RIGHTEOUS NATION (Article) by Abidan Paul Shah
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 17, 2019)
Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
What makes a nation prosperous? How can a people escape the trash heap of history? Will America last another hundred years if Christ does not return? The timeline of history is littered with nations and peoples that have ceased to be, not because of famine, earthquake, pollution, deforestation, or even war, but because of unrighteousness. From God’s perspective, righteousness is the secret to success and longevity as a nation. Let’s look at each word in Proverbs 14:34 carefully:
- Righteousness (Hebrew – tsedek): It refers to our subjection to God’s universal order of things that has existed since creation and will continue until the end of time. It’s the recognition that God is in charge and we’re to do things his way in every aspect of life – relationships, family, children, nature, government, commerce, justice, war, etc. This has to come from a willing heart not obligation. A word of caution: This thinking is not popular with the world. You have to be willing to face opposition and even persecution. The opposite of righteousness is Sin. It’s the Hebrew word “chatha” which literally means to “miss the mark” or “fall short.” It means missing God’s standard of righteousness.
- Exalts (Hebrew – rwm): It has many different uses but in the present context, it means success, prosperity, goodness, and longevity. The opposite of righteousness is Reproach. It’s the Hebrew word “chesed” which can mean either kindness or shame. The idea behind it is of an eager desire which is unexplainable. In this verse, it signifies “unexplainable shame” to those who choose to sin against God.
Let’s put this to the test. Have there been nations/kingdoms/peoples/societies who chose to disobey God’s standards and perished?
- Pre-flood Nations: Genesis 6 tells us that God saw the wickedness of people on the earth and that they were totally bent towards evil. As a result, God sent a worldwide flood and saved only those were on the ark – Noah, his family, and two of each kind of animals.
- Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 13:13 declares “the people of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.” The sin of homosexuality had reached an all-time low. Through Abraham’s intervention, God saved only Lot and his family but destroyed all the cities of the plain.
- Pre-exodus Egypt: When Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to free the Hebrew slaves, God sent 10 plagues against Egypt – the Nile River turned into blood, frogs, flies, lice, death of the livestock, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, and death of the first born, both humans and animals. If this weren’t enough, the entire Egyptian army along with their chariots and horses perished in the Red Sea.
- Babylon: King Belshazzar threw a big feast and, in his drunken stupor, demanded that wine be served in the temple vessels from Jerusalem. Just then, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared opposite the lampstand and started writing. He was so shaken up that his hip joints came loose and his knees knocked against each other. Daniel was called to interpret the writing and that very night Belshazzar was killed and King Cyrus entered Babylon as the new king of the Medes and the Persians.
There’s not enough space to list the demise of the Akkadians, Canaanites, Persians, Mongols, Aztecs, Ottomans, Indian kingdoms, Chinese dynasties, European nations, etc. The pattern is always the same. When unrighteousness takes over, the people/nations/cultures are destroyed.
The formula for survival and blessing is clear – 2 Chronicles 7:14 “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.”