God Of Our Fathers
On July 4th, the United States of America will celebrate its 243rd birthday. Among the hymns that are traditionally sung on or around July 4th is our National Hymn, “God of Our Fathers.” This hymn has been a favorite of mine since I first sang it in the Children's Choir at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas. As I've reflected on the words of the hymn, I've discovered some great truths that all people in general and all Americans in particular should consider and take to heart. Here they are for your consideration.
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand Leads forth in beauty all the starry band Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies, Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise. The first settlers of what would become The United States of America were believers in God. Not just any God, but the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the God who created all things, the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. He is the God that still guards and preserves His wondrous creation. It is to this God that all honor and praise and glory and worship is to be rendered.
Thy love divine hath led us in the past, In this free land by Thee our lot is cast; Be Thou our Ruler, Guardian, Guide and Stay, Thy Word our law, Thy paths our chosen way. The Psalmist declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love” (Psalm 33:12-18). It is God who raises up nations for His purposes and guards and protects them. That's what He did for the people of Israel, and as long as they followed His Word, they were blessed. It was when they forsook His Word, disobeyed His laws, and followed gods who were mere idols that they lost their freedom and their nation. As King Solomon once wrote, “For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure” (Proverbs 11:14). I submit that our nation has at its fingertips “many advisers.” They are the inspired Word of the prophets and the apostles who spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. We as a nation would do well to learn the lessons that Biblical history provides, for, as the adage goes, “those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
From war's alarms, from deadly pestilence, Be Thy strong arm our ever sure defense; Thy true religion in our hearts increase, Thy bounteous goodness nourish us in peace. King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:34, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” War, famine, and disease are all consequences that have come upon this world as a consequence of sin. No nation is immune to these things, yet God has provided an ultimate solution to them. In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law” (Galatians 4:4-5) It is in Jesus Christ, and Him alone, that true righteousness is found. It is in Him alone that we are declared right and just and perfect in God's sight, for He is the One who was perfect for all people and suffered God's perfect justice for sin on the cross of Calvary. This is the true religion that exalts a nation. May God's people pray that it may increase in this country that God has graciously established.
Refresh Thy people on their toilsome way. Lead us from night to never-ending day; Fill all our lives with love and grace divine; and glory, laud and praise be ever Thine!
The book of Hebrews recounts the story of Abraham and how he had been promised a land and descendants that would become a great nation. But his eyes were focused beyond this life. His eyes were focused on a heavenly country. The days are coming when nations and kingdoms will cease to exist. The trumpet will sound, Christ will appear in glory, the dead will be raised, and those who have trusted in Jesus will enter into heaven and enjoy the blessings of eternal life, and those who didn't will suffer the torments of eternal punishment. May God grant that in this great land, we may continue to have the privilege of being refreshed through the preaching and teaching of God's Word. May we continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior, until that day that we are part of that wonderful vision the Apostle John saw: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice, 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10)
May the God of our Fathers: The Father, The Son (+), and the Holy Spirit bless America. Amen.
Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church since October 31, 2004. Married 41 years to Krista. Son Christopher is a Lutheran elementary school teacher in Waltz, Michigan. Daughter Jennifer received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from Ohio State University in June 2010 and currently practices in the Washington, D.C. area. Pastor and Krista Hansell are the proud grandparents of two grandsons and one granddaughter.