1Chronicles 12:32 “A Theology of Patriotism”
1Chronicles 12:32 “A Theology of Patriotism”
Sunday, July 4th, 2004 am
Introduction: In preparing for a sermon this week I was faced with 2 options- do I continue my preaching schedule through Rom.2 or, since today is Independence Day, the 228th year of our Republic, should I preach some kind of a patriotic message. I decided to go with the patriotic message even though there are more dangers and pitfalls with that route. With a patriotic theme I could go with 3-4 different themes- I could focus on the religious/spiritual highlights of our nation’s glorious history, I could address the things that are wrong in our country, I could address the great issues of our day or I could try to find what the Bible says about patriotism (not an easy task). What I have ended up with is a broad survey of themes in the Bible that affect what we call patriotism, thus the title of today’s sermon is A Theology of Patriotism.
This sermon, or study as it actually is, will cover a lot of territory and perhaps be the groundwork for a sermon series this fall. The main ideas I want us to learn are that, while our first priority must be Christ, and God is not an American, we as Christians have certain duties to our country that are to be carried out for the glory of God, and that, to the extent that our nation does the right thing, and God is honored, to that extent we can love our nation and be true patriots. When we see evil promoted, God dishonored, and righteousness and justice denied, we should feel shame and seek to right those wrongs. We should rejoice in the freedom God has granted this country and seek to preserve it, not for selfish pleasures, but for the glory of God. We must never forget that the price of our liberty is high, paid for in the blood and sacrifices of those who have gone before us and those who even now are in harm’s way that we might enjoy the blessings of the liberty God has granted. God has given us a high privilege to be Americans, as that great Puritan founder of Mass. Bay Colony, John Winthrop said aboard his flagship Arabella in 1630 in his sermon titled “A Model of Christian Charity” “For we must consider that we shall be like a City upon a Hill; the eyes of all people are upon us. If we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world; we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God and all believers in God…”
My choice of scripture to begin this sermon may seem unusual, 1Chron.12.32. The situation was that King Saul had died in battle with the Philistines and David had been proclaimed King of Judah. After a brief civil war between those who followed Saul’s family and those who wanted to follow David the kingdom is reunited and the tribes pledge their support. The men of Issachar joined David at Hebron. It says they “understood the times and knew what Israel should do.”
Folks, we live in perilous times, confusing times. The cultural situation here at home is in a crisis with the homosexual rights movement about to destroy the institution of marriage through the courts. The courts are systematically banning prayer, the ten commandments, and Christmas displays from our land. The country is as divided politically as it has ever been with the exception of the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. The education system of the country is failing. Illegal immigrants are flooding our country and, instead of being slowly assimilated and americanized, they are simply extending their cultures into ours. Finally, the muslim civilization has entered into the third great jihad and is consciously and deliberately attempting to kill all of us, that is their stated goal, that is the goal of Islam according to the Koran, to convert us, enslave us, or to kill us.
We, God’s people, need to understand the times and know what America and the Church should do.
I. God Is Not an American
1. The first point that needs to be made is that God is not an American, if you are an American that does not guarantee that you are a Christian by any means, and God is no respecter of persons or of nations. God is not a Democrat nor is he a Republican. God is high and lifted up, he is holy and transcendent. God loves us as individuals, not as a group or nation. God has a people, they are the elect, the Church Universal and triumphant, the Bride of Christ and they are from all nations and ethnic groups. To think Christianly is to think in terms of the whole family of God, not just our church, not just TBA or Texas Baptists of the SBC or American Christians.
Back in 1Sam4 the Israelites were at war with the Philistines and losing, so they brought the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield in order to have God’s presence with them so that they could win. In short they had reduced God to a patriotic good luck charm. The Israelites were routed, the Ark captured and Eli’s sons were killed, God is not mocked, he will not be used.
In our own day some too glibly sing God Bless America, a great song, but if we presume that God will bless us right or wrong, we are guilty of idolatry. In our news stories of recent months we see the Muslim Terrorist thugs beheading their captives, most recently a US Marine, and shouting Allah akbar, God is great. They presume that God is with them. In the War Between the States, both sides had many Christians who just knew that God was on their side and that He would grant their side victory. We must not presume that God is on our side, we must seek His will humbly.
2. God uses nations for His purposes, noble and ignoble. God is in charge of the world and he remains sovereign even when unspeakable evil and disaster happens. God will not be used, but he is right to use the nations to accomplish His purposes. God used Israel in a special way to bring about the redemption of men through Jesus. But when Israel was brought out of Egypt God used them to punish the Canaanites and Amorites for their grotesque sin. Israel conquered a pagan, idolatrous people whose institutions and society were corrupt to the core. Look at Deut.7:1-11; and Gen.15:13-16.
When Israel was established they very quickly strayed from God and began worshiping the false gods around them because they failed to complete the job of exterminating the Amorites and Canaanites. They took God for granted and consequently God brought in the Midianites, Amalekites and Philistines to punish the Israelites. Look at Judges 6:1-6. Later on, because of the sins of Solomon and his son Rehoboam, Israel is divided by a rebellion and somewhat of a civil war. Assyria is eventually brought in by God to punish N. Israel for their sins and later, Babylon is brought in to punish Judah. God clearly uses nations to accomplish his will and purposes. Persia under kings Cyrus and Artaxerxes was used to restore the remnant of Israel. Greece was used of God in several ways to bring about an all pervasive civilization and Rome brought about the pax Romana under which Christ was born and the Church grew and spread throughout the Roman west primarily instead of east toward China.
If a people, a nation, by and large submit to the Lord’s authority, and worship and serve Him, that people, that nation, will likely be used for noble purposes by God. But if a people or nation reject the Lord and wallow in sin, that people will be used of God for lesser purposes and perhaps even receive judgment. Let me give you an illustration of what I am talking about.
One of the stories of our history that is full of tragedy and shame, but romantic heroism and glory as well is the story of the treatment of the Native Americans. Liberals today, and even many of our educators in our public schools, totally despise Christopher Columbus and don’t like to celebrate Columbus Day. They say that he brought genocide, disease, slavery and misery to the Indians. The history of our nation’s dealing with the Indians is pretty bad. I come from Oklahoma and am familiar with the Trail of Tears. On my father’s side I have Indian blood in my veins. I have read of the massacre at Wounded Knee.
However, I have also read considerably about the Indians. They were in actuality a stone age people who worshiped demons, false gods and used warfare against each other as sport. Torture in extreme methods was used to test the courage of their captives unto death. Adultery and incest were practiced routinely by many tribes as part of their religion as was cannibalism. In short, the noble savage was not so noble. In fact, the Indians were no better than the Canaanites and Amorites. Without excusing the bad behavior of those who abused the Indians, might we also say that perhaps, just maybe, God has used America to work his will much as He used Israel?
3. The Q is not if God is on our side but are we on God’s side. We really ought to approach this question with great humility and searching of the scriptures and rigorously applying them to our thoughts, words, actions and intentions as a nation.
4. God will judge nations in THIS life, individuals in the next Ezek.20.24f because they had not obeyed my laws but had rejected my decrees and desecrated my Sabbaths, and their eyes lusted after their fathers’ idols. 25 I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by; 26 I let them become defiled through their gifts–the sacrifice of every firstborn–that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am the LORD.’
On judgment day we will stand before Christ as individuals, to be judged individually. God will not judge all the Americans together as a group. In this life, in history, nations are judged. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were corrupt societies that were unjust, aggressive and idolatrous. WW2 was not just a war, not just politics by other means as Clauswitz wrote; WW2 was also a great spiritual battle. My father has told me of the concentration camps he saw in Germany. I have no doubt that God used the Allies to accomplish His will in the world in WW2 and one of the consequences was the formation of the new nation of Israel, thus God’s plan is unfolding.
II. Our First Loyalty Is To Christ
1. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God- In John 3 Jesus is discussing with Nicodemus the nature of the New Birth. Jesus says “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” Jesus’ preaching includes many references to the Kingdom of God or of Heaven, such as in Matt.6:10 the Lord’s Prayer “your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. Paul teaches also that we who are born again are “in Christ”. When a person becomes a disciple of Jesus Christ his primary allegiance changes. When we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus we enter his kingdom and he is our foremost concern, not earthly things.
2. We owe Christ our all- clearly when we understand the nature of sin and the judgment that is to come, and we see the great sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, we realize that we owe Christ everything. We owe our country certain things, we owe a debt of gratitude to our forefathers who have bequeathed this freedom to us, but our freedom in the here and now pales in significance to the salvation that God has given us by his grace.
3. This life is short, heaven is forever. When we understand that our life is short and eternity longer than we can comprehend, it makes sense to give our primary allegiance to Jesus as our Lord. Our first priority should be the kingdom of heaven not the kingdoms of man. The Great Commission in Matt.28:19-20 tells us to take the gospel to all nations, all peoples. That is clearly the priority of the church and of every Christian. That takes precedence over patriotism. It transcends our temporal national objectives and goals and culture.
4. It is better to obey God than men Acts5.29 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
AC 5:29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
AC 5:33 When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death. 34 But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered that the men be put outside for a little while. 35 Then he addressed them: “Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do to these men. 36 Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered. 38 Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
AC 5:40 His speech persuaded them.
III. The Christian Citizen
1. Submit to the governing authorities Rom.13 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. 4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.
RO 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
2. Enjoy the privileges of citizenship Acts16.37f; 22.25f; 25.10
3. Resist Evil Esther 8-9; Judges; Matt.26.51(disciples had swords; Lk.22.38f) right to self defense/ carry concealed arms.
4. Proclaim Liberty Lev.25.10 The year of Jubilee was a time of economic redemption. The Bible knows nothing of socialism, capitalism is the natural order of things and is the great promoter of liberty. While it is true that Jesus and Paul did not preach against slavery, they did teach in such a way that brought justice and mercy into that horrid institution and the OT clearly provided means for limiting slavery and rebuked those who dealt in slavery. The overwhelming political message of the Bible is Proclaim Liberty! That nation which promotes freedom and liberty is doing the will of God. Liberty does not mean licentiousness! The Christian Citizen should study liberty and be aware of how to promote liberty.
5. Let Justice Roll Like a River Amos 5.24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Micah 6.8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
The Christian citizen should live out justice and mercy and righteousness in all his dealings with people in business, politics, and personal life. The nation should seek these virtues as well.
IV. Jesus’ Example
1. Jesus did not speak to the political issues of his day much, the people were clamoring for a political kingdom as were the disciples. But Jesus would have none of that, and only conceded that we should give to Caesar what was Caesar’s and to God what was God’s. Jesus’ mission was very focused. He did not come here to change Roman culture or politics, he came to save us from our sins. When people seek to use Jesus’ silence on political issues as an excuse for not getting involved, they are misreading and misapplying scripture in a grossly ignorant way.
2. Was Jesus a total pacifist? Notably many will say that Jesus was a pacifist because he went to the cross without uttering a word in his defense. He said to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Yet he also allowed his disciples to carry swords for self-defense and he praised the faith of the Centurion without telling him to get out of the army of Rome. Furthermore, if Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, and God is unchanging, the same God who ordered the Israelites to kill all of the inhabitants of Jericho is the same God who said for us to turn the other cheek. I believe you can also say that hell is the ultimate act of coercion and force.
3. Jesus and social issues. Jesus did not speak out on many of the social issues that we would like, and yet we can take what he did and with rigorous application of sound rules for interpretation find an answer to the pop Q of what would Jesus do? Yet in our day we see people claiming that Jesus would support a woman’s right to kill her unborn baby, we see people claiming that Jesus would be for homosexual marriage, and now there is even a new paraphrase of the Bible out that says fornication is allowed. People will always try to use God to further their own agendas and excuse their own sins. So we must be wise and careful when we apply the Bible to social issues.
V. The Christian King
1. Rule with a biblical worldview Deut.17.
2. OT examples- Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, Daniel, Nehemiah
3. The Centurion
4. Who is king in America? The Voters! Because of our unique political system, we can legitimately apply some of these passages to ourselves because the American voter is king. Our own Constitution begins with the Preamble We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The last line of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address reads It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
So what I am saying is that to a large extent the average Christian citizen in America has some of the same scriptural responsibilities as the OT kings. We have power in our right to vote, to lobby, and to actually serve and we should carry out those rights and duties with a biblical worldview, in faith, bathed in prayer, for the glory of God and the furtherance of His kingdom.
VI. The Issues of the Day
2. Family issues
VII. What Is the Church To Do?
1. Prayer and worship
2. Be a Disciple and live the biblical worldview
3. Spread the Gospel
4. Study the issues in light of scripture
5. Vote accordingly
6. Get involved