October 14, 2016
From the moment the pilgrims decided to travel to the New World, the group believed they were under God’s Divine Providence, or intervention. After two months at sea, the crew of the Mayflower spotted land. As they steered their ship towards the shore, weather forced them to turn north. Landing in Cape Cod, the “Saints” and “Strangers” found themselves in territory outside of the king’s power. The patent they received before their journey was now rendered void. They were free to choose their own laws and governing principles. Understanding that freedom, they also recognized the importance of working together to survive. Using the Bible as their guide for governing and justice, the Mayflower Compact was produced. (See Thanks Be To God.)
When the founders gathered to write the Declaration of Independence and then the Constitution, the Bible and the Mayflower Compact were their template. The judicial system was modeled after Moses and the 10 Commandments. This was made clear when both were carved into the marble of the Supreme Court building.
The Founding Fathers were definitely guided by God's Word but over time, some forgot who was working for whom. Divine Providence puts you on God's side. Manifest destiny claims God is on your side. We saw this similar confusion illustrated in Joshua 5:
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence.
Joshua’s initial question resembled manifest destiny. For a moment, he thought he was controlling the battle with the angel coming to help him. He forgot he was sent at God’s command. The angel’s answer displays Divine Providence. He was not on Joshua’s side or the enemy’s. He was on God’s side as God was in control.
Divine Providence understands America is blessed by God as long as she follows His purpose for her. God will intervene and turn all towards His good but we should always strive to do His will. Matthew 13:33 could be used to illustrate the idea of Divine Providence:
Jesus told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Through Divine Providence, America could be considered earth’s leaven. Her freedom and liberty would quietly but thoroughly spread throughout the globe, not by her force, but by God’s hand.
Divine Providence led to the idea of American Exceptionalism. The term was derived from French historian Alexis de Tocqueville, who described America as exceptional in 1831 and 1840. This was not meant as superior, but distinct. America was not a country, but an experiment in liberty and freedom. Her government was one never before seen. Described as a “City on a Hill” by others, America’s uniqueness was expected to spread to other nations not through military dominance, but through example. Others would see it and want to be like her.
Two prominent presidents completely turned the nation’s future around at extremely critical points by humbling themselves before God and pleading for his mercy.
During the Revolutionary War, two eyewitness accounts tell of General George Washington on his hands and knees praying.
Washington and his troops arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. They set up camp on land owned by Isaac Potts. He recalled his encounter with a praying Washington as thus:
“It was a most distressing time of ye war, and all were for giving up the Ship but that great and good man. In that woods pointing to a close in view, I heard a plaintive sound as, of a man at prayer. I tied my horse to a sapling & went quietly into the woods & to my astonishment I saw the great George Washington on his knees alone, with his sword on one side and his cocked hat on the other. He was at Prayer to the God of the Armies, beseeching to interpose with his Divine aid, as it was ye Crisis, & the cause of the country, of humanity & of the world.
“Such a prayer I never heard from the lips of man. I left him alone praying.”
Like most Quakers, Potts was a Tory, or British Loyalist. He did not believe the colonists could win against the professional forces of Great Britain. After hearing Washington’s faithful prayer, he realized the colonists would absolutely win because of Divine Providence. He immediately became a Whig, or Revolutionist.
The second observed prayer of Washington was witnessed by Marquis de Lafayette and General Peter Muhlenberg (see Who Among You Is With Me?). According to an article entitled, "The Spur of Monmouth” in The Aldine Press, they came upon the general in a barn on January 17, 1778.
“There it was that in that instant's glance, they saw the Father of his Country kneeling, on some of the hay thrown down from above for later supply to the horses — the cloak cast back from his noble figure, his hat lying beside him, his hands clasped and raised to Heaven, and his closed eyes looking upward as only the eyes of faith and Christian confidence can do, to the Father of Light, whose presence is no surer in the temple than the hovel — nay, whose well-beloved Son had his place of earthly nativity in a stable sheltering far humbler animals than those of this place and presence.”
Jesus told us, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Washington obviously took that direction to heart.
As president, in his first inaugural address, Washington was very clear that if America turned away from God, she would not be worthy of His intervention. Upon that he promised America would always follow God. If she didn’t, he warned that God would withdraw His blessings and protection.
“Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Republican President Abraham Lincoln also recognized the necessity for prayer and God's divine hand during the Civil War. Lincoln was distraught that the war was not going well for the Union, which had lost all but two battles at the time. It was then Lincoln confessed, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”
Both the North and the South believed God was on their side. Then Lincoln figured out what the angel taught Joshua. “My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” He called for A Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer. God saw those who humbled themselves and He intervened. The war completely turned around for the Union. From here to the end, they won all their battles but two. Not only were the slaves finally freed, the young country remained intact. (see Simple Solutions)
Washington and Lincoln recognized Divine Providence. They submitted and surrendered their human desires to God’s will.
Washington understood Divine Providence so well he was able to walk away from the presidency after two terms. He could have been a king if he wanted. The country was his for the taking. But to Washington, America was never about him. He never believed he was supposed to “save” or rule this country. Washington knew it was all God's. He understood he was just an instrument for a short time in God's larger plan. That is why he always turned to God for guidance and strength. (see The Man Who Refused To Be King)
Liberty, Satan cannot stand it when God's people put all their faith and trust in Him. That is why Satan is always working to distort God’s Word just enough that people fall onto the wrong path and away from God’s plan. This is what Satan did with Divine Providence. All he needs is for us to take our focus off of God and put it on ourselves. He accomplished that during Democrat President Andrew Jackson’s administration.
I will explore our country's misguided venture with Satan's Manifest Destiny in next week's letter.
That’s my 2 cents.
GOD'S DIVINE PROVIDENCE