King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was a slow learner, but after seven demented years he finally recognized that “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Dan. 4:32). God created the people of every nation and determined when and where they would live — that all might seek him (Acts 17:26-27). Earthly rulers have no power apart from God’s consent (Rom. 13:1). The sovereign God has now given all authority in heaven and on earth to his Son, Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18). Jesus is “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). Today, the nations rage against the Lord and his Anointed (Psalm 2:1-3). One day “all the dominions will serve and obey Him” (Dan. 7:27).
The nation of Israel once enjoyed a unique relationship with God as his covenant people, from Moses until Christ. Much of the Old Testament Scriptures concerns the duties, blessings and curses related to that national covenant and flowing from it. From America’s founding, many Christian citizens have borrowed that language and applied it to the United States. Some have idealized the U.S. as a “Christian nation.” But America is not Israel. God has no special deal with America, and America has no guarantees from God. We are a nation blessed by God, but we are not God’s nation in any special sense. To claim that we are God’s special nation manifests ungodly arrogance and fosters a false sense of security.
The God of all nations holds all nations accountable. Throughout Scripture — quite apart from any covenant status such as Israel enjoyed — God calls nations to account, warns them concerning their sins, sometimes punishing them when their wickedness became intolerable. The list is long on that point: Sodom, the Canaanites, Babylon, Assyria, Nineveh, Edom, Tyre and, in the New Testament, Rome. Whether God still chastens nations directly or simply allows the degenerative effects of immorality to take their course, the effect is the same. Pride, greed and corruption eventually topple kings and bury nations in the sand. The poets know it — leaving prophets aside — as Oliver Goldsmith (“The Deserted Village”), Percy B. Shelley (“Ozymandius”) and Edwin Markham (“The Man With The Hoe”) all bear eloquent witness.
An upright and godly citizenry will bless any nation. Self-centered, indulgent, haughty citizens lead to national rottonness and eventually to internal collapse. These are principles larger than formulas, however. The story of Job should alert us to the danger of glib, moralistic answers. The fact is that godly people of faith often suffer and die alongside the scoffers and scoundrels. Some of the Bible’s brightest expressions of faith shine forth from just such calamitous tragedies (Lam. 3:21-26; Hab. 3:16-19). Faith does not mean that God will always protect us from evil now. It does enable us to trust him, whatever may come, in the confidence that he will have the final, victorious, eternal word.