This Week’s Beacon

God has blessed America from the beginning.  The idea that thirteen small colonies could band together and defeat the British Empire was preposterous. But God blessed, and a new nation was born.

It was hard to believe that people from up and down the east coast could agree on a form of government.  After all, each region had its own economy, its own leaders and its own religion.  Asking the colonists to lay aside their own preferences and develop a national agenda was a stretch.  But God blessed, and the Constitution was written.

The blessings have continued.  The United States pushed westward, and includes territory far from our shores. We’ve survived a Civil War and provided strong leadership through two World Wars.  We host the United Nations, an organization started so that wars won’t.  Americans enjoy a strong economy, a high standard of living, abundant natural resources and beautiful scenery. We’re very blessed.

So blessed, in fact, that some Americans have difficulty remembering that God isn’t an American.  Too many equate patriotism with Christianity and mix political ideology with religious conviction. Sometimes worship loses focus – did you ever find yourself singing The Star Spangled Banner in church?  More than one church camp or conference center has unwillingly hosted a debate: if there’s only one flag pole, does the American flag or the Christian flag fly higher?  

Nine times in the biblical book of Ezra, God is called “the God of Heaven.”  The same term appears in Nehemiah, Daniel and the Chronicles.  All of these books were written during the same period of Israel’s history – as Israel found herself declining in power, becoming a slave to other nations, and then being restored to her homeland.

“God of Heaven” emphasizes that God is not so blinded by his love for Israel, His “chosen people,” that He will allow their evil to go unchallenged.  Israel’s status as the People of God isn’t a license to sin, and God is willing to use other nations – the Assyrians and the Babylonians – to bring punishment upon His Chosen People.   God is the God of Heaven.

The God of Heaven will later use the nations of the world to restore Israel to her homeland once obedience has been learned.  And because the God of Heaven transcends time, He can plan Israel’s release from captivity long before that captivity even begins.  Over 100 years before Israel’s went into slavery, God named the Persian King who would conquer Babylon and grant Israel the right to return to Canaan.  Isaiah 44:28 reads, “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”  In Isaiah 45:1, the prophet continues, “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut.”

God is sovereign.  He rules over all nations, controls all events and circumstances and transcends time.  The God of Heaven rules.

America’s founding fathers recognized this truth.  Benjamin Franklin said, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”  As the first Continental Congress came together in September, 1774, Jacob Duché began the proceedings with a prayer: “O Lord our Heavenly Father, high and mighty King of kings, and Lord of lords, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers on earth and reignest with power supreme and uncontrolled over all the Kingdoms, Empires and Governments; look down in mercy, we beseech Thee, on these our American States…”

God answered and these American States have been very blessed indeed.  But the events of our current time remind us of the bigger picture: God is the God of Heaven.  He’s the God of China, where COVID-19 began. He’s God over medicine and disease.  He’s Lord over the stock market.  He’s sovereign over power-hungry politicians. He’s the God of eternity, the God of Heaven.                  As the Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:10, “…our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.”