************ Sermon on Proverbs 14:34-35 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 6, 2016
"Righteousness Exalts a Nation"
This morning I want to begin with a reference to tonight's message -- and encourage you all to attend. In tonight's message on Hebrews 10 I ask how a Christian can endure in a culture that is increasingly godless. The question applies to the Hebrew Christians living through the persecution of Roman culture. But the question equally applies to us in America today: How can a Christian endure in a culture that is increasingly godless?
Underlying this question is an assumption. I am assuming you all realize that America is not a Christian nation; and, let me add, America has never been a Christian nation. When he was alive, Dr. Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida preached about America as God's chosen land. He used the pulpit to wrap himself in the American flag and to talk about the faith of our founding fathers and mothers -- most of whom were deists who did not believe in the triune God of the Bible. His theology and approach was so wrong because in all of history, only one nation -- the nation of Israel -- has been God's chosen country.
America is not a Christian nation. Contrary to what President Obama says, America is not a Muslim nation either. Nor are we a Hindu nation, a Jewish nation, or a Buddhist nation.
America is not a Christian nation. Look at it this way. Has America ever staked her destiny on the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ? Is the Lord Jesus her reason for existence? Is everything about our nation bent towards His glory and praise? We all know the answer is NO.
Now don't get me wrong. I am thankful to be an American. I am thankful to live in this land. I am thankful for our freedoms. I am thankful that our constitution and Bill of Rights are based on Biblical principles. I am thankful our country offers endless opportunities that people elsewhere never get. But this does not mean we are a Christian country.
With the 2016 Presidential election this coming Tuesday I want us to look this morning at what the wisdom of Proverbs says to us as a nation.
I Proverbs 11:10-11; 14:34-35; 28:12
A We begin by reading three passages highlighting God's desire for the nations and cities of earth.
(Prov 11:10-11) When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy. (11) Through the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, but by the mouth of the wicked it is destroyed.Do you hear what God wants? God wants righteousness.
(Prov 14:34-35) Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (35) A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant incurs his wrath.
(Prov 28:12) When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding.
What is this righteousness that God wants to see in a nation? What is this righteousness that God wants to see not just in Israel but also in America, Canada, Mexico, England, Russia, China and every other nation on earth?
To be righteous means to meet a standard of behavior. The Bible’s standard of human righteousness is God’s own perfection in every attribute, attitude, behavior, and word. This means that God’s laws, as given in the Bible, are the standard for righteousness.
In Proverbs, the opposite of the righteous are the wicked. The righteous are God-centered while the wicked are self-centered; the righteous revere God while the wicked despise God; the righteous act justly towards their neighbor while the wicked takes advantage of people and situations; the righteous trust in God while the wicked trust in self or things or money or power; the righteous strive for obedience to God's laws while the wicked break God's law without remorse, shame, or feelings of guilt.
B As I already mentioned, we are in a Presidential race. As I drive down the freeway I keep seeing billboards and signs telling us to "Make America Great Again." This is Trump's campaign slogan: "Make America Great Again." We are being told that a vote for Trump is a vote to make America great again. I am sure that Clinton believes the same thing: A vote for her is also a vote to make America great again.
"Make America Great Again." How will this happen? Let me tell you this loud and clear: Greatness does not come because we vote for Trump or Clinton. Greatness does not come through politics and policies and politicians. Greatness does not come through fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget. Greatness does not come through health care. Greatness does not come through trade agreements. Greatness does not come through abundant resources. Greatness does not come through technology and computers and government intervention.
Consider this: Back in 1994 the Democrats finally lost control of Congress. Democratic senators and representatives were kicked out of office after 40 years of being in control. Many Christians naively believed that Republican control of Congress would make our nation great again. But it was business as usual and nothing really changed.
So how do we make America great again? Listen to what our text says: "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov 14:34-35). Do you hear the answer? "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov 14:34-35).
"Make America Great Again." How? Solomon reminds us that a nation can only be restored through righteousness. And, Solomon reminds us that no nation can be restored that embraces sin. Think about this. No nation can achieve greatness if it refuses to recognize the authority of God and His Word, if it doesn't raise children by the principles of Scripture, if it profanes the Sabbath, if it doesn't respect life in the womb, if it redefines marriage, if it removes all mention of God from school curriculums, if it treats prayer and Bible reading with disdain, if it approves of immorality and divorce, if it mocks those who try to live as children of light, if toleration is the most important virtue.
"Make America Great Again." It should be clear that God measures greatness in a different way than does Trump and Clinton. In God's eyes a nation is not great just because it defeats its enemies. A strong dollar does not make a nation great. A trade surplus does not make a nation great. Size and armies don't make a nation great. Farmland and mountains don't determine greatness. In God's eyes, greatness is a measurement of righteousness.
C "Make America Great Again." I have good news and bad news for Tuesday's election. The bad news is that true and perfect righteousness is not possible for Trump or Clinton and their advisors and supporters to attain on their own; the standard is simply too high. It is beyond us sinful, fallen, broken people.
"Make America Great Again." The good news is that true righteousness -- and greatness -- is possible through the cleansing of sin by Jesus Christ and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. We have no ability to achieve righteousness in and of ourselves. But Christians possess the righteousness of Christ, because "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). This is an amazing truth. On the cross, Jesus exchanged our sin for His perfect righteousness so that we can one day stand before God and He will see not our sin, but the holy righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"Make America Great Again." Do you see what needs to happen? Let me quote the words of the song we will be singing after this sermon (PH 599):
1 From ocean unto ocean That is what needs to happen to "Make America Great Again." That is what needs to happen to make Canada, Mexico, and Israel great again. It is the old, old Gospel message of repent and believe.
our land shall name you, Lord
and, filled with true devotion,
obey your sovereign Word.
Our prairies and our mountains,
the forest, fertile field,
our rivers, lakes, and fountains
to you shall tribute yield.
2 O Christ, for your own glory
and for our country's weal;
we humbly plead before you:
yourself in us reveal.
And may we know, Lord Jesus,
the touch of your dear hand,
and, healed of our diseases,
the tempter's power withstand.
3 Where error smites with blindness,
enslaves, and leads astray,
proclaim in loving-kindness
your joyful gospel day,
till all the tribes and races
that dwell in this fair land,
adorned with Christian graces,
within your courts shall stand.
4 Our Savior King, defend us
and guide where we should go;
forth with your message send us,
your love and light to show,
till, fired with true devotion
and kindled by your Word,
from ocean unto ocean
our land shall name you Lord.
"Make America Great Again." I hope you realize this is not something we can do. It is not something anyone can do. It is not something the government can do. It is not something Trump or Clinton can do. Righteousness cannot be legislated by Congress. Righteousness -- and greatness -- only comes from God, His grace, His Spirit, His Gospel. So what we need to do is pray. Pray that hearts and lives will be changed. Pray that people will recognize sin to be sin. Pray that people will repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When that happens, then America will be great again.
"Make America Great Again." I hope you also realize that this starts with you and me. We need to repent and believe. We need to be righteous and just and holy. We need to conform in all our ways with the holy Word and Law of God. A great America begins with you and me.
II Proverbs 28:15,28; 29:12
A I want to turn now to three passages that tell us God's will for leaders.
(Prov 28:15) Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people.
(Prov 28:28) When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
(Prov 29:12) If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials become wicked.
Neither Trump nor Clinton can make us great again. But that doesn't mean that leaders don't matter. Proverbs teaches us that the character of a leader greatly impacts a nation for better or for worse. His or her values will determine who is selected as ambassadors, advisors, cabinet members, supreme court justices, and so on. These, in turn, will greatly influence policies and programs that affect the entire nation.
Despite what some people say, character does matter -- especially in a leader. A nation cannot go unaffected when its leaders are godless and immoral. One of the Puritan commentaries I looked at for this message puts it this way:
A wicked prince makes a wicked people ... He will ever want those about him ready to minister to his folly. Lies will be told to those that are ready to harken to them. Envy, ambition, malice, self-interest, will always be at hand. His corruption pushes away the godly from his presence ...
Does character matter? You bet it does. The decline of our nation started with the men who have served as President. President Roosevelt had a girlfriend; he and his followers observed the 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not get caught." President Kennedy often brought prostitutes and mistresses into the White House. President Johnson had an absolutely foul mouth. President Nixon -- tricky Dicky -- broke the law. President Reagan practiced astrology. President Clinton lied under oath and violated his marriage vows numerous times. And, look at the candidates for President this year: Lying Hillary, Immoral Trump.
"Make America Great Again." This is not going to happen, this cannot happen, with the caliber of leaders we have.
B What kind of President does God want us to have? What kind of ruler does God look for? Turn to Psalm 72.
(Ps 72) Of Solomon. Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. (2) He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. (3) The mountains will bring prosperity to the people, the hills the fruit of righteousness. (4) He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor. (5) He will endure as long as the sun, as long as the moon, through all generations. (6) He will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. (7) In his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more. (8) He will rule from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts. (11) All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him. (12) For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. (13) He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death. (14) He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. (15) Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. (16) Let grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. Let its fruit flourish like Lebanon; let it thrive like the grass of the field. (17) May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. (18) Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvelous deeds. (19) Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen. (20) This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
I am sure you realize no earthly ruler measures up. No earthly president or prime minister or premier or chairman measures up because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
However, the Good News of the Gospel is that there is one King Who never disappoints. There is one King Who never lets us down. There is one King Who is consistently righteous and just in all His ways and all His decrees. There is one King we can always depend on. I am talking about King Jesus.
(Isa 9:6-7) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (7) Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
(cf Heb 1:8-9; Rev 19:11)
"Make America Great Again." Trump and Clinton are aiming for something that won't happen and can't happen unless our land turns to the Lord Jesus Christ and follows His ways. So, make that your prayer, starting with yourself.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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