BLESSED IS THE NATION WHOSE GOD IS THE LORD
Dear Christian friends,
Mohammed promised that all who died fighting infidels were guaranteed Paradise. Sometimes it seems that giving one’s life for one’s country is put on the pedestal of deserving eternal life. But patriotism, praiseworthy as it is, will never guarantee heaven, no matter what Mohammed might have promised.
Edith Cavell, a brave British nurse was killed by the Germans during the First World War. She became the head nurse of the Red Cross Hospital in Brussels, Belgium at the outbreak of World War I. She cared for wounded of friend and foe alike. There were the French, Belgian, English and German soldiers alike. She cared faithfully even to those who were wounded fighting against her own nation. Her sympathies were obviously with the Allies. She aided many English and French soldiers who had fled from the Germans “underground." When some of these fugitives were traced to her house in Brussels, she was immediately arrested and sentenced to face the firing-squad. The Germans considered her a spy and treated as one.
Just before the blindfold was placed over her eyes, she gave a last message to the world. "I am glad," she said, "to die for my country. But as I stand here I realize as never before that patriotism is not enough." Then she went on to give a clear, definite testimony to her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as her Savior. He laid down his life for her. That’s what mattered most of all. In a matter of seconds bullets pulverized her body. But she knew she was going to heaven not because she was a kind person, but because Jesus had been so kind to her. We set aside this Sunday and reflect on what the Lord means to our nation. From these words of the psalm we are reminded, “Blessed is the Nation Whose God is the Lord.” 1) When God sees the needs of a nation; 2) When a nation sees a need for God.
God’s attributes, his characteristics are totally unique to him. They are perfect. That’s what distinguishes him as God. He is eternal. There was never a time when he was not, and there will never be a time he won’t be. He is omnipotent. To him the impossible is easy. He is perfect in his love and justice and mercy and holiness. He is also God because he knows all things. The psalmist says, “From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth-- he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.” 6.5billion people and nothing escapes his eyes.
I read somewhere that we have cameras on satellites so powerful that they can read license plate numbers on the back of a car. I know a man who is basically highly classified by the government because he works for a defense contractor. “When I asked if that was true,” he said, “You don’t know the half of it.” While satellite cameras can’t see through the roof of a car, God can. He knows not only who is in the car but their social security number if they have one…and how many hairs they have on their head. Nothing the CIA does is secret to him; he knows if OJ did it or not; he knew where Osama bin Laden was all the while. He knows the secrets we try to keep. The Writer of the letter to the Hebrews says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Every thing is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
He also sees what is in the heart. I am not talking about the fleshy muscle inside the chest that beats 103,000 times each day (although he sees into that too); I am talking about the center and core of our emotions, the very center of our being. What he sees in us is not good. The corruption that he sees had its origin in Eden. It has never changed.
God sent the flood because humanity had become so corrupt. The Bible says, “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Even the great lesson of the flood did not change man’s heart. While God made the promise that he wouldn’t send a flood like that again, man’s heart was no different. God promised, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.”
Time passed. The Lord set apart his people, the nation of Israel; they were the people from whom Jesus came. Their hearts weren’t any better. Jeremiah the prophet over 500 years before Christ wrote, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean'.”
The heart, the sinful human heart, is the problem with the world today. You and I are not different. If only Adam and Eve had done what they were supposed to do. But that does no good. If only means it didn’t happen. The sinful human heart is the reason for the carnival of crime. The sinful human heart is the cause of selfishness and pride and the quest for power and influence. The sinful human heart is the cause of neighbor not loving neighbor or nation not loving nation. The sinful human heart is the reason why we say, “Me first” instead of thinking about others. The sinful heart is behind every dysfunctional home and every family argument. You know what? God sees it all.
One of the things that God sees is that the heart needs to be changed, but no act of Congress can do it. No executive order by the President can do it. No Democrat can do it. No Republican can do it. No national policy can do it. Throwing money at the problem won’t do it. Only God can do it. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.”
God’s Spirit is the surgeon. The heart transplant takes place not in some hospital operating room, but for many of us at a baptismal fount when we when the Lord promised we were clothed in Christ. We were washed clean of our sin. We were united with Jesus. When we died with Christ and were buried with Christ and we were raised with Christ and received the new man who wants to live a new life in Christ.
God changes hearts through the Holy Supper we receive where the Lord assures us individually and so personally of his love and forgiveness that transforms and empowers us to live
a new life. The powerful Word that God says is the power of salvation, that takes us from hell to heaven, gives us a new pattern for life – God’s pattern. Yet isn’t it sad to see that the help mankind needs found in the Word is so despised that government declares it illegal in many countries and illegal to use in many circumstances.
Because God saw our need and did something about it, we see how we need him so desperately for ourselves and for our nation. The psalmists says, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.” We need that loving and powerful God for our nation, because it doesn’t make any difference how many bombs we have or how powerful and well trained our army or navy or air force or marines are. What we need to know above all else is that God is on our side. Because if he isn’t, nothing really matters.
Napoleon at the height of his career, is reported to have given this cynical answer to someone who asked if he thought that God was on the side of France: “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery.” Then came the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon lost not only the battle but his entire empire. Years later, in exile on the island of St. Helena, the chastened and humbled Napoleon was reported to have quoted these very famous words, “Man proposes but God disposes.” He had proposed and he was deposed. The psalmist says, “No king is saved by the size of his army.”
That crack Egyptian army with its chariots and well-trained soldiers proved to be nothing compared to the rag tag, disorganized and frightened Israelites. The big difference? God was on the side of Israel. Sennacharib had no earthly match. His army was far superior to Hezekiah’s, but Hezekiah got on his knees and when the dust settled the score was Assyria – 185,000 casualties, Judah –0. I am old enough to have lived through the communist threat and cold war. I remember the threat of nuclear war, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember Nikita Khrushchev say “We will bury you!” I remember the Soviet bloc countries and the Iron Curtain, but the Iron Curtain rusted even faster than the first car I owned. “No king is saved by the size of his army.”
But there are many in this nation and around the world that don’t know the God we have and his love and mercy. They put their trust in some economic policy or some government laws. How do we get the message to our nation of 325 million people that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. How can things change?
On July 4th there are all kinds of parades with floats and bands and all that a parade consists of. It is obvious that a marching band does not consist of a single trumpet player or a tuba player. One by one they add to the music and together they can knock the roof off a building by playing some inspiring piece of music.
That’s what needs to happen to a nation – one by one, we must acknowledge our sins, without reservation or hesitation. We must realize that without Jesus we are without hope. Yet with Jesus, and his blood shed on the cross for us, we know we are accepted before God. In fact we become a chosen people and a holy nation. Then, with the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, we are Christian citizens whose desire is to honor his name and love him by doing his commandments. That includes loving our neighbor and honoring the government God has placed over us. We want to be people who values life and marriage and children and old people.
Every four years we celebrate the Olympic Games. I am often riveted to the TV and pull for our nation’s athletes as they compete. I also get a lot of national pride when our athletes get the gold and there is the scene of the medals given and the flags raised and the National anthem is played. It is usually pretty stirring thing for me. But any nation’s worth is not measured by the gold they win, but when nation honors the true Triune God of heaven and earth. A nation is measured positively if the nation can say and then shows, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”