Many Christians have a bittersweet feeling about our nation. On the one hand, we are happy to live in America. We delight in our freedom, especially our freedom to worship as we choose.
On the other hand, the last several decades has seen the decline of Christianity and morals in our land. We are saddened by the movement away from the Lord in America.
Maybe you can relate to the experience of Gladys Aylward, a missionary from England to China. She was forced out of China in the 1950’s after the Communists expelled all missionaries. Thinking that she would stay in areas like Hong Kong and Taiwan to be near the people that she loved, she decided to return to England after attending a prayer meeting, where, she wrote,
…a young [Chinese] man stated that he felt very definite and earnest prayer was needed for England. At the end I took this young man aside and asked why he had brought the subject before the Christians.
“Don’t you think England needs praying for?” he asked.
“Yes, but not as if it is a heathen land, because, after all, it is a Christian country.”
“But are they having blessing and revival?”
“I do not know.” [I responded]
“They can’t be. If they were we would know it—in the midst of all our famine, war and suffering. England, the land that sent us the gospel, is worshiping other gods.”
“What do you mean?” [I asked]
“To them sport, film stars, wealth, amusement—all are far more important than God.” [Does this sound familiar?]
“But how do you know all this?” [I asked]
“From the papers. I will bring you some to prove it.”
A little later he handed me a bundle of Chinese papers, and when I read them I understood the burden of his prayers. Every item of reported news from England, every picture, was concerned with a film star, or a sportsman, or a horse race—not one mention of God…
From that time I knew that I must go back to the land of my birth. I must return to do what I could to dispel the spiritual [dullness] that had overtaken so many. I must testify to the great faith of the Chinese church, I must let people know what great things God had done for me. (Aylward)
At its peak in the 1920’s, the British Empire was the largest empire the world has ever known—it covered 13 million square miles and held almost a quarter of the world’s population. By comparison the United States covers less than four million square miles and holds four percent of the world’s population.
How did the British Empire become the world’s largest empire in history? If you had asked a British Christian they would have said it was because Britain was a Christian nation and God had blessed them. They could have pointed to Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
And it’s true, Britain had been a powerhouse for Christianity. They sent missionaries all over the world. Many of the famous missionaries that we read about came from Britain—Gladys Aylward, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, C.T. Studd, and so on. Christians like William Wilberforce fought and won the battle to outlaw slavery in England decades before the United States did. Preachers like Charles Spurgeon saw thousands of people attending church every Sunday. Evangelists like George Whitefield and John Wesley preached to thousands at one time outside in the open air.
Today, less than 60 percent of British people claim to be Christian (and those who actually are true Christians is going to be much lower—claiming to be Christian and actually being a Christian are two different things). Twenty-five percent of British people report having no religion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_Kingdom).
Sadly, the figures for the United States are not really that far behind. Seventy-four percent claim to be Christian (about 49 percent Protestant and 23 percent Catholics and 2 percent Mormons). Again, these figures only give us the amount of people who claim to be Christian. They include cults and liberal churches and Christmas-Easter church attenders. And then, just over 18 percent of Americans say they have no religion (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_in_the_United_States).
Only about 30 percent of Americans say that they attend church at least once a week (down from 41 percent in 2000) and about one-quarter say they never attend church at all (double from what it was in 2000) (https://albertmohler.com/2019/06/27/briefing-6-27-19).
I give this comparison between Britain and the United States to point out that, first, we are not the only nation that has been called a Christian nation and has been blessed by God. And, second, the Lord’s blessing on a nation is not unconditional. It depends on the people of the nation to follow the Lord. He will bless the nation who has the LORD as their God. If they stop following the Lord, his blessing will be removed. Look at the size of Britain today—it’s basically a small island.
That brings us to our passage here. The question before us is this: What are the characteristics of a nation whose God is the LORD? Turn to Psalm 33—
6 By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. 7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: He layeth up the depth in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the Lord: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. 9 For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. 10 The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. 11 The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, The thoughts of his heart to all generations. 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. Psalm 33:6-12)
Psalms 33:12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
The nation that this verse is talking about is first of all Israel. Israel is the only nation that can claim that God has given them an unconditional promise to bless them forever. The Bible is very clear about that, starting in Genesis 12 with the calling of Abraham, and being repeated to Isaac, Jacob, and others.
But while there isn’t an unconditional promise for us to claim here, there is certainly a principle for us to hold to. God blesses nations who have the LORD as their God. He did so with Great Britain and also with the United States.
What does it mean that a nation has the LORD as its God?
Let’s answer that by pondering Psalm 33. Go back to the first few verses.
A NATION BLESSED BY THE LORD SINGS AND REJOICES IN THE LORD
We are not told who wrote Psalm 33—it has no superscription at the top that says something like, “A Psalm of David.” But it appears to be a victory song for the Lord’s provision to Israel in a battle. The first three verses call the nation to praise.
Psalms 33:1 Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: For praise is comely for the upright. Psalms 33:2 Praise the LORD with harp: Sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. Psalms 33:3 Sing unto him a new song; Play skilfully with a loud noise.
A characteristic of a nation who has the LORD as their God is a willingness to rejoice in the Lord. They will acknowledge the Lord’s provision and blessing on them with singing.
Take a look at the patriotic songs in church hymnals sometime—any church hymnal. When were the songs about how God has worked for our nation written? A long time ago. The 1800’s. Verse 3 calls the nation to sing to God a new song. In other words, as each generation experiences the work of God in the life of their nation, they ought to sing new songs about his work.
What does it mean that we haven’t got any new hymns glorifying God for his work in our nation since the 1800’s?
There aren’t even any songs about God’s work during World War II, when clearly God helped the Allies defeat a true evil. It’s sad that we, in the last hundred years, have failed to recognize God’s work in our nation’s victories and blessings in the form of popular hymns. It seems that is all left in the past. Is God only God in the past? Or is he the God of today?
But that does not have to be that way. We as Christians can sing new songs about what God has done in our nation. And we should sing them in other places than church buildings. Our culture has pushed Christians into the closet. But we must rejoice and sing about God’s work in the public square.
When we are pushed in a corner by liberals and progressives, instead of responding with anger—respond by singing to the Lord—like Paul and Silas did in prison (Acts 16:25) or like the Hong Kong protestors did recently when they sang “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” in front of the police sent to control them.
A NATION BLESSED BY THE LORD RECOGNIZES THE LORD’S CHARACTER AND WORKS
Psalms 33:4 For the word of the LORD is right; And all his works are done in truth. Psalms 33:5 He loveth righteousness and judgment: The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.
Notice how the psalmist holds up the character of the Lord on display. He says that the Lord’s word is right—there is none of this idea that the Lord is wrong, that his laws and rules are outdated. That it is an old thing that belongs in the past.
Psalms 33:6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. Psalms 33:7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap: He layeth up the depth in storehouses. Psalms 33:8 Let all the earth fear the LORD: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. Psalms 33:9 For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
What work of the Lord does the psalmist call the nation to acknowledge? It’s how God created the world. I think the greatest single factor that has turned people away from the Lord is the theory of evolution. It’s given people a way to explain away God.
It’s funny how unbelievers innately know that there is a Designer (Romans 1:20). Recently, in two different documentaries, I heard someone say, “…the human body is not designed…” Not designed? Who designed the human body? Even though it’s obvious that there is a Designer, people can now foolishly say that time and chance made everything.
As Christians, we must push back against this anti-God evolution. We cannot be afraid to talk about God creating the world in the public square. You don’t have to go into a detailed theological defense of creationism, just mention how wonderful God’s creation is when there’s a beautiful sunset or something like that.
People need to hear that there are still those who believe that God commanded Creation into existence.
A NATION BLESSED BY THE LORD KNOWS THAT THE LORD IS IN CONTROL
Psalms 33:10 The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: He maketh the devices of the people of none effect. Psalms 33:11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, The thoughts of his heart to all generations…
We see here that God is able to bring the counsel of the unbelievers to nothing. We see this all through the Bible, but a favorite of mine is in the book of Esther. Esther is the account of how a Jewish girl becomes queen at the very time that an evil man, Haman, is plotting to destroy all the Jews, especially her uncle, Mordecai.
For Mordecai, who has refused to bow the knee to Haman, Haman has a special gallows built on which to hang Mordecai. When Mordecai discovers Haman’s plot, he presses Esther to use her position as the queen to help. He tells her those famous words, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? Esther, who could be killed for approaching the king on the matter responds, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16).
While God’s name is not mentioned in Esther, it’s clear that he is in control behind the scenes, and that he has an ironic sense of humor:
Instead of Mordecai being hanged on the massive gallows, it’s Haman who is hanged! Instead of the Jews being exterminated by their enemies, the reverse happens—they prosper! The counsel of the Lord stands, the wicked’s counsel is brought to nought.
As Christians, we might be scared of the direction that the nation is going. But no matter what happens, we can be confident that God is at work behind the scenes. He has not lost control. One day God will bring all the counsel of the wicked to nought.
What we need to do is trust in him like Mordecai and Esther did. Each of us may have things that we need to do that are scary—witnessing or speaking up about a moral wrong. We need to trust that God is in control at those times, and we may be at that point for such a time as this. If we perish, we perish—but only from this earth—we will live forever with our Lord.
A NATION BLESSED BY THE LORD TRUSTS IN THE LORD TO DEFEND AND SAVE THEM
Psalms 33:16 There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: A mighty man is not delivered by much strength. Psalms 33:17 An horse is a vain thing for safety: Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.
I love reading about all things military—strategy, battles, weapons.The greatest display of military power on earth today is an American aircraft carrier strike group. Such a group consists of a carrier with up to 90 planes, a guided missile cruiser and two destroyers, and sometimes other ships. Nothing is more formidable. But…without the Lord, it is “a vain thing for safety.”
Our nation will not survive in the future if our trust is only in our military strength—a horse or an aircraft carrier is “a vain thing for safety.” Instead, we must learn again that our trust needs to be in the Lord—
Psalms 33:18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, Upon them that hope in his mercy; Psalms 33:19 To deliver their soul from death, And to keep them alive in famine. Psalms 33:20 Our soul waiteth for the LORD: He is our help and our shield. Psalms 33:21 For our heart shall rejoice in him, Because we have trusted in his holy name. Psalms 33:22 Let thy mercy, O LORD, be upon us, According as we hope in thee.
Our money says, “In God We Trust.” But what do most Americans really trust in? It’s the money that those words are printed on.
Even Christians fall into the trap of trusting money or other things instead of God. They trust Jesus to get them into Heaven, but they do not trust him for anything else in their lives. We need to develop a trust in God for all the times in our lives. If there is “famine,” we need trust God to be “our help and our shield.”
Now, obviously, the unbelievers around us will disagree. They will not trust God to be their help and shield because they are not saved and they don’t care. But if they see Christians trusting God in the midst of trials and famine, they will see a witness of what it means to trust the Lord. It might be the key that finally brings them to the Lord.
How do you and I respond when something bad happens to us? Do we hope in the Lord? Or do we get angry or depressed? Unbelievers are watching. Our witness to them happens not just when we pass out tracts. We are always witnessing to them. Do they see us trusting the Lord to defend and save us?
For our nation to be blessed by the Lord, Christians must act like Christians. We need to live like Christians, speak like Christians, love like Christians, trust God in trials like Christians should.
It’s only as people come to trust Christ will our nation again be blessed by the Lord. The responsibility does not lie with politicians or activists—the responsibility lies with as Christians.
The gospel is the answer to the problems that we face as a nation, and the problems we face as individuals. I say problems, but really, it’s just a single problem—sin. We are all sinners. And because of our sin, we all face a death penalty (Romans 6:23).
Only one person has never sinned, and that is Jesus Christ. Being sinless, he died on the cross for our sin and rose again from the dead to prove that his death paid for our sin.
To become a Christian—to be saved from the penalty of your sins—you need to receive Jesus Christ as your Savior. When you do, your life will begin to change. You will start to seek to live like Jesus…God will work to make you more like Jesus.
Imagine the difference it would make if our nation was full of people who had trusted in Jesus Christ and were daily becoming more and more like Jesus. Why, that would be a nation that would be blessed by God!
Aylward, Gladys, and Christine Hunter Gladys Aylward. Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1970. Print.