The Red In the Flag Is Blood
April 1st, 1980 @ 12:00 PM
THE RED IN THE FLAG IS BLOOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-01-80 12:00 p.m.
The services this week, and this is the sixty-fourth year that we have conducted them; the services are built around a theme: “God Speaks to America.” It is the first time I have ever done anything that even approached a patriotic series. But I felt in this day of crisis and need that it was pertinent. So I prepared these five addresses. On the platform, in the choir loft back of me, you will find American flags. Each one represents a hostage, either in Tehran, Iran, or in Bogota, Columbia.
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Our flag is passing by!
Sign of a nation, great and strong
Toward its people from foreign wrong:
Honor and glory and courage—all
Live in the colours to stand or fall.
Along the streets there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums;
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Our Flag is passing by!
[“The Flag Goes By,” Henry Holcomb Bennett]
The Red in the Flag is Blood. In the sixty-third chapter of Isaiah—Isaiah 63: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?” An Edomite city. “This that is glorious in apparel, traveling in the greatness of His strength? He that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art Thou red in Thine apparel, and Thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat?” [Isaiah 63:1-2]. He answers, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with Me [Isaiah 63:3] . . .” Verse 5: “I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore Mine own arm brought salvation unto Me” [Isaiah 63:5]. Paint Him red always!
In our text yesterday at noontime—[Revelation 19:13]: “He was clothed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God.” In the life of His flesh [John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16]—paint Him red! In Gethsemane, in an agony of intercession, His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground [Luke 22:44]. When He was crucified [John 19:16-30], there followed the spear that pierced His side, blood and water [John 19:34]—paint Him red! One night beginning at 7:30, here in this pulpit I preached to past midnight. The title of the message was: The Scarlet Thread Through the Bible; the story of God’s redemption in sacrifice and in blood.
And it is thus with our country, our people, and our nation. We were born in the blood of sacrifice. As many of you have, I have visited several times Valley Forge—one of the great historical parks in America. In the middle of the park is a picture. In the middle of the park is a statue, a tremendous bronze statue of George Washington kneeling in prayer. In that terrible winter of 1777, it looked as though the cause of the revolution was lost. And with that little tattered army, George Washington brought his appeal to the God of the nations. Even the footprints of the soldiers in the snow were covered with blood. And the fields of battle where they fought were encrimsoned in blood. These are the men who paid the price for the birth of our nation.
Not only the soldiers who bore arms, but these men who were in members of Congress and in estates able to support the cause of freedom, sacrificed their lives and their fortunes for the cause of liberty and justice. I will not take time to read it. I have here in my hand a copy of a tribute made to the fifty-six signers of the Declaration of Independence which all of you have read. I reread it, bearing in mind the tremendous sacrifice these men made for the birth of our nation.
They were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were dedicated, consecrated, determined men of means and of education. Twenty-four of them were lawyers and jurists. Eleven of them were merchants. Nine were large plantation owners. And when they signed that document, they did so knowing that if they were captured it meant torture and death. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died in the Revolutionary War. Five of the fifty-six were captured by the British as traitors and tortured and put to death. Two of them lost their sons in the war. Another two had their sons captured, and twelve of the fifty-six had their homes ransacked and burned. Typical of them was John Hart who saw his fields and mill laid waste. For more than a year, he lived in the forest and caves. When he returned home, he found his wife had died, his children were vanished, and a few weeks later, he died of a broken heart. These are men who valued freedom more than they valued their lives. Standing tall and straight and unwavering, they pledged, “For the support of this Declaration, with reliance on God, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”
This is where America came from. This is the blood in which we were born. Not only the beginning of our nation is in blood, the red in the flag is blood, but our continuing freedom is bought for us and pledged for us by the blood of the men of our nation. When I was barely thirty years of age, World War II broke out. I was pastor in Muskogee, Oklahoma. In the church was a young businessman, just about my own age. He was one of the first to go. And before he left, marching in the armed forces of our nation, he came by to see me; to tell me goodbye, and that I have a prayer for the blessing of God upon him. And as he talked to me, he said, “If I can go and help to assure you your right and opportunity to preach the gospel, if I die, the sacrifice will be well worthwhile.” Every Sunday night in those services there in that church, in the course of the war, we focused a light on a flag that was placed at the top of the proscenium. And we watched those golden stars representing the men in our church who had lost their lives in that conflict. We saw them multiply, and we prayed for victory for our armed forces, and for comfort and strength to the families of the men who had laid down their lives.
I have never experienced anything comparable to a method that the Navy, the Army, the Marines, the armed forces had in that day. They sent the telegram of the loss of a soldier’s life to the pastor and gave him the responsibility to tell the family that their boy had died. And those telegrams would come to me, always beginning with the same words: “We regret to inform you that your boy has been killed,” and then define the place and the battle action. And to have those memorial services there and in the midst of the war, I came here—and to hold the memorial services here for those men who laid down their lives for us. And the repercussion and the memory of what that young fellow said to me, “If I can help make possible for you the right to preach the gospel, if I die, the sacrifice will be well worthwhile.”
I feel that in the place where I preach. These doors that are open, they are open because of the blood of those men. This unfettered pulpit in which I preach is free to proclaim the message of God because of the sacrifice of those men. And our liberty to express what we feel in our souls and have experienced in our lives and read in this Holy Book is bought for us by the sacrifice of these men. And when I see the door open, and when I look upon this sacred pulpit, and when I think of the freedom to proclaim the gospel message of Christ, I cannot but bow my head in gratitude for their great sacrifice.
David was then in a hold, and the garrison of the Philistines was in Bethlehem, his home [2 Samuel 23:14]. And David longed and said: “Oh that one would give me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” [2 Samuel 23:15]. And the three mighty men, soldiers of David, brake through the hosts of the Philistines, and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem, that was by the gate and took it, and brought it to David: “Here.” But David would not drink. And he poured it out unto the Lord. And David said: “Be it far from me, O God, that I should do this: for this is the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives.” Therefore, he would not drink it [2 Samuel 23:15-17]. I am conscious of that in building this church, in preaching the gospel, in standing back of this pulpit. It is a liberty and a privilege of freedom and open opportunity afforded us by the blood and the sacrifice of these men: the red in the flag is blood.
I close in this brief word of gratitude to God for our redemption and our salvation. It was brought to us and bought for us in the sacrifice of the blood of our living Lord [1 Peter 1:18-19]. Last night was Passover night for the Jewish people throughout the world. That was the night in Egypt when God judged all the people [Exodus 12:29]—not just the Egyptian, but the Israelite—and the death angel passed over, and the firstborn in every household was to die. But if one, an Egyptian or an Israelite, would take the blood of a lamb and with a hyssop sprinkle it on the front of the house in the form of a cross—on the lintel here and on the door posts on either side—the death angel would pass over [Exodus 12:7,13, 22-23]. That is, a life had been forfeited, for sin draws blood: “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23], and “the soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. And either the eldest in that household died [Exodus 11:4-7], or a lamb, a sacrifice, could be offered to God instead [Exodus 12:3-7]. And the Lord, our sacrifice, or as Paul wrote it: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” [1 Corinthians 5:7]. And we have life, and forgiveness, and redemption, and salvation, and an open door into heaven because of the crimson outpouring of His blood [Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19]. I must not forget that.
Nor can life ever be the same—remembering that Christ died for me [1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 10:5-14]. Nor can I ever look upon any soul in this earth and forget, however wretched, however apparently accursed they seem to be, this is a soul for whom our Lord died [1 John 2:2]. And our gratitude to God for making possible our salvation and our life in Him is beyond words. To sing or to express or to preach, O God, how indebted we are. We could never forget. My mother, who sacrificed so much for me, my mother said, “Son, I just have one regret: being buried here in California. I am so far away. But maybe you will never visit my grave.” I said, “Mother, I faithfully promise you as long as I live, at least once a year, I will come to California and stand above your grave and thank God for you.” And when the Lord says: “Do this in remembrance of Me” [1 Corinthians 11:23-26], to break bread and to drink the crushed red fruit of the vine; it is in gratitude and in holy remembrance that we thank God for so great a sacrifice for us.
Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done,
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
But drops of grief can ne’er repay
The debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself away.
’Tis all that I can do!
[ “At the Cross,” Isaac Watts]
Our Lord, it is impossible that we live foolishly and vainly and indifferently when our life, our church, our salvation, our redemption, our homes, our land, our nation, our liberty all have been bought at so great a sacrifice. May we never forget. May we love Thee, serve Thee, through all of the days of our lives. In Thy precious name, amen.
IN THE FLAG IS BLOOD
I. Our nation was born in the blood of
A. Soldiers who bore
B. Men of Congress,
II. Our present freedom paid for by the
blood of sacrifice
A. World War II
1. “The sacrifice
2. Pastor had to
deliver death notices
B. These open doors and
unfettered pulpit (2 Samuel 23:14-16)
III. Our redemption bought by blood of
Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:22-23, Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:20, 1 Corinthians 5:7)
Supper (Luke 22:19)