As we celebrate again this week the birthday of our nation, it occurs to me that this holiday could, at least in its subtitle, be called Dependence Day.
Sure, back on July 4 of 1776 we did declare our independence from England via the document that bears that name, the Declaration of Independence. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 brave men—many of whom paid a very high price for their arguably treacherous act against England’s King George—this Declaration contains specific reasons the framers sincerely believed their actions were noble and right.
Our framers couched their complaints in the context of what they believed is the source of human rights: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The import of this statement cannot be overstated. It says our rights come from God, not from a king, Parliament, the Supreme Court, the President, or the Congress. Since these rights come from God, no human agency can legitimately take them away from us.
And the results of the Declaration had enormous consequences! The brave men who signed it knew that America was but a fledgling nation with minimal military and economic strength. Yet they had the audacity to shake their puny fists in the face of the world’s greatest military and economic power!
How could they, humanly speaking, have any reasonable expectation of victory? The only possibility is that they had great dependence on Almighty God, who rules in the affairs of men and nations.
Evidence of this dependence on God is found toward the end of the Declaration:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do … declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States…. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Where did this vigorous faith and courage come from? I believe a strong argument can be made from history that the character of the people of that generation had been significantly shaped by the revival fires of the First Great Awakening, occurring a few years before.
And their faith was certainly rewarded. God did come through for them with a decisive victory over the British, despite incredible hardship and great loss of life and property.
Many years later, 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin reminded those at the deadlocked Constitutional Convention how God had helped them in the Revolution and how they needed to seek His assistance in their present crisis:
In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor…. And have we now forgotten this powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?
Over the decades, Almighty God has proven again and again that He truly is America’s “powerful Friend.” In seasons where we have trusted in Him and obeyed His precepts (often in times of spiritual awakenings), we have been the beneficiaries of His merciful blessings and protection.
But, in recent years, it seems we as a people have effectively declared our independence from God, replacing our faith in Him with absolute dependence on our human intelligence, our computer technology, our advanced weaponry, and our economic prowess.
Unless we soon repent and humbly seek and obey Him, what can we expect from a holy God, except judgment? We are already experiencing His remedial judgment, calling us back. If we do not heed this urgent call, the future is bleak indeed.
So, brothers and sisters, let us renew our desperate prayers for revival of the church and spiritual awakening of our land. This is our only hope!