As the safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is not only an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him, but a duty whose natural influence is favorable to the promotion of that morality and piety without which social happiness can not exist nor the blessings of a free government be enjoyed; and as this duty, at all times incumbent, is so especially in seasons of difficulty or of danger, when existing or threatening calamities, the just judgments of God against prevalent iniquity, are a loud call to repentance and reformation; and as the United States of America are at present placed in a hazardous and afflictive situation–under these considerations it has appeared to me that the duty of imploring the mercy and benediction of Heaven on our country demands at this time a special attention from its inhabitants.
I have therefore thought fit to recommend, and I do hereby recommend, that there be observed throughout the United States a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens of these States, abstaining on that day from their customary worldly occupations, offer their devout addresses to the Father of Mercies agreeably to those forms or methods which they have severally adopted as the most suitable and becoming; that all religious congregations do, with the deepest humility, acknowledge before God the manifold sins and transgressions with which we are justly chargeable as individuals and as a nation, beseeching Him at the same time, of His infinite grace, through the Redeemer of the World, freely to remit all our offenses, and to incline us by His Holy Spirit to that sincere repentance and reformation which may afford us reason to hope for his inestimable favor and heavenly benediction; that it be made the subject of particular and earnest supplication that our country may be protected from all the dangers which threaten it; that our civil and religious privileges may be preserved inviolate and perpetuated to the latest generations; that our public councils and magistrates may be especially enlightened and directed at this critical period; that the American people may be united in those bonds of amity and mutual confidence and inspired with that vigor and fortitude by which they have in times past been so highly distinguished and by which they have obtained such invaluable advantages; that the health of the inhabitants of our land may be preserved, and their agriculture, commerce, fisheries, arts, and manufactures be blessed and prospered; that the principles of genuine piety and sound morality may influence the minds and govern the lives of every description of our citizens, and that the blessings of peace, freedom, and pure religion may be speedily extended to all the nations of the earth.
And finally, I recommend that on the said day the duties of humiliation and prayer be accompanied by fervent thanksgiving to the Bestower of Every Good Gift, not only for His having hitherto protected and preserved the people of these United States in the independent enjoyment of their religious and civil freedom, but also for having prospered them in a wonderful progress of population, and for conferring on them many and great favors conducive to the happiness and prosperity of a nation.
Given under my hand and the seal of the United States of America, at Philadelphia, this 23d day of March, A. D. 1798, and of the Independence of the said States the twenty-second.
JOHN ADAMS, 2nd President of the United States of America
Many presidents since Adams have called this nation to prayer, and likewise great leaders and rulers around the world have called upon men and women of faith to intercede on behalf of the peace of the world. Among them are Solomon, King of Israel. When Solomon had finished consecrating the temple and offering all the sacrifices, he began to recite the covenant that God had made with Israel hundreds of years earlier when Moses was leading the people. It is the covenant from which the language of today’s expressed verse comes from: if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and heal their land.
In the midst of our current national conversation, which I assume the rest of the world is eavesdropping on, I would like to not just inject this verse as some catch all or remedy for our national angst. Rather, since we have serendipitously arrived at this point in the story of the building of the temple just as we are also electing our next president, I think it is more than appropriate to ask the question: how, if at all, does this verse apply to our current context? So for the next two Sundays I want to explore this if,then clause, what it meant for Israel, and what it means for us today.
First, let’s address this reality: Israel as the nation that God formed from the seed of Abraham Isaac and Jacob is not the same thing as the nation of US America. There may be efforts within our national politic, there may be seasons within our national history, and there may certainly be leaders in our national halls that strive to be representatives of the One True God, but America is not the new Israel. I would contend that role belongs to Jesus who has declared that the Church, worldwide and eternal church, is his body. But I also believe that God is pretty clear throughout the Bible that nations, any nation can be used by God to accomplish his purposes.
Habbakuk 1:5 says “Look at the nations and see! Be astonished! Be astounded! For a work is being done in your days that you would not believe if you were told! And in Acts 17 we read “the God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us.”
So if God desires, and I think He does, to use the US to be his tool in the world, certainly we would want to be a willing tool, and not a rebellious one. That being said, I don’t think God so much needs the US to be a godly nation, as God is calling the Church to be a godly church. And I also think that imperative is not that the church needs the US to be pro-Jesus as much as the nation needs the Church to be as Christ to them.
The Church must first be called to repentance. The people of God, the individuals of the Kingdom must first be humble and pray and seek God’s face before any national change takes place. We can’t legislate morality. We can elect a savior. But we can be yeast. We can be salt. We can be light.
So what does this verse say:
my peoplewhich are called by my name: Isaiah 43- But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.
Reversal within the prophecy of Hosea: from “You are not my people” to “Children of the living God.”
(when I hope people don’t think those are my kids)
and pray: Romans 8:26-28 Likewise the spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mid of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.
(would a conversation with a person who told you the same wishlist every time you talked be much of a conversation, or cultivate a friendship?)
seek my face and turn from wicked ways
I really think this is a dual motion, this is repentance. This is turn away from one direction and toward another. Psalm 27- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh—my adversaries and foes—they shall stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident. One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock. Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me! “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face Lord, do I seek. Do no hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O god of my salvation! If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Teach me your way, O lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence. I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”
Isaiah 55 says seek the Lord while he may be found and call upon him while he is near. Let’s pray today. But not just today. Let’s pray on Tuesday. But not just Tuesday. Let’s pray every day. Let’s pray not just for our enemies to understand our way of thinking and come around to our side of things, but let’s pray that our hearts and minds would come around to the Lord’s way of thinking!