by Harriet B. Callaway
"God Bless America!" It's an old song that has touched the hearts of Americans for years. We've heard it many times since September 11, 2001. In the wake of the terrorist attack on our nation, we heard it from the steps of the Capitol, sung with passion by our congressmen. We've heard it sung by school children, blue-collar workers, administrators, military personnel, and stay-home moms. We've participated as it's been sung at sports events, church services, and at political gatherings.
And still it seems to be sung with more fervor and passion than at any time since World War II.
More than just a song now, "God Bless America" has the tone of a plea. We know that the God that we have taken for granted for so long is out there somewhere. Yet we wonder if He's really close enough to hear us. Has He abandoned our "Christian" nation? It's as though each time we sing it, we're saying in our hearts, "Please, God, bless America again. We're scared and we need your help."
Is He hearing us? Has God withdrawn His blessing and His protection from us? What will happen next? Does He know, and if so, what is He doing about it?
Maybe we should be asking what right we have to ask God to bless us. Has He obligated Himself to America more than any nation in history, including Israel? There are many promises in the Bible, but America is not mentioned specifically in Scripture because it didn't exist at the time the books of the Bible were written.
God's promises have conditions. One of the primary conditions of His blessing is found in Psalm 67:5-7: "Let the people praise thee, then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God shall bless us. God shall bless us; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him." Are we praising Him?
In Psalm 107 the plea for people to praise the Lord for His wonderful works is repeated several times. Yet we Americans seem to be more prone to complain about what we don't have or don't like, rather than praising God for what we do have.
Another conditional promise is recorded in Deuteronomy 5:33: "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess."
Two promises in that verse are things that Americans seem to seek after: that it may be well with us, and that we may live long in the land of the free. But the condition to the promise is something we shy away from: "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you." We want the promises without meeting the conditions.
Like the children of Israel, we probably will not get our wish. God is a just God who keeps His word. We tell our children what to do in order to receive a reward. If they don't obey and we reward them anyway, we are sending the message that our words really don't mean anything. And when that happens there is much heartache for both parent and child.
But what a wonderful Father who says, "the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them" (Ps. 103:17,18).
What an excellent parent-child relationship occurs when the child obeys and the parent rewards! Of course this is a plan for parents and children. What about those who haven't become children of God? John 1:12 makes it clear that "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God." This is another conditional promise that we can count on. Those who are not yet His children can choose to become so, by an act of their will. Those who have become a child of God by receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior have an obligation to obey Him, and to help others come to that relationship also.
Fellow Americans, it looks as though the future of our country depends on a choice. As God said to Israel: "I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; a blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you this day: And a curse if ye will not obey the commandment of the Lord your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known" (Deut. 11:26-28). Which will we choose: other gods (fame, fortune, fun)? Or the true God-the One who has our future in His hands?
The God in whom "we trust" is waiting to bless us. But are we willing to bless Him? I hope that we, as individuals, will say as David did in Psalm 34:1, "I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth."