Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
Early in the history of our faith, God spoke to Abraham. He told him that he was going to bless Abraham so that he could be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12). From the start it’s been God’s intention to see every people group blessed by way of human beings surrendered to the goodness of God.
Like Abraham, we receive from the Lord so that we can give it away to others. We are blessed to be a blessing.
Later, in Genesis 18 we see Abraham interceding so that judgement would not befall Sodom. It’s a fascinating interraction and I wish I knew what was going on in Abraham’s mind, but he essentially talks God down to the point where God will not destroy the city if there’s 10 righteous people in it. As it turns out, there was only one. Abraham’s nephew Lot was a righteous person, grieved in his soul by the depravity around him. There’s a lesson there about evangelism and how the lack of it can result in judgement for a people, but that’s a topic for another day. What stands out to me in this passage is righteous Abraham interceding for a sinful group of people. God heard his request and honored it.
I’d like to go back to the opening passage: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. If you’re like me, you want to be careful to seek first the kingdom of God and to not pledge allegiance to any worldly government. We have one king after all, and we are advancing one kingdom. No human institution should ever take the place of our one Lord. In the context of that bedrock truth, I also want to seek the good of the place I’m in. I want to see my own neighborhood, city, and nation raised up into health and prosperity.
Part of God’s heart, as seen in his promise to Abraham, is that every people group — not just political nations, but people groups — would be blessed. The vehicle of that blessing is primarily us. Your own culture, your tribe, your nation, is called to have its own unique expression of Christ on the earth and you are meant to be part of that expression coming to fruition.
Could it be that what the world needs is more righteousness? Proverbs seems to say so. The beauty of living this side of the Cross is that we are the righteousness of God in Christ. We are in him and as such, we are righteous. We are, through Jesus, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Our presence here brings cleansing, protection, and blessing. As we recognize that and intentionally partner with it, the results are massive.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6 (ESV)
As is often the case, the original audience of this saying by Jesus would have heard more nuance than we get with certain English words. When we look at the word translated “righteousness” there’s an interesting amount of depth to it. It carries the idea of right-ness, of things being put in God’s Kingdom order or of being put right. The idea of alignment with God’s original intent. The New Living Translation, an excellent dynamic equivalent transaltion says it this way: “God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.” New Testament scholar N.T. Wright agrees with this take when he translates it as, “Blessings on people who hunger and thirst for God’s justice! You’re going to be satisfied.”
God’s justice is not like human justice. It looks through the torn flesh of Jesus and it remembers that Satan, death, and the demonic realm will all be fully and finally judged at the consummation of the age. God’s justice is always redemptive. In the Old Testament we see this in how the word translated “lovingkindness” (from Hebrew chesed) seems to be one attribute of God which somehow trumps all others. His unwavering, stubborn, unstoppable love/mercy/kindness/grace always pushes through. So when you think of “justice” your mind should go to shalom, to the kingdom coming, to peace, to all things being made right.
The Great Story of History
Ultimately what we’re longing for is the Age to Come when Jesus returns and His kingdom comes to earth in its fullness. The new earth on which we’ll live and the new heavens which we’ll explore in our resurrected bodies will be perfect manifestations of this right-ness. This is one of the reasons why it’s so powerful when Jesus teaches us to pray by asking the Father, “May your kingdom come soon, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
In our corner of Christianity we typically hear that taught in regards to asking for healing because in heaven there’s no sickness. That’s good and right, but there’s more. How often do we expand that understanding? There is more to this than just physical healing, as wonderful as that is.
When we ask the Father to bring his kingdom to this earth and to cause his will to be done here in the same way as it is in heaven, it includes all things being made right. In one sense we’re asking him to hasten the day of Christ’s return so that all things can be resurrected to new life. In another sense we’re asking that on THIS earth, before the resurrection, that his kingdom would come. For poverty to be eradicated soon through faithful people having creative ideas to solve problems. For governments to be agents of blessing as leaders submit to God and his ways. For violence to end because God blesses the peacemakers. For families to be healed as the Father in heaven intends. For the sin that so easily entangles to be cast aside and for each of us to find rest in the indwelling righteousness of Christ.
What Do We Do?
I would say to you: let your cry be both things.
- Father God, bring your kingdom here and now to this groaning earth. Help me advance your rule, your shalom, your loving justice, your right-ness this side of the resurrection.
- And Father, hasten the day. Come like you promised, Jesus. We long to see you and we long for this universe to be full of life instead of death. We long to see the lion lay down with the lamb. We long to see divisions cease and to know you without any filter.
Seeking the kingdom first, hungering and thirsting for right-ness and alignment on this earth, pursuing personal holiness, valuing purity. Righteousness exalts a nation. Faithful people living in the love of God will bring healing to those around them. If we do this, each of us, we’ll see all the nations of the earth lifted up. Let’s make this our focus. Shalom.
P.S. I’ve mentioned the nations a lot in this article and I chose its main image intentionally as well. It’s a good reminder that, no matter where you live, God is at work in every nation. It can be helpful to know what God is doing around the world, as it frames our own struggles and victories within a bigger context. Our annual conference Voice of the Apostles is a great opportunity to get that global perspective. You’ll hear from modern day apostles as they talk about what they see God doing around the world. Check out voiceoftheapostles.com for more info, or watch the live webcast at globalondemand.tv. The conference will run September 28–October 2 (it’s less than a month away!).