Deuteronomy 20, Isaiah 47

Today’s readings are Deuteronomy 20 and Isaiah 47.

This devotional is about Isaiah 47.

There have been many empires in human history. During their days of dominance, most people considered those empires impossible to defeat. In this chapter, Isaiah was inspired to speak against the Babylonian Empire, warning them that they were not as invincible as they believed. Verses 1-3 predicted Babylon’s humiliating defeat. Staring in verse 4, God explained that Babylon’s dominance was part of his plan to discipline Israel for her sins (v. 6). Babylon’s God-given domination seemed to them to be an eternal entitlement to rule (vv. 7-8) but God said that they will suddenly fall in defeat without knowing how it happened (vv. 9-11). The chapter ended with God mocking the religious practices of the Babylonians (vv. 12-15) and predicting that these prophets would not even be able to save themselves (v. 14c) much less the whole nation.

This chapter reminds us again that nations are under God’s sovereign authority and control, too. They may desire strength and domination but they cannot achieve either apart from God willing or allowing it to happen. In Babylon’s case, God had decreed that, for his own purposes, God would allow the Babylonians to defeat and exile his people in Judah. They served God’s purpose and, when that purpose had been served, God moved on to other nations to exercise his will, leaving the Babylonians weak and exposed and ultimately defeated by the Persian Empire.

Here in the USA, in the 21st Century, we too feel dominant and that our power will continue for as long as American’s can imagine. But what if God has other plans? What will happen to your faith if God moves on from America and allows another country to dominate us? Would you lose your faith in God if Canada, our mighty neighbors to the North, ascended in power and brought us nationally into subjection? What about if Russia or Brazil subjugated us to their rule. Would your faith be disturbed then?

God has blessed our nation and I’m thankful for the freedom and benefits we have. Nevertheless, this is not God’s kingdom and someday Christ’s kingdom will defeat and supplant every human nation and power on earth, including ours. That is, unless he allows some other powerful nation to take us down first. If that seems impossible to you read verses 7-11 again. The Babylonians thought they were incapable of defeat and they were… right up until God was finished with them. It is foolish for anyone to trust in human rulers or nations but this especially goes for believers. We belong to King Jesus; any other allegiance we have is far less powerful, important, or meaningful to us. If it isn’t, we are idol worshippers. Check your heart; is it with the Lord and his will or is it set on Americanism?

Proud About This

woman with American flag
Patriotic holiday. Happy young woman with American flag. USA celebrate 4th of July.

Sometimes Americans–especially American politicians–say:

“America is the Greatest Country in the World!”

That is an expression of national pride but it also reflects an attitude called “American Exceptionalism.” Historian Ian Tyrrell has defined Amercian Exceptionalism this way:

“Exceptionalism requires something far more: a belief that the U.S. follows a path of history different from the laws or norms that govern other countries. That’s the essence of American exceptionalism: The U.S. is not just a bigger and more powerful country — but an exception. It is the bearer of freedom and liberty, and morally superior to something called “Europe.”

–Ian Tyrrell
https://theweek.com/articles/654508/what-exactly-american-exceptionalism

There is no inherent conflict between being a Christian and being happy to be an American. There is a problem if, as Americans, we believe ourselves to be greater or “morally superior” (to quote Tyrrell, above, again) than people from other nations.

Just like people from other nations, Americans are fallen, lost, and under God’s perfect wrath apart from the grace of Jesus Christ. What Paul wrote in Titus 3:3 applies to every American as equally and fully as it does to any other person who has ever lived:

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.”

Titus 3:3

The next two verses in Titus 3 apply to us, too, if we have faith in Christ:

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Titus 3:4-5

As Christians, then, we have nothing to be proud of except who are God is and what he has done for us. The Scriptures tell us this over and over again:

  • Jeremiah 9:23-24: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me….‘”
  • Romans 3:25-27: “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement… to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded…
  • Romans 5:1-2: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
  • Romans 5:11: ” we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:28-31: “God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.’

I am happy to live in America and I enjoy the many freedoms that Americans have. But I am a sinner who is worthy only of God’s judgment and wrath. Therefore, I have the right to be proud of only one thing: Jesus Christ.

Be careful, Christian, that you are proud of nothing more than our God.