Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness Exalts a Nation
A country takes the initiative to throw off the bonds of tyranny. Letters are written and speeches are made. People promote the notice of breaking away from the control of another country’s laws. An independence movement is afoot. The consequences of which could severe: economic instability, changing allegiances, and possible war. Great Britain has celebrated what was called “Independence Day” this past month on June 23, 2016. The British people voted to leave the European Union, in what was called a “Brexit” – a British exit from the EU. The British are following the American example 240 years late.
AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE AND OUR FIRST FREEDOM
The Americans will celebrate our Independence Day tomorrow. We will come together as a church and a community to remind ourselves of the freedom and liberty that we all enjoy. The American Revolution began as a movement because of the desire to respect one person’s religion. Freedom of religious expression is the first freedom listed in the First Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment to the Bill of Rights guarantees the following rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.1
I personally believe that all freedoms derive their existence from religious freedom. There is a reason that the first freedom secured in the Bill of Rights are the right to freedom of religious assembly. To lead a nation, it takes form of religious virtue.
Samuel Adams has said:
“Christian men, who had come together for solemn deliberation in the hour of their extremity, to say there was so wide a difference in their religious belief that they could not, as one man, bow the knee in prayer to the Almighty, whose advice and assistance they hoped to obtain…”3
Yet, today we see an erosion of these freedoms. For example, Revelation 13 shows us that at some time in the future, there will be globalism and when it comes, it will be ungodly.
As Abraham Lincoln once said: “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”4
In the meantime, we are called as Christians to influence the nation for God’s good.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, HCSB)
DEFINITION OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Let’s define righteousness. Righteousness is the standard by which God says we are doing right. He has a measuring rod in which He compares our lives to what He expects. This standard is not based on any human measurement. It is based upon God’s own standard. He has His own definition of what standard means. So when you see the Bible talk about righteousness, it means “what is right” or “doing the right thing.” But in every case, the Bible defines “what is right” or “doing the right thing” as what God says it means.
GOD’S STANDARD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
We can’t do anything based on our own righteousness or integrity. It has to be based upon God’s standard of righteousness and integrity:
“You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the Lord your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (Deuteronomy 9:5–6, HCSB)
There are verses which speak to God’s ability to be righteous and thus the Standard of righteousness:
“The Rock —His work is perfect; all His ways are entirely just. A faithful God, without prejudice, He is righteous and true.” (Deuteronomy 32:4, HCSB)
““Can a person be more righteous than God, or a man more pure than his Maker?”” (Job 4:17, HCSB)
Therefore, God’s Righteousness which is the only right or correct form of righteousness, can only be available for if we follow God’s standard.
“Righteousness will be ours if we are careful to follow every one of these commands before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.’” (Deuteronomy 6:25, HCSB)
However, God’s righteousness can only be followed by faith. That faith is only in Jesus Christ.
“For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17, HCSB)
“But My righteous one will live by faith; and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10:38, HCSB)
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1, HCSB)
Do you want to see the nation turn around? Then it is up to how you behave. You can’t control everything the government does, but you can control your response. Your can either curse the darkness or share the light. How do you share the light? How do you become what Jesus said was a city on a hill?
RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTS A NATION IF:
1. The people are righteous.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34, HCSB)
The first part of the proverb tells us what can make a nation great. It requires a Godly people. As I said before, this righteousness doesn’t come from us. We are not righteousness, except because of what God has done for us to make us righteous. When the people are righteous, then we can lift a nation up.
“Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy it on account of 10.”” (Genesis 18:32, HCSB)
If not for 10 people would you destroy this town? God said, not for 10 people. But there were not even enough people to prevent God’s judgment.
In that conversation, Abram is finally understanding why God would destroy the town. But Abram had a vested interest in the safety of the town. His nephew lived there. He pleaded with God that he would save the town.
Are we doing the same with our neighbors, our cities, our country? Are we pleading?
Let’s take time right now to pray for others around us.
2. The people live righteously and model it for others.
The just shall live by faith.
“Look, his ego is inflated; he is without integrity. But the righteous one will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4, HCSB)
“Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11, HCSB)
“Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8, HCSB)
“Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13, HCSB)
One of the problems with today’s society is the Christian’s inconsistent life. We say one thing, but we live differently. The second part of this proverb is very true today for Christians:
“Sin is a disgrace for any people.”
We promote lifestyles which are completely sinful and disgrace other people. We live together without the covenant and commitment of marriage. We sin, yet we know we are saved by grace. However, we think that sinning will make grace even more powerful.
We gossip, we speak ill, we hurt others, we promote strife. We rant and rave both in public and online and all the while watch us. We won’t extend forgiveness to others and we don’t say that we are too arrogant to admit that we sinned and need forgiveness. Are you and modeling a Christ-like spirit for others?
Let’s take the time to confess our sins to each other in prayer.
3. The people promote God’s righteousness in their lives.
“A city is built up by the blessing of the upright, but it is torn down by the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 11:11, HCSB)
“Seek the welfare of the city I have deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it has prosperity, you will prosper.”” (Jeremiah 29:7, HCSB)
“Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him. He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:34–36, HCSB)
Peter is saying in this passage that there are people who know Jesus. This passage shows that there will be people in every nation who know Jesus Christ. Christians who have the opportunity to share this message with others. Are we promoting righteousness in the area in which we live? Are we spreading God’s righteousness by the way we live?
R.C. Sproul reminds us:
Our forefathers sought to keep the state out of religious matters, but today, the thing they wanted to avoid is happening. There are many examples of intrusion by the state into the life of the church. It is happening in very subtle ways, but it is happening nonetheless. It happens with zoning laws and it happens with restrictions placed upon church buildings and how large they can be, or how high their steeples can be. It is happening in reference to gay marriage and whether churches have a right to refuse wedding services to gay couples. In addition, employers are being asked to provide medical coverage for employees that includes coverage for abortion.
I believe we’re going to see more and more of these collisions between the secular state and the church as we move into the future. World history is full of examples of governments oppressing the church of Christ. We shouldn’t be all that surprised. We should resist where we are able, but we should also rest in the sovereignty of God. He will build His church, and His kingdom is forever.5
1 The Constitution of the United States of America, electronic ed. (Oak Harbor WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1998).
2 William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).
3 William J. Federer, Great Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Quotations Influencing Early and Modern World History Referenced according to Their Sources in Literature, Memoirs, Letters, Governmental Documents, Speeches, Charters, Court Decisions and Constitutions (St. Louis, MO: AmeriSearch, 2001).
4 Abraham Lincoln, Brainy Quotes, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/abrahamlin133687.html, accessed on 1 July 2016.
5 R. C. Sproul, What Is the Relationship between Church and State?, First edition., vol. 19, The Crucial Questions Series (Orlando, FL; Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust; Ligonier Ministries, 2014), 35–36.