Proverbs 14:34a

Righteousness Exalteth a Nation


Righteousness exalteth a nation:

A. Nation

1. Nation defined:

a. Translated as “nation” 374 times

b. Translated “heathen” 143 times, “Gentiles” 30 times, and “people” 11 times.

c. Strong’s: a nation; a people; usually of non-Hebrew people; Goyim = “nations.” (Although it is sometimes used of Israel – Gen. 12:2 – I will make of thee a great nation.)

d. Dict. of Biblical Languages: A large group based on various cultural, physical, geographical ties, often extended clan relationships; the Gentiles, i.e., a national group or groups that are not Jewish, with the associative meaning of being uncultured, pagan and heathen.

e. But in its broadest meaning, it simply means a “people.”

2. Usage:

a. Gen. 10:5 – used 2x – translated “gentiles” and “nations.”

b. Gen. 17:5 – Abraham was made the father of many “nations.”

c. Gen. 18:18 – all “nations” of the earth shall be blessed through Abraham.

d. Lev. 26:33 – If Israel disobeyed the Law, they would be scattered among the “heathen.”

e. Isa. 60:3 – and the “gentiles” shall come to thy light.

f. Judges 2:20 – this “people.”

g. The term is broader than a political nation… a government. It can refer to any group of people.

h. The context has to determine its meaning… but there is no context in Proverbs.

i. Hence, in our proverb, it is best to be understood in its broadest sense: any group of people is exalted by righteousness… and any group is reproached by sin.

B. Righteousness

1. Defined: justice; righteousness; righteous acts; the state or condition of fairly deciding what is right in a legal case; without prejudice.

a. The root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard

b. The term refers to the nation that does things RIGHT… according to God’s moral standard of righteousness.

c. The term implies that which is in harmony with a standard of ethics… namely God and His revealed Word.

2. A nation is righteous when it is law abiding… and follows a righteous standard (Deut. 6:24-25)

a. Israel was given a moral standard by God.

b. But even the pagan nations can benefit from this principle—by following the MORAL laws of God…

c. God gave governments the sword to execute righteousness.

d. Gen. 18:25 – God is a Judge who does that which is right. He expects those who represent His authority (human governments) to do the same… to be just and do things right.

3. The term implies legal justice

a. A nation should be characterized by justice… and justice for ALL, not just for the rich and for those who can afford expensive lawyers.

b. A nation should have a judicial system that is not controlled by an oligarchy of self interest… but rather governed by the principle of justice for all.

c. A judicial system wherein no one is above the law… rich, powerful, famous, government officials, etc…

d. Ex. 23:7 – a judicial system that does not slay the innocent or the righteous or justify the wicked (Deut. 25:1).

e. Amos cried for justice in the gates (5:15, 24).

4. The term implies justice without prejudice.

a. Justice for men and women

b. Justice for red, yellow, black, and white.

c. Justice regardless of religious affiliation… or political party affiliation…

5. The term implies an economic system of fairness in the marketplace.

a. A just balance prevails

b. A system that does not revolve around theft, fraud, corruption, etc.

c. Prov. 11:1 – fairness in the marketplace brings delight to God. He hates injustice, theft, and corruption.

C. Exalts

1. Defined: to rise; rise up; be high; be lofty; be exalted; to magnify.

2. The basic root meaning is height; it is used as symbolic of positive notions such as glory and exaltation, or negatively as of pride and arrogance.

3. The practice of righteousness has a BENEFICIAL effect on a nation. It exalts or lifts up a nation.

4. Prov. 4:8 – when wisdom is exalted, she EXALTS (promotes) an individual or a nation…

a. When a nation ignores wisdom and begins to make FOOLISH decisions, it will suffer the consequences.

b. Prov. 29:8 – Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath. (the wrath of other nations and perhaps the wrath of God!)

5. Prov. 11:9-10 – When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting. 11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.

a. A nation that treats righteous people well is blessed. Those who lock them up in the gulags will be judged… overthrown.

b. When the wicked perish—or wickedness is removed—the city shouts for joy.

6. Deut. 4:6-8 – as Israel obeyed God’s law, they were “exalted” in the eyes of onlooking nations.

a. What nation is so great as the one who follows such lofty principles?

b. Israel was to be God’s city on a hill… for all nations to observe.

c. They were to observe the principle in this proverb. When Israel obeyed, they were exalted. When they fell into sin, they were reproached.

7. Deut. 28:1-14 – obeying the righteousness of the law meant that God would exalt Israel… and bless her physically. Of course this promise was to Israel, not to every nation.

8. What is it that exalts a nation?

a. It is not the brilliance of its leaders.

b. It is not their political strategies or skills.

c. It is not the economic strength of the nation.

d. It is not the extent of the empire.

e. It is not its natural resources.

f. It is not the work ethic or the ingenuity of its people.

g. It is not its business savvy.

h. It is RIGHTEOUSNESS that exalts a nation—or any group.

D. Application

1. Righteousness exalts ANY group of people…

a. Nation or a City:

b. Church:
• As long as Salem Bible Church follows the righteousness of Gods’ Word, we can expect to bear fruit for God’s glory. We can expect God’s blessing… protection… life and power.
• The moment we move away from God’s Word, and tolerate SIN… (violation of the clear principles of God’s Word)… we are a reproach to the Lord… and a reproach in the eyes of the world.
• We will cease to be fruitful… cease to manifest Christ… and will cease to experience the power of the resurrection in our midst.

c. Family:
• The same is true for our families.
• When righteousness prevails… when we do things righteously before the Lord… we can expect His blessings.
• When sin is tolerated… our family becomes a reproach.
• Spiritual decline sets in… like a disease.
• This is dangerous. It can be reverse by repentance… but it is dangerous to tolerate sin.

d. Business:
• This principle holds true for a business.
• When a company does things RIGHT (a good product; honesty; good service; etc.) — that company earns a good reputation and usually does well.
• When a company becomes corrupt and dishonest… that too is eventually made known… and it brings ruin to the business.
• Who wants to buy meat from somebody who tips the scale?

2. The more righteousness, the more exaltation.

a. For the believer, there is to be continual GROWTH in practical righteousness in our daily lives.

b. Every time unrighteousness is rejected and forsaken, the nation/church/individual is lifted up a bit more…

c. Every time righteousness is embraced in some new area, there is more exaltation…

But sin is a reproach to any people

A. Sin

1. Sin: seen here as the opposite of righteousness; wrong; iniquity; i.e., that which is an offense against a standard; a moral evil that is a sexual misbehavior, with a focus on the embarrassing behavior before God or society.

2. Amos 9:8 – God’s eyes are upon a sinful nation… and He will execute justice in His good time.

3. Amos 5:12 – God is aware of each and every sin that occurs in a nation.

4. Isa. 1:21 – When men follow God, righteousness is said to dwell in the city. But when sin rules, it becomes a harlot.

5. A nation may APPEAR to get away with sin, but eventually, it will destroy them.

a. Be sure your sin will find you out!

b. Ecc. 8:11 – because God does not judge right away, men assume He will not. But men misread God’s patience and longsuffering.

c. Prov. 13:6 – eventually, sin will overthrow the wicked.

B. Reproach

1. Reproach defined:

a. It is usually translated “mercy” (kindness; lovingkindness)

b. However, it also had an Aramaic meaning that is highlighted in several passages. Its Aramaic meaning was “disgrace; reproach”

c. That is obviously how it is used in this passage… as well as couple of other verses in the Old Testament:
• Lev. 20:17 – it speaks of that which is purely shameful… disgraceful…
• Prov. 25:10 – (a slightly different form of the same word)—it speaks of shame and disgrace, associated with infamy…

2. Sin brings reproach the sight of God—and results in judgment. Consider some of the sins of OUR nation in recent years…

a. Abortion

b. Homosexuality

c. Kidnapping

d. Violence

e. Concept of a Family and Marriage

f. Issues of medical ethics in our day

g. This kind of internal, moral corruption will be the demise of our great nation.

3. Sin brings reproach in the sight of men—other nations.

a. It renders a nation despicable in the sight of other nations.

b. A nation’s sin brings on the ill-will of other nations.
• One of the reasons the Muslims hate the west so is because of our perceived “decadence.”
• On that level—they have a point. Our sin is bringing upon ourselves the hatred of others.
• Of course, their hatred and claims of moral superiority are quite hypocritical… (oppression; torture; suicide bombers; now offering their children as sacrifices in bombings; killing innocent men, women, and children, disdain for life…)
• God used the Babylonians to judge Israel. Remember Habakkuk’s concern: it seemed odd that God would use a nation WORSE than Israel morally to judge her… but He did.
• God can use ANY instrument He chooses to judge a nation for their sin… and He does.

4. Therefore, it is the responsibility of governmental leaders to promote righteousness, and to suppress sin and evil. (Rom. 13:1-4)

5. Some have said that righteousness is the recipe for a nation’s greatness… a recipe that has not yet been tried. However, the opposite (sin bringing reproach) has been proven over and over among the nations.


1. History is replete with illustrations of the truth in this proverb: nations are judged… nations rise and fall according to their works.

2. When sin, pride, corruption, immorality, greed, cruelty, and injustice prevail—eventually that nation falls… as Rome, which crumbled from within.
» Greece became proud of their science and art
» Rome became proud of its conquests
» Great Britain (an empire which once championed the cause of Christ in missionary endeavors around the world) has now turned its back on Christianity
» The USA is not exempt from this principle. Those great world powers became corrupt from within and declined in significance. Sin became a reproach to those nations.
» Can the USA be far behind?

3. Israel is God’s LIGHT to the world of this principle. When Israel followed God’s Law, they were exalted. When they departed from it, they were defeated and enslaved by enemies. Read the Old Testament, especially the book of Judges—this truth is repeated over and over again… as a constant object lesson to the nations.

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