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Before I begin this week’s post, I want to express my gratitude for the men and women who have willingly given their lives in service to the United States. My concern with the future of this country and my place as a Christian within it have nothing whatsoever to do with the high regard in which I hold these soldiers. I honor them.

In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddle spoke at a church in Paris on the Sunday he was scheduled to run the one hundred meters in the Paris Olympics. He had declined to run because he thought he would be dishonoring and disobeying God. (He later won the 400 meters, which was not his strong race, set a world record, and won the gold.) He taught out of Isaiah 40 that Sunday. Here is one of the verses Eric read: “All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17). 1 He addressed this passage because the British leaders of the Olympic team declined to be an advocate for him and ask the French to change the time of the race. They didn’t want to go “hat in hand to the Frogs.” Eric’s point was that, although his own country declined to help him because of their national pride, his country, along with all others, was meaningless.

This is the question that rang through my head this week: What does it mean to be less than nothing? Nothing is the absence of anything. But less than nothing? What does that mean?

We will be helped in our understanding by considering how the Lord God Almighty wants us to view Him in comparison to nations. In the verses that follow the one Eric quoted, the Lord informs us of His greatness in comparison to earthly rulers:

“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Isaiah 40:21–23).

Unlike the nations we create and their rulers, The Lord is not less than nothing and empty. He created all things that exist.

Less than nothing and emptiness can’t seem to manage that.   

To millions of Americans, including Christians, the thriving and survival of the United States and the freedoms it provides is the optimum goal. It is the reason for our security and safety. It is the reason for our prosperity. It is the reason for our happiness.

It is true that the Lord, according to His will, sustained and exalted this nation. However, God did not create the United States. Men did. Therefore, it should not be the highest hope of the American people. Jesus alone, our Creator and Savior, is our supreme hope and security.

The Bible says that United States is less than nothing. Its rulers are emptiness.

Of no consequence whatsoever.

If this biblical truth explodes our American belief that this country is the best in all the world and should survive and thrive no matter the cost, that notion should be exploded. We must be careful that we don’t make America an idol. We love God, and we love our country, but we can’t serve two masters. We have tried to walk the tightrope between the two. Our ability to continue that balancing act may be ending. The time may be near when we will have to choose between loving one and hating the other.

However, regardless of what our earthly future holds, our loving Creator will provide for us an eternal dwelling place. Like Abraham, we look “forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Like all the saints who have gone before, we “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16a).

There is no “less than nothing” here at all. No, it is a country that will exist eternally in righteousness and peace. We will not have an “empty” leader. We have a gracious King who will reign forever and ever.

That’s the better country I desire.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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