For Americans, the story of the Pilgrims in the Mayflower is foundational. But what did they seek but to create a nation whose God was the Lord? And so we now ponder some 400 years later a nation whose gods are materialism and self-indulgence. What then is a nation and how can we do as the Pilgrims did or should we even try?
The Pilgrims in the Mayflower were seeking to create a Christian nation!
There is a big difference between the “state” (earthly kingdom) and a “nation” as described in Scripture and if we fail to recognize the difference we can even come to wrong conclusions about the meaning of Scripture with regards to the role of God’s Elect within the states where they reside!
When God talks about a nation, is He talking about a state, or does He have something else in mind?
If the “state” with territory and a “nation” were the same thing, then how could God have made Israel a “nation” while its people were residing within the territorial boundaries of a “state”?
Consider two key passages from Genesis and Deuteronomy-
Genesis 46:3 And he said, I am God, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:
Deuteronomy 26:5 And thou shalt speak and say before the LORD thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and populous:
How could “nation” and “state” be synonymous with one another if Israel became a mighty “nation” while dwelling in the land of Egypt, long before Israel had any kind of a “state” institution?
Clearly then “nation” is not synonymous with “state.”
As a people, a “nation” starts with as many as just a few individuals, because, unlike a state, a “nation”, as a people, is not defined by territory or statehood.
As it says in Scripture, nations begin with as few as ONE individual! See- Isaiah 60:22 A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in his time.
The key characteristic of a nation as a people is NOT territory or statehood. So what defines a nation?
We can see from how God called Israel and the early Christians of the 1st century “Ecclesia” that the creation process of a nation has a standard format.
God calls one or a few individuals, gives them a vision, asks them to separate from the land of their fathers, and binds them to a unique alliance, or salt covenant, which both heals any differences between them and God and defines the specific purposes and standards they will abide by.
Not one single nation that has ever existed or come into being has had its start outside of one or a few people coming together under some form of shared identity, purpose, and destiny.
We know from Scripture that Israel had its start with God’s call on Abraham and his family- God called Abraham to leave his father’s lands and to go and search for a “city whose builder and maker is God.”
God likewise, as Jesus the Son of God, called the disciples, telling them to go first to Jerusalem, then to Judea and Samaria, and then to the whole world.
These disciples and their families formed the basis not merely of a single nation but of the WHOLE universal nation as the People of God.
At its root essence, however, a nation begins to form in a covenant between a man, a woman, and God.
The very Creation of the whole human race was one man and one woman in covenant with God and one another.
Israel itself was the result of God calling Abraham and Sarah and blessing her in her old age so that she could give birth to a son, Isaac, who became the seed from which God would create a People.
The relationship between Christ and His People, the Elect in Assembly (Ecclesia), is defined as a husband and a wife (see Ephesians 5). The point here is that marriage between a man and a woman has always been the genesis of nations from a Biblical perspective.
We see at the micro level that a People is birthed in a marriage covenant and at the macro level it is defined by God through some form of national “salt covenant.” Likewise the WHOLE People of God, the Believers in Christ, are defined by the terms of the New Covenant.
In the case of humanity, God sealed His Covenant with a rainbow during the re-starting of humanity after Noah and his family were rescued by the flood. In the case of Israel, the full salt covenant was confirmed after the People were essentially formed and gathered.
In the case of the whole People of God, the salt covenant is the New Covenant, which God announced even before the People were re-launched after the resurrection of Jesus. All Christian nations, despite their unique covenant with God, are under and can be held accountable to the New Covenant. (Though only the Ecclesia enforces the New Covenant.)
Throughout history, however, God has moved upon people in different ways to give birth to new nations, and often those nations asserts some form of territorial sovereignty.
Sometimes, a nation emerged over time and eventually, as a body, made a Covenant with God (the Saxons).
Sometimes, many tribes came under a strong leader who had a vision to create a People out of those tribes on the basis of a Covenant with God (the Franks).
Sometimes a leader within one small tribe of families got a vision to launch forth and create a new People who would serve God (Swedes).
Sometimes groups of individuals formed a compact or covenant that became the moral and spiritual foundation of a new People (the Pilgrims of the Mayflower Compact and then also the Puritans who formed the colonies of New England.)
What we see is common to all is that each was forged at the micro level through the covenant bond of marriage and the family, that each received or adopted a specific covenant between themselves and God, and that each adopted a new name or changed the essential meaning of their old name.
Overall we can say that the common characteristics of a Christian people seem to include marital covenant as the basis of familial and tribal bonds, specific covenants with God, and an identity that is defined by those covenant relationships.
Two other characteristics are common to Peoples- they are defined by Acts 17:26-27, “And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
God predetermines their place in history and the boundaries of their habitation.
Let’s consider this as a principle.
First, we can see that God’s will is the driving force. A People may reject God, but that does not mean that God does not desire for them to serve Him in some way.
Second, we can see that Peoples have a life-span and a point of genesis determined by God. God literally decides when and where Peoples will emerge, or when their time is up!
Third, we see that God sets boundaries of their habitation- this speaks to blessings of security and provision within the bounds of what God has for a People.
Fourth, and this is vitally important, we see that God gives different Peoples different places in history and boundaries of their habitation.
In other words, to each He assigns different “territorial responsibility” for a chose time or season!
I beleive there is ONE universal People of God, which any “Kingdom People” (Christian nation of people) is a part of. However, God’s blueprint is for there to be MANY “Peoples” with their own unique place in history and boundaries of their habitation.
The pattern God sets is consistent from beginning to end. ONE Kingdom of God but MANY Kingdom Nations!
In the Bible we see:
1. God smites the tower of Babel and disperses the people into many separate nations
2. God promises Abraham that he will be the father of MANY nations
3. Even Israel as a nation is divided into 12 tribes with the Levites being dispersed without lands, albeit with control over “cities of refuge” and EACH TRIBE is given a separate inheritance and prophetic blessing
4. In the New Testament Paul says that God has predetermined the place in history and boundaries of the nations and that God has made “out of one blood” MANY (different) nations
5. Even after the New Heavens and the New Earth are created, in a perfect world, various different God-fearing Nations dwell on the earth and live side by side in peace
The idea that God is no longer in the nation-creating business runs counter to the whole counsel of Scripture. God clearly desires not one, single “People”, but a Kingdom of diverse nations, each with its own unique covenant identity and purpose that is pre-ordained by God Himself.
What defines a nation, however, is not a state or kingdom. A kingdom or state is something that is in its own category, based on control over a piece of land and all land is really owned by God.
It’s like a house and a family. The family is not the house, the house is just property. So then a nation is people, it isn’t the property they may own.
Nations may influence a state, and their families may be closely grouped in one plot of land, but without a state or land Peoples can exist and have existed.
Nations begin life as families centered around the marital covenant. They emerge as groups of families in covenant relationships. They develop as tribes of such familial households based on a shared covenant identity. They become covenant unions of such tribes knit together with a shared identity, mission, and destiny.
That covenant union may be defined prophetically through an Abraham-like figure and all at once at any point in the genesis process, or gradually through a process of development and growth.
Such national peoples have existed, God promises that MANY of them will exist. Even in the days of the New Heavens and the New Earth these nations are always going to have a place of purpose in God’s Kingdom.
The fact that today, particularly in 21st century America, we are not familiar with the nature or purpose of unique nations of people within the Kingdom of God is no excuse for invalidating them or refusing to seek out ways amongst ourselves we can experience the “Peoplehood” which God seems to WANT us all to experience.
Scripture is abundant with details about nations, and I am going to simply add some key versus to illustrate key concepts for a proper theology of nation of people whose God is the Lord.
God Is In Charge of the Nations!
Isaiah 9:7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
Daniel 2:44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Daniel 4:3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
God Ordained The Existence of Nations
Genesis 25:23 And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.
Deuteronomy 4:19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Isaiah 65:1 I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not: I said, Behold me, behold me, unto a nation that was not called by my name.
Isaiah 66:8 Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such things? Shall the earth be made to bring forth in one day? or shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
Psalm 22:28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
Psalm 46:6 The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
Psalm 68:32 Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
Acts 17:26 And hath made (out of) one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:
God Promised Abraham Would Be The Father of MANY Nations
Genesis 17:4-6 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
Genesis 22:18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Genesis 48:19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.
Psalm 22:27 All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
Psalm 22:28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
Romans 4:17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Romans 4:18 Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
Galatians 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
Nations Will Always Exist In Some Form
Revelation 15:4 Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.
Revelation 21:24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
Revelation 21:26 And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it.
Revelation 22:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
God Called Nations Other Than Israel Into Being
Genesis 17:20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.
Genesis 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Genesis 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;
Genesis 27:29 Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee: be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee.
Genesis 35:11 And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins;
Deuteronomy 32:8-9 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Zechariah 2:11 And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
Romans 10:19 But I say, Did not Israel know? First Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation I will anger you.
Romans 16:26 But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:
God Requires Holiness of A Nation
Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
Exodus 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 14:2 For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.
Deuteronomy 26:19 And to make thee high above all nations which he hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God, as he hath spoken.
Deuteronomy 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth:
1 Peter 2:9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises (virtues) of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Jeremiah 12: 16-17 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, The LORD liveth; as they taught my people to swear by Baal; then shall they be built in the midst of my people. But if they will not obey, I will utterly pluck up and destroy that nation, saith the LORD.
Deuteronomy 4:34 Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
Deuteronomy 28:1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all all His commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of this earth:
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
So much hinges on what this phrase means and how it applies to matters of nationhood (and perhaps even to statehood, but that is not our subject). Is this a righteous standard that applies to all nations, only to Israel, or to the “nation” of Believers and not to any earthly nation?
This is the first and most important question. If this is only meant for ancient Israel then it is just irrelevant to us. If it applies only to a spiritual nation of all Believers than it is only relevant to that one “nation” and not to earthly nations.
I will lead with my basic thesis, but for me disagreement on this issue is not a matter of sotoriology: none of these interpretations disagrees with how one receives individual salvation in this life and in the next. None of these interpretations leads to a moral sin or blasphemy or heresy. One must always be careful not to classify someone in such a manner without cause.
What I propose, in light of the whole counsel of the Word, is that all three “interpretations” have some validity.
The most vital interpretation, I believe, is what I might refer to as “Kingdom Nationhood in Christ.”
It is that we, Believers, constitute a spiritual nation that is both here and now among us and yet timeless and eternal. In the here and now, if we, in our “nation” follow God’s laws, written in our heart and followed by the Holy Spirit, we will see the Body of Christ in our day be “blessed.”
But blessing is not measured materially, we are blessed with love and joy and peace, contentment, even if we are facing tribulation and peril.
The fact that so many in the Kingdom Nation are not so blessed tells me that we are not acting collectively as a nation whose God is the Lord.
This a huge revelation for this generation: that we ought to act out this truth of the Kingdom of God and its governing assembly, the Ecclesia of Jesus Christ.
I think a more prophetic understanding of this is related to physical Israel which God will one day woo and cajole back into being a nation whose God is the Lord.
Today, physical Israel, for instance, is a secular nation of people (most Jews are secular in their lifestyle, despite religious observations that are ceremonial habits).
The Jewish State, “The State of Israel”, is as secular as the Jewish Nation, which is flung around the world. (There may be as many as 30 millions “Jews” around the world).
But one day Israel is going to be a nation whose God is the Lord, and its “state” will be led by the Messiah who will reign directly over all the Nations from New Jerusalem. This is the fulfillment of the Kingdom and we are all part of this Holy Nation!
The disciples thought that Jesus would establish this but they did not see the truth until after the Resurrection- we live in the time of the Nations (non-Jewish nations).
The last interpretation is more practical and speaks to present day or future, earthly, temporal Nations, the age of the non-Jewish Nations.
I believe that when God told Abraham he would father many nations that this was a prophecy that many Gentile (non-Jewish) nations would, like Israel (not via the Old Covenant, via the New Covenant) make covenant with God and acknowledge Him.
It is very important here to note that when I say “by the New Covenant” I mean that it is only possible for the non-Jewish nations to approach God BECAUSE OF THE NEW COVENANT. They are not, as we shall see, at all responsible or empowered to impose or enforce the New Covenant.
I like to call these nations “Abrahamic nations”, they are spiritual heirs of the Abrahamic promise. They are natural, temporal nations not yet born which God would raise up in the future.
So we have one verse speaking to three types of nations- the spiritual and eternal Kingdom Nation of all Believers, the physical and eventually eternal nation of Israel, and the physical and temporal Abrahamic Nations among the Gentiles.
This passage certainly did not solely apply to the spiritual and eternal “Kingdom Nation”, or spiritual Israel, because it was in fact originally written to the nation of Israel.
We infer this understanding from the fact that many of the things in the Law and regarding Israel were a “shadow” of what was to come. Israel, while real and physical and while prophesied to be restored, can also be seen here as also a metaphor for the whole Spiritual Nation that was to come, which is the Ecclesia of Jesus Christ, the Body of Christ.
I want to be clear here, I am not in any way inferring that spiritual Israel, which we Gentiles are grafted into, replaces actual Israel. Israel as a nation of people remain forever Israel and chosen of God. They reject the Messiah, because they do not believe Jesus is the Messiah.
How Do Nations Make The Lord Their God?
How do nations make the Lord their God if in fact they include non-Christians?
This question stems from a conflation of the meaning of nation as a people who form a freewill covenant association and a kingdom which is identified with that nation to protect its homeland. Anywhere you have territory, you have a mix of people. You cannot definitely say everyone is a Christian.
The idea that physical, temporal and non-Jewish nations can enjoy the blessings here promised if they make the Lord their God is much more problematic. Why is this? In part, the objection here comes from an assumption that no Christians can, in the name of God, assume authority over non-Christians and that national governance must involve all those who are part of the nation and not just Christians.
This principle stems from a Pauline doctrine which states that, regarding governance (and enforcement of God’s righteous standard), “them which are within, we judge (govern) and them which are without, the Lord judges.”
The idea that Christians could rule a nation exclusively according to the Christian standards of the New Covenant and over non-Believers contradicts this Pauline (Biblical) doctrine of governance.
This is important because even a stateless nation tends towards some form of governance or at least some forms of cultural and/or economic autonomy. If a nation were always and only a social construct as a free association, like a Society, it could be exclusively Christian and not run afoul of this Biblical doctrine of governance.
But does it really? The assumption that everyone within a nation has some right to participate in governance is debatable, but it is not a Biblical doctrine.
Second, this still goes back to conflating the nation of people with its kingdom, if it has a kingdom. Even for kingdoms, however, there is no Biblical doctrine demanding a certain form of government. The standard for kings, and the magistrate in general, is always righteousness, not a form or structure of government.
Nations are a stateless body of people, but nations do sometimes control territories and have some form of a kingdom which is exclusively run by and for the nation of people it serves.
This causes people to conflate the kingdom with the nation, as in the Kingdom of Israel versus the nation of Israel, so people see nations as also taking the form of statehood. Or achieving statehood. Nations can achieve statehood.
This has happened in history. But the kingdom or state is not the nation, it is an outgrowth.
Nations can have no form of statehood, but his not their exclusive form nor their inevitable or fixed form. Nations may rely on other forms, like, as I propose, a Society.
But even a Society might develop some form of autonomous (technologically autonomous, not necessarily politically autonomous) intentional communities for “members only” or that are governed by members only.
It is inevitable that some non-Believer will end up there and the whole questions of who governs who is raised again. As soon as the residents have children this problem arises!
Nations are not political states, however. We may conflate the terms, but nations are the people in their association rooted in their common characteristics, such as things like ancestry, language, religion, values, way of life, and the such.
Political states, the modern form of a kingdom with a fixed territory, contain nations, and some nations seek statehood, but as institutions and agencies of human civilization, political states or kingdoms and nations of people are separate, even if they are related in a specific instance.
The “ecclesia” or “governing assembly” of Believers governs ONLY Believers. It does not govern non-Believers! Only Christians are part of the Ecclesia, but as a universal and eternal Body, the Ecclesia of the Elect has no outward physical form. There is no piece of physical territory owned by the Ecclesia.
The Pauline doctrine that the Ecclesia judges only people inside the faith does not apply to nations, which are not the Ecclesia. But it seems self-evident that as the Ecclesia judges based on the application and enforcement of the New Covenant, then the nations of which I speak have no such role.
A nation of people, as something temporal and unique, has a physical form through its institutions and organizations, and it may even have a governing structure of some kind, such as through a Society.
To sum this up, then, a nation of people may include some who identify who are not Christians, but they do so ultimately based on freewill covenant association. There is no Biblical reason why a nation, if it has a governing structure, has to include everyone in governance. It does have to treat them fairly and justly, but it does not have to grant the right of participation in governance to everyone within its territory.
If they live in a house or on a piece of property owned by a member of that nation of some nation institution, they choose to be part of that freewill covenant association by their presence. This is true even if they do not fully embrace that covenant and merely agree to respect and abide by when they are present on that property.
Nations do not impose God’s law on non-believers, but they govern all who choose to associate within them in terms of common standards and norms that are rooted in God’s righteous standards for the nations.
To be clear, a Christian nation does not govern the relationship between man and God, but it does set boundaries for all other forms of human interaction, and those boundaries are usually defined in relation to the a national faith or religion.
So a nation whose God is the Lord is a nation whose standards and norms, and whose structures and institutions, conform to a Biblical standard and match or are compatible with Christian universals.
The Blessed Nation Versus The Cursed Nation
There also seems to be a mismatch between the doctrine of Christian governance and this doctrine of the blessed nation versus the cursed nation.
I believe there is no better place to see that God means any nation, including temporal gentile (non-Jewish) nations, than in Jeremiah 18: 7-10.
Here God is explicit: nations that obey Him will be blessed and nations that disobey will be cursed. This is a righteous standard, it isn’t the Mosaic law, and it still applies to this world.
Here is a promise and a threat all in one, and it is explicitly made for ALL nations. There is not one KIND of nation for whom this standard does not apply. (The passage talks of “kingdoms and nations”, but our focus will remain with nations).
This is not a matter of the Old Covenant, we know that Gentile Nations were not held to the Mosaic Law. That law was for Israel. Period.
What exactly God commands or ordains for these nations is not stated here directly, but what is clear is that there are blessed nations who please God and cursed nations who displease God and it seems justified to me to say that every nation falls into one or the other of these camps.
God has a righteous standard for nations!
It seems self-evident that nations of people whose God is the Lord will have customs, standards, and norms that reflect a Biblical worldview, Christian universals, and Christian morals and ethics.
I do not divide the Bible into two. No part is of less relevance to us today. Even the law, which has been fulfilled in Christ, is not irrelevant. In Romans 8 :1-4 where it talks about walking in the Spirit it speaks of fulfilling the “righteousness of the law.”
We fulfill not the letter, but the righteousness, and not by ceremonies and sacrifices, but because we are Blood bought and solely by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We find, I propose, in 1 Corinthians 9 this principle at work. Here the doctrine of putting those who preach the gospel on some form of a salary is explained.
Paul resorts to the Old Law to make his point and he brings us a revelation.
Paul says that Moses tells us in the law “thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth.” Then he asks “Did Moses say this for the oxens’ sake or for ours? Nay! He said it altogether for our sakes!”
Here we see a practical example of the righteousness of the law, and the fact that it is only by the Spirit that a law about oxen could be understood to really be about “those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” One of my favorite ideas of “participatory ownership” is also rooted in this “law of the oxen.”
A nation is more cursed as it fails to fulfill the righteousness of the law in its standards, norms, and etc. and it is more blessed as it lives up that righteous standard. Righteousness exalts a nation. Nothing else. That is the standard.
The righteous standard for nations has not changed.
So as we see how God deals with and speaks to and about nations in the Old Testament we need to discern the “righteousness of the law” if the issue at hand is literally the law, but we also need to realize that GOD NEVER CHANGES!
He is not one way here and another way there. He did not deal with non-Jewish nations one way in the “Old Testament” and another way in the “New Testament.”
There are many things that changed from the Old to the New Covenant, but even these were prophesied in the Old Testament. In fact, one can find the whole Gospel in the Old Testament if one looks.
What is interesting to me is that in the New Testament those things which have changed were made clear, such as the dietary laws and the fact that matters of our relationship with God were now governed by this doctrine of Christian governance- those outside we do not govern in the name of God and as the Ecclesia.
When it comes to nations, however, there is no explicit change proclaimed. In fact Acts 17, the sermon on Mars Hill, describes how God raises up nations among men and gives them a space in time and a boundary of habitation SO THAT men might “find God.”
A nations customs, traditions, standards, and norms, and even laws (among their members and on their property) ought to tend to draw people to God and not tempt them or block them from finding God.
This is not a different line of reasoning and it harmonizes with everything said about nations throughout the whole Bible. Except for one small detail, a small detail that is actually quite huge!
Only TWO nations had the power to enforce God’s Covenant which governed people’s relationship with Him.
The Old Covenant was governed by ancient Israel through Priests, Prophets, and Kings, the New Covenant is governed by the Body Of Christ with Christ as its head with all being involved in the process.
Ancient Israel governed everyone in its border, but the Ecclesia governs only those who are already in the Kingdom by freewill.
So unlike ancient Israel, the ecclesia of the Kingdom is a nation that never governs non-believers. Also, unlike ancient Israel which governed the Old Covenant despite being a physical nation, no physical, temporal gentile (non-Jewish) nation has any “governance” regarding the New Covenant.
This has been one of the major errors of “Christian Nations”- they have, through their state or their governing bodies (if they are stateless) stepped into governing the New Covenant and not only with Believers but even over non-Believers.
Today’s “denominations” are non-state nations that “govern the New Covenant” , which is between the individual and God and which is governed by the whole Body for the whole Body and not by a part of the Body for its own self.
Our Puritan ancestors, may they rest in peace, made the mistake of creating a politically autonomous non-state nation that also tried to govern the New Covenant, and that for non-Believers as well.
Now I believe that God “winked” at this foolishness, but now He is giving a revelation for correction to help us get past that, to help us establish plain boundaries. But this requires a balance.
We cannot discount the role and purpose of physical, temporal nations because they exist, because we are called to make disciples of them, and because God has spoken so much to and about them which we cannot ignore.
Clearly nations exist and they have governance, even nations with no attendant form of statehood.
Clearly God raises them up and ordains their existence, and who can say of anything God ordains that it is not good? Clearly also there are two kinds of physical temporal nations: those whose God is the Lord and who are blessed and those whose God is not the Lord who are cursed. So we have blessed physical, temporal nations and cursed physical, temporal nations.
A nation’s standards and norms are what define it, and if those standards and norms are righteous, it is more blessed, while if they are not righteous, they less blessed, or even cursed.
Nations are not the same thing as the Ecclesia.
The physical, temporal nation is not the Ecclesia, it does not have the same depth or breadth of authority and it does not in any way govern our relationship with God Himself.
It cannot say who is or isn’t in line with the New Covenant, for instance, and even if its formal organization requires members to be Christian, in reality, people who are not necessarily Christian in their hearts will still affiliate with nations of people.
This is why I argue that what makes the Ecclesia righteous is that it only consists of Christians while what makes a nation righteous and blessed cannot be that it only consists of Christians. Nations are not the ecclesia.
First, I accept what is written on its face- nations that obey God are blessed. These are physical, earthly, temporal nations. They are not a metaphor. If you reject this interpretation or understanding, then you will reject what follows, but this is not a salvation issue.
Second, I believe it is self-evident that no natural, or physical, temporal, earthly nation COULD ever only consist of Believers.
Third, God does not defy order and logic and He does not create literally impossible standards. If God says natural nations (physical, earthly, temporal) can be blessed if they obey Him then He is not going to impose a standard that cannot be met upon them.
The means by which we measure what a nation must do to be blessed, especially in terms of whatever governance it has, cannot contradict what it possible (such as that everyone be saved) or what is impermissible to any nation (to govern man’s relationship with God).
Only the Kingdom Nation of the Elect can enforce or impose the New Covenant.
So, a standard of righteousness exists, that is the plain truth, and it does not include either “that every member is a Christian” or that “the New Covenant is imposed and enforced.”
The nation is not the ecclesia, its standard of righteousness is not that everyone be saved, but only that its customs, norms, and standards reflect the righteousness of the law as it applies between its members and how it treats non-members.
I take it as a given, based on this understanding of the phrase “blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” that this applies to ancient Israel, to the Kingdom Nation of the Elect, and to natural nations- to ALL nations.
It does not apply in the same way to these three nations, and that should be self-evident. To Israel the Old Covenant was given to be enforced over everyone in their border.
To the Ecclesia the New Covenant is enforced only by for and among the Elect, never the non-Believers.
For natural nations neither covenant can be enforced or imposed at all but something else, which we will explore.
For a natural nation to make God its Lord can neither mean that it includes only Believers nor that it imposes and/or enforces the New Covenant.
It certainly cannot impose or enforce the Old Covenant! Therefore, it must be that the standards and norms of that nation reflect the Righteousness of the law, not that, like the Ecclesia, it has only Christian members or enforces the New Covenant.
God Rules Over The Nations
The idea that nations can do whatever they like even in disobedience to God without Him responding in some way defies the very nature of an intelligent Creator. Disengagement in Creation by an intelligent Creator would seem to be most un-intelligent!
If our Creator is intelligent, and we say that He is, it is self-evident that He will never play a passive or disinterested role in His Creation.
God is the one who establishes the “thrones”, or rulership, of the nations. (2 Samuel 7:12-13 And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.)
God gives the rulers of the nations but so many days to “get it right” before He decides to remove them and, even if they do get it right, they obviously can’t live forever, so a change in rulership is always a future inevitability. We saw this with Pharaoh and Saul but even with the Assyrian king who laid siege to Jerusalem.
Make no mistake, God is absolutely in charge! Even if a nation rejects God, He holds them accountable to His righteous standards. (2 Chronicles 20:6 And said, O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?)
One of the key principles of God establishing a ruler over a nation comes from how we know God has dealt with the nation of Israel. If God is not changing it stands to reason that He doesn’t have one way of dealing with one nation and another of dealing with other nations.
While in details, every nation, like every person, might have a unique covenant with God, every person and every nation has an opportunity to enter into a covenant with God on the basis of the New Covenant.
In 2 Chronicles 13:5 it reads “Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?”
What is this “covenant of salt” and is this a typical means by which God chooses to bless the rulers of other nations?
There are three passages that mention a “covenant of salt.”
Numbers 18:19 reads, “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.”
Leviticus 2:13 reads, “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”
Salt does two things, it adds flavor and acts as a preservative. Jesus tells Christians that we are to be the “salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
The Bible says in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
God commanded Israel that every sacrifice was to be seasoned with salt as a sign of their Covenant with HIM (Lev. 2:13, Ezek. 43:23-24). Even the Holy ingredients used for the incense offering were to have salt added. “You shall make of these an incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer, salted, pure and holy” (Ex. 30:34-35).
In ancient times, a covenant of salt was used to seal alliances between nations- the final treaty was ratified by each side taking a lick of salt to signify that any differences between them were healed.
A covenant of salt, therefore, is a formal agreement between two nations in which they agree to certain things on the basis that any differences between them have been healed.
If God uses this standard practice with Israel, in particular the House of David, to establish His unique covenant with that nation and heal any differences between Him and them, which is His Grace and Forgiveness, it stands to reason that this approach is not a “one-off” approach, it is standard practice!
While God has a special place for Israel, He has given each nation their own allotment of space and time to find Him, to serve Him, and to enter into a relationship with Him.
Genesis 10:5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.
Genesis 10:32 These are the families of the sons of Noah, after their generations, in their nations: and by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood.
Deuteronomy 32:8-9 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the LORD’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
Acts 17:26-27 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.
Clearly, God has plans for the nations, He is NOT a passive witness but a pro-active and involved Creator who seeks to draw men, as individuals and whole Nations, to find Him and serve Him.
Indeed, God sees us and hears us, and even responds to us, while watching what people and nations do.
Proverbs 15:3- The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good
Hebrews 4:13- Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight
1 Peter 3:12- The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers
There should be no doubt that God is actively engaged in His Creation!
Here are a few samples from Psalms about God, His Kingdom, and His reign over everyone and everything on this earth-
Psalm 45:6 Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
Psalm 103:19 The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
Psalm 145:12 To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of his kingdom.
Psalm 145:13 Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.
Does God rule even over the godless nations that are not willingly submitted to His authority, and does He hold them accountable for failing to obey His call to submission?
Daniel 4:17 shows us, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”
God wants “the living” (people alive right now) to KNOW that He rules IN “the kingdom of men.”
It is true that God’s Kingdom is “not of this world”, but it is not true that God is not in charge, as if the nations can behave any way they like without reference to Him and His Word!
As we see from Daniel, God chooses rulers, He may even choose “the basest of men.” Why?
Well, consider what Ecclesiastes 10:16 says, “Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning!” In other words, a nation is under a curse if its rulers act like self-indulged children.
Since God ultimately chooses rulers, or allows them to rule, it is reasonable to say that when rulers who act like self-indulged children are allowed to rule over a nation that this is the hand of God. So, when God is moving against a nation that denies Him, part of His judgment against them will involve letting a ruler who acts like a self-indulged child have power.
The plain truth is this- that God is not a passive observer but an active Creator and that, while HIS Kingdom is not “of this world”, He is in fact actively in daily authority over the nations, holding them accountable to His righteous standard and offering to each their own “covenant of salt.”
Modern Impediments To Understanding The Theology of Nations
While getting a grip on the Biblical truths of a “theology of nations” is foremost in importance, it is also necessary to consider the practical impacts of one’s theories if they are followed.
If the typical dispensationalist or other-worldly view of the nation and states as matters best left to worldlings prevails, what would the impact be? If we say an earthly, temporal nation cannot make the Lord its God, however we define “nation” , then what are we left with?
Whatever a nation does, it is condemned. We cannot even define nations that are “good” or “doing right in God’s eyes” because we embrace this idea that they cannot be good or right, as an earthly nation, in God’s eyes.
If earthly nations have no hope and there is no difference in God’s eyes between them, one way or another, then surely the Christian who wishes to serve God will not waste their time on something that cannot ever be made right or good in God’s eyes. Why waste our time? Why even pray for nations or states or their leaders?
The practical effects of this worldview, which put nations in this category of being beyond any form of “redemption” could be devastating to real life.
(By “redemption” I do not mean eternal and spiritual, but temporal and physical in the same way you might “redeem” a business by making it profitable in an ethical manner.)
This logic seems to me to agree with a more gnostic view in which the spiritual and other-worldly is all that matters and everything physical or temporal is evil and detestable. Of course Gnostics went beyond extreme and held that nothing physical matters, even sins you commit with your physical body, a belief being resurrected today in the hyper-grace movement.
Many who accept this view that physical nations are just inherently evil and un-redeemable in any sense of the term do not go full-in with the Gnostic worldview, but they also are not aware that this is in essence and spirit based on a Gnostic view of the world.
Are there no differences between nations? Do the Kurds, Assyrians, and Palestinians all act the same and obtain the same results for their members? Were the Puritan founders of the American Nation (long before there was an American state) of the same quality as the Huns and did they obtain the same results?
Was the German Nation with its Nazi state of the same nature as the Jewish Nation which the Nazis tried to exterminate? Can we say different nations have different levels of “rightness” when “rightness” is objectively measured by a Biblical view of right and wrong, good and evil?
A nation whose God is the Lord is a nation whose standards and norms reflect the righteousness of the law.
Through the establishment of a freewill covenant association based on that standard they make God their Lord, they do not govern individual relationships with God, and they will inevitably include non-Christians or hold property in which non-Christians dwell or visit.
Such nations are blessed, while nations that defy God’s righteous standard are cursed.
The blessings of nationhood apply to physical Israel, to the Body of Christ, and to diverse temporal nations.
Some modern impediments to such temporal nationhood include modern forms of neo-gnostic belief and of end-times fixations that prevent people from seeing that God is still engaged in nations, and nation-building, and that some nations are more blessed and some are more cursed based on their adherence to God’s righteous standard.