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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

God's Country: USA

If you've ever spent much time in the USA, you've no doubt heard it referred to as "the greatest country on earth." As an American, I have to admit that I've never really heard anyone else call it that. It's mostly Americans who live here that refer to it that way. But it's clear that we Americans are convinced it is the truth. The United States is "the greatest country on earth."

Frankly, it seems like a proverbial or prophetic statement of sorts. It's as if we are God's country - a special land chosen by God to receive His special favor. We have several favorite songs that usually end with a lyric that goes something like, "God bless the USA!" Of course. Why wouldn't He? After all, it's His chosen land. He's bestowed His special favor on it all along. Even historians agree, that when the US Declaration of Independence was signed, it changed the whole world.

The most powerful nation on earth. The greatest super power ever known. The richest country on earth. The largest economy on earth. The most generous nation on earth. America is typically described in superlatives. The world's peace keeper. Winner of World War I. Winner of World War II. Keeper of the peace around the globe. Defender of the oppressed. Helper of the poor. Most influential nation on earth.

It's almost as if we are the modern day equivalent to the Biblical role of the nation of Israel. If you've read your Bible, you know that Israel was God's chosen people. He intended to use them to influence and bless the whole world. But Israel's sin got in the way. They were disobedient. They were rebellious. They ignored God and His ways for them. So He had to wipe them out.

And then He sent Jesus. And God established a new Israel, comprised of all people from across the globe. Moreover, if you believe Americans, He apparently brought the head of those people together in a new nation called the United States of America. And He made it a great nation. And He blessed it beyond measure ... well beyond the blessing of any nation before it. Ever. And God used this new country to influence and bless the whole world. Just like He had planned to do with Israel. Isn't that it? Isn't that what Americans really believe deep down in our hearts?

But what if it's true? What if that is God's perspective on the whole deal? What if America is special, called, chosen, blessed and used by God to lead the whole world? Are we up for that responsibility? Do we have any comprehension at all of the ramifications such a role would have for each and every single one of us who call ourselves Americans?

In the Old Testament, we read the stories of Israel. It's victories and its failures are chronicled in great detail. King David was undoubtedly the greatest leader in all of Israel's history. He came closest to leading it successfully in its chosen role. He was the one who most pleased God with his performance (which isn't a bad performance appraisal to get). God called King David, "a man after my own heart." Apparently God saw something of Himself in David.

Now King David was no fool. He knew his role. He knew God's role. He knew his country's role and purpose. David never got distracted or confused about any of that. Perhaps the thing that most marked his success as a leader was the fact that he was able to keep the main thing the main thing. He and God were on the same page, pretty much all the time. It might be that this was what most pleased God about David's performance as king.

1 Chronicles 14:2 tells us that, "... David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel."

In other words, David knew that Israel was God's chosen people --- through whom God wanted to influence and bless the whole world, and in fact, all of humanity. David knew also that he was God's chosen leader for this special people. And he kept that role and purpose in mind as he went about his business. I imagine that when David got up in the morning, maybe he had some reminder on his Blackberry, "God's chosen one(s)." It was there to remind him. He looked at it while he shaved each morning. And he took it with him as he went out into the day to be king.

So let's spin forward to the 21st century, and the United States of America. Just suppose that the same is true. We are the greatest country on earth. And we are for a reason. Do you suppose that our "king" is aware of that, like David was? 1 Chronicles says that David knew. Elsewhere in the Bible when that word is used, it denotes much more than an awareness or familiarity. Rather it connotes the most intimate of knowledge, as in "he knew her and she bore him a son." So we can conclude that David's knowing was significantly more than just an awareness, a mindfulness or a familiarity.

What would it look like if Barack Obama had the most intimate of knowledge that America is the greatest country on earth ... and for a reason. He would, of course, also know that he is God's chosen man to run that country. Do you think it would cause him to conduct himself any differently than he does? Would he make decisions differently? Would he spend time differently? Would he be so worried about making sure enough Democrats win seats in the next election, for example?

What might George Bush's presidency have looked like if he had had such knowledge as King David had? Would we be at war in two different countries at once? Would we have reduced taxes for the rich, borrowed heavily, tortured war prisoners, etc.? Or what if Bill Clinton had had such knowledge? Would he have stopped thinking about tomorrow? Would he have focused on the definition of a preposition? Or how about George Bush Sr.? Or Ronald Reagan? Or Jimmy Carter? Or any of the other modern day presidents?

What if they each "knew that the LORD had established him as president over the new Israel and that his kingdom had been highly exalted for the sake of God's people?" What difference might this knowledge have made in their respective presidencies? How might this knowledge have influenced their relationships with the House and Senate? How might this truth have impacted the transitions we've had from one presidency to another - or from one political power to another? What difference would it have made in our foreign policy decisions?

I have to confess that I don't know for sure if the USA is truly "the greatest country on earth." I'd like it to be true. I suppose that it's entirely possible that it is true. But frankly, I can't help but wonder if we Americans ... and our chosen leaders could really handle such responsibility. Perhaps we don't need to ask if the USA is "the greatest country on earth." Perhaps the better question to ask is whether or not it is ready for such an esteemed role.

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