America: A Blessed Nation? – 13

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD. Psalm 33:12a.

You see, this is why America needs to return to God, to go back to our Judeo-Christian roots. God’s not on our side anymore, because we’ve rejected him. We’ve punched and kicked, and legislated him out of every conceivable institution. But he will bless us, if we return to him and acknowledge him as God.

Have you ever heard an interpretation that goes something like that before? Such a reading of Scripture fits into a larger framework that understands America as a Christian nation; or at least, one that argues America began that way. I won’t dive headlong into that minefield of a discussion right now. But I would like to point out something more specific to Psalm 33, it’s meaning, and it’s application to America.

The issue with the interpretation offered above is reading America into the term ‘nation’. Additionally, this interpretation makes the mistake of taking this statement in the psalm as an open invitation for any nation to make the LORD their God and so be blessed. Unfortunately, however, both these mistakes stem from a common problem, namely, taking the first half of the verse out of context.

You see, if we read the whole verse, the meaning becomes quite plain – and it has nothing to do with America. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (Ps. 33:12). The nation referred to is a specific nation, a people, whom God has chosen. And by Old Testament standards who might that be? None other than Israel.

The point of the verse is to highlight Israel’s blessed position in contrast to that of all other nations, as is made clear in verse 10, “The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.” This was Israel’s great privilege: they belonged to God and God belonged to them (Gen. 17:7-8). The psalmist here draws on the language of Exodus 19:5-6, which says, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…”

But here’s the best part, the church has become incorporated into this blessed position, that is, all who believe in Jesus have this same privilege. Peter again draws on this language in his first letter, saying, “But you [church] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). If you believe in Jesus, no matter if you’re a Jew or Gentile, you belong to God, and he belongs to you.

The fact is Psalm 33 has nothing to do with America, and it should not be touted in support of a Christian America theory. Not only is this bad exegesis, but it robs Psalm 33:12 of its grander (and true) meaning, especially as it fits within the message of the whole Bible. Rather than suggesting something exclusive to America, Psalm 33 speaks of the blessed position of all those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ, no matter their nationality or citizenship.

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2 thoughts on “America: A Blessed Nation? – 13

  1. Good one, Jon. Israel is truly the apple of God’s eye, His holy people.

    And yet, and yet… there is truth found in Second Chronicles 7:14, you know, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” OK, this is for us because we, the believers, are grafted into The Olive Tree. I understand that. And you addressed this in the paragraph above where you shared First Peter 2:9.

    Now, however, if a “critical mass” (I don’t know how many) of citizens of a certain country are grafted in, might there be an evident blessing, in which He “heals their land”? As an example, the crime rate went down a lot during the Welsh Revival 0f 1904-1905.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1904%E2%80%931905_Welsh_Revival

    And there have been “Great Awakening”s in this country, too. I’m sure the general population felt an overflow of the blessings.

    OK, I know the faults and sins of this nation are many, but (don’t take me too seriously with what I am about to write) won’t the Lord God grade on a curve? OK, you can stop laughing. But…

    Well, let me end with this – Hallelujah!

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  2. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

    The term/idea of ‘blessing’ as you’re using it is not quite the sense in which Psalm 33 uses it. There, it is a statement of fact, a position in relationship to God. It appears to have redemptive overtones, in that the nations (plural) do share this blessedness with God’s nation (singular). As you have used the term, however, it is an overflow of benefits to the broader culture via God’s people. That is to say, I think your point is valid – surely Christianity has had a positive influence on society wherever it has spread; however, that’s not the point being made by the psalm.

    Concerning, 2 Chronicles 7, this is another verse that is often quoted to very ‘patriotic’ ends. What I’m about to say might surprise you, and perhaps you’ll find it inconsistent due to what I said about 1 Peter, but I don’t think it is. That is, I don’t think 2 Chronicles 7:14 is appropriately applied to the church in the same way that Psalm 33:12 is. The reason is the monarchial and theocratic elements of 2 Chronicles 7, that is, unlike the monarchy of ancient Israel the church today does not have a centralized earthly government or land; it is rather an international people from and in nations around the globe.

    What so many people fail to do (just like Psalm 33) is read 2 Chron. 7:14 in it’s context, and (just like Psalm 33) they mistakenly read themselves and their ‘land’ (e.g. America) into the terms of the passage. God’s promises there are in response to Solomon’s prayers from 2 Chron. 6 for the kingdom of Israel. Moreover, God outlines not only blessings he will bring when his people return to him in prayer, but he also outlines judgments when they break his commands in 7:19-22. People today are quick to apply to themselves the positive blessings, but why do they not also apply the judgments? They stand or fall together; we can’t simply pick the parts of the passage we like. In sum, because of the differences between the kingdom of Israel and the church today as well as the details of the passage in its context, I don’t think it is appropriately applied to the church today.

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