This coming Saturday, we will celebrate the 239th birthday of the United States. It is far more than just the anniversary of an event in time. The opening words and the closing words of the Declaration of Independence have a powerful message for us today.
“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”
There is a recognition that this new nation was on equal standing among the powers of the earth with any other nation on the earth. The basis of that equal standing was not something that other nations gave to them, but something to which God held the title and God gave to them.
Now, go to the end of the Declaration and look how it closes.
“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.”
Our founding document ends with “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.” King Solomon told his son to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NASB)
The men who signed the Declaration were taking action that, from all human reasoning, was doomed before it got off the ground. Great Britain was the most powerful nation on earth. These men looked beyond the limitations of human reasoning to the Highest Authority.
There is a story in the Old Testament of three young Hebrew men who placed a “firm reliance on Divine Providence.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did not bow down and worship a large statue of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. You probably are familiar with the account. Most hear the names and automatically think of the miraculous delivery from the furnace of fire.
Without detracting from the miracle that took place, it is important to also see what happened before the miracle. What happened that sent them to the furnace from which they were miraculously delivered? The conversation between these three men and the king has a powerful message for us today.
When Nebuchadnezzar learned that these three men refused to obey his command to bow before the giant statue, he called for them to appear before him. His first approach was to reason with them by explaining that they really had no choice but to obey.
“Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’”(Daniel 3:14-15 NASB)
Nebuchadnezzar is using a tactic that I call friendly intimidation. He asks, “Is it true….,” as if there must be some misunderstanding. He is graciously offering them an opportunity to make the choice that is best for everyone involved.
This kind of thing happens every day. Public officials especially encounter this friendly intimidation to be on the right side, not make a scene, go along to get along, think of what is best for your constituents.
The response by these three young men reveals a solid foundation that would not be intimidated.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’”(Daniel 3:16-18 NASB)
Six words in this answer reveal a trust and confidence that is larger than the moment they faced. Six words revealed a foundation that would not crack even when hit with the most powerful force of intimidation. Six words – “But even if He does not.”
These six words represent the conviction, not only of three young Hebrew men three thousand years ago, but of the men gathered in that meeting room in Philadelphia 239 years ago. There was no human reasoning on which they could rely. They had only, “a firm reliance on Divine Providence.”
Our nation needs a new breed of public servant. There are plenty of good, nice, pleasant, positive, and dedicated men and women who serve in public office. They are confronted regularly with friendly intimidation. It may be from a lobbyist representing powerful interests, a chance to obtain funding for a project in their community, a position of leadership and influence.
There is nothing inherently wrong in supporting the request of a powerful lobbyist or advocating for a project that benefits the community or being in a position of influence. The foundation cracks; however, when there is a willingness to “lean on your own understanding,” instead of clinging to a “firm reliance on Divine Providence.”
I have been involved in politics for several years now. On more than one occasion I have said what many others have said about seeking a nominee. “I just want someone who can beat …… (you fill in the blank).”
It is perfectly appropriate to desire a candidate who can win. That desire must be tempered and subservient to having a solid foundation that will not crack and will not waver in the face of intimidation – friendly or otherwise.
I want a candidate who unashamedly clings to “a firm reliance on Divine Providence.” If we do not have that, then we do not have anything – even if we win.
I appreciate you taking the time to read my thoughts. Please forward these to your friends and share on Facebook. Also, let me hear from you. I always enjoy hearing back from you and I try to respond when you take the time to write me.