Thursday, March 15, 2007

Righteousness Exalts a Nation

Proverbs 14:34
Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.

Righteousness is not a popular topic in our culture. One is more likely to get rolling eyes, unfriendly snickers, and outright hostility and scorn by touting the virtue of righteousness in the general culture. The concept of righteousness and the people who believe in it, has fallen on hard times.

Against that backdrop this verse rises like a Phoenix to declare that the nation that ignores righteousness imperials its future. “Righteousness exalts a nation,” says the preacher of Proverbs. But what is righteousness?

The Hebrew [צְדָקָה (tsâdaqah) ] word “refers to an ethical, moral standard and of course in the Old Testament that standard is the nature and will of God.” [i] But ours is a world that does not like moral standards based in the character and revelation of God. It would rather make up its own in an Indiana Jones, “as it goes along” process.

Even as I write this sentence one the most decorated men in the US marines is being taken to task for taking a stand on righteousness. Chuck Colson, reported the following in his daily Breakpoint essay of March 15, 2007:

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the first Marine general ever to hold that position -- General Peter Pace, commented in a wide-ranging interview with the CHICAGO TRIBUNE, “My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things, certain types of conduct that are immoral. I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and that we should not tolerate that.”

But then Pace went on to tell the TRIBUNE, “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts.” Well, stop the presses.

Of course, all that the radio, news, and television outlets have focused on since General Pace’s comments are his remarks on homosexuality. Never mind that he puts immorality of all kinds on equal footing. General Pace went on to say in the interview, “I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.”

The last sentence from General Pace is the most significant. “… the United States is [not] well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.” Here, the general moves the discussion away from the narrow discussion of sexual morality to the broader principle. No policy, in any category, sexual, economic, social, governmental, bureaucratic, judicial, environmental, any category that says it is OK to be immoral serves the country well.

The General is absolutely right. He is completely consistent with both the teaching and the spirit of Proverbs 14:34, and he ought to be commended rather than chastened. But as I write this sentence there are calls for his dismissal, calls for an apology, and he is being called everything from a Neo-nazi to a homophobic idiot and worse. But against this backdrop, the book of Proverbs rings out the truth like a tuning fork striking the note A.

34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.

God the Father delights to exalt those nations that delight in righteousness—not just the righteousness of our sexual expression, but righteousness in all spheres of our lives, public and private. The nation that encourages or condones unrighteousness (sin), the nation that refuses to speak out against unrighteousness, wherever it is found and in whomever it is found, is walking down a highway to judgment. “Sin is a reproach to any people.” That was true in Solomon’s day and it is true in our day as well.

[i] Harris, R. Laird; Harris, Robert Laird; Archer, Gleason Leonard; Waltke, Bruce K.: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. electronic ed. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999, c1980, S. 752
[ii] BreakPoint with Charles Colson, “The Crime of Conviction: The Crime of Morality,” March 15, 2007.

No comments: