With the approach of Independence Day, much stir is once again being made over whether or not these United States were constituted on the foundation of biblical Christianity. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you most likely agree that Christianity played at least a significant role in the establishment of this country, if not a foundational role. But our contemporary culture is rewriting history at an alarming rate. A careful ear should be employed when listening to the rhetoric and language of those who claim neutrality on the issue. We have heard many times from our own President Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that our constitution allows us the “freedom of worship,” when what is guaranteed by our founding document is actually a “freedom of religion” (excellent article on the difference between the two HERE). The rhetoric of the retrospective history rewriters is that America was established for the purpose of being free from religion, when in fact, the Founding Fathers had on their minds and in their quills the freedom of religion. The purpose of this blog is not to debate those topics, or even the rhetoric which creeps in so deceptively yet despairingly. I would rather like to spend some time looking at God’s involvement in a nation who denies Him His headship and refuses to acknowledge His providence.
There is no doubt in my mind that God played a providential role in the establishment of this great nation. A few years back I read one of the most encouraging and eye-opening books of my lifetime entitled, George Washington’s Sacred Fire. One letter from George Washington to his brother John Augustine Washington described the intervention of the miraculous God of the Ages during the French and Indian War. Colonel Washington was with the British General Braddock whilst leading 1300-1400 British soldiers toward Ft. Duquesne. Just shy of their destination, the French along with the Indians attacked. 714 British men were killed or wounded, including every officer in their company… except one. Col. George Washington. In his letter to his brother, Washington wrote, “I now exist and appear in the land of the living by the miraculous care of Providence, that protected me beyond all human expectation; I had 4 Bullets through my Coat, and two Horses shot under me, and yet escaped unhurt.” Dr. James Craik (Washington’s friend and personal physician) recorded and later passed on the exchange between Washington and the Indian Chief who lead the army of Indians against Washington’s company that day: “I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of red-coat tribe – he hath an Indian’s wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do – himself alone exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles, which, but for you, knew not how to miss – ’twas all in vain, a power mightier than we, shielded him from harm, He cannot die in battle.” The author of this book wrote in reflection, “It would appear that Providence had preserved George Washington’s life for a greater purpose. . . . No wonder Washington so often referred to Providence and so willingly expressed his praise and gratitude to the Almighty,” (George Washington’s Sacred Fire, 165).
There are too many stories… too many documented, historically verifiable instances in which God preserved the lives and mission of our Founding Fathers for His greater purpose. Too many to relate in this short post. But there is no doubt that God was involved. He was orchestrating a symphony of predictive melodies and harmonies… percussive climaxes and cadential victories… God was the Grand Composer of this great nation.
After presiding over the Constitutional Convention of 1778, Washington recognized the potential that a founding document could be corrupted and the hearts of a people united under both human bloodshed and Grand Design could indeed turn from their original manuscript and begin composing a completely different piece of their own – wrought by human depravity, or, the sin-nature: “Washington asserted that human depravity could ultimately destroy the Constitution, even with the checks and balances it possessed. In his proposed Address to Congress in April 1789, he described how the Constitution, with all of its wisdom, could ultimately come to naught by the depravity of the people and those who govern them, since the Constitution in the hands of a corrupt people was a mere ‘wall of words’ or a ‘mound of parchment,'” (George Washington’s Sacred Fire, 220).
This time of year – this time of great celebration over God’s involvement in our country… His protection. His provision. His favor. His faithfulness… this time of year is one of jubilance. Next Wednesday – July 4, 2012 – fireworks will fill the sky, families and friends will decorate their homes and neighborhoods in patriotism, and war heroes past and present will be honored. But will God be honored? Is God being honored in our nation today? A wonderful old hymn is O God, Our Help in Ages Past, by Isaac Watts in 1719 (before our independence was declared). Watts was an Englishman. His hymn proclaims, “Our God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come, Our shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal home. Under the shadow of Thy throne Thy saints have dwelt secure; Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.” Funny that we sing this same song of national pride in America, the nation that declared independence from Watts’ homeland only 57 years later.
O God, our help in ages past… if only we would remember. If only we would admit. If only we would, like Watts, understand… “Sufficient is Thine arm alone.”
Of Judah, King Asa forgot what we are rapidly neglecting today. 2 Chronicles 16:7-10 tells the story of a king who forgot that God was his help in ages past. A nation who allied with pagans to accomplish their own purposes. A people who forgot the involvement and provision of God’s strong arm. A nation whose defense was grossly compromised at the abandonment of the Almighty. Hanani, being led by God, confronted King Asa: “Because you depended on the king of Aram and have not depended on the LORD your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a vast army with very many chariots and horsemen? When you depended on the LORD, He handed them over to you. For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His,” (2 Chronicles 16:7-9).
Those whose hearts are completely His. I must say that we, as a people, have divided our hearts. Trusting in our own power and objectives instead of trusting the God of our help in ages past. This 4th of July, perhaps we should remember. Perhaps Christians in this great country should covenant with God to no longer allow our hearts to be divided. To have a heart that beats uniformly for God’s purposes. The universe is not Tony-centric. It is not USA-centric. It is not ethnocentric. It is Theocentric. Ken Hemphill appropriately addressed this in his 2004 book, EKG – The Heartbeat of God:
“God’s glory always comes first. . . . We, like Israel, are tempted to think that we are the center of the universe, that our desires determine God’s agenda. . . . The sooner we understand that God is King – that he alone is the center of the universe – the sooner we’ll come to experience the freedom of living in his kind of purpose and protection,” (EKG – The Heartbeat of God, 96).
Purpose. Protection. I echo the prayer of Isaac Watts in his last stanza:
Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home.
Grace and Peace,