My… How Far We’ve Come in 158 Years!
“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” – Isaiah 58:6 (ESV)
Throughout the history of America, presidents and national leaders have encouraged their constituents to turn to prayer and fasting as a means to focus on God and His supreme rule over the country. The Continental Congress in 1779 proclaimed a day of “fasting, humiliation, and prayer, of which Gen. George Washington observed and encouraged his troops to do the same. Washington continued this tradition, as president, connecting the national proclamation to Thanksgiving (a New England tradition at the time) in 1789. John Adams would continue this practice, issuing proclamations of national days of prayer in the spring and fall. Jefferson stopped the tradition because he believed prayer was a personal matter and not one of the state. It wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln reinstated it, that a national proclamation was made. It now is typically annually proclaimed almost as a duty. But the proclamation made by Lincoln in 1863 stunned me… If a president or national leader made such a proclamation today, they would be tarred and feathered in the media, probably sued, but most certainly ridiculed. Take this all in, and consider the president’s knowledge of Scripture and the role of God in our life.
“Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. (emphasis added) We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.” – Abraham Lincoln (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler et al.)
I am one of the first to say that America is NOT God’s chosen people, or nation, etc. There are many in America that are members of such people, sanctified, justified and washed by the blood of Jesus (1Co 6:11). Members of the household of God (Eph 2:19). The “called out” (ekklesia) or church established on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we are mere sojourners here in whatever country we may live in (1Pe 2:11). We are the salt of the earth that gives flavor and preserves God’s creation (Mt 5:13). We are to live as citizens and ambassadors of the greater Kingdom (1Pe 2:9) while we reside in a nation which God providentially maintains (cf. Ro 13:1). Just think of how different our country would be if as a nation we feared God as we used to. If our leaders would lead by example and shine the light of Christ. If the Christians were less influenced by the world and more influential in the world. America certainly wasn’t perfect when Lincoln made that proclamation in 1863, but he certainly tried his best to get her there. We’re not as divided as the country was in 1863, but we’re getting closer. May we remember the greatest authority and always look to His proclaimed will in Scripture as to the way we should live as ambassadors for Christ. – DD