many a sincere preacher has preached an earnest sermon on such texts as 2 Chronicles 7:14, assuming a direct equation between the nation of Israel and the nation of America. How many sermons have been preached on that text? That is an irresponsible handling of the Word of God. There is only one national entity into which God entered, by way of special covenant, in all the history of the human race. Through the prophet Amos, God could say to the nation of Israel, "You only have I known among all the nations of the earth" (Amos 3:2). In Romans 9:4, when the apostle Paul is delineating the peculiar privileges of the nation of Israel, he says it is to that nation alone that God gave His oracles, made His covenants, and entered into a peculiar covenantal relationship.
In our introduction, I want to give a biblical justification for preaching on this subject of God's Word to our nation. The very title assumes many things. It assumes that God sustains an intimate and present relationship to the nations of the earth—including our nation, though we have disclaimed that He has entered into any special covenant with our nation. Furthermore, I am not speaking to the nation, but to you—a little handful of the nation, and that assumes a solidarity between us as individuals and our nation as an entire nation.
God's Relationship to the Nations
1. The Subjugation of the Nations to the Sovereign Rule of God
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 utterly and intelligently convinced from the Scriptures of God's rule over the nations.
This truth is fully taught in the Old and New Testaments, and perhaps no text is clearer than that very graphic incident recorded in Daniel. The book of Daniel finds its setting in the heathen kingdom of Babylon, that great world power in existence at the time of Daniel. And at the head of Babylon was a man named Nebuchadnezzar, whom God gave an unusual dream. Nebuchadnezzar called all of the wise men of his kingdom to interpret this dream, but they were unable to do so. He therefore calls in Daniel, having heard of his reputation in such matters, to interpret this dream. The point that is so relevant for our study is found in Nebuchadnezzar's account of the dream, Daniel's interpretation of the dream, and in the fulfillment of the dream. There is one fundamental focal point of this entire incident.
Daniel 4:17-18 The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will, and sets up over it the lowest of men. This dream I, king Nebuchadnezzar, have seen.
Nebuchadnezzar is informed in his dream that the purpose of whatever will come to pass as symbolized in the dream is that the living—not just in Israel but in this heathen world power of Babylon—may know one simple fact: that it is Jehovah God who rules over the nations of men, and gives the kingdom not to the wisest or the most mighty or clever, but to whomsoever He will—even to the lowest of men.
And then Daniel begins to give the interpretation, where he informs Nebuchadnezzar what will happen—that the dream is a prophecy of these strange dealings of God with this man, that he might learn a very simple lesson:
Daniel 4:25 You shall be driven from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and you shall be made to eat grass as oxen, and shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven times will pass over you till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever He will.
This interpretation underscores the one element that was, as it were, self-interpreting in the dream itself. And then it does come to pass that King Nebuchadnezzar is made as a beast and eats the grass as oxen:
Daniel 4:34-35 And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored Him that liveth for ever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom from generation to generation; and all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, "What doest thou?"
God taught this great lesson in such an unusual way to the highest leader on earth at that time, that all of the nations, whether they acknowledge the presence of Jehovah or not, are in subjugation to the sovereign rule of Almighty God. Job understood this and gave a vivid expression to the government of God:
Job 12:23-25 God increases the nations, and He destroys them; He enlarges the nations, and He leads them captive. He takes away understanding from the chiefs of the people of the earth, and causes them to wander in a wilderness where there is no way. They grope in the dark without light, and He makes them to stagger like a drunken man.
Like a man lost in the woods, who walks around and around in circles and cannot find a path by which to exit from the woods. When you see national leaders stilled with confusion, it is Almighty God who causes them to wander as in a wilderness where there is no way! When the leaders of the earth have no more power to sort out the problems of their nations than a drunk man to sort out the complex problems of an intricate mechanized system in a factory—but merely stumbles and staggers left and right—Job says God has been at work to cause them to stagger like drunk men! His sovereign rule over the nations.
When we turn to the New Testament, we find the wonderful truth that that sovereign rule is now deposited in the pierced hands of the exalted, enthroned Son of God, who said, before He commissioned His own, "All authority, right, and power to rule and govern has been deposited with Me, in heaven and upon the earth—where principalities and powers operate, where kings sit and rule, where presidents meet in the oval room, where the great ones of the earth gather in their counsel chambers. All authority in earth has been delivered unto Me."
Ephesians 1:20-23 [The power of God] which was wrought in Christ, when God raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His own right hand far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come: and He hath put all things under His feet, and has given Him to be Head over all things to His church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.
If the Scriptures teach anything, they teach the subjugation of the nations to the sovereign rule of Almighty God. Without that conviction, I would have no rationale to address you on this subject. If the fate of the nations is left to the wisdom, scheming, and power of men, good or evil, or to the forces of blind fate, then there is no word to bring to the nations. But if Almighty God rules over the nations and holds the reins of government and governors, kings, and rulers, good and evil, then indeed there is hope that there is a word from this God to the nations whom He governs.
2. The Accountability of the Nations to the Just Judgment of God
God not only rules the nations, but He sits as Judge over the nations. The Scriptures are full of teaching in both the Old and New Testaments on God's judgment of the nations. Suffice it to say that the first three chapters of Romans clearly teach that all of the nations—whether they have ever received special revelation (the Holy Scriptures) or the revelation of God from without (in the heavens that declare His glory) or within (their own moral consciousness, to which Romans 2:14-15 refers)—are accountable to the just judgment of Almighty God.
This is why the Psalmist could say, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm 9:17). Whether they are guilty of forgetfulness and rejection of the knowledge of God in general revelation (as we have in the first three chapters of Romans) or guilty of a forgetfulness that comes after exposure to special revelation, all of the nations are accountable to the just judgment of Almighty God.
Perhaps the most graphic illustration of this in the Old Testament pertains to God's word to Abraham, with respect to the prophecy that the nation that would be formed through Abraham would go down into Egypt and there for 400 years would suffer oppression and opposition. One of the great reasons for which the nation was to wait that long time before being called out in the deliverance through Moses, is this:
Genesis 15:16 And in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet full.
God says one of the reasons was that the iniquity of the Amorite was not yet full. The Amorites were not a covenant nation, but a pagan nation! And yet God was taking account of all of their sins. We read in Leviticus 18:24-28 that the reason why the Canaanites were driven out is because of all their abominations! Israel became God's feather, as it were, to tickle the throat of the land of Canaan, so that it vomited out entire nations on account of their sins for which they were accountable to God. Those nations that had never heard the Ten Words of Moses or a word of Mosaic legislation were answerable to the law of Almighty God! They had defiled themselves in every form of idolatry and sexual perversion and indulged in every form of the occult and astology, and for that reason, God said, "I cast out those nations that were before you" (Deuteronomy 18:12).
We must understand that the nations are accountable to the judgment of Almighty God, and if that is the case, then God certainly has a word for our nation. God does not await for a decision of the Supreme Court to decide if the United States of America will be accountable to Himself. A thousand times no! This nation is accountable to Almighty God—let the Supreme Court make a thousand declarations to the contrary! No matter how hard this nation may try to wrench itself from accountability to God, it cannot do it, because the Scripture tells us that Almighty God is Judge of the nations.
3. The Responsibility of the Nations to Hear the Word of God
A third biblical justification involves the responsibility of the nations to hear the word of God. God reserves the right to address His subjects in all the earth. God appointed Jeremiah a prophet not just to Judah but to the nations (Jeremiah 1:5), and Jeremiah had the temerity to stand in the covenant nation of Judah and hurl the Word of God into the conscience of non-covenant nations! He speaks to Babylon and pronounces the forthcoming judgment of God upon that very heathen, non-covenanted nation!
When the sin of Nineveh cried out to God, God did not seek their permission to send a prophet in their midst. He sent Jonah and through him declared, "Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown" (Jonah 3:4)!
Isaiah 34:1-2 Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people; let the earth hear, and the fullness thereof; the world, and all things that come forth from it. For the LORD has indignation against all the nations, and wrath against all their hosts!
This teaching of the prophets is found in Amos, Hosea, and Ezekiel, but beautifully summarized here in this sweeping, eloquent, impassioned cry from the lips of Isaiah. You feel something of the urgency of the prophet, of the yearning of his heart that the nations would hear, whether or not they acknowledge it, that they are under the rule of God and answerable to His judgment, and that it is their wisdom to hear what God the Lord has said to them!
We must understand that though we are not Israel, God has a right to address us as a nation, for it has always been His right to address any of the nations of the earth with His own holy and infallible Word.
Finally, we must understand something of the biblical doctrine of our solidarity with our nation. We Americans love our individual liberty. We are such a stubborn, crassly individualistic people, and we are for nothing unless we can vote on it. There is an element in that that is good, but we need to understand that God does not deal only with individuals as individuals. Though He does deal with individuals—you were born as an individual, you will die as an individual, and you will be judged as an individual—He also deals with men in ordained groups. The actions of one man can affect many, and this was the case from the very beginning:
Romans 5:12 Wherefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death passed upon all men, for that all sinned…
When did the "all" sin? All sinned in Adam. You say, "Wait a minute, I never saw that referendum. I never went into the voting booth and closed it and voted that I would like Adam to represent me." No you didn't, my friend, but there is nothing you can do about it. You say, "But I don't like it; it doesn't seem fair. Why should Adam's partaking of the fruit be accounted my sin?" My friend, put your hand upon your mouth—don't you dare cavil with Almighty God! Facts are stubborn things, and it is a fact that in the one man, the whole human race fell. "As in Adam all die" (1 Corinthians 15:22). God deals in solidarity—the human race was being dealt with in Adam.
Throughout the Scriptures we find that God also deals with families, and often the sin of the head of the family passes on, by way of judgment, to the entire household. On the other hand, as in the case of Joseph, God has blessed entire households on account of a single holy man in their midst—God blessed the house of Potiphar for Joseph's sake (Genesis 39:5). That is solidarity—the household in which Joseph lived was blessed, because of Joseph.
It is crucial that we grasp this. We are going to consider God's Word to our nation, and much of it will be a word of rebuke and denunciation for the aggravated sins of our nation. But you ask, "You don't mean to infer, do you, that we are presently and willfully indulging in the sins of our nation?" I certainly hope not. But may I remind you of the three great national, penitential prayers in the Old Testament? Ezra 9, Nehemiah 9, and Daniel 9. Three holy men—Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel—when they go before God to pray, and they confess the sins of the nation, they don't pray, "O God, have mercy upon them, for they have done wickedly, and they have sinned, and they have forsaken Your commandments." Read those prayers. Ezra says, "O LORD, I am ashamed; I blush, and I cannot look up. We have done wickedly. We have forsaken Your commandments. We have not kept Your laws." He understood the principle of solidarity. He stood as a member of the nation that had departed from God.
When God blessed the nation of Israel through the reign of a righteous king, many unrighteous people were participants of that blessing—because of the principle of solidarity. And, you remember the instance of Achan—when one man sinned, the whole nation was brought to an impasse! Why? Because of the principle of solidarity. And as surely as every individual receives the blessing when it comes in solidarity, so they will suffer the consequences of the curse when it, too, comes in solidarity.
Dear people, we are part of this nation. Through no choice of our own—and in many cases through very little effort of our own—we have reaped the great mountain of blessing that has come to us because we are members of this nation. But we cannot be recipients of its blessings in solidarity—due to the vision, prayers, and blood that was shed to maintain our liberties by men in the past—and at the same time opt out of solidarity into crass individualism when it comes to accepting responsibility for the sins of the nation. We cannot do it. It is unscriptural, irresponsible, and nothing short of wicked.
I remind you in closing, that when God was about to bring judgment upon His ancient people, you have that very unusual incident in Ezekiel 9, in which the man with the inkhorn was commanded to go through the city, and he was to put a mark upon the godly remnant—those who were true Israelites within the nation of Israel. And do you know how they are described? He said, "Put a mark upon all those who sigh and cry for the abominations that are done in the land" (Ezekiel 9:4). Not only were they different from the rest of their fellow countrymen by non-participation, by non-conformity, by turning away from the patterns of ungodliness, and by placing their faces, feet, and heart in the way of true fidelity to Jehovah, but they were conscious—even while walking in a path of righteousness—that they were part of a nation, in solidarity, that had grievously sinned, and they sighed and cried for the abominations done in the land.
And so, we will never feel the weight of God's Word to our country unless we are prepared for the spiritual pain of making the sins of this nation our sins, and feeling our identification with the nation whose sins cry up to the God of heaven and tax His longsuffering and patience as perhaps they have never been taxed in the history of non-covenant nations. If there is any hope, it will be when people like us, who long to please God, are prepared for the spiritual pain and agony of identifying ourselves with this sinful, iniquitous, and apostate nation, and sigh and cry to the God of heaven—not that He will come to preserve our affluent lifestyle and our opportunity to buy more things and invent more sins to export into the world—but that we shall be brought into a way of righteousness, even if it must be at the price of being stripped of all of our things, that the total judgment of Almighty God might be averted. What is God's word to our nation? I believe it is epitomized in that text familiar to many of you. I leave it with you to meditate upon and pray over:
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.
You will never be convinced there is such a word to our nation, unless you are convinced of His rule over the nations, His judgment of the nations, His right to address the nations, and that you are in solidarity with the nation.