What Did You Do This Past Tuesday?
Tuesday? Oh, yea, it was the Fourth of July.
Yes, it was! America’s Independence Day.
Did you cook out, or have a picnic, or attend a parade or a family reunion? Did you take in some fireworks after dark? Did you watch football on television? I’m okay … just wanted to make sure you were celebrating the 4th, not the 1st (New Year’s Day)!
If all you did was not going to work … well, it is a holiday after all.
Hardly any American doesn’t know what the 4th of July is all about, for it was on that date in 1776 that the colonies declared their independence from England. A freedom that we had to fight for; self-government that would have remained an unfulfilled dream had we not been victorious in the Revolutionary War.
Shooting off fireworks on the Fourth of July is a tradition more closely connected to our second war with England, only three decades after the Revolutionary War ended?
In 1814, the third year of that bloody War of 1812, Francis Scott Key was so inspired by the oversized United States flag still flying majestically over Fort McHenry that he penned the words to a poem he called, Defence of Fort McHenry. Later, he adapted a tune sung mostly by the British (how ironic) to the lyrics. As they say, the rest is history. In 1931, the United States Congress passed a resolution (signed by President Herbert Hoover) officially declaring the song our national anthem … The Star Spangled Banner.
(The Original Flag That Flew Over Fort McHenry)
Did you know that many objected to the Star Bangled Banner becoming our national anthem? To this very day, some say that another song should replace it, because the lyrics glorify war. Former President Obama is one of those. He said: “And the anthem itself conveys a war-like message. You know, the bombs bursting in air and all. I like the song, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing. If that were our anthem, then I might salute it.”
He was serious!
I won’t comment on Mr. Obama’s logic. My only observation to such an objection is to jiggle our memory regarding why Francis Scott Key authored such words as: “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air…” For over twenty-four hours he had a front row seat (on a ship) to the relentless British bombardment of Fort McHenry and the heroism of the Americans to even stay in the fort, let alone repel the British attack.
What the Star Spangled Banner Is Really About
Francis Scott Key didn’t write the poem to glorify war. Right after, “the bombs bursting in air…” comes, “Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
There are four stanzas to The Star Spangled Banner, with the verses in the form of an (eight-line) octave or sonnet; each ending with, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Obviously, whenever our national anthem is played, we sing only the first stanza.
To demonstrate that this poem/song is not about the glory of war, but about the necessary and justified right to fight in order to gain and maintain freedom inherently granted to every human being by God and to acknowledge God as the source of victory when the cause is right, here is the last verse.
Oh! 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 out motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
Others contend that the lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner are too difficult to remember and the melody too hard to sing … the musical range is one octave and one-fifth. For musically challenged people like me, whose range is maybe 1/5 of one octave (barely carrying a tune), I can relate to those opinions. That also includes the lyrics which most of the time I remember, yet from time to time stumble over what, for example, comes after, “Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight…”
Although favoring the fact that the Star Spangled Banner is still a thrilling song steeped in patriotic tradition, I wouldn’t mind too much if another song that stirs our heart and national pride could be America’s anthem. In fact, Hail Columbia and My Country, Tis of Thee, competed with Francis Scott Key’s song for the right to be called our national anthem.
America the Beautiful is a strong candidate. “Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties…”
My personal favorite is one of the simplest, yet most inspirational songs extolling God’s providential guidance alongside of our patriotic love for America. It was written by Jewish songwriter Irving Berlin in 1918 near the end of the First World I. (A few years after George M. Cohen wrote Over There).
It is none other than: God Bless America
I would venture to say that many Americans more easily remember the lyrics and music of God Bless America than the Star Spangled Banner. For Baby Boomers out there … just think of Kate Smith!
God bless America, land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her…
Guide her through what, with what? What comes next?
Thru the night with a light from above.
From where and to what does the light guide us?
From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam.
How does it end?
God bless America, my home, sweet home. God bless America, my home, sweet home.
While we’re in the vein of our treasured musical heritage, why not Lee Greenwood’s more contemporary ballad, God Bless the USA? This moving song awakens our national pride and arouses our patriotic spirit. All the while acknowledging God as the source of our freedom and our brave military men and women defending that freedom to the death, if necessary.
Come on, and sing along:
And I’m proud to be an American,
Where at least I know I’m free.
And I won’t forget the men who died,
Who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up,
Next to you and defend her still today.
‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land,
God bless the USA.
I’m not sure about you; but I got a bit emotional just reading and writing down these songs. And why not? Most Americans get nostalgically nationalistic and lovingly loyal to the land of the free and home of the brave when hearing and singing our national anthem or other patriotic songs.
What Is The Ultimate Freedom?
Obviously, the main theme of this week’s article is not about our national anthem, or what it could be or should be. Rather, it’s about the very essence of those patriotic songs: freedom and what it really means to be free. Which begs the question: What, in the long run, is real freedom? Narrowing that down: Freedom from what? Freedom to do what?
Let’s begin with some of the concepts of free and freedom from Webster’s Dictionary:
Free: “Having the legal and political rights of a citizen; enjoying personal freedom; not subject to the control or domination of another; determined by the choice of the actor or by his wishes (actions); made, done, or given voluntarily or spontaneously…”
Freedom: “the quality or state of being free; the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another…”
Biblical truth gets right to the heart of freedom and what it ultimately means to be free. As much as we the people of the United States—and peoples in other nations who have even a measure of what we have in this country—enjoy our inalienable rights and constitutional privileges of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, absence of tyranny imposed by others is not necessarily what freedom is all about.
“Jesus said to the people who believed in him, ‘You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’
“But we are descendants of Abraham, they said. We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free?’
“Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free’” (John 8:31-36).
Notice that Jesus didn’t remind them that they were, in fact, subjects of the Roman Empire. Or had they forgotten that their ancestors had been exiled into slavery by Assyria and Babylon? To some extent, the Romans (as did the Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks during Israel’s captivity) allowed the Jews self-governing autonomy, but not nearly the independence they had during the glory years of Israel—as the most powerful and successful nation on the earth at that time. Were they in denial that the Romans had arbitrarily appointed the most important position in Judaism and in Judah itself—the High Priest? That the Jews no longer could impose capital punishment on even the most violent of criminals. Only the Roman governor could authorize execution. And there were other restrictions that the people wouldn’t remotely tolerate if they were, indeed, a free nation. Such as: excessively unfair Roman taxes. Talk about taxation without representation!
Jesus could have given them a history lesson why God withdrew his protection of Israel and allowed them to be subjugated by Gentile nations. Which could be summarily condensed into what God said—through Moses and subsequent prophets—would happen to them if they abandoned the Lord their God, and no longer trusted or acknowledged him as the very source of their existence and well-being … individually and as a nation.
He could have reminded them that God’s prophecy as far back as Moses had come to pass, which is why Israel still had not regained total freedom from the succession of Gentile domination since the northern kingdom of Israel was obliterated by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. He could have quoted any number of passages in the Scriptures. Such as:
“But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation. They stirred up his jealousy by worshipping foreign gods; they provoked his fury with detestable deeds. They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God, to gods they had not known before … You neglected the Rock who had fathered you; you forgot the God who had given you birth. The Lord saw this and drew back, provoked to anger by his own sons and daughters. He said, ‘I will abandon them; then see what becomes of them. For they are a twisted generation, children without integrity’” (Deuteronomy 32:15-20).
However, Jesus didn’t judge them or throw back into their faces all the reasons why they were in the condition they were in as Roman subjects. God’s final judgment would (officially at the Great White Throne judgement … See Revelation 20) come later at the appointed time and for what would be the definitive reason: Refusal of Jews and Gentiles alike to accept the New Covenant of Grace prophesied by Isaiah and Jeremiah; a covenant that commenced with and was sealed by the beaten body and shed blood of their Messiah.
Instead, Jesus went right to the heart of the matter: their slavery to sin. Even when the Lord delivered his people from Egyptian slavery, the first thing he did was to show his people that ultimate freedom was from themselves—their personal sins—through the redemptive shed blood of an innocent animal (Passover). Then he rescued them from physical bondage in Egypt.
As Messiah Jesus had told Nicodemus, one of the privileged religious members of the Sanhedrin:
“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil” (John 3:16-19).
As the Saying Goes, “Freedom Is Never Free.”
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that come from a democratic representative republic or at least a parliamentary system of government has never been handed to any nation on the proverbial silver platter. The birth, growth, and preservation of freedom to worship, travel, vote, serve in government, and a host of other liberties bear a high price tag—the blood and lives of our soldiers and civilians.
Yet even this liberty is tarnished by political, social, economic, and racial issues that create deep division, troubling turmoil, debilitating distrust, and sometimes hatred that produces cold wars, hot wars, and civil strife. Even the best of democratic systems can only deal with the symptoms, not the cause of these ills, which the Bible unequivocally identifies as the woeful, unregenerate condition of the human heart.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
The human heart needs to be set free of the sinful nature everyone is born with. A nature that innately generates the wrong things that people do, all of which are or lead to transgressions against our Creator God. A whole host of things like: pride, greed, envy, lies, lust, selfishness—that cause men, women, and children to insist on having their own way no matter if it harms someone else or infringes on and even eliminates the rights of others.
There is a remedy. There is a way of escape. There is a truth that will set us free. There is a life that can triumph over the darkness of physical and spiritual slavery engulfing the entire world.
“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
However, the freedom that the Lord so freely gives to all who believe and receive Messiah Jesus, came at the highest price ever paid.
“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1:6-7, italics for emphasis).
Jesus died for our sins to free us from slavery to and the terrible penalty of those sins—eternal separation from God. He is the just for the unjust. The righteous for the unrighteous. The godly for the ungodly. The innocent for the guilty.
That is why Jesus didn’t come to earth the first time as the Messiah who would deliver his people from Gentile domination and oppression. That would come later, upon his glorious return to establish a Kingdom that monarchs and the common people have longed for, can only dream of, and have tried vainly to establish down through history. A Kingdom led by a truly benevolent and just King … Israel’s Messiah. And also Messiah to the Gentiles.
First, the human heart must be changed.
The Birth and Birthright of the USA and Israel
Long before the United States of America came into existence—a nation that has experienced unparalleled freedom—Israel enjoyed an unequaled independence during the time that her people and kings acknowledged and honored the Lord as their (the) only true and living God.
I’m talking about the freedom that was conceived in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights, which in principle and (more than any other nation) in practice gave birth to political and religious emancipation, national unity (agree to disagree), intrinsic individual equality, and genuine diversity and tolerance. As opposed to the phony tolerance and distorted diversity of so many in our secular society. Whose prejudice against our Judeo-Christian heritage is expressed cruelly in their intolerant and false accusations that Christians are divisive, just because we believe what the Bible says about salvation and morality is true.
The birth of the United States of America is remarkably similar to Israel’s beginning, in terms of our civil and spiritual dynamics and development.
Both nations were founded by men and woman who listened to, sought after, feared (honored, acknowledged, in awe of), worshipped, and gave credit to Almighty God for both personal and national freedom.
What is the one nation in the entire Middle East that flies the American flag, especially on Independence Day?
Easy answer: Israel.
Said Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu at a 4th of July celebration this past Tuesday in Herzliya, Israel:
“This is a great day because on the Fourth of July, all Israelis unite with our American brothers and sisters. It’s our celebration too. That’s because the history of our two countries is remarkably intertwined. The Founding Fathers of America were inspired by the Bible, and specifically by the book of Exodus, by the dream of building freedom in a new Promised Land. And as you stand in the Chamber of the American Congress, you see right across you the image of one man—Moses, with a quote from the Bible.”
(Please see Eye of Prophecy article entitled, America the Beautiful Is Getting Ugly, posted in July, 2016—also during Independence Day week. Among other things you’ll see an in-depth examination of some striking similarities between the birth and growth of the United States and Israel).
Said Michael Oren, former Israeli Ambassador to the United States and current member of the Israeli Knesset: “Other countries in the region don’t waive American flags, they burn them! Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the American embassy is in no danger of violent protestors and where it’s not uncommon to see both Israeli and American flags flying together.”
The Biblical and historical reason for Israel’s demise (before her miraculous rebirth as a nation in 1948 … part of God’s prophetic plan) was summarized in the passage quoted earlier from Deuteronomy. Once Israel became prosperous through abundant freedom given to her by God’s provision and protection (from drought and from her enemies), the people forgot about God. Then they took it one disastrous step further. They foolishly decided that God’s laws restricted instead of protected their liberties. They rebelled against the Lord and began to pursue the kind of faulty freedom that God clearly warns is a U-turn directly back to slavery.
What exactly is this (false and futile) freedom that guarantees bondage?
Among other places in Scripture the answer is succinctly summed up in the following passage:
“Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord and against his anointed one (Messiah Jesus). ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from slavery to God’” (Psalm 2:1-3, parenthesis mine).
When a nation deliberately—especially through its leaders and by legislation—expels God out of mainstream society, then God will withdraw his protection and provisions. He will let them have and go their own way. He will give them what they want—a fake freedom that actually enslaves and imprisons.
History teaches that nations ruled by dictatorial despots and/or totalitarian regimes—whether by irreligious (right-wing) fascists or (left-wing) socialists or by man-made religions (false gods or beliefs) or ecclesiastical systems—began with and continued to boast in some form or another these very words we just read in Psalm 2.
Including, even, the Roman Catholic Church which corruptly dominated many European nations for hundreds of years between 500 A.D. and 1500 A. D, and still exerts inordinate influence over nations and peoples to this day. The ecclesiastic hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church set itself up as the Kingdom of God on earth. Among other deceptive deviations from Biblical salvation, popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests have denied that salvation is by faith and faith alone in Christ Jesus … “the Lord’s anointed One.”
As with Mormonism and other cults, their catechism and sacraments have added to and subtracted from Scripture, and are diametrically opposed to many Biblical truths including:
“…If the law (including good works) could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:21-22, italics for emphasis, parenthesis mine).
One of several absolute universal truths found in Scripture is:
However, even a nation founded on Biblical truths and principles can forfeit God’s blessings and protection (and risk God’s judgment) if the people decide to bite the hand that feeds them, and persist in their wish to, “free ourselves from slavery to God.”
Breaking the Chains from God Is Becoming Less Subtle
Not too long ago, a man by the name of Michael Tate Reed drove his vehicle onto the Arkansas statehouse lawn, crashing deliberately into a monument bearing the Ten Commandments, breaking the monument into pieces. He had done this once before in Oklahoma in 2014.
Well known author and talk-show host Michael Brown—a Messianic Jew—(please see Eye of Prophecy article, Messianic Jews … Who Are They? Published 4-25-15) wrote in a recent article, entitled, Ramming the Ten Commandments: A Prophetic Picture of America:
“It was the act of only one man … but it reflected the sentiments of a growing number of Americans: ‘We do not want the Ten Commandments in our midst, nor do we want the God of the Ten Commandments in our midst.’”
He went on to say:
“In that sense, the destructive act of this individual reflected the attitude of tens of millions of Americans. This is not simply a decreased interest in the Bible and the God of the Bible. This is outright rebellion. Enough with God’s laws and standards. Enough with His moral principles … We will do what we want to do, when we want to do it, and no law—or God—will tell us otherwise. The America we want must have no connection to its Judeo-Christian roots, no connection to the moral values of many of its Founders, no connection to the Scriptures which so influenced their thinking.
“We will worship created things more than the Creator, and we will be full of covetousness and greed. We want our idolatry. We will have sex with whomever we want to, whenever we want to, in any combination and sequence. And if we so desire, we will call these relationships ‘marriage’ and neither God nor man will tell us anything different. We want our adultery. We will kill our babies in the womb if we so choose, and anyone who defies our wishes will be trampled underfoot with derision and scorn. We want our murder. Yes, we will do want we want to do when we want to do it. We declare ourselves free.
Please see Eye of Prophecy article, One Nation Under (the wrath of) God, posted on, of all dates, 7-4-15; in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage. Here are the first two paragraphs of that article, in italics:
Have we slipped over the edge and fallen into the Abyss? Did we cross a line that should never be crossed? Is enough … enough? Did we tip the scales? Have we passed the point of no return? Have we gone too far? These are idiomatic expressions in the form of questions that demand a response to the dismal decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court to approve same-sex marriage. When, in fact, the very concept and institution of marriage bears a built-in natural and supernatural definition that needs no prefix or any other modifier or reason to define or otherwise explain it.
Marriage is between a man and a woman … period. Same-sex matrimony is not marriage … period. There is no such thing as same-sex marriage. In reality there’s also no such thing as “traditional” marriage. Is the institution of marriage a (long-standing) tradition? Of course it is: the most enduring custom of the human race. So much so, that we should never need to refer to it as traditional marriage. We do so only in rebuttal to those who claim that there is an alternative to conventional (conservative, orthodox, straight) marriage.
I’m compelled to quote the following passage because it expresses exactly what is happening in and to the land of the free and home of the brave:
“What sorrow for those who drag their sins behind them with ropes made of lies, who drag wickedness behind them like a cart! … What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter. What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever” (Isaiah 5:18, 20-21).
In his article, Michael Brown quoted one of our founding fathers, Samuel Adams:
“A general dissolution of principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.”
He then concludes his article with:
“Michael (Tate) Reed not only represents that, ‘general dissolution of principles and manners.’ He articulates it in a full, frontal assault, thereby speaking for millions of Americans. We do best to quickly re-erect that Ten Commandments monument and, more importantly, recapture the life-giving beauty of God’s commandments in our own hearts and lives. That is the only hope of our nation.”
I wholeheartedly agree.
In the last part of the Eye of Prophecy article quoted above, I concluded with:
Like never before, the United States of America has defied God himself, by effectively saying that the Word of God is a lie. That has become the real battleground in this country … the absolute, timeless truth of God against the relativism of truth and morality in our post-modern culture.
“…For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 5:24, NASB).
Will this be One Nation under God? Or will our country be One Nation under the Wrath of God?
The choice belongs to us.
And we believers should be reminded of our past, of what Christ has done for us:
“Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But—‘When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit … Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life’” (Titus 3:3-7).
By far, the most common understanding of what it means to be free is the liberty that comes from removal of restraints imposed by one’s own government or another nation’s ruler who attempts to restrict and even deny individual rights.
But there’s a greater, longer-lasting (eternal) freedom that supersedes the rights and liberties legislated by even the best of governments. One that deals not just with the symptoms, but the very source of all the wrongs within and between people and nations.
Salvation is a personal matter between God and the individual. The Lord fully understands (everything) that, comparatively speaking, there are always more people in a city or state or nation that will not choose Biblical salvation (Messiah Jesus). That is their privilege. God gave us free will, and will allow us to choose … whether good or bad, life or death.
Listen to the words of Jesus:
Yet, the Lord also will bless and watch over a nation, “whose God is the Lord.”
What does that mean?
In the shortest, simplest answer possible: For the people (beginning with their leaders) to acknowledge God as the source of their very existence and blessings and liberties. To seek his counsel. To appreciate our freedom, standard of living, military power, democracy; but to ultimately trust in God to provide and protect. In God we trust. And remember to thank the Lord for who he is and what he has done. It’s really that simple.
Another universal precept written not only to believers in God and Messiah Jesus, but to Jews and Gentiles the world over:
“…the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” (Isaiah 64:4).
When we fully grasp the Biblical concept of and emphasis on freedom, we’ll see that people can be truly free even if the state or nation in which they live is not a democracy or republic. It all depends on what an individual ultimately wants to be free of or from. And what they will do with that freedom. The only lasting liberty is found in God and the redemption (from spiritual slavery to the sins that cause physical slavery and oppression all over the world) he freely offers through His Son, Messiah Jesus. A spiritual freedom purchased with the physical blood of the Son of God. A liberating victory over the tyranny and chains of sin; a victory won when Messiah arose from the dead.
With the magnificent prize of eternal life in heaven free from the very presence of sin, sorrow, pain, and death!
Things to Ponder
The United States of America was born on the Fourth of July (1776). What a wonderful thing to have happened. Other than Israel during its glory years under King David and King Solomon, no other nation on earth has ever been so richly blessed by the Lord God.
But did you know that Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 4th of July, 1826, exactly 50 years after our Declaration of Independence. Then July 4, 1831, President James Monroe also died.
I wonder if these seemingly “coincidental” deaths of three United States Presidents on Independence Day might have been a symbolically solemn warning that the death of our independence can become a stark reality if we forget the Lord God’s birth and blessing of this great nation. Or worse: removing all evidence of God’s name and Word from the land of the free and the home of the brave.
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (II Chronicles 7:14).
God Bless America! And all peoples and nations whose God is the Lord.