This Nation Under God

This Nation Under God

June 30th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM

Psalm 33:12

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.
Related Topics: Freedom, God, Nations, United States, 1991, Psalm
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Freedom, God, Nations, United States, 1991, Psalm

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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Psalm 33:12

6-30-91    10:50 a.m.


I thank God for America.  And I thank God for you, the great host of people who share this hour in the love of God on radio and on television.  This is the senior pastor bringing the message entitled This Nation Under God.  Our text is Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

With what infinite pride we look upon our native land.  Stretching from side to side, wide as the continent is wide; from ocean to ocean and from shore to shore, a land of charm and strength and beauty; with towering mountains, and broad prairies, and winding rivers, and teeming cities.  Upon a day years ago, the Foreign Mission Board of our communion sent me on a preaching mission around the world.  It is hard for me to realize now that I was gone four months.  And in coming home from the west, crossing the Pacific Ocean, about four or five o’clock in the darkness of the morning, the pilot announced over the P.A. system, “The next lights you see will be those of America.”  Dear God! I can still feel in my soul and in my heart, after those four months of preaching in the other countries of the world and in the other continents of the globe, how I felt in infinite gratitude to God for our native land.

I think of the poem of Sir Walter Scott, “In the Lay of the Last Minstrel”:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,

Who never in himself hath said,

This is my own, my native land!

Whose heart within him never burn’d,

As homeward his footsteps turn’d

From wandering on a foreign strand!

With what infinite gratitude and praise to God do we think of our native America!

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

A flash of color beneath the sky:

Hats off!

Our flag is passing by.

Sign of a nation great and strong,

To ward its people from foreign wrong:

Glory and strength and power, all

Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!

Along the street there comes

A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,

And loyal hearts are beating high:

Hats off!

Our flag is passing by!

[“Hats Off,” Henry Holcomb Bennett]

Our nation was built upon a prayer-answering God.  If you have been in Valley Forge you have seen there an heroic statue of General George Washington kneeling in intercession.  After our Declaration of Independence in July of 1776, the following dark winter in Valley Forge, waiting, facing almost inevitable defeat, in 1777, the general down on his knees, imploring the mercies and the help of God.

Ten years later, in Independence Hall of Philadelphia, fifty-five brave men met together to form the Constitution of this new and God-blessed America.  On the table in front of the presiding officer was a book: one book, the Bible.  A stranger from afar asked a man standing in the company, “Which one is General George Washington?”  And that man replied, “When the assembly goes to prayer, the one who kneels will be General George Washington.”

And in seeking an avenue, an instrument, guarding the rights and privileges of the people against tyranny and oppression, they sought a model in the governments of the world.  They looked to Spain and found there that the rights and privileges of the people were guaranteed by a monarchy.  “But,” said our founding fathers, “if a monarchy can grant rights and privileges, the same monarchy can take them away!”  They turned then to England and found there that the rights and privileges of the people were founded in a parliament.  “But,” said our founding fathers, “if a parliament can grant rights and privileges, that same parliament can take them away.”  They then turned to France and found there that the rights and privileges of the people were guaranteed by a majority.  “But,” said our founding fathers, “if a majority can grant rights and privileges, that same majority can take them away.”  It was then that our founding fathers turned to Almighty God and found in His omnipotent creation we are in God’s sight, rights, privileges, endowments, granted by God Himself; and in His sight we are all created free and equal.  This is the God to whom our forefathers sought in founding the blessings of the Lord upon America.

It is a nation founded upon the Christian home and the Christian church.  There is not a little schoolboy but that realizes that the conquistadores came to America seeking gold; but our Puritan forefathers came to this new land seeking God.  And the nation they built is great because of their consecrated devotion to that same Lord God in heaven.

If a nation was made great by its vast expansion, Siberian Russia would be the greatest in the world.  If a nation is made great by its vast resources, Brazil would be the greatest nation in the world.  If a nation were made great by its vast population, India would be the greatest nation in the world.  If a nation is made great by its ancient civilization, China would be the greatest nation in the world.  But a nation is made great not by its vast fertile acres, but by the men who till them.  A nation is made great not by its vast forests, but by the men who use them.  A nation is made great not by its rich mines, but by the men who work in them.  A nation is made great not by its vast transportation system, but by the people who built them.  As Lyman Abbott said, “America was a great land when Columbus discovered it; but Americans have made of it a great nation”; founded upon God, upon the church, and upon the Christian home.

When I was a teenager, when I was a boy in high school, I won a silver loving cup in a statewide contest of declamation.  And out of those marvelous orations made by the forefathers of our country, none appealed to me so much as that incomparable address by Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution.  He was describing in that oration the secret of the greatness of America.  And he says, standing on Chesapeake Bay he saw there the naval might of America passing before his eyes.  And as he looked upon that display of power and glory, and of the military might that lies back of it, he said to himself, “Surely, surely the greatness of America is found in its military and naval strength.”  Afterward he said he was standing in the halls of our Congress in Washington D.C., and as he saw there the processes of governmental democracy, he said to himself, “No, surely the greatness of America is found in its democratic government.”  Then later he said he was invited to a home of a farmer friend, a Georgia farmer, in his native state.  And after the work of the day, the family gathered together in the home, and his friend, that farmer, opened God’s Holy Word, gathered the family around him, read the Bible, and knelt in prayer.  And the great orator said, as he saw that Georgia farmer kneeling with his family in devotional prayer, he said, “The might and the glory of the naval and military strength of America faded away.”  As he saw that man kneeling in prayer with his family, the congressional halls of democracy faded into the twilight.  And as he looked upon that kneeling man, he said, “Surely, surely, the strength and the glory of America is found in her Christian homes and in her Christian devotion to the great God and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!”  The glory of America is in its devotion to the great Lord God and our Savior.

This brings to us whether or not America shall continue in the love and favor of our blessed Lord.  Whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of the judgments of Almighty God.  Human history is strewn, the shores are filled with the wreckage of great empires and great nations of the past.

I do not know of a more dramatic event in all human history than the celebration of the British Empire of the Golden Jubilee, of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, in June of 1897.  The empire under that glorious queen reached its height; and there in London and in England was displayed in incomparable array the glory and the might of the empire.  The next month, in July of 1897, after the display of that incomparable glory of the British people, and after the recession and the return home of those who had come to rejoice in the blessing of God upon the British people, Rudyard Kipling, the incomparable English poet, wrote and published that immortal poem, the “Recessional”:

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle line,

Beneath whose awful hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine—

Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

[“Recessional,” Rudyard Kipling, 1897]

Whether we live or die lies in the imponderables of Almighty God.

Nor can America live in desecration and depravity.  I can’t believe what has happened to my native land and my own people.  We have drugs I never heard of growing up.  We have drugs to tear our bodies apart.  We have promiscuity to tear our homes apart.  We have crime and violence to tear our cities apart.  We have secular atheism and humanism to tear our schools apart.  We have sodomites to tear our moral fabric apart.  We have religious cults to tear our churches apart.  And we have liberalism to tear our pulpits apart.  Great God! What lies in the days that unfold for our beloved America?

How we need a return to God!  In the schools, Charles.  In the churches, pastor.  In the halls of Congress and state and municipal government.  Lord God in heaven, how we need a revival, an outpouring of the Spirit of God upon our people!

When I was a little boy, I was barely five years old; we were living on a dry land farm in eastern New Mexico, right next to the Texas Panhandle border.  I was standing by my father in the backdoor of the farmhouse that he’d built with his own hands.  As I was standing there, my father began to shout to the top of his voice, praising God.  My father was very quiet and reserved and reticent.  And to hear him shout there the praises of God to the top of his voice was an astonishing thing to me as a little boy.  And I looked up at my father and said, “Daddy, what you shouting about?  What you shouting about?”  And my father said, “Son, look, God is sending us rain.  God is sending us rain.”  It meant food for our hungry mouths; it meant clothing for our naked backs.  “Son, God hath sent us rain.”

O God, for the floods on the thirsting land!

O God, for a mighty revival!

O God, for a fearless sanctified band,

Ready to hail its arrival!

[“Under the Burdens of Guilt and Care,” W. Leslie]

The need of the church is revival,

A freshen of grace from above;

Repentance toward God and forgiveness,

More trusting in Christ and His love.

[from “Abundant Life,” William Leslie]

O God for a great turning back to Thee!

But our nation is made up of its people.  If I do not repent, the nation cannot repent.  If I do not believe, the nation cannot believe.  If I do not confess, the nation cannot confess.  If I am not baptized, the nation is not baptized.  And if I am not dedicated to God, the nation is not dedicated to God.  It must begin in me.

Out of my bondage, sorrow, and night,

Jesus, I come!  Jesus, I come!

Into the glorious liberty of Thy light,

Jesus I come to Thee!

Out of my sickness into Thy health,

Out of my want into Thy wealth,

Out of my sin and into Thyself,

O blessed Jesus, I come to Thee!

[“Out of My Bondage, Sorrow, and Night,” William True Sleeper]

This is God’s call to America; and this is our nation under God.

And to the great throng in God’s house this holy hour, in the balcony round, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Pastor, God has spoken to my heart, and I’m answering with my life” [Romans 10:9-10, 13]; accepting Jesus as your Savior, bringing your family into the fellowship of this glorious church, or answering a call of the Holy Spirit of God in your heart, make it now.  Come now, do it now.  On the first note of the first stanza, come.  Angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life, while we stand and while we sing.