1. When a country has many rulers or frequent changes in leadership, it is a sign of instability and disaster, as God has abandoned them due to their sins.
2. Stability and longevity in leadership is a blessing, as it avoids the problems associated with frequent change.
3. Righteous, wise, and knowledgeable leaders can prolong the stability of a nation through their character and godly influence. Their integrity contributes to national blessings.
4. Widespread immorality and lack of fear of God in a nation destabilizes its foundations and angers God.
5. The prayers and righteousness of godly individuals, especially leaders, can save a land from destruction. They stand in the gap between the living and dead.
6. When a nation faces uncertainty, it is a call to repentance and revival for all. Leaders and citizens alike must turn from evil, seek God, and promote righteousness and devotion.
7. Societies that fail to honor virtue or mourn the loss of righteous leaders are foolish and morally bankrupt.
8. Promoting faith and goodness must be a priority in order to ensure national stability and continuation of privileges.
9. In times of uncertainty, the best solution is to forsake evil and turn wholeheartedly to God, who can swiftly bring stability.
Full Sermon updated to Modern English
"For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge shall the state thereof be prolonged" - Proverbs 28:2
Typically, great people are individuals with a deep understanding. Their greatness is primarily rooted in their exceptional knowledge in a specific field. Some great people are renowned philosophers, others are eminent religious scholars, and some are influential politicians. Take Solomon, for example, about whom it is said that God gave him "wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore" (1st Kings 4:29). He was a master of all types of knowledge. His expertise in theology was evident, as demonstrated by the divine wisdom found in his writings that we still have today.
He was incredibly knowledgeable in philosophy, particularly about nature, as shown in 1st Kings 4:33, "And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes." He had a deep understanding of the human soul.
He was also wise in understanding what's good for people and what makes them happy. He had a keen understanding of people and their behaviors, which is evident in his books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
He was a practical genius too. One of the ways he demonstrated his wisdom was through his songwriting. As stated in 1st Kings 4:32, "His songs were a thousand and five."
If we were to pinpoint one area where he truly shone, it would have to be politics, or his knack for governance. This was the wisdom Solomon specifically asked for from God. When God told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon requested a wise and understanding heart, so he could effectively lead his people and know how to "go out and come in" before them (2nd Chronicles 1:10).
He was a master at understanding what made a community thrive, and how to achieve it. He knew what could harm or bring misery to a people, and what could lead to their prosperity. He shared his insights on these matters in his books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, including the passage: "For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged."
This verse is essentially explaining itself. What we can notice in the verse is...
1. a public disaster mentioned earlier, and a public blessing that contrasts with it. The disaster for a country discussed here is having too many rulers. We can understand what this means by looking at the contrasting blessing mentioned - having a stable, long-lasting government. This suggests that when the author talks about a country "having many princes," they're not referring to having many rulers at the same time, but rather to a country that frequently changes its rulers and its forms of government.
In essence, the "public good" referred to here is a stable condition of public affairs, while the calamity is an unstable one. When public affairs are unstable, they're prone to constant changes and shifts, which can be a major disaster for a country. But, when the state of public affairs is stable, long-lasting, and remains steady and undisturbed, it's a huge blessing for any society.
2. We can notice that the contrasting conditions of a community are often caused by the behavior of its members, specifically their wickedness or righteousness. The instability and constant changes in a community's public affairs often stem from their wrongdoings. On the other hand, a community's longevity and stability often come from their understanding and knowledge, which are typically associated with righteousness, particularly in the book of Proverbs.
What we can see here is that the root cause of the public disaster mentioned is the wrongdoing of the people, while the root cause of the public good mentioned is the wisdom and knowledge of a specific individual, understood by a wise person. This is because God is more inclined to acknowledge any righteousness among the people, rather than their wickedness. He doesn't usually bring down judgment on people unless there's widespread corruption. However, He often bestows blessings due to the righteousness of specific individuals.
1. When people's public affairs are in turmoil, it's a sign that God is upset with them for their wrongdoings.
2. The rights and benefits of a community are extended and strengthened through the intelligence and fairness of its members.
1. Sometimes, the first thing we see is a chaotic situation in a society's public affairs. Secondly, this chaos often indicates that God is angry with them for their sins.
First, let's discuss some examples of how the political situation in a country or region can be unstable.
1. When a group of people find themselves in a situation where the future of their current system, along with the rights and benefits they enjoy, is uncertain, it's a serious concern. This uncertainty could be due to a threat from an external force, or it could be from the highest authority they're subject to. Alternatively, they could be their own worst enemy, risking the loss of their privileges due to their own lack of foresight and poor management.
The text is directly referring to a disaster: the unstable state of a country's public affairs, which puts its citizens at risk of losing the rights, benefits, and blessings they currently enjoy. This happens when people are threatened with losing their long-standing privileges, either partially or entirely, and being placed under a new government. The situation becomes uncertain, with people unsure about which of their civil rights will remain intact, or whether they're on the brink of losing all their privileges. There could be powerful foreign enemies aiming to overthrow the government, or internal enemies plotting against the current regime. These people might be pursuing their own personal gains, advancing the interests of a group they're affiliated with, or acting out of spite against individuals or groups they're opposed to.
2. When the people who are running the government keep changing, it's often because the state of public affairs is unstable. And if that's not the reason, then it certainly contributes to the instability.
When people in leadership roles are constantly changing, it naturally leads to frequent shifts in the way things are run. Different people have different perspectives, temperaments, and goals. Having many leaders or frequently changing leaders can destabilize things and keep them in flux, often leading to major upheavals in a society. This is true whether the changes are happening at the top or lower down the ranks. It's not wise for the stability of a government to constantly change the people in charge, and it can be a disaster when they're frequently replaced. Of course, if the people in power aren't suited for their roles, it's best to replace them. But the real mistake or disaster was in appointing them in the first place, making a change necessary.
When the same people stay in power for a long time, it can greatly contribute to the strength and stability of a community, provided they are competent for their roles. Seasoned and experienced leaders have a significant edge in handling public matters due to their experience. They possess a deep understanding of the country's condition, the attitudes and behaviors of its citizens, and effective ways to govern them. They have a broad perspective of the community's past and present circumstances. Plus, their experience allows them to handle affairs efficiently and effectively.
We can understand the logic behind this by thinking about the chaos that would ensue in a family if the leaders were switched out every two or three years. This would be a surefire way to completely mess up the children and the staff in a household. Similarly, a country frequently changing its rulers or having too many rulers is just as harmful as a family constantly changing its leaders.
3. When it's unclear who holds the power to manage things, that's when a country's affairs are in a state of uncertainty. If there are ongoing debates about rights and authority, and crucial governmental matters are left hanging because no one knows who's in charge, then the country's affairs aren't stable. This is because it's still up in the air as to how they should be handled.
4. When different individuals or groups are in conflict over who gets to control the government.
When there are many who aspire to be leaders, all vying for power; when the key figures in a country are schemers, each plotting against the other, each trying to climb to the top and push others down; when the main conflict among the elite is about who will be on top and suppress the rest; when there's a sense of rivalry among leaders, each suspicious of the other, fearing they might gain more honor and influence in the government, and as a result, they're plotting to stop them and promote themselves; when the key figures aren't prioritizing the public good, but their own advancement, and each is trying to make others dependent on them, either by currying favor with the supreme power or by seeking the favor and respect of the people; when there are opposing factions among leaders, each trying to undermine the other and, as much as possible, monopolize the power; when the different levels of those managing public affairs are not united, but are suspicious of each other, with the lower ranks fearing the higher ones might overstep their boundaries and thus trying to suppress them, to gain more power; and the higher ranks, on the other hand, are wary of the lower ranks infringing on their territory and thus are trying to strip them of their privileges; when the people are clashing with the leaders, and the leaders with the people, and power becomes a contentious issue among them: then the public affairs of a country are in a state of turmoil.
Secondly, it's important to understand that such instability in a nation's affairs is a sign of God's displeasure with them for their wrongdoings. Here,
1. When a society's public matters are in such a chaotic state, it suggests that God isn't looking out for them. This isn't to say that God's providence doesn't extend to all things: God doesn't neglect any part of creation, but rather oversees all matters of heaven and earth. But when I say God isn't looking out for them, what I mean is that he isn't concerned about their well-being. He isn't involved in their affairs or ensuring that things are going well for them, or that their matters are being handled in a way that benefits them. God doesn't involve himself in their affairs, or take on the responsibility of being their leader. He doesn't take the welfare of the public into his own hands.
When people are in good standing with God, He himself becomes their ruler and takes care of their matters. As stated in Isaiah 33:22, "The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us." God is present among such people. He controls the direction of their governance. When their leaders gather to discuss public matters, He is there among them, subtly guiding and influencing their actions according to His boundless wisdom and mercy, all for the benefit of the people.
But when a society is in such a state of chaos, it's an indication that God has somewhat abandoned them, and that he's not looking after their affairs. It's as if he has released control of the ship's wheel and allowed it to be aimlessly tossed about by the winds and seas.
This will become clear when we consider two things:
1. If we think about the nature of divine leadership, it's not chaotic or disorganized, but rather it's set in a consistent and orderly manner. Where God reigns, the leadership must be steady and things must naturally follow a very structured order. If it were different, it would imply a flaw in His magnificent perfection, as if He were prone to errors and changes, or weak and not always capable of arranging things as He wants them. When a powerful, infinitely wise, and unchanging entity is in charge, the leadership can't be unstable.
So, it turns out this is actually the case. For example, God governs the natural world, and it's pretty clear how established and consistent the way things work is, based on certain unchangeable laws that the Creator has set. God also governs the rest of the visible universe, including the sun, moon, and stars, and their order and movements are incredibly consistent over time, never colliding or causing any chaos. Neither the sun, moon, nor any star ever forgets its designated path or goes off course. God also governs in the highest heavens among the angels. He manages their affairs, and there's never any instability in His rule.
So when God kindly oversees the public affairs of any society here on earth and takes control of them, the government will be stable, and things will run in a regular and orderly manner. When God is at the helm, the course will be true and steady. But when things are in disarray and the government lacks a solid foundation, when the state is constantly changing, unstable and always in chaos, this is a sign that God has abandoned them and isn't looking after them.
2. If a nation's public affairs are in chaos, it suggests that God isn't looking out for them, because that's a huge disaster for any society. If God was truly taking care of a nation's public affairs, they would be saved from such a catastrophe.
The problems that arise from such a state of affairs in a country are countless. It tends to throw everything into chaos and undermines the purpose of people coming together in communities. Uncertainty and instability are unfortunate in any situation, but especially so in the governance of public affairs. It's unfortunate to have a house that isn't sturdy, that isn't firmly set on its foundation, and that is constantly at risk of shifting out of place. It shakes the entire structure and leads to its downfall; it makes living in such a house unsafe. But it's even more unfortunate when the structure of the public state isn't firmly established on a solid foundation, when it's constantly shifting and unstable.
The true mark of a successful society is its stability. The main reason people come together to form a community is to gain strength and security. This is the bedrock that we rely on and where our individual rights and privileges are established. And if this foundation is shaky and unstable, we're in a pretty bad spot.
The instability in public affairs often significantly disrupts the progress of public work. Tasks that need to be completed are overlooked, and the public suffers greatly as a result. The attention of those responsible for public affairs is diverted by the upheavals, changes, and chaos in public matters. The minds of leaders are heavily distracted from public work, and their time is consumed by the disputes and debates that emerge.
Leaders aren't really that committed to pursuing the common good. They don't act with the necessary determination and resolve, mainly because their own situations are unstable and unsure. And these leaders, not being in harmony with each other, don't support and reinforce each other. Instead, they end up undermining each other's efforts.
When things are unstable, it's usually accompanied by a lot of conflict and tension, with jealousy and envy running rampant. Leaders are split into factions, and the entire country follows suit. This discord spreads until it's everywhere, giving the devil a perfect opportunity to expand his influence among them. This situation leads to a lot of sin, with people becoming enemies and making each other's lives miserable. And while everyone's busy fighting, justice and righteousness get pushed to the side. The fight against immorality and wickedness is ignored, allowing them to flourish without any checks. Instead of discouraging and suppressing immorality, leaders often end up promoting it through their own unchristian behavior during their heated debates. Usually, during such times, a nation's wealth is severely depleted. When a country is in turmoil, its strength and wealth diminish, much like a body's health deteriorates under severe illness.
If this unstable situation continues, it could lead to a nation's downfall. This downfall can come from both internal and external sources. The nation becomes vulnerable to the greed and ambition of its own citizens, especially those who should be its protectors. This instability also gives an upper hand to those enemies who wish to see the nation fall. It provokes these enemies, prompting them to look for opportunities to take advantage of the country. They eagerly await its collapse, and when they see it wavering, they'll definitely push to bring it down.
People in those conditions are vulnerable and not as capable of standing up to a common enemy. Just like a house with a shaky foundation can easily be knocked down when the wind picks up. This disastrous situation of a people is a sign that God has largely abandoned them and isn't looking out for them.
2. God doesn't abandon people or ignore their well-being unless their own wrongdoings have caused it.
God pays attention to individuals, observing their actions and responding accordingly. Similarly, He also observes entire communities. God has repeatedly promised that if a community obeys His commands, He will never abandon them. As stated in Deuteronomy 4:31, "The Lord thy God is a merciful God; he will not forsake thee nor destroy thee."
This is clearly shown in the examples we find in the holy Scriptures about the state of Israel when they followed God's path. He was like a king among them, managing their affairs. And when He withdrew and left their matters unresolved, it always led to a period of decline and corruption for them.
This is a great example of what happened in the kingdom of Israel, or the ten tribes. They turned their backs on God during Jeroboam's reign, and started worshipping the golden calves at Bethel and Dan (1st Kings 12:28–29). They never turned away from this betrayal. And look at how unstable their situation was; they had so many leaders! The throne was constantly changing hands between different families.
First, Jeroboam and his son were in power, then Baasha from a different family conspired against Nadab and seized the throne (1st Kings 15:27). Then Zimri killed Baasha's son and all his descendants, took the throne, but only ruled for seven days (1st Kings 16:9–15). After that, they killed Zimri and made Omri king, who was from another family, and his son was Ahab (1st Kings 16:16).
Then Jehu killed all of Ahab's descendants and took the throne (2nd Kings 9:3). After Jehu, Shallum from another family took the throne (2nd Kings 15:10). Then Menahem, from another family, killed Shallum and took his place (2nd Kings 15:14). Then Pekah, from another family, killed Menahem's son and took his place (2nd Kings 15:25). Finally, Hoshea from another family took the throne (2nd Kings 17:1).
They had abandoned God, and God didn't look after their affairs, leaving them in a state of chaos. This is similar to the situation in Judah, which was also in a state of turmoil just before its destruction.
But let's wrap things up quickly with a short application.
1. This doctrine might lead us to believe that when people find themselves in certain situations, they tend to criticize others too much and reflect on their own actions too little. It's common for people in these situations to have a lot of arguments, and this often results in them blaming each other excessively.
Everyone acknowledges the disastrous state of public affairs, and there's a lot of blame being thrown around; everyone is pointing fingers. Even the leaders are blaming each other, full of harsh words and accusations, all while trying to clear their own names. One person will blame another they dislike or who belongs to a rival group. The public, they're blaming the leaders, accusing them of stupidity, betrayal, and dishonesty. One group blames the leaders on one side, and another group blames the other side. There's a lot of energy spent on blaming real or imagined public enemies.
But isn't it surprising how little we reflect on ourselves? We rarely consider that the unstable and disastrous state of our country could be a divine judgment for our widespread corruption and rampant wickedness. When we start blaming others, it's only fair that we should start with ourselves, because that's where all our troubles originate. No matter what tools we use, we should tackle the problem at its root.
If we could just change our own bad habits and actions, we'd quickly see an end to our troubles. Regardless of what tools or methods contribute to it, it's God, who is upset with us for our sins, that controls all secondary causes. Consider what God says; Isaiah 45:7, "I form light, I create darkness: I make peace, I create evil: I the Lord do all these things"; Amos 3:6, "Is there any evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?"
In situations like these, people tend to blame external factors for their problems; they don't pay enough attention to what's happening right under their noses. So, most people point fingers, and most people defend themselves; but it's actually widespread corruption and immorality that's causing all the trouble.
2. So, it's the wicked people who are causing trouble in a land. It's because of their wrongdoings that God seems to have abandoned the land, leaving everything in chaos and confusion.
People who are morally corrupt, particularly those who are influential due to their natural abilities, wealth, or public roles, are a threat if they don't respect God and don't live by His teachings. If they are immoral, they are essentially public enemies. Their actions can destabilize the foundations of a society and weaken its entire structure.
3. So, we should all, in our own ways and as God gives us chances, work hard to fight against widespread evil, because in doing so, we strengthen our nation. Each person, by doing their part to combat immorality and evil, contributes positively to their country.
4. This shows us how much harm a society can do to its future generations through its own wrongdoings. When a community breaks the rules, it can destabilize the country and even lead to its downfall, destroying the rights and privileges that were previously established. Once these are lost, it's not easy to get them back. So, the consequences of these actions are felt not just by the current generation, but also by the ones to come. Their children and grandchildren may end up suffering because of the mistakes made by their ancestors, losing the valuable privileges that the country once had. If it weren't for their ancestors' wrongdoings, these privileges could have been passed down to them.
5. Finally, we can conclude that recently, and even now, there are signs that [God] is showing his anger due to the wrongdoings in this land.
I don't really need to tell you how chaotic the country's current affairs have been recently, and still are. When I mentioned a few examples of this chaos, it was pretty clear that I was talking about our current situation. Anyone paying attention would have easily made that connection as I was speaking.
We're still unsure about what the problem is and how things will eventually turn out. Whether the situation in our country will continue or not is still up in the air. We have reason to be scared because we've become incredibly corrupt. God has been warning us and threatening us for a long time, and seems reluctant to carry out his threats, but is waiting to show mercy, to see if we'll change our ways. But since there's hardly any sign of that happening, we really have reason to worry about what God will do to us, and we should sincerely pray to avoid his punishment.
Now, let's move on to the second part of the verse: "but by a man of understanding and knowledge shall the state thereof be prolonged." In this phrase, you can notice,
1. A public advantage or blessing is being discussed here, specifically the extension of a country's stability, which is the opposite of the disaster mentioned in the previous part of the verse. This could mean having numerous leaders, or having its leaders or its governance or public state unstable and inconsistent. The extension of a country's stability is considered a blessing for two reasons:
1. The wise man's reference to the state of the land should be interpreted as having some special rights or advantages. There could be situations where ending the current state of a land could be seen as a blessing; it might be so terrible that continuing it would be a disaster. This could happen if a foreign enemy conquers the land and it falls under the rule of a harsh dictator.
For instance, in the book of Judges, we see several examples of this with the children of Israel. They were ruled by the king of Mesopotamia (Judges 3:8), the king of Moab (Judges 3:14), Jabin, the king of Canaan (Judges 4:2), and the Midianites (Judges 6:1), among others. They were handed over to their enemies as a punishment for their sins. Now, the wise man didn't mean that prolonging such a state of a land was a good thing. There's no privilege in such a situation. But when he talks about "the state of a land," it's clear that he's referring to a system where the land has its own governing power and can manage its own public affairs independently, free from those whose interests don't align with theirs.
In this context, the extension of a country's state is discussed in contrast to two things. Firstly, it's compared to the ultimate termination of it through the loss of all its rights and freedoms from foreign influence. Secondly, it's contrasted with the frequent alterations of its own structure, its stability and consistency in a specific regular system, or its frequent change of rulers, even though these rulers are all from within the country itself. So,
2. It's a real blessing for a country to have long-term stability because it helps avoid the problems that naturally come with change.
We can see that this blessing is achieved through a person who possesses understanding and knowledge. By 'wise', it doesn't just refer to a sly or cunning individual. 'Understanding and knowledge' doesn't simply mean political strategy, because it's usually the scheming, crafty politicians who are responsible for destabilizing a country's state of affairs. Their cunning can either extend its longevity or lead to its downfall, depending on their intentions.
However, a person of 'understanding and knowledge' seems to refer to someone who is righteous or pious, without excluding natural and moral wisdom and prudence. In this context, 'wisdom' or 'understanding' is often interpreted as righteousness or piety. This contributes more universally to the stability of a community's welfare than mere cunning and political strategy.
So, this interpretation aligns well with the first part of the verse. If we see it this way, then the thing that brings about this benefit is the exact opposite of what causes the disaster mentioned here. Just like a community's wrongdoings can destabilize their situation and make it short-lived, their righteousness can extend its duration.
2. The benefits that any community enjoys are created and sustained by the good behavior of its members. In other words, when community members act righteously, it helps to build and maintain these benefits.
Firstly, the goodness of ordinary people in a community contributes to its overall well-being. No matter how insignificant or unnoticed a person may seem, they can still be a blessing to the public. Even if people don't recognize this, God does. Such individuals can bring about positive changes and blessings for everyone around them. The wrongdoings of individuals can invite God's judgments on the place they live; conversely, the righteousness of an individual can bring about blessings. Jesus taught us that the virtuous are "the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13); they are the ones who keep their community from falling into decay and ruin.
Secondly, the integrity of people in public roles significantly contributes to this. Individuals in public positions have a greater influence on both society and God than others. When these individuals are honest and devout, they become the support and backbone of a society. They hold positions in the political body similar to the head, heart, and other vital parts in a physical body. The entire body relies on these parts, just as a building relies on its foundation. In Psalms 82:5, rulers are referred to as "the foundations of the earth."
Alright, let's dive deeper into this. What I'm going to do next is explain in detail how the integrity of community members contributes to maintaining and extending its benefits.
1. This happens because of the high regard God has for such individuals. The people we're talking about are extremely cherished by God, and His blessings are always with them. His blessings are not just on them, but they also envelop them, often extending to those around them and those they interact with. Their presence often brings God's blessings to those they are with. This is how God blessed Laban's ventures because of Jacob (Genesis 30:27); similarly, God blessed Potiphar's household and everything he owned for Joseph's sake; and again, God blessed the jailer because of him, even though his only connection to him was that he was a prisoner under his care (Genesis 39:5).
God's blessing, which is with the righteous, is incredibly expansive, so their presence in a country tends to bring God's blessing upon that country. Wherever good people are, God is graciously present; and so, the presence of such individuals tends to maintain God's presence in a country. God loves to be, and to work and reveal Himself, among the righteous. Therefore, if there are many righteous people in a country, this will likely prevent God from abandoning them; and if He doesn't abandon them, and if God doesn't forsake a country, there's no risk of its condition being toppled.
When religious people are part of a community, they and their families are invested in the community's well-being. God highly values the interests of these devout individuals. So, when a country has many such people, there's hope that God will maintain its benefits out of respect for their involvement and for the sake of their future generations. After all, God values the descendants of the devout; as stated in Psalms 112:2, "The generation of the upright shall be blessed."
God pays attention to those who are cherished by the righteous for their sake. The community that a righteous person belongs to is important to them. They love their country; being godly tends to make people more community-minded. They also value the rights and privileges of their people, and for that reason, God will also respect the same for their sake. God told Abraham that if there were ten good men in Sodom, he wouldn't have destroyed it for the sake of those ten (Genesis 18:32). So when God was about to destroy Jerusalem, he said, as in Jeremiah 5:1, "Go through the streets of Jerusalem, look around and take note. Search its squares, if you can find one person who does what is right and seeks the truth, then I will forgive the city."
People who are faithful and devoted to God can be compared to Aaron from the Bible. When a deadly plague started, Aaron ran and stood in the gap between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped (Numbers 16:47). This is similar to when God was about to destroy Israel. In Ezekiel 22:30, God said, "I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none."
The righteous are a blessing to their land. Because of them, God says, "Destroy it not". This is like in Isaiah 65:8, where the Lord says, "As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants' sakes, that I may not destroy them all." So, in essence, the faithful are the ones who can save their land from destruction.
2. Righteous people extend the blessings of a place through their prayers. They don't just pray for themselves; they always remember the people and the place they come from when they talk to God. They'll pray against any disasters that might affect everyone.
People who are devout have a strong influence with God through their prayers. As it says in James 5:16, "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." This idea is vividly illustrated by the story of Jacob wrestling with God and winning, earning him the name Israel, which means he had the power to influence God and succeed (Genesis 32:28).
Even a poor person living in a small house, who walks with God and wishes for the success of their community, can make a significant impact. They may not have much influence in terms of preserving or improving the public good on their own, but they can achieve a lot through their passionate prayers. In fact, they might have more influence than some of the powerful people with their strategies and influence.
3. When people in positions of power genuinely respect God, their prayers can significantly contribute to maintaining peace and privileges in a society. This is because they're seen as societal leaders, and it's expected of them to act as intermediaries. As public figures, they should represent the people in their relationship with God. When these individuals are virtuous and fulfill their role as intermediaries, God regards them as public representatives and individuals who act as intermediaries.
There are many examples in the Bible that show the incredible power of prayer from devout individuals in public settings, which have helped to prevent disasters and secure blessings. Think about how many times Moses' prayers deflected God's wrath from the Israelites. When Joshua, their leader, prayed, the sun even stopped moving, giving them the chance to defeat their enemies (Joshua 10:12–13). When Samuel, Israel's judge, prayed, God sent thunder to strike the Philistines (1st Samuel 7:10). When David, the king of Israel, prayed, a plague was stopped in its tracks (2nd Samuel 24:25). Daniel's prayers, who was both a prophet and a prince, led to Israel's liberation from captivity (Daniel 9:16–19). And thanks to the prayers of Nehemiah and Ezra, the people were saved and their society was rebuilt (Nehemiah 2:4 and Ezra 10:1).
The faithfulness of a community's members naturally tends to build and maintain the community's status and privileges. It's usually the spread of sin and evil that not only angers God, leading to instability and downfall of a community, but it's also the way this downfall happens. History confirms this. When a community has been dominated by virtue, it has been strong and stable. But when vice has taken over, it has sped up their downfall.
When people are deeply religious, it stops the rise of selfish ambition, greed, and deceit among leaders, which often leads to the downfall and destruction of a country. When people fear God, they won't be driven by a desire to promote or enrich themselves at the expense of the common good. They won't sacrifice public welfare for personal gain; instead, they'll genuinely and honestly strive for the benefit of everyone. The country can rely on them. If they are wise, insightful, and strategic, they will use their skills to promote and enhance the welfare of the country, not to promote themselves or undermine others. Their top priority will be to maintain public peace.
A true sense of devotion would prevent the rise of conflict that divides a nation against itself, leading to its downfall. Devotion fosters peace and love, encouraging people to consider not only their own interests but also the needs of others. Being devout encourages everyone, regardless of their role, to fulfill their responsibilities faithfully. It encourages leaders to be fair and loyal, doing their duty to the people, and it encourages the public to be calm and respectful towards the government. It unites all segments of society and binds them together strongly.
When it's like that with a piece of land, it's likely to be stable and won't easily get disturbed, let alone be overthrown.
1. So, from this, understand that when God warns a group of people that they may lose their community benefits, it's a strong signal that they need to change their ways and seek forgiveness.
When things are uncertain, and it's unclear whether certain privileges will continue, the situation remains up in the air. Regardless of what secondary factors are causing this, it's a sign from God asking the nation to turn to him and follow his guidance. It's a call to everyone, regardless of their status or position, to reflect on their actions, to examine their own hearts and behaviors, and to turn to the Lord.
This is a call to leaders and those in high positions to diligently cleanse themselves from all wrongdoing. They should set shining examples of purity in their lives and conversations, and govern with respect for God. This way, they can "stand in the gap" and "make up the hedge" to prevent the hedge from being completely destroyed (Ezekiel 22:30).
This is a call to ministers to "shine as lights in the world," and to passionately and diligently work to encourage piety among their listeners (Philippians 2:15). It's also a call to family leaders to raise their families "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4), to use their example, teachings, and influence to curb and suppress anything that's immoral or unruly, and to uphold the practice of virtue and faith in their families.
So, from this we can understand how deeply we should mourn the loss of those who are exceptionally devout, especially those in public roles. When such individuals pass away, it feels as if a significant part of God's presence is removed from the people. These are the people who, because of their devotion, made God look favorably upon our land and held back his judgments. They were the ones who, through their faith in God, helped maintain our peace and stability.
We no longer have the benefit of God's blessings that once surrounded them, and which others shared in while they were alive. We no longer have them to worry about the continuation of public blessings and to pray for it. We no longer have their prayers for the public good. They were very precious to God, and He cared deeply about their interests, but their interests are no longer linked with ours or included in the welfare of the land. They no longer have any ties to any civil society.
When good people, particularly those in public, civil, or religious roles, are lost, it's like having holes punched in the city walls or pillars of a building knocked down. If God doesn't replace them, it could spell disaster for us. That's why we should deeply mourn the death of such individuals. The Bible even mentions how foolish and morally bankrupt a society is if they don't recognize and grieve these losses, especially considering the potential future disaster it could bring. As it says in Isaiah 57:1, "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come."
3. How important it is for a society to support and promote goodness and religious devotion, if it wants to ensure its own survival. Just like God has instilled in every creature a basic instinct to survive, and nature has equipped them with the skills and resources to do so, it would be truly bizarre and unnatural for any creature not to strive for its own survival. Similarly, it's equally bizarre, and even more terrifying, if a society doesn't strive to preserve its own existence and public benefits.
The teachings show us the most probable way to achieve this: to make it their main focus, to encourage faith and goodness in the country.
Leaders should really focus on this; it should be a major part of their job. This should be something that deeply matters to everyone involved in governance. It's not just about punishing bad behavior and immorality with appropriate penalties, but also about promoting good behavior with rewards.
We should highly value virtue and piety when considering people for public roles. By doing so, we give them a better chance to enhance their piety, which in turn helps maintain and extend public peace. As we've discussed, it's particularly true for devout individuals in public positions that their piety contributes to the extension of a country's privileges. Both leaders and citizens should strive to honor such individuals.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 13:3 that one of the purposes of civil government is not only to instill fear in wrongdoers but also to reward those who do good. He says, "For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. So if you want to live without fear of authority, do what is right and you'll receive their praise."
Similarly, Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 2:14 says, "or to governors, as those sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right." This means that those in power are there to penalize wrongdoers and praise those who act rightly.
4. It teaches us that when a society is in a state of uncertainty or instability, the best course of action to maintain peace is to turn away from wrongdoing and towards God. No matter what the situation of a country may be, this is the best strategy to adopt. It's a one-size-fits-all solution. This approach is superior to any other that could be considered in challenging and uncertain times for a society, in every possible way.
This is the most straightforward approach. If we decide to abandon our wrongdoings and turn towards God, if we listen to what life is telling us and agree to change our ways, to seek and serve the Lord, we would quickly notice a change. Our collective troubles would soon be lifted; as it says in Psalms 81:13-14, "O that my people had listened to me, and Israel had followed my ways! I would have quickly defeated their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries."
Sure, relying on our own strategies and policies might seem like the best way to protect and secure ourselves. But, let's be real, it's not foolproof. We could face countless disappointments. That's not to say we shouldn't be prudent, but if that's all we're banking on, our success is pretty shaky.
However, if we turn to God and follow his path, he's got our back. He'll use his unfailing wisdom and unstoppable power on our behalf. No matter how tough things get, he'll clear the way. Even if those smarter and more cunning than us try to strip us of our rights, it won't matter. God will stand up for us.
Regardless of who or what is working against us, God holds all the cards. He can manipulate them however he wants. Is the highest power in the land against us? No worries, we're still safe. God has the power to "turn the hearts of kings whithersoever he will" (Proverbs 21:1).
This is the best approach because it's foolproof. If we rely on our own strategies, we might make mistakes and ruin everything. But if we lean on God's wisdom, there's no chance of messing up. If we depend on our own smarts, we could be outsmarted by those who have control over us. But if we choose this approach, we're safe, because then the one who holds us, and them too, is on our side. This way, we can enjoy peace for a longer time, if we just agree to it. But there's no guarantee with any other method.
This is the most suitable approach, because our problems started here, and it's only right that our solutions should start here too. Our wrongdoings led to our state's instability and uncertainty, so it's our responsibility to make things right and stable again.
There's no other way around it. If we don't change our wrong ways, no matter what else we do or what strategies we come up with, we'll always end up in a mess. Our smart moves will just look stupid. We won't be able to enjoy a stable, prosperous life as long as we're this messed up. Even if we manage to dodge the current crisis, it won't be long before another one hits us, unless we change our ways and turn to God. Our troubles are coming from God, and they'll keep coming until we fix our behavior.
5. Lastly, it's truly a blessing that we should prioritize above all other public blessings - that he would shower us with his Spirit. Because it's through this that God grants a community knowledge and understanding. It's through this that God bestows that blessing which lays the groundwork for all other blessings. By this method, we'll be transformed and both religion and righteousness will be fostered among us. And this will bring us, and guarantee us, all kinds of prosperity.