Nation Building: God's Way!
In recent years, "nation building" has been transformed from a concern of diplomats into an issue of global importance. Millions have watched the efforts of America, Britain and the United Nations to rebuild Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and other struggling countries. While it is shocking to see the devastation and suffering caused by war, it has also been sobering to witness the difficulties, frustrations and intrigues that have accompanied these human-driven attempts to intervene and rebuild nations where millions have been abused and exploited.
Again and again, the 20th century witnessed the phenomenon of failed nations. All too frequently, the excitement and euphoria of a newly independent nation soured into disillusionment as leaders driven by vanity and greed (and governments riddled with corruption) robbed national treasuries, exploited national resources for private gain, destroyed economies and allowed their nations' infrastructure to decay and disintegrate. The resulting poverty and suffering spawned waves of emigrants fleeing faltering countries in search of a better life. Yet this surge of immigrants and asylum-seekers—which continues into the 21st century—also threatens to overwhelm social services and ignite fires of resentment in host countries that feel the cultural fabric of their own nations weakening and beginning to unravel.
Failing nations and cultural decline have made nation building a major concern in our world today. There is no shortage of candidates willing to tackle the challenge. Communists, socialists, monarchists, dictators and democracies—and even religious leaders—have all tried their hand at solving these problems. Yet none have found the key for building truly successful nations or salvaging faltering countries. All nations today are struggling with their own serious problems!
So where should we look for solutions? Is there a sound model that clearly explains how to build solid and successful nations? Are there instructions to follow, and specific steps to be taken? It is widely perceived that the U.S. does not know what it is doing; The Economist magazine last year illustrated the point vividly with a cover graphic showing "Uncle Sam" frantically searching through a pile of books, seeking useful information about nation building (March 8–14, 2003).
Yet there are solutions and practical guidelines about nation building in a source that is little understood and seldom consulted today. Modern planners do not look into the Bible for answers to complex social problems, because they consider it only a religious book with mythical stories and wispy ideas. However, the Bible contains a blueprint for nation building that God recorded thousands of years ago for our benefit. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about right government and a new world order. God put this information in the Bible for a reason, though that reason has been obscured from most people's vision. As we will see, the Bible contains vital perspectives and practical guidelines for dealing with real problems that face society today. It offers hope—and offers exciting news about the future, in which you could play a role!
The Bible reveals much more than sweet promises that "Jesus loves you." Much of Scripture describes God's dealings with the children of Israel—the descendants of Abraham—and how God molded them into a nation He called His "special people" (Deuteronomy 26:18). This process of nation building is recorded as history in the Bible. It is instructive to study the biblical account because the One doing the nation building was none other than God Himself! Bible prophecies indicate that nation building will be one of the major challenges facing Jesus Christ and the saints when Christ returns to this earth to establish the kingdom of God. This is why it is important to understand what God has revealed on this subject.
When God began to work with Abraham, God revealed His overall intent and purpose: "I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing [to the world]… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:2–3). This was not an account of some local deity consoling an insignificant tribal group in an arid and insignificant corner of the world. The God of the universe was initiating a process of nation building that was to have global implications with lasting significance!
This process of nation building began in earnest when God used Moses to bring the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Moses told the children of Israel that God intended to make them a model nation and an example that other nations could follow (Deuteronomy 4:6). God fully intends that other nations learn how to become great, and that they discover how to "prosper… and be in health" (3 John 2). This is why He has recorded His method of nation building in the Bible. We need to ask: How did God do it? What steps did He take? What model for nation building do we find in the Bible?
While it may seem strange to most modern "enlightened" and "secular" minds, God began His process of nation building with religion. His first step was to put the entire nation of Israel on a solid religious footing, with right religious beliefs. The Bible shows that God began working first with the leaders of Israel, and eventually reached the entire nation. God first revealed Himself to Moses by capturing his attention with a burning bush (Exodus 3). The Scriptures do not indicate that Moses was an especially religious man prior to his encounter with God. Moses was an Israelite raised in the court of Egypt's Pharaoh, surrounded by pagan gods. This is why the real God had to make Himself known to Moses (see Exodus 3:3–6, 13–15). God explained to Moses that He would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage into a promised land where He would fulfill His promise to Abraham and make his descendants a great nation (Exodus 6:6–8).
When Moses began to deal with Pharaoh, the real God began to reveal Himself through the plagues that came on Egypt. At first the plagues fell on everyone, but later plagues afflicted only the Egyptians; God spared the Israelites (see Exodus 8:22). As the plagues progressed, it became obvious that the God of Israel was real and all-powerful, and the pagan gods of Egypt were exposed as powerless false gods.
When the Israelites left Egypt, their religious reorientation began. At Mount Sinai, they were introduced to the laws of God. Amidst a spectacular display of lightning, thunder and smoke, God gave the Ten Commandments that were to form the foundational values of the new nation (Exodus 20). The Israelites were introduced to God's weekly Sabbath (Exodus 16; 20:8–11) and annual Holy Days (Exodus 23; Leviticus 23), which would mark important milestones on the yearly calendar. The civil laws God gave to the Israelites were designed to create an enlightened and humanitarian society (see Exodus 21–22). The health laws recorded in the Bible were thousands of years ahead of their time (see Leviticus 3:17; 7:23–27; Deuteronomy 23:9–14), given by God to prevent disease and promote health within this model nation (Exodus 15:26). The Bible also contains conservation laws that were given long before there was an "environmental movement" (see Deuteronomy 20:19–20; 22:6–7). Strong warnings were issued about the dangers and consequences of following false gods and misguided religious practices (Deuteronomy 12:29–32; 18:9–14). God's process of nation building began by establishing a right religious foundation. History has shown that when the religious foundation of a nation erodes, or falls into error, the nation will decline.
Contrary to what many are taught today, the laws that God gave to Israel were not a burden! These laws were part of the religion that God designed to make His nation stand out as a light and an example to the rest of the world (see Deuteronomy 4:1–8). It is not by accident that America and Britain became great nations; their culture, government and legal systems are based on these same biblical laws! The laws and religion of the Bible are not secrets hidden from the world; they are available for anyone to read and heed. Any nation that adopts these laws and follows the religious instructions of the Bible will experience positive results. God designed the religion and laws of the Bible to build a great nation, and He has made this information freely available so it can be used by anyone in the nation building process.
A second vital step in God's process of nation building was the selection and training of leaders to provide good government. No government is better than the character of its leaders. This is why the Bible clearly lists the qualities of character that God looks for in those He has chosen for positions of leadership. In stark contrast to the modern criteria for selecting political leaders—popularity, voter appeal, good television presence, excellence in repartee and skill at fundraising—God chose Abraham because he was responsive to God's instructions (Genesis 12:1–4). Abraham proved that he would teach his household to follow God's righteous law (Psalm 119:172) and justice (Genesis 18:16–18). He learned to set right priorities, putting God first (Genesis 22). God saw that Abraham "obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws" (Genesis 26:4–5). Because of his character, Scripture describes Abraham as a role model and founding father of the nation of Israel (Romans 4:16–17).
Moses was a highly educated man of ability. He was "learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was mighty in words and deeds" (Acts 7:20–22). Moses was a general in Pharaoh's army (see Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, chapter 10), but the Bible shows that God chose to work with him not because of his leadership, but because he was humble and teachable (Numbers 12:3). God admonished Joshua, who replaced Moses, to "be strong and very courageous… do according to all the law" and do not compromise God's instructions "that you may prosper wherever you go" (Joshua 1:6–9). God chose David as Israel's king because of his deep desire to follow the laws of God (Psalm 119:18, 27, 97, 105, 127). These were important qualities of character that God looked for in the leaders He used to build His great nation.
God told Moses to staff his government with "able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness" (Exodus 18:21). God indicated that He would choose the king, that foreigners were not to lead the nation of Israel and that a leader should not use his office to enrich himself (Deuteronomy 17:14–20). Leaders were to make a personal copy of the law of God, and to study it daily so their nation would prosper. The Bible explains that godly leaders should have a good reputation, and be known for their wisdom and the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are visible in their lives (see Acts 6:3; Galatians 5:22–23). It is interesting to note that in God's process of nation building, leaders were appointed on the basis of ability, character and their willingness to follow God's laws; they were not popularly elected by the people (see Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 1:15; Acts 6:3; Titus 1:5).
God established, in His model nation, a government structured and organized according to levels of responsibility (see Exodus 18:21–26; Deuteronomy 1:15). Leaders were placed over entire tribes, and over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. The economic basis for God's government was the biblical system of tithing (Deuteronomy 14:22–29). Each year, a person who earned a profit was to give 10 percent to the Church and retain 10 percent for observing the Holy Days. Every third and sixth year in a seven-year cycle, an additional 10 percent was given to the poor. Every 50th year was a Jubilee year, when lands were to be returned to their original owners and debts cancelled (Leviticus 25:8–17). It was a simple and equitable system. When the Israelites followed God's instructions for good government, the nation prospered. When they ignored those laws, they experienced problems (see Proverbs 29:2). As Jesus stressed, leaders were to serve the needs of their people—not their own desires (Matthew 20:25–28).
A third major step in God's process of nation building was to establish a right foundation and focus for education. A nation's educational system molds and shapes its citizens' ideas and perspectives. If the educational system is not built on solid fundamental truths and values, the nation will eventually weaken and crumble. In the last century, we have witnessed how nations that tried to live by the erroneous assumptions and false values of communism and fascism experienced devastating consequences. Our secular, materialistic and amoral societies—which even seek to "remove Christianity" from religious education in schools while "giving atheism, agnosticism, humanism and paganism as much classroom time" (Sunday Express, February 15, 2004)—are heading for a similar fate! This is a fundamental reason for the cultural decline of the Western nations.
The biblical model for education stands in remarkable contrast to modern methods. Moses repeatedly emphasized the parents' role in teaching children (Deuteronomy 4:9; 6:1–8; 11:18–21). The biblical model shows that the most vital knowledge to convey to the next generation concerns the laws of God—not nursery rhymes or the liberal arts. Of course, schools certainly existed in ancient Israel, as they do today, and the Bible reveals that curriculum should be based on the word of God. Solomon wrote that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning [starting point] of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). The correct approach to nearly every field of study is found in the Bible—not in Greek or Roman philosophical ideas. Nations that ignore this biblical advice will reap tragic results.
God pointed out that the right goals for education are to grow in wisdom (Proverbs 4:7), to gain useful knowledge to serve others (Matthew 20:26–28) and to develop the mind and character of God (Philippians 2:5–11). For most today, however, the primary motivation for education is to earn more money to buy things, or to enhance one's reputation or satisfy personal interests. God's educational system is based on revealed truth, not on the changeable theories of educators. Jesus said: "Thy word is truth" (John 17:17). David wrote: "Your law is truth… all Your commandments are truth… the entirety of Your word is truth" (Psalm 119:142, 151, 160). An educational system built on the solid foundation of truth will produce a great nation, free of false and misleading ideas that bring dangerous and unwanted consequences (John 8:32). This is why it is important to carefully examine and prove what is really true (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Considering these biblical instructions, it is not surprising that modern educational systems have produced dysfunctional societies where crime, violence, greed, dishonesty, drug abuse, divorce, sexually transmitted disease, mental disorders and suicides have skyrocketed to alarming levels.
Huge amounts of money are being spent to give students an education grounded in Greek and Roman philosophy, evolutionary theory and secular humanism that rejects God and biblical values. What is the result? Test scores have plummeted, and many graduates can barely read or solve simple arithmetic problems. Many have no sense of purpose in life. While students may learn a few dates in history, most do not have a clue about the lessons of history. Nations that are ignorant of their own history and the great lessons of history are headed for the "dustbin" of history!
Today, for millions around the world, life is a difficult and desperate struggle. Discerning individuals realize that the nations of the world face an ominous future. Robert Cooper, one of Europe's most respected scholar-diplomats, warns that "the twenty-first century may be worse" than any previous time in history, because "the new century risks being overrun by both anarchy and technology… western governments are losing control… of the means of violence [facing terrorism and weapons of mass destruction]. Civilization and order rests on the control of violence: if it becomes uncontrollable there will be no order and no civilization" (The Breaking of Nations, preface). Cooper sees the modern world teetering on the brink of a "descent into chaos." Yet he expresses the hope, shared by many, that science and human ingenuity will save us from the "storm that threatens us" (ibid.).
Most today prefer to ignore these looming problems. Some professing Christians believe that their problems will be "solved" when they are rescued from the future disasters by being "raptured" off to heaven. Bible prophecy, however, reveals a very different reality.
Scripture clearly states that world problems will grow worse, not better (see Matthew 24:3–8). Human efforts to rebuild nations and manage world affairs will ultimately fail, and God will need to intervene to prevent human extinction and cosmocide (Matthew 24:21, 22, 30). Jesus Christ will return to this earth to establish the kingdom of God. He will assume power over all the nations (Revelation 11:17–18), and will delegate positions of authority to qualified saints (Daniel 7:27) who will reign on this earth as kings and priests—as civil and religious leaders (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). This event will be the crucial turning point for the troubled nations of the world!
Jesus Christ and the saints will embark on a global program of nation building. They will set up the government of God, and it will lead to a "restitution of all things" (Acts 3:19–21). The chaos, confusion, suffering and delusion created by failed nations and misguided human reason will end, as nations are restructured and reoriented on a biblical foundation of right religion (Zechariah 14), right government (Isaiah 9:6–7) and right education (Isaiah 30:20–21). Although nations will continue to exist (Isaiah 19:24–25), wars will cease (Isaiah 2:4), the environment will be restored (Isaiah 35:1–2) and roads and cities will be rebuilt (Isaiah 19:23; 61:4). Nations will learn the way to peace (Psalm 119:165), how to build strong families (Micah 4:4–6) and how to live healthful and fulfilling lives.
God's process of nation building will begin in Jerusalem and spread around the world (Isaiah 2:2–4; 11:9), ushering in a thousand-year period of peace and prosperity known as the "Millennium" (Revelation 20:4–6). This is what the true gospel of Jesus Christ is pointing toward (Mark 1:14–15), as foreshadowed by many Old Testament prophets (see Daniel 2:44–45; 7:27). Christians who develop the mind and character of God, and learn how to apply the laws of God, will play a role in solving major problems and rebuilding nations in Tomorrow's World. This is the real future—and it is worth preparing for!