Father of the Nations
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 33:10-22
New Testament Reading- Acts 17:26
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -June 27, 2021
How is a nation formed? How long does it take to form? Who makes the rules and the decisions? Who decides how large the territory is going to become? Why even create a nation? There are many questions and just as many answers to all these questions. Each nation is different, but many have similar causes for why it was formed.
The definition of a nation is that it is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular territory. The nation of Israel is a classic example of this. One man, Abraham was chosen and called by God to leave where he was raised and to come to a land unknown to him but chosen for him by God. God created a covenant with Abraham based on his faith and obedience to God. This covenant was passed on to Abraham’s offspring and after many generations a nation was born. In this example the nation is Israel, they are a large body of people that is united in common descent, history, culture, language, and they inhabit, at least at first, the Promised Land. The nation of Israel also had something else in common and it was the true source of all their glory, wealth, and power, God.
God had told them from the beginning that if they remained obedient to Him and followed on His path, they would excel. God would protect them, keep them healthy, bless them with food, and land, and all the things that they would need to thrive in this life, but He also warned them that if they forgot about Him and turned away from Him, God would pull away His protection and His blessings and let the nation fall into the hands of the world. The world and its ruler are cruel and extremely hateful of God’s own. Why do you think that so many awful things have happened to the Jewish people in the course of history? Scripture tells us that the nation of Israel would turn away from God and that they would scatter across the earth, that they would become members of other nations, but that they would always remain God’s chosen, His first born, a nation of people that He loves very much. Not many other tribes of people can claim that kind of kinship, but the Jews are linked together eternally by God and wherever they are, if they so choose, they are bound by that commonality.
The world still hates what is not its own, but when God is for you, who can be against you?
After Christ had finished His earthly mission, He founded the Church; bound together by His love and their love for one another they took up the mission that Jesus had set for them to make disciples of all nations. In the early days, the Church was almost secretive in some regions. Persecution was high, as it always is with God’s people. The world still hates what is not its own, but when God is for you, who can be against you? Christ’s Church has persevered, He has made sure of it. There may be many different denominations, but Christians are linked together through love and their belief that Jesus is the one and only Son of God that died for our sins and was raised to life again. We are also linked by our baptism and every time we share the Lord’s Supper; we are one in Christ. Like the Jews before us we became like a nation in our commonalities and we became many nations, especially in Europe.
In time, many of our ancestors sought freedom. Freedom to live their lives the way Scripture told them to live. Free from a king or a church that they believed was ruled by the king. Free to work hard for themselves and for their communities, not to toil for the nobles ever expanding wealth. Freedom to have land that they could call their own, not land to squat on while the noble class kept all the land to themselves. These hardy people followed their faith to a new land. This was no small step, no guarantees of success or survival. No insurance payouts if things didn’t work as planned. These people had faith though that their prayers would be answered, and that God would not forsake them. Like Abraham of old, they listened when God guided them, and God led them across the mighty ocean to a new land.
Like the Promised Land, God led this people to a land that was not empty but inhabited by people that had been there for a long time. Recently, though, a sickness had wiped out a great multitude of these native people and one native man who had been taken captive to Europe, had returned and found his people dead. This native man had learned English during his captivity and now became a much-needed friend to these new pilgrims from England. He taught them how to grow native vegetables, like corn, beans, and squash. He showed them the best places to fish and to collect oysters and clams. He taught them how to use this land that was new to them in the most efficient ways possible and introduced them to the fur trade. Squanto, as this native man was known, was also most important in introducing and brokering peace between the Mayflower colony and the remaining native tribe. This group of people from England were a hardy lot, but I doubt very highly if they would have lived were it not for Squanto’s help and guidance or the peace he brokered with the native people. This group of people we know of as the Pilgrims and their descendants became an exceptionally large part of what we now call the nation of the United States of America.
Let’s consider now our Old Testament reading today from Psalm 33:10-22, “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth—he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army, no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you"
How do you feel about what we know of the plight of the pilgrims in light of this Scripture? Does it seem like a coincidence that Squanto went through what he did? Or did God use him as a helper that He made sure was uniquely qualified for the task at hand? This is for you to decide. Did I forget to mention that Squanto was saved from slavery by some Spanish Friars and eventually became a Christian himself. Governor William Bradford considered him, and I quote, "a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectation".
Our New Testament lesson in Acts 17:24-28 tells us, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
We are God’s children, and He sets the nations across the whole earth for the purpose of His will and part of His will is to save as many of His children as will listen by accepting Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into their lives. Many times, God has provided for our nation in our times of dire need or sent us as help for other nations in theirs. Could a ragtag militia of farmers and merchants have defeated the most powerful army in the world during the Revolutionary War? Or was it divine providence? In a letter written on September 28, 1789, to Samuel Langdon, President George Washington wrote, “The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf.” And again, he wrote in November 27, 1779, “Whereas it becomes us humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God, with gratitude and praise for the wonders which his goodness has wrought in conducting our fore-fathers to this western world…and above all, that he hath diffused the glorious light of the gospel, whereby, through the merits of our gracious Redeemer, we may become the heirs of his eternal glory.”
“The Man must be bad indeed who can look upon the events of the American Revolution without feeling the warmest gratitude towards the great Author of the Universe whose divine interposition was so frequently manifested in our behalf.” ~ George Washington
Can you feel it now? Can you feel how we are all part of God’s plan. If you thought this nation that we love is only here for our own benefits, think again. God orders all things; He creates all nations for the purpose of furthering His plan. Some say, “Then we are just pawns?” No, we are heirs to the kingdom, but we are in service to our Creator and a wonderful service it is. God has provided us a large country where we enjoy freedoms the likes of which most countries only dream about. Let us not squander that freedom on desires and pleasures alone. Let us never forget that our ancestors fought and died for these freedoms and that Almighty God has provided with His outstretched hand generously. Let us now do our part, we are part of the plan too, you and me. Let us take our freedom and use it to spread the good news of love and mercy of our glorious God and tell all we meet about Christ the King. God Bless America! Thanks be to God. Amen.