Blessed is That Nation

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance. . . . Let thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in thee.” Psalm 33:12, 22

Birthdays are generally occasions for joyous celebration. They give us the opportunity to look back over another year and reminisce about the favors and blessings showered upon us. And they also give rise to a renewed sense of dependance upon God for the unknown future.

July is the month in which the United States annually celebrates its birthday. Elaborate preparations are already being made for the bi-centennial celebration in 1976. It should prove to be an unforgettable birthday party!

One wonders, however, just where the emphasis will be placed. It is true that, in spite of the multitude of complex problems that face us right now, we do have many things for which to be grateful. And no doubt the celebration will center on all the good things about America. In comparison to most other nations of the world, we enjoy a high standard of living; we have a high ranking among the nations of the world in terms of our gross national product; we possess as much individual freedom as anywhere in the world; and we boast military strength which is second to none.

But these are not really the things that make us great as a nation, are they? Fact is, if these things are not seen and held in thei.r proper perspective, they may prove more a curse than a blessing. For wealth and power, production and freedom, are not ends in themselves. They are the measuring sticks most often used to determine greatness, but that is only from fallen-man‘s perspective. The real criterion for judging the past value and success of any nation or individual lies with the Sovereign God of history. The Psalmist put his finger on it when he said: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” To apply that yardstick to our past history is to be able to determine the real measure of greatness.

And when we do that, we may in all honesty be forced to conclude that our greatness is both hollow and shallow. Dare we say that all the blessings of material wealth have been implemented by us so as to point men back to the Giver? Or dare we say that in nearly two-hundred years of history, we have come closer to the ideal held before us in the Word of God in terms of obedience? The answers to those questions are painfully obvious! Great we may be as the world counts greatness; but “blessed”? There is a difference, isn’t there?

We ought to be hoping and praying and working always to the end that these words of the Psalmist will hit home in the heart of every American this year. For until we learn to judge greatness or success in terms of obedience to the Word of God, our bicentennial, or any subsequent birthday celebration, will be rather empty and meaningless.

And we would do well to make our prayer the words of the final verse of this thirty-third Psalm: “Let thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in thee.” That is a bold prayer, but a very necessary one. Why bold? Because with it we are asking for God’s lovingkindness or mercy to be upon us, in the measure in which we hope in Him. And what is hope other than faith directed toward the future? Such a hope includes confidence and trust in God above all else, that it is He and He alone who cares and provides for us.

Is that where our hope rests with respect to the future of our nation? Quite easily our hope finds its anchor in things. We tend to find our hope in bumper crops, in thriving business, in productive industry, in new cures for old diseases, in peaceful coexistence. Though all of these things do have an important effect upon our lives, they will not do as the object of our hope. For only as we hope in Him can we confidently plead for and expect His mercy to be upon us. And when His mercy is upon us, then we know that, whatever is in the future, be it adversity, illness, poverty, economic depression, tragedy or whateverHe takes all of these things too, and makes them work together for good to those who love Him, and are called according to His purpose.

Will that bi-centennial celebration be an unforgettable experience a year from now, if the Lord tarries? If all the plans that are being made now a year in advance materialize, I’m sure it will be when measured by the world’s yardstick. But let us as God’s people never fail to hold before the world the real measure of success and greatness—the Word of God! And may our lives be marked by the kind of obedience and faith that permits us to pray meaningfully: “Let thy lovingkindness, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in thee.”

Harlan G. Vanden Einde, pastor of the Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.