“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
A spider dropped a single strand down from the rafter of an old barn and began to weave his web. Days, weeks, and months went by, and the web grew. Its increasingly elaborate maze caught flies, mosquitoes, and other small insects, providing the spider a daily buffet of bugs. The spider built his web larger and larger until it became the envy of all the other spiders.
One day this productive spider was traveling across his web when he noticed a single strand stretching up into the rafters.
I wonder why this is here? he thought. It doesn’t serve to catch me any dinner. It doesn’t add to my pantry of insects. Concluding that the strand was unnecessary, the spider climbed as high as he could…and severed it. In that moment, the entire web began to fall in upon itself, tumbling to the floor of the barn, taking the spider with it.1
Could we, as a nation, make the same mistake as that foolish spider?
Can a country spin a great web and sever it? Can she grow so successful, so smug, so self-sufficient that she forgets the strong strand that supports her? Could she look from shore to shore, survey her liberty, her strength, and her prosperity and respond, not with gratitude…but arrogance?
Recent actions make us wonder if we are doing just that.
• A verbal prayer offered in a school is unconstitutional, even if it is voluntarily participated in. If a student prays over his lunch, he must do so in silence.
• Schools resist biblical instruction. Freedom of speech is guaranteed to students, unless the topic is religious. The Ten Commandments cannot be hung on the wall of a classroom.
• God’s definition of the family has come under question…even ridicule.
• A movement to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance gains disturbing momentum before being dismissed on a technicality.
A vocal portion of American populace stares at the strand of faith upon which this country hangs and asks: “Why is that there?”
Do the actions of society reveal the state of our regard for God? Is this symptomatic of a national amnesia? We are not the first nation to suffer from amnesia. Israel was prone to forget. For that reason Moses sternly warned them:
“Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and laws. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God…. But I assure you of this: If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 8:11–14, 19, NLT)
National amnesia destroys nations. Forget God and pay a high price. What would our Lord have us remember? What strand would He call us to preserve? Two key ones come to mind:
God determines every detail of every country. He defines all boundaries. He places every milestone. While we applaud Mayflower pilgrims and Lewis and Clark expeditions, they did nothing apart from God’s power.
“He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.” (Acts 17:26, NASB)
God Most High gave the nations their lands, dividing up the human race. He set up borders for the people. (Deuteronomy 32:8, NCV)
God divides His children into people groups, separates His earth into sections, and maps out the boundaries of the nations. Summit conferences don’t shape the geography of countries; God does. Leaders don’t determine the future of countries; God determines the hearts of leaders.
Scripture tells us that “the king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he turns it wherever he pleases” (Proverbs 21:1, NLT). The king may think he calls the shots, but he doesn’t. God holds sway over his throne. The stubborn will of the most powerful monarch on earth is directed as easily as a farmer reroutes a shallow canal into his farm.
Remember the account of Cyrus, king of Persia? When God wanted the Jews to return to Jerusalem, He simply took over the king’s heart. “God prodded Cyrus king of Persia to make an official announcement” (Ezra 1:1, The Message).
When Daniel needed the support of a Babylonian high official, “God [caused] the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (Daniel 1:9).
When the Israelites escaped Egyptian slavery, they were poverty-stricken slaves. God not only set them free, but caused the Egyptians to equip them with supplies. God had said to Moses, “I will see to it that the Egyptians treat you well. They will load you down with gifts so you will not leave empty-handed. The Israelite women will ask for silver and gold jewelry and fine clothing from their Egyptian neighbors and their neighbors’ guests. With this clothing, you will dress your sons and daughters. In this way, you will plunder the Egyptians!” (Exodus 3:21–22, NLT).
Can you imagine? This would be like post–Civil War plantation owners signing their cotton fields over to the slaves. God prompted the Egyptians to act contrary to normal human behavior.
The LORD caused the Egyptians to look favorably on the Israelites, and they gave the Israelites whatever they asked for. So, like a victorious army, they plundered the Egyptians! (Exodus 12:36, NLT)
God manages the hearts of all nations. For this reason David, himself a national leader, prayed: “O LORD, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You” (2 Chronicles 20:6, NASB).
No wonder Paul urged: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1, NKJV).
Such words test our trust. We think of Nero, Stalin, Hitler, and Saddam Hussein. We may wonder why God permits despots and dictators their day. But we can be sure of this: No one rules without His permission. He determines national leaders. And, equally important, God distributes national blessings.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17, NKJV)
Every national privilege can be traced back to the hand of God. If we have liberty, we can thank the One who came to “proclaim liberty to the captives…to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18, NKJV). If we enjoy a robust economy or a high tide of justice, we don’t limit our thanks to senators or the Supreme Court; we thank God. “He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them” (Job 12:23, NLT).
Tally this up. God makes the boundaries. He determines the leaders. He dispenses the blessings. And America exists by the power of God. Can we afford to forget this—can we afford to sever this single, silver strand that supports the whole framework of our republic?
Only at a terrible risk.
“If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods, worshiping and bowing down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 8:19, NLT)
“America,” God says, “you exist by My power.” That’s the first reminder. But God doesn’t stop there. A second reminder commands our attention.
God’s name matters to God. His primary concern is His reputation. “If my people, who are called by my name” (2 Chronicles 7:14, italics mine). God jealousy guards His name. No one will mar or defame His glory. “Before all the people,” He delcares, “I will show my glory” (Leviticus 10:3, The Message). David reminds us that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). God speaks of “every man, woman, and child whom I created for my glory” (Isaiah 43:7, The Message).
God’s primary concern is not our name, but His. Not our glory, but His. Not our comfort, but His cause. God’s ultimate commitment is to His reputation, not ours. Everything, including nations, exists to promote His cause. Recall what God said through the prophet: “I will demonstrate my glory among the nations” (Ezekiel 39:21, NLT).
God does not need the United States in order to advance His cause. He lobbies no country and depends on no government. “No, for all the nations of the world are nothing in comparison with him. They are but a drop in the bucket, dust on the scales. He picks up the islands as though they had no weight at all. The nations of the world are as nothing to him. In his eyes they are less than nothing—mere emptiness and froth” (Isaiah 40:15, 17, NLT).
We may think God exists to bless America. But according to Scripture, America exists to bless God.
Suppose—just suppose—this became America’s prayer and priority: “Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory” (Psalm 115:1). Suppose our elected officials daily asked, How can we honor God in our decisions? How can this school introduce students to God? How can this army promote the name of God?
What if America resolved to simply bless God?
“You’re pipe-dreaming, Max. Why, we have legislators who disavow Scripture and mock morality. A nation that exists for the glory of God? We can’t make it happen.”
No, but God can.
Remember, who manages the hearts of rulers? Who prompts the decisions of kings? God does. With an arch of an eyebrow He can open the coffers of Egypt, alter the policies of Babylonia, bring down a wall of communism. God can change a nation.
For that reason, we must pray—pray with all our hearts—that America would turn back to God.
Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your name;
deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake. (Psalm 79:9)
Dare we apply the filter of 1 Corinthians 10:31 to our government? “Do it all for the glory of God.” Manage budgets for the glory of God. Determine homeland security for the glory of God. Elect officials for the glory of God. Not for the glory of Democrats, Republicans, or Independents. Not for the glory of my crusade or your cause, her race or his gender, but for the glory of God.
When we pray such a God-centered prayer, God answers. “If my people, who are called by my name, are sorry for what they have done, if they pray and obey me and stop their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven. I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NCV).
In 1889 (or so the legend goes), a noted chess master named Paul Morphy attended a dinner party in Richmond, Virginia. During the course of dinner, the master’s attention was drawn to a painting on the wall of his host’s home. The scene portrayed a young man locked in an intense chess match with the devil himself. As the artist conceived the painting, the devil’s next move would claim victory—apparently entitling the evil one to the young man’s soul. For this reason, the devil wore a triumphant expression, while his young opponent seemed at his wit’s end.
After dinner, the famous chess champion walked over to the painting, studying the board and the pieces portrayed by the artist. After several minutes, Morphy turned to his host and declared, “I think I can take the young man’s game and win!”
“Why, that’s impossible!” his host replied. “Not even you, Mr. Morphy, can retrieve that game.”
“Yet I think I can,” the chess master answered. “Suppose we place the men and try.”
As the dinner party formed a circle around the table, the host set up the chess pieces precisely like the ones in the painting. After studying the board further, Morphy turned to the young man in the painting and smiled as if to say, “Young man, I have good news for you. He hasn’t won yet. After the devil makes his move, you will get the final move.”
To the surprise of everyone, Morphy bested the smug opponent in the painting. Victory was snatched from the devil and the young man was saved.
We sometimes feel like that young man in the painting. We see Satan poised to claim victory. We feel something near despair as we watch our nation make wrong turn after wrong turn, wrong move after wrong move. But in the darkest moment God whispers, “I have good news for you. He hasn’t won yet.”
God gets the final move. And we can urge Him to take it.
We can pray.