Righteousness exalts a nation

During the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln approved a Senate resolution to proclaim a day for National humiliation, fasting and prayer on 30 April 1863. The President and the Senate “devoutly recognised the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations.” They affirmed, “It is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.”

They acknowledged, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

This all seems far removed from Britain in the 21st century. We give the impression that we have outgrown the Christian faith and rejoice that we are a “progressive” secular society. But the reality is that we have “forgotten God” and are proud of our “superior wisdom.” This may explain why we have faced so many serious problems in every part of our national life. We have experienced a pandemic in which more than 200,000 British citizens died, mostly people in their 80s. During the pandemic church buildings were closed as we put our trust in “the science”. Now we are experiencing a serious economic crisis which is going to deeply impact vulnerable people in our country. Yet, sadly, we have neither thanked God for his past kindness to us nor prayed to God in humble sorrow and penitence for our sins “owning our dependence on his overruling power.”

The Bible teaches us wisdom, which is practical instruction for life. This wisdom applies to us both as individuals and as a nation. The book of Proverbs says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” It would be good for us to humbly acknowledge, both as individuals and as a nation, our sin and disgrace. Like Abraham Lincoln and his people, we, too, need the blessing of the living God who made us.

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