Happy Birthday, America

Whenever our circuit through the year comes to July 4, I pause to thank God for this country. And as I do, I recall two inspired realities that are part and parcel of America in my mind.

First are these words I have scribbled at the top of a page in the Apocalypse, the Revelation of Jesus: “The Lord has done more for the United States than for any other country upon which the sun shines” (Ms 17, 1907).

From that hallowed day in Philadelphia, July 4, 1776—when the Declaration of Independence was formally inked into existence with our founding fathers’ signatures—until now, I believe it is true that the sunshine of God’s grace has beneficently shined down upon this land. We even sing it, don’t we? “America, America, God shed His grace on thee—and crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

The historian Jon Meacham, in his book The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels, writes: “. . . America has been defined by its exceptionalism—an understanding of destiny that has also been tempered by an appreciation of the tragic nature of life. . . . We try; we fail; but we must try again, and again, and again, for only in trial is progress possible” (10).

Thus every year when we arrive on the birthday day of America, I thank God for the exceptionalism of this country. But I remember two inspired realities that are tightly woven into my thoughts of this homeland.

The second inspired reality is the dramatic pause between two phrases on the page where that scribbled quotation resides. Describing the lamb-like beast he witnessed in vision emerging as it were out of the barren wilderness of earth, John the Revelator penned these words: “It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon” (Revelation 13:11).

It may be one of the most pregnant pauses in Scripture—that rest or respite between the two phrases “two horns like a lamb” and “spoke like a dragon.” For in that literarily brief pause between those two lines is packed a slice of prophetic history, at this point 244 years of the American story. 

Many have described the two lamb-like horns of this global power as civil and religious liberty, and who would challenge the precedent and model this nation has provided to the world of freedom of conscience, of liberty of worship. Others have described the two horns as symbols of Republicanism (the form of government that embraces those twin liberties) and Protestantism (the form of Christianity that does the same). 

And for 244 years this birthday, America has prided herself in these twin ideals toward which she has striven—though her efforts have not been without great pain and shame at times. Lamblike, like Christ? Who would challenge the place this nation has held amongst those countries that still consider their societal values essentially Christian?

Happy birthday, indeed. But the dramatic segue from this pause after the first phrase to the foreboding “but it spoke like a dragon” is enough to give every earnest student of history and prophecy startled pause. A lamblike power, championing civil and religious liberty, predicted, even divinely prophesied, to undergo so quick and desperate a reversal, it ends up speaking for the dreaded dragon of the Apocalypse (the fallen rebel himself)? How can that be!

Be that as it may, every Fourth of July I pause to remember God’s bountiful goodness showered upon this land we call home, for which I praise Him. And I brood over the stunning reversal America will suffer when earth’s civilization collapses into God’s endgame. How could they be one and the same, lamblike America and the dragon-breathing United States? But even more troubling than the question is the somber realization now you can get there from here.

This is why this holiday I invite you to pray two prayers with me: “God, bless America for as long as You can” and “God, reach America as quickly as You can.” Oh, and “please use me, use us anyway You can to save this land we love.” Amen.