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.