My Country

My Country

June 29th, 1986 @ 10:50 AM

Psalm 33:12

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
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MY COUNTRY

Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 33:12

6-29-86    10:50 a.m.

 

It is a joy for us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas to welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who share the hour on radio and on television.  This is the pastor bringing the message, and it is out of the thirty-third Psalm, verse 12.  And we are all going to read the passage together.  And we invite you on radio and television to get your Bible and to read it out loud with us.  Psalm – right in the middle of your Bible – Psalm 33, reading verses 12 to the end of the chapter.  Do we have it?  Psalm 33, beginning at verse 12, which is the text.  Now let us read together:

 

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance. 

The Lord looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. 

From the place of His habitation He looked upon all the inhabitants of the earth. 

He fashioneth their hearts alike; He considereth all their works. 

There is no king saved by the multitude of a host: a mighty man is not delivered by much strength. 

A horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. 

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy;

To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. 

Our soul waiteth for the Lord: He is our help and our shield. 

For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name. 

Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in Thee. 

[Psalm 33:12-22]

 

And the text, the first of the verses you read: "Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" [Psalm 33:12].  With what pride and with what gratitude can we look upon our native America, stretching from side to side as far as the continent is wide, a land of charm and beauty, of wealth and resources.  From ocean to ocean, with its towering mountains and its broad prairies, and its vast forests and its winding rivers, and its teeming cities, this is our America. 

Years ago, I was sent by our foreign mission board on a preaching mission around the world.  I was gone for four months, from the first of August to the last of November.  And after the mission was finished, coming back home across the Pacific, in the early hours of the morning, the pilot announced over the PA system in the plane, "The next lights you see will be those of America."  I can never forget the feeling that welled in my heart, having been gone for so long and among so many of the peoples of the world, coming back to America.  I think of that beautiful part of the "Lay of the Last Minstrel," written by Sir Walter Scott:

 

Breathes there the man with soul so dead

Who never to himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!

Whose heart within him never burn’d

As homeward his weary footsteps turned

From wandering on a foreign strand?

If such there breathe, go mark him well!

For him no minstrel raptures swell.

[Canto vi.  Stanza 1]

 

For us, there is a fullness of soul and gratitude of heart for our beloved America.  And in keeping with the gracious friend, our illustrious vice-president, who is visiting with us today, we have decorated the front of our sanctuary with the flag, the symbols of our wonderful America.  As we look at that flag, something on the inside of us rises to God in gratitude, in pride and in thanksgiving. 

 

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A flash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

Our Flag is passing by!

 

Sign of a nation, great and strong

To ward her people from foreign wrong;

Glory and power honor, – all

Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!

 

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

Our Flag is passing by!

["Hats Off"; Henry Holcomb Bennett]

 

Our nation was built upon a prayer-answering God.  In the song of a moment ago, in the cold and dark winter of 1777, the Revolutionary forces of America faced inevitable defeat.  And in the midst of that trying hour, General Washington knelt and prayed.  In Valley Forge today, you will find an heroic statue of our first president kneeling in prayer, asking God’s blessings upon the Revolutionary army. 

Ten years later, fifty-five brave men met in session in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, there gathered to write a constitution for those first thirteen colonies.  On the table in front of the presiding officer, was one book: a Bible.  A British visitor said to a man in attendance, "Which one is George Washington?"  And the American replied, "When the assembly goes to prayer, the one who kneels will be General George Washington." 

The Constitution they wrote, and the nation they founded, was built, and is written, upon the blessings of God upon this people and this nation.  Those founding fathers, in writing the Constitution, sought a basis and a guarantee for human rights and liberties, and a bulwark against tyranny and oppression. 

They first turned to Spain, and found there that the rights and the liberties of the people were guaranteed by a monarchy.  "But," said our founding fathers, "if a monarchy can grant rights and liberties, the same monarchy can take them away."  They then turned to England, and found that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed by a parliament.  "But," said our founding fathers, "if a parliament can grant rights and liberties, the same Parliament can take them away."  They then turned to France, and found that the rights and liberties of the people were guaranteed by the will of a majority.  "But," said our founding fathers, "if a majority can grant rights and liberties to the people, the same majority can also take them away."  It was then that our founding fathers turned heavenward to Almighty God, and found that the rights and liberties of the people were grounded in the character and creation of our heavenly Father; and before the law, and before the state, all of us stand as equals. 

It is a nation founded upon the church and the Christian home.  There’s not a school child but that comes back home being taught that the conquistadores came to the New World seeking gold, but our Pilgrim Fathers came to the New World seeking God.  And the nation they built is the greatest and noblest in all the history of mankind.

If vast expanse made a nation great, Siberia would be the greatest nation in the earth.  If resources made a nation great, Brazil would be the greatest nation in the earth.  If ancient civilization made a nation great, China would be the greatest nation in the earth.  If vast population made a nation great, India would be the greatest nation in the earth.  But a nation is made great not by its fruitful acres, but by the men who till them.  A nation is made great not by its vast forests, but by the men who use them.  A nation is made great not by its vast mines and wealth, but by the men who work them.  And a nation is made great not by a vast transportation system, but by the men who build them.   Lyman Abbott was correct when he avowed, "America was a great land when Columbus discovered it.  Americans have made of it a great nation." 

When I was a youth, when I was in the ninth grade in high school, I won a silver loving cup in a state contest in declamation, memorizing and delivering famous speeches by great patriots.  And one of them I could never forget.  It was by Henry W. Grady, the silver-tongued orator of the South, editor of the Constitution in Atlanta, Georgia.  He was describing, in that declamation, the secret of the might and glory of America.  In it he described witnessing a display of American naval power on Hampton Roads in Chesapeake Bay.  And then turning inward, he described the marching armies on parade.  And as he looked upon them, he said, "Surely the might and the strength of America is found in her armies, and in her navies, and in her armed power."

Then he said later he was under the capitol dome in Washington D.C., watching the processes of a democratic government.  And as he watched those men in lawmaking professions and elected callings, guiding the destiny of the political life of America, he said, "Surely, the strength of America lies in her democratic processes and in her legislative halls of Congress."   

Then, he said, he was the guest in the home of an old-time friend in Georgia, living on a farm, a red clay farm in that Southern state.  And at the end of the day, when the chores and the work were done, he described the father of the house gathering around him his children and the family, opening God’s Word and reading it; then bowing in prayer.  And the great Southern orator said, as he looked upon that kneeling farmer in humble devotion and prayer to God, he said that the scene of the sight of the navies and armies melted away.  He said that the great Capitol dome and its legislators melted away, and there before him he saw the strength and the might and the power of America.  It lies in her godly people.

We now face, as each generation does, we now face the unfolding future.  What shall it be for our great and noble country?  The shores of history are strewn with the wrecks of empires and kingdoms that have forgotten God; as the psalmist writes: "All the wicked shall be turned into hell, and the nations that forget God" [Psalm 9:17].

Our future lies in the imponderables of the Almighty who reigns sovereign over the earth from heaven.  Do you remember at the end of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria; the word written by Rudyard Kipling:

 

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awesome Hands we hold

Dominion over palm and pine –

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!

. . .

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fire:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!

 

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that hold not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the Law –

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!

[from "Recessional," Rudyard Kipling, 1897]

 

Whether we live or die lies in the judgment of Almighty God.  And I do not think America can live in drunkenness, and in debauchery, and in desecration.  We have an increasing floodtide of drugs to tear our bodies apart.  We have immoral, promiscuous TVs and movies to tear our families apart.  We have an increasing abortion to tear the very wombs of our mothers apart.  We have crime and terror on our streets to tear our cities apart.  We have secular humanism to tear our schools apart.  We have sodomy and an epidemic of AIDS to tear the very moral fiber of our people apart.  We have cults, weird and strange, to tear our churches apart.  Where shall we find strength and deliverance?  It will be found only in the Lord God Almighty, and a great turning of our people to Him.  There is no other way.  Whether we live or die lies in our turning to the Lord as a people, as a nation. 

I lived as a little boy on a farm in New Mexico, pressed against the Texas line in the northwestern panhandle of our state.  I have seen the earth turn to iron, and the heavens turn to brass.  I have seen the pastures turn to desert.  I have heard the lowing of thirsting cattle.  As a small child, I remember one time standing in the back door of our farmhouse, and my father raising his hands to heaven and shouting to the top of his voice.  My father was timid, and quiet, and unobtrusive, and to hear him shout to the top of his voice and raise his hands to God was an astonishing thing to me.  And I looked up and I said, "Daddy, what are you shouting for?"  And he said, "Son, look – the rain!  The falling rain!  God hath sent us rain!" 

 

Oh, for the floods on the thirsting land.

Oh, for a mighty revival!

Oh, for a fearless sanctified band

Ready to hail its arrival.

The need of the land is revival,

A freshen of grace from above.

Repentance, and faith, and trust,

In our dear Lord and His love.

["Abundant Life," William Leslie]

 

We need a great turning to God.  But the nation cannot turn, if I do not turn.  The nation is made up of its people.  And:

If I do not turn, the nation cannot turn.

If I do not repent, the nation does not repent.

If I do not believe, the nation cannot believe.

If I do not confess, the nation cannot confess.

If I do not accept the Lord, the nation cannot accept the Lord.

If I am not baptized, the nation is not baptized.

And if I am not saved, the nation is not saved.

 

It must begin, our deliverance must begin, our salvation must begin in us.  And may it please God that this time of the year, when we are praising His name for our wonderful land, may it please God that our people find it in our hearts to seek a new beginning, and a new dedication, and a new devotion to the Lord God of our founding fathers, and our hope and strength for the tomorrow. 

We are going to pray and ask God to bless the invitation, then we will stand and sing our song.  And we are asking God to give us this precious hour a gracious harvest, even you.  Now may we pray?

Dear Lord in heaven, our hope is in Thee, not only as a nation and as a people, but in our own souls and lives we are nothing without Thee.  God must give us breath and strength and help and guidance from above.  And Lord, when we look to Thee, You never fail us.  You are a prayer answering God.  You will bless; if we will open our hearts that You might bless us.  And You give us strength and guidance; if we will ask Thee for Thy presence in the way.  So Lord, we ask now, may no one go from this sacred service who does not first give his heart, and his life, and his house, and his home, and his work, and his days to the blessed, wonderful Savior, the Lord Jesus.  And our Lord, speak to the heart now.  And when we sing our invitation hymn, precious Savior, send us these You have chosen for this hour.  And we will love Thee for the wonderful response; in Thy saving name, amen.

In the balcony round, there is time and to spare, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, in one of these aisles, and down to the front: "Pastor, God has spoken to me this day, and here I stand."  Make it now.  May the angels be glad in heaven [Luke 15:10] and accompany you in the way while you come, while we stand and while we sing.