Pastor David B. Curtis

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America's Hope

Jeremiah 22:1-9

Delivered 11/12/2000

Last Tuesday night was a long night for me. My heart sank as the media announced that Al Gore had taken Florida. Later, I rejoiced when they took it away from him. I was very excited over the Republican sweep in Virginia. As I watched the election results come in, I continued to remind myself that the Lord God Almighty sets up kings and the Lord takes them down. And this is a truth that I want all of us to be reminded of. The outcome of this Presidential election is in God's hands.

Daniel 2:21 (NKJV) And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

The outcome of last week's election is not the result of chance, it is a matter of divine appointment. God is sovereign over the governments of men, he sets up and removes rulers, this is a truth taught throughout Scripture:

Daniel 4:17 (NKJV) '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.'

Listen to this verse in the translation called God's Word:

Daniel 4:17 (GWT) The guardians have announced this decision. The holy ones have announced this so that every living creature will know that the Most High has power over human kingdoms. He gives them to whomever he wishes. He can place the lowest of people in charge of them.'"

This verse reveals the major theme of the book - the sovereignty of God. In the face of the might and splendor of the Babylonian empire which had swallowed up Palestine, dwarfing Israel by every standard of human calculation, the book, as a whole, forms a dramatic reminder that the God of Israel is King of Kings and Lord of Lords; that God's hand is on history at every point; that history, is indeed no more than His- Story.

Daniel 4:25b (NKJV) ...till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.
Daniel 4:35 (NKJV) All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?"
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 (NKJV) Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, And You are exalted as head over all. 12 Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great And to give strength to all.
Psalms 75:6-7 (KJV) For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. 7 But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.

Just so we understand that God raises up all rulers, both good and bad, let's remember that he put Pharaoh in power:

Exodus 9:16 (NKJV) "But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.

Our founding fathers understood this truth of God's sovereign control over the nations. It was the summer of 1787, and the Constitutional Convention debate had dragged on for days over the issue of how the States would be represented in Congress. At this point, aged Dr. Benjamin Franklin rose and addressed himself to General Washington in the Chair: "In this situation of this Assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understandings?"

He went on to remind the Convention that at the beginning of the war with England, the Continental Congress had, in that very room, prayed for divine protection, and their prayers were answered. He continued: "I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground unseen by him, is it possible that an empire could arise without his aid?"

He stated that it was his firm belief that without divine aid, the Convention would succeed in their political building no better than the builders of Babel, but would find themselves so divided and split by local interests that they would become a reproach to future ages. He then concluded: "I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service."

The motion failed, largely due to the embarrassment of the Assembly at not having funds to pay for engaging a chaplain. But Franklin had soundly made his point. Nations do not rise or continue at the whim and desire of men. A higher Power must be reckoned with, for the ultimate destiny of nations lies in his hands.

The sovereignty of God is the ground of peace and confidence to all his people. They rejoice that the Lord God Omnipotent reigns. Neither necessity, nor chance, nor the folly of man, controls the sequence of events and all their issues.

If Benjamin Franklin's mature conviction is indeed true, that "God governs in the affairs of men, allotting to each their due portion of world leadership and status, and permitting each to continue without overthrow only as long as they fulfill his purposes," it is certainly prudent for us to inquire: what are the values which God seeks to achieve in bringing nations into existence; and what are the wrongs which he will no longer tolerate that mark their appointed end?

For centuries, Western statesmen have turned to the Bible for the answers to the questions formulated above. Abraham Lincoln termed the Bible "God's best gift to men," and the impact of its pages upon his thinking is apparent in many of his speeches and writings as president.

Someone once asked Napoleon whether God was on the side of France. His cynical answer was, "God is on the side of the heaviest artillery." Then came the battle of Waterloo, the loss of his empire, and finally, exile to St. Helena. There, chastened and humbled, he said, "Man proposes; God disposes." What Franklin saw so clearly and Napoleon learned so painfully is that nations, like individuals, can lose their right to exist.

Yes, God sovereignly sets up governments and nations, but God also holds those nations responsible for their actions. When the leaders turn from God, God moves in judgement against that nation. One book of the Bible is especially given to us to trace how a nation moves away from God until it reaches the point of overthrow and national death. It is the Book of Jeremiah the prophet. He was sent to the nation of Judah to minister during its final forty years. He began his ministry in the days of the godly king Josiah and ended it four kings later, in the days of Zedekiah, who was led captive to Babylon. There is an illuminating passage in the 27th chapter where Jeremiah is sent by God to Zedekiah, to say to him:

Jeremiah 27:5-7 (NKJV) 'I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are on the ground, by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and have given it to whom it seemed proper to Me. 6 'And now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant; and the beasts of the field I have also given him to serve him. 7 'So all nations shall serve him and his son and his son's son, until the time of his land comes; and then many nations and great kings shall make him serve them.

Here is another biblical basis for Benjamin Franklin's statement: "God governs in the affairs of men." Here God calls an idol-worshiping monarch "my servant" and states that it is his God-given destiny to rule for a time over all the nations of earth, but in the end, he too shall be judged and be subjected to the rule of other people. To this same King Zedekiah, Jeremiah had been sent some years earlier to detail to him what God expects of governments:

Jeremiah 22:1-3 (NKJV) Thus says the LORD: "Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word, 2 "and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, O king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates! 3 'Thus says the LORD: "Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.

Note what the rulers of this land were expected to do. They were to "do justice and righteousness". This is a constant theme in Scripture:

Genesis 18:19 (NKJV) "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."

The queen of Sheba said to Solomon:

1 Kings 10:9 (NKJV) "Blessed be the LORD your God, who delighted in you, setting you on the throne of Israel! Because the LORD has loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness."
Psalms 33:5 (NKJV) He loves righteousness and justice; The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Jeremiah 22:15 (NKJV) "Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, And do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him.

What is justice? Justice has two major aspects. First, it is the standard by which penalties are assigned for breaking the obligations of the society. Second, justice is the standard by which the advantages of social life are handed out, including material goods, rights of participation, opportunities, and liberties. It is the standard for both punishment and benefits. The most prominent human agent of justice is the ruler. The king receives God's justice and is a channel for it.

Psalm 72:1 Give the king Your judgments, O God, And Your righteousness to the king's Son. 2 He will judge Your people with righteousness, And Your poor with justice.

Is justice being done in our country? Not hardly. Our justice system is a mess, convicted criminals are walking the streets, while over a million and a half innocent babies are murdered every year. Homosexuals, who deserve to be executed according to Biblical law, are being given special rights as minorities. It should be obvious that life is not sacred in America, unless it's the life of a criminal or animal. Justice in any sense is not being done in America.

What about righteousness? What is it? Is it being done?

We understand righteousness to mean "uprightness" in the sense of "adherence or conformity to an established norm." In biblical usage, righteousness is rooted in covenants and relationships. For biblical authors, righteousness is the fulfillment of the terms of a covenant between God and humanity or between humans in the full range of human relationships. The one who in faith gives himself to the doing of God's will is righteous.

Would you say that our government is doing righteousness? For the most part, they seem to be promoting unrighteousness. Our government run so called "public" schools teach that homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle. Meanwhile AIDS continues to spread to epidemic proportions. Instead of dealing with the problem and calling people to abstinence or monogamy, the schools are handing out condoms.

It is a serious matter when leaders and elected officials give us a bad example. They themselves are to do justice and righteousness. Many said during the Clinton impeachment: "Why make such a fuss about this? Everyone does this kind of thing: businessmen, leaders of industry, common citizens - why make so much over what politicians in Washington do?" The answer is: Because all government leaders, elected or appointed, from the president on down, are, as. Paul calls them in Romans 13:6, "ministers of God." Each is the agent of God and is to represent God's standard of righteousness and judgment. When such leaders are guilty of wrongdoing, the effect of their wrongdoing is greatly intensified. We must recognize that their failure introduces widespread dissension and evil into a land.

The end of Jeremiah 22:3 is really an expansion on what justice and righteousness are. Governmental leaders were to "deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor." The task of government is to keep the courts honest and just, so that the guilty can be found out and the innocent freed. The uncontrollable rise of crime and violence is an unerring indicator of the darkening of a nation's life and its decline toward obscurity.

Our text goes on to say, "Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow." Concern for the poor and weak, politically, socially, and economically, is central among the king's responsibilities. "Neither shed innocent blood in this palace"- perhaps an allusion to the infants sacrificed in the Valley of Hinnom (7:30-32; 19:5, 6).

Through legalized abortion, we have shed much innocent blood in this country. Our leaders have abandoned justice and righteousness, and because of this, God is judging our country. God promises blessing and warns of judgement in:

Jeremiah 22:4-7 (NKJV) "For if you indeed do this thing, then shall enter the gates of this house, riding on horses and in chariots, accompanied by servants and people, kings who sit on the throne of David. 5 "But if you will not hear these words, I swear by Myself," says the LORD, "that this house shall become a desolation."' " 6 For thus says the LORD to the house of the king of Judah: "You are Gilead to Me, The head of Lebanon; Yet I surely will make you a wilderness, Cities which are not inhabited. 7 I will prepare destroyers against you, Everyone with his weapons; They shall cut down your choice cedars And cast them into the fire.

In 2 Kings 21:10-16, Manasseh, who's reign was known as one of unfaithfulness to Yahweh, is blamed for Judah's ultimate destruction and exile.

I think that as Christians we would like to blame our elected officials for all our problems in this country. But it would be a serious mistake to blame governmental agents as having ultimate responsibility for a nation's destiny. It has been said that every nation gets the government it deserves. Final responsibility, therefore, rests with the individuals that make up a nation. Every one of us is responsible for the influence we exert upon our neighbors, our community, our city, county, state, and national governments.

Let me share with you an interesting quotation which I think you will find most significant, especially in view of when it was uttered. It is called, "Why Democracies Fail":

Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse (lar-jis - a gift generously given) out of the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefit from the public treasury, with the result that democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a dictatorship, and then a monarchy.

That sounds as if it was written today, doesn't it? But it was written by professor Alexander Fraser Tyler, two centuries ago, while our thirteen original states were still colonies of Great Britain. At the time, he was writing of the decline and fall of the Athenian Republic, over two thousand years before. It is a clear and honest evaluation of democracy.

It should be clear that it is not democracy that has made the United States great. A widespread myth exists in our day that the foundation of our freedoms lies in the great documents that launched our national history: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. But important as these may be as instruments of freedom, they are not the foundation of it. Scripture reveals that the element which makes a nation great is righteousness. When righteousness pervades a nation, that people is strong; without righteousness, it begins to falter. That is why we are seeing our American democracy beginning to totter, stagger, and crumble. The element of righteousness is fast disappearing within it. Democracy has no power to stand or be strong unless righteousness is there. This one thing God's word clearly reveals:

Proverbs 14:34 (NKJV) Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.

When Hawaii became the 50th State of the Union, she brought with her to statehood the motto she had adopted as a territory, reflecting her missionary beginnings: "The life of the land is preserved in righteousness." It sounds like a pious platitude, but it is actually a profound truth which should be taught in every classroom in the land. Freedom rests on the moral righteousness of each individual member of the nation. When individual righteousness fails on a large scale, laws lose their force, judges fail in their powers, enforcement becomes impracticable, and the Constitution itself is soon changed to reflect the currently acceptable level of morality.

"The life of the land is preserved in righteousness." - that has been the fundamental secret of the strength of the United States. And that is why we are now faltering.

What are we as Christians to do? How can bring hope to our nation? We must never forget that we are citizens of two kingdoms. We are citizens of these United States, and that means we have certain responsibilities which we must take very seriously. First and foremost, however, we are citizens of the kingdom of God. Empires, kingdoms and nations come and go. Even the United States of America may one day fade from the scene. Nothing that man does or creates can stand the ultimate test of time, but the kingdom of God is eternal. Our first responsibility, then, is to be about our Father's business.

The Bible is clear cut on this point. We are not on the earth to save America from destruction, or to perpetuate the democratic system; both are noble goals. Our primary task is to proclaim the blessed Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Our priority is evangelism and edification. We are to be sharing the gospel with those we come in contact with, calling them to faith in Jesus Christ.

An unknown writer has said:

If a man does not believe in God, his own ego becomes the ruler of his life. Since there are no standards of right and wrong existing apart from himself, right becomes that which pleases him, and wrong that which does not minister to his own ego. Since he himself is the supreme consideration, he is restrained by nothing but his own wishes and easily reaches the conclusion that the best possible world is one in which his will is supreme. He therefore enforces it upon others to the limit of his ability. The denial of God thus becomes the seed from which totalitarianism develops.

The only hope for America is Jesus Christ. We are not only to call men to faith in Jesus Christ, but we are to teach them the truths of the Word of God. We are to teach them to walk in righteousness, and justice.

Ephesians 4:22-32 (NKJV) that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. 26 "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil. 28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.

This is our calling and mission in life. The natural outcome of men living in righteousness will bring great blessing upon our nation.

Shouldn't we care about making positive moral changes in our culture? Yes, we should. But we must remember that change comes from the inside. We are to change men's heart with the gospel of Jesus Christ. And teach them to live righteously. Our responsibility starts with living righteously ourselves. We must be people of character.

Our responsibility as Christians is evangelism and edification. This begins by walking in righteousness. The hope of America is the righteousness of her people. America's hope is found in the advice given in:

2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

The God who sovereignly established this country will hold his children responsible for its righteousness and justice. The hope of our nation lies not in its next elected leader but in the personal godliness of its people. Do we "Fear God, and honor the king?" Do we, in the great words of Micah, "Do justly . . . love mercy, and. . . walk humbly with [our] God?" (Micah. 6:8, NKJV).

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