By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
You can benefit your city or nation more than politicians can. Your prayers are more influential than debates or promises. Righteous prayer to the right God changes things. You can raise a city or nation to greatness, but the worldly media, educational system, or entertainment industry can destroy it. Cities or nations are preserved and prospered by the righteous citizens in them, but they are undermined and impoverished by wicked citizens.
Political prosperity depends on godly men and their prayers. The long-term civil success of a city or nation requires righteous men begging God for its blessing. To the contrary, the arrogant, foolish, and profane mouths of the wicked will bring a state to ruin. This political axiom is certain. Believe it for your own comfort and understanding, or reject it to your own ignorance and peril. Do not let the sinful media corrupt your understanding.
Adam Smith tried to discover why some nations are rich and others are poor. But his Wealth of Nations published in 1776 did not consider this proverb. He was too busy noting minor and secondary factors like division of labor, price mechanisms, wage rates, land rents, capital formation, import laws, forms of government, the role of agriculture, and so forth. Like all educated humanists, he could not see the forest due to the trees.
The LORD Jehovah determines which cities or nations shall prosper and those that shall not (Ps 75:6-7). He favors those men who fear and honor Him. “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” (Ps 33:12). “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps 9:17). And the God under consideration is the only living and true God – Jehovah of the Bible. Let God be true, but every man a liar. Adam Smith missed most of the equation.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” “Scornful men bring a city into a snare: but wise men turn away wrath.” “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.” “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” (Pr 14:34; 29:8,2; 28:2).
About 4000 years ago, the LORD discussed with Abraham the total destruction of Sodom and other cities for obvious sex perversion (Gen 18:20-33). Abraham reasoned that the righteous should not be destroyed with the wicked and that a holy God would show mercy for the sake of the upright in the city. The LORD agreed to spare the city for only ten righteous souls. Ten upright souls were not found, so the city was annihilated by fire.
What is the “blessing of the upright” that exalts a city? Proverbs often have two clauses to be compared. The second clause indicates it is the speech of the wicked that destroys cities. Their foolish talk reduces the wisdom of a city, and their haughty words bring God’s judgment. Therefore, the conclusion is that the upright exalt a city by their virtuous speech and fervent prayers. By wise counsel and holy advice, they ennoble the city. By fervent prayers from righteous hearts, they bring God’s blessings that exalt a city.
History confirms the proverb. Babel was an early kingdom, but God confounded their building program due to arrogant speech (Gen 10:10; 11:1-9). Pharaoh’s treasure cities of Pithom and Raamses were devastated within and without for his proud rebellion (Ex 1:11; 5:2; 10:7). Babylon thought she would sit a queen forever, but the Persians took her in one night, and she was eventually reduced to her present condition of mounds (Is 47:1-15). The rulers of Jerusalem crucified Jesus, and He leveled their city (Luke 19:42-44).
History confirms the proverb. Alexander the Great plundered and then destroyed the great Persian city of Persepolis in 330 B.C. Compare today’s versions of Athens and Alexandria to the cities they once were. Greece was overthrown! What remains of the great cities of Nineveh and Tyre today? Where is the Roman Empire? Italy does not compare at all. What happened to the cities of the Mayans and Aztecs? What did all these cities have in common? They wickedly boasted in their abilities and their pagan deities.
Modern history confirms the proverb. How could it be said of a small island, “The sun never sets on the British Empire”? Because England had more God-fearing people than any other, and its government authorized the greatest translation of the Bible every made. Read its dedication or preface. Explore Guy Fawkes Day to grasp a nation’s convictions, and you will not wonder why the Spanish Armada failed so miserably. Of course, with the great decline of true religion on that island, she is now nothing compared to her past.
What of America? Founded by godly souls fleeing oppression in Europe, it offered the greatest religious liberty ever seen in the world. Churches flourished and multiplied; pulpits declared Bible truth on every subject; evangelistic endeavors spread to the whole world. The government defended or promoted the religion of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. From a wilderness inhabited by animistic savages, it soon dominated the world by any measure. As it turned humanist in the last century, it began its descent into oblivion.
What is the lesson? The political prayers of the righteous can bless a city or nation; the arrogant speech of the wicked will bring a city or nation to ruin (Ps 127:1). Jeremiah explained to the Jews captive in Babylon that if they prayed for the peace of Babylon, they could enjoy peace in that wicked city for their families (Jer 29:4-7). Paul confirmed this wisdom by teaching men to pray for the rulers of the Roman Empire (I Tim 2:1-2).
The prophet Isaiah once saw the glory of God, and he was immediately convicted for the unclean speech of his own lips and that of his countrymen (Is 6:1-8). He knew that he was undone for his foolish words. The Lord had mercy on Isaiah and cleansed him from his sin. But have you confessed your own foolish and rebellious words? Or do you foolishly think God will overlook your speech (Ps 12:1-5)? Think again! Only the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man changes things (Jas 5:16). Confess your sins.
Christian reader, have you prayed for your two cities? First, this proverb teaches you to pray for the city where you live, as Babylon in the days of Jeremiah. This is wisdom from heaven for the preservation and prosperity of your city. The great and dreadful God might spare your city for your blessing on it. Second, you should pray for your heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, of which all true believers are citizens (Ps 122:6; Heb 12:22-24).
The only hope for America or any other nation is for the godly within it to pray as God told Solomon and to trust God to bless Paul’s rule (I Tim 2:1-2). God said to Solomon, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (II Chron 7:14). Prayer changes things!