Independence Day commemorates the birth of the United States of America as an independent nation. It is not a religious festival but it does have religious implications. It is certainly an appropriate time for us to look at our country and consider it in the light of our faith.
About 3,400 years ago, there lived a great statesman named Joshua. He was the successor of Moses. Joshua presided over the nation of Israel and led it into the Promised Land. Under his leadership, Israel had experienced an era of great prosperity.
Joshua’s years as leader were nearly over when he called the elders, judges and officers of the nation together to speak to them about the history and future of the nation. What he says, can be applied to our nation. It is time for us to take account of God’s blessings on our country. How did Israel enter and prosper in the Promised Land? They had good leaders, brave men and hard workers but that is not all.
Their power and prosperity could only be attributed to the blessing of God. Their leaders admitted it. Their leaders might have attributed their success to their own power and wisdom. But they knew better.
Our nation started with a small group of people. They were poorly equipped and greatly outnumbered. They could have easily perished. But they survived, multiplied, expanded overcame enemies, established farms and industries, built cities, roads and defended it all.
We also have what has been called the “priceless boon of liberty,” we are a free nation and a free people. We can own property, change jobs and worship as we please.
As we look at all this, there is a tendency to congratulate ourselves, to attribute it all to our own wisdom and hard work. But many things could have happened, over which we have no control, things that could have changed everything, taken away our liberty and prosperity. We have to admit as the leaders of Israel did, that we are what we are and have what we have only because God has blessed us as a nation.
This is a time for us to take account of God’s blessings and in all humility to give thanks to God, without whom there would be no United States of America.
Joshua’s days were over. But the nation would continue. Other generations would be born. Others would take over. Joshua called attention to what God had done in the past. Then he looked to the future and said it was time to re-affirm their faith and loyalty to God.
It involved a decision on their part. Other nations worshipped idols. Israel at times had fallen into idolatry (remember the Golden Calf). There was always the danger of falling into idolatry again. If they didn’t want to serve God, then they would have to decide whom they were going to serve.
It is time of decision for us too, a time to reaffirm our faith and loyalty to God who has made us what we are and given us what we have.
It is easy to forget the God who gave us our blessings. We see it in our nation. People acknowledge God’s blessings, but they ignore God and forget his word. They have freedom to worship him, but they don’t worship him. They use their time for other things. They have the opportunity and means to serve God but they use their time and means on themselves.
As Joshua expressed it, many people think it is evil to serve the God of our fathers, too old-fashioned, too restrictive. Then there is the attraction of other gods. Those “gods” may be just things that they put in the place of God, like: self-indulgence, pleasure, recreation, or money. It seems more pleasant to serve these gods and devote time and attention to them.
We need to come to a decision, to reaffirm our faith in God or not. This is a decision that confronts us as Christians. Whom are we going to serve? We can’t serve both.
We have God’s blessings. We have the special blessing of the truth of the gospel, the message about Jesus who paid for our sins. If we despise it and ignore God, then not only our nation will fall, but we as individuals will die in our sins and be lost eternally.
As we consider how God blessed our country, may he move us to repentance for all our sins, and may he keep us free to enjoy his grace.
(Pastor Marc Frey is the pastor at Peace of Our Savior Lutheran Church and Preschool (WELS) New Carlisle, OH www.peaceofoursavior.net)