Monday, May 25, 2009

5/24- National Providence

(Patrick Henry portrayed)

1 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3 "Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles." 4 The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. 5 He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, 6 "I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain." 7 I will proclaim the LORD's decree: He said to me, "You are my son; today I have become your father. 8 Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." 10 Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. 12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry and you and your ways will be destroyed, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2)

Calvin: When he implores them to be wise, he indirectly condemns their false confidence in their own wisdom as if he had said, The beginning of true wisdom is when a man lays aside his pride, and submits himself to the authority of Christ. However good an opinion the princes of the world may have of their own shrewdness, we may be sure they are erring fools till they become humble scholars at the feet of Christ. He also declares the manner in which they were to be wise, by commanding them to serve the Lord with fear. By trusting to their elevated station, they flatter themselves that they are loosed from the laws which bind the rest of mankind; and the pride of this so greatly blinds them as to make them think it beneath them to submit even to God. The Psalmist therefore, tells them, that until they have learned to fear him, they are destitute of all right understanding. (Commentary on Psalm 2:10-11)

Calvin saw God’s providential hand leading the nations. Up until this past generation, a great number of Americans did too. However, we have eliminated references from God in our schools. Where before we were taught that God’s hand led the country through thick and thin, now we are not taught about God at all. In fact, we have eliminated even the mere mention that at least these great leaders believed God’s providence was leading them. They need to “Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling” (2:11).
We have been so caught up in the sin of great leaders, that we forget that God uses sinners to achieve his purposes (including ourselves). I also believe God guides everyone in his providence- not just me, and not just our nation. Calvin was big on saying God’s providence and blessing are not restricted to believers- making his rain to fall and sun to shine on the just and unjust. Calvin said that we could look back on our own lives and see God’s providential hand guiding us. Having said that, let’s take a mini-stroll down America’s providential lane. Columbus believed God was guiding him. Columbus later became corrupted by greed, and lust for honor, but at first he appeared to believe strongly in God’s providential hand. He had told his rebellious crew they would turn back in three days. On the third day they saw a reed floating in the ocean- a sign of land, and soon afterwards found land. When he landed he named the land “San Salvador” (holy savior) because he believed God had led him there. Many came to America (Puritans, Pilgrims, Huguenots, Baptists) to escape religious persecution but also to set up a "city on a hill." They believed God led them to America.
Thanksgiving is a story of God’s providential care after two years of famine, when they finally learned from an Indian who spoke English, how to grow crops. In Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech he also said (left out of textbooks today), “An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left to us. ..we shall not fight alone. God presides over the destinies of nations and will raise up friends for us. “ Our own National Anthem’s final verse says, “O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war's desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation. Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.' This is where “In God we trust" came from- contra Angels and Demons! The Gettysburg address which laid the ideological ground work for Memorial Day says in part, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate... we can not consecrate... we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it…the great task remaining before us—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government : of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. This is where "under God" came from. Lincoln, though not a strong believer, believed in God's providence and made many references to it. When Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Juen 1987 and told Mr. Gorbachev to "tear down this wall"- he said the Berlin wall could not withstand faith, truth or freedom.” The revolution that defeated communism was in large part a non-violent revolution of faith, truth, and freedom. Madison saw the hurricane that put out the flames the British ignited in Washington as providential. Eisenhower saw the break in the weather at D-Day as providential. Ben Franklin (though not a strong or committed Christian) said, “The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man; and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?” At the very least, we can say that many in our past have seen God's providential hand. A better response would be to look ourselves for God's guiding and preserving hand- not only as a nation but also for us. A belief in providence has given us a purpose, a hope, and strength in the past, and it can do so today. It is one of the reasons behind America's so-called optimism. But if we do not believe God blesses us any more (or even that He can bless), then we tear away the faith that has given us confidence.

Prayer: Your hand guides us, O Lord. Let us see this, and listen to you. Help us and our leaders to submit to your powerful hand, and guide us into what is right.

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