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Monday, 4 July 2016

Independence - in the U.S.o A.

July 4th - and celebrations all over the United States of America as they recall the signing of the Declaration of Independence (although that signing did not actually take place until Aug 2nd, 1776!) from Great Britain.  

Perhaps the best-know section of the Declaration comes from the preamble: 
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. 
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."  

Some of those words, by the way, may be considered to be particularly appropriate within the context of the result of the recent U.K. referendum on continued membership of the E.U.!  However, I would also have to contend that the "just powers" of any government are derived, not "from the consent of the governed", but from Almighty God! (see Rom.13:1).

Today, for citizens of the USoA, is a reminder of the liberties that such a people, in general, enjoy. Indeed, all of us who live in "the West" enjoy freedoms and rights that are still denied to millions of people in many countries around the globe!  The problem is that most of us tend to take such things for granted, and display little concern for those who are not likewise blessed!  Often, we insist upon our own rights, and make unfair demands on others without due regard for their interests and welfare!  However, is it not true that few of us are concerned about the rights of Almighty God?

In the book of the prophet Isaiah, is a song that pictures the nation of Israel as YHWH's vineyard.  It contains these words: "... He looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes." (Isa 5:2).  The song teaches us that God has a right to expect love, worship, obedience, and willing service from those whom He blesses. Sadly, like those in Isaiah's day, most of us show little gratitude, but flagrantly break His laws.  When we do so, God has the right to act in judgement - and the histories of the nations reveal that whenever they choose to deny His existence, and reject his Word, they do indeed reap a bitter harvest.

Disciples of Jesus, at least, surely need to recognise that He is the Lord of the vineyard, and expects us - as He expected the Children of Israel - to produce "... the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law." (Gal 5:22-24).

It is interesting that it is in Isaiah 5 that we find words that I have seen quoted, frequently, in recent months: "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!" (5:20).

Dr Jim Denison, in his "CulturalCommentary" for today ends with these words: "The greatest gift we can give our nation is to help her citizens be people God can bless. So let's choose to reverence God and place our hope in his love. Let's pray for others to do the same. And let's pray what we sing: "God bless America." Today and every day, to the glory of our Lord."  Let even those of us who are not citizens of the USoA pray for our own nations; and let us not forget the rights of God!

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