22 May 2023

“Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord” is not talking about the United States

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: American Empire, Bible, Church, Discipleship, Exegesis, King James Version, Politics, Psalms

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (KJV)

The Geneva Bible was the first Bible to insert verse numbers into the biblical text. One of the great victims of this imposition on in the biblical text was reading in context. The King James Version further complicated matters by printing each verse individually as a paragraph. The New American Standard and New King James Version continues this travesty. These seemingly innocent violations of the biblical narrative have a profound impact upon the psychology of reading. This “presentation” on the page has led to thinking that each verse stands on its own. Thus the biblical text suffers at our hands. Suddenly we think of a verse rather than a sentence within a paragraph. There are quite a few verses that are not even complete sentences. It is easy, really easy, to suddenly isolate a verse from the paragraph it is found in.

There are some common verses that come up in various discussions on a routine basis that are simply “out of context.” That is they do not support the use to which they have been put. An example.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps 33.12, KJV).

This “tidbit” from Scripture is a common proof text for nationalism and especially the America first ideology. But surely we know the text has nothing at all to do with the United States, Germany, Japan or any nation state. But those who place this on a meme do not even cite the entire verse. The “verse” is found in Psalm 33.

Psalm 33 celebrates Yahweh as the Creator of the whole world and Lord of history. Yahweh’s righteousness is visible in the created world so much so that God’s hesed fills the earth (vv.1-5).

Verses 6-9 continue to exalt Yahweh and the glue that holds it all together, the breath (ruah) of Yahweh.

Verses 10-12 echoes Psalm 2. Yahweh frustrates the plans of the nations who are enemies of God’s people. The nations would assail God’s anointed as Psalm 2 notes. Yahweh is sovereign and sets their schemes to naught. In fact Yahweh’s plan/counsel stands forever, they cannot touch it.

Thus we arrive at v.12. It is good news for ISRAEL that Yahweh is King over all. This is explicit in the text even without the context. The whole verse says,

Happy is the nation whose God is Yahweh,
the people he has chosen as his heritage/possession

Line A and Line B are synonymous parallelism. Yahweh only chose one nation. Not two. Not many. God has one people. “Though the whole earth is mine but out of all the peoples you shall be my treasured possession” (Ex 19.5 and a dozen other texts).

This same thought is found elsewhere in the Psalter,

that I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory in your heritage/possession
” (106.5)

For the Yahweh has chosen Jacob for himself,
Israel as his own possession
” (135.4)

The nation in Ps 33.12 is the people of God, Israel, the church. God never chose anyone for his inheritance but the sons and daughters of Abraham. The New Testament is full of this Hebraic theology. Gentiles are baptized to become children of Abraham. Paul notes that God’s “glorious inheritance/possession is among the saints” and Gentiles are now included among those saints (Eph 1.18, etc).

The further irony of using Psalm 33.12 for an America first ideology is the Psalm disavows the militarism of such idolatry. Such idolatries campaign on huge budgets for the Pentagon while gutting school lunches for poor children and even healthcare for the veterans themselves. But the Psalm disavows the military. What use is the military if Yahweh is the King? God’s people need no army at all.

No king is saved by the size of his army;
no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his HESED,
to deliver them from death
and keep them alive in famine.

We wait in hope for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.
May your HESED be with us, Lord,
even as we put our hope in you
(Psalm 33.16-22).

God’s people, for whom Yahweh is King, our faith/trust and hope are in nothing but Yahweh and God’s enduring Hesed. Armies are an affront to the God of Israel!

So yes “happy is the people whose God is Yahweh.” That people is not America or any nation anywhere on the planet except the sons and daughters who belong to the Messiah and are thus children of Abraham.

9 Responses to ““Blessed is the Nation whose God is the Lord” is not talking about the United States”

  1. Phillip C. Garner Says:

    reminds me of this book.
    Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes
    Book by Brandon J. O’Brien

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      Most excellent book Phil. May many read it, reread it. Meditate upon it. Thank you for the comment and great suggestion to my readers. I say, Amen

      P.S. I do like that book.

  2. Joel Petty Says:

    I lived in what used to be called “Eurasia” (Russia) for 25 years. The eastern peoples also misread the Scripture though differently than westerners do!

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      Joel delighted to have your comment. I have no doubt that Russia, especially with its imperial history, reads passages like Psalm 33 in many of the same abusive ways as those who baptize America. I have often recommended to we Americans the book by Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien, “Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes.” It is a valuable book. But all cultures have a desire to turn scripture (like we do Jesus) into our own image rather than the other way around. Great comment.

  3. Chuck Thompson Says:

    Thankyou for this post Bobby I’ve been having this discussion with my brother Elders at ot church. The rising nationalism and it’s influence on the American church is very troubling. Your post reminds me of Alexander Campbell’s argument for peace in his ‘Address on War.

  4. Mike Marks Says:

    Of course it is, or you make God a liar. The context is of course the nation of Israel on the level of brick and mortar. But there is a spiritual aspect to the scripture that can not be ignored. We are all equal before God..
    Yes He loves some and hates others for reasons and purposes of His understanding. The United States is a country unknown to the writers of interpretations and scholars of ancient times, but known very well to God and so is written into the scriptures spiritually. The verse can be taken to be true for any country that does as it says. We should always keep our eyes on mount Zion for it is God’s favorite place on earth, His foot stool. Man thinks to highly of himself. God bless the eyes of men.

  5. Mike Marks Says:

    No you are a foolish nationist.

  6. Ed Dodds Says:

    Classroom Activity: Martin Luther and Thomas Müntzer

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