Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, June 28, 2020
On a Hot, Muggy Day in Philadelphia…
By Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: On Shabbat of next week– July 4, 2020– the United States will observe Independence Day. Our nation declared independence from Great Britain 244 years ago– on July 4, 1776– on a hot, muggy day in Philadelphia.
I begin today’s RR even earlier than July 4, 1776. Puritans, fleeing the wrath of Great Britain’s King James I, sailed on the “Mayflower” headed for the Virginia Colony. Storms caused their little ship to veer toward Cape Cod (Massachusetts). While aboard the “Mayflower” in late 1620, they signed the Mayflower Compact (original title: Agreement Between the Settlers of New Plymouth). This Compact stated their intention of planting a colony in the New World for “the glory of God and advancement of the Christian faith.” The Puritans hoped to live pious lives to serve and worship God. They sought freedom from governmental interference, which still burns in the heart of every true American.
Now, advance to the next century. From 1774 to 1789, two Continental Congresses served as the government for thirteen British colonies in rebellion. These colonies formed the original states in the United States and are honored by our flag’s thirteen red and white stripes. These congresses resisted new taxes, especially taxes imposed without the citizens’ representation. Although most colonists did not favor war, war with Great Britain (the American Revolutionary War) commenced in 1775 and continued until 1783. The Second Continental Congress convened in 1775. In 1776, this Congress declared America’s independence from Great Britain. Such a declaration was a treasonable act, and every member of Congress could be hanged.
The First Continental Congress, comprised of delegates from the colonies, first met in 1774 in reaction to the Coercive Acts, a series of measures imposed by the British government on the colonies in response to their resistance to new taxes. In 1776, Congress took the momentous step of declaring America’s independence from Great Britain. Five years later, the Congress ratified the nation’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, under which the country was governed until 1789, when it was replaced by the current U.S. Constitution.
AMERICA’S GENIUS: The United States has had two periods of genius, times Adonai surely smiled on our nation. These periods are:
** Late eighteenth century: A small number of men founded our nation and established its guiding principles. (And, yes, they were all men because women were not invited to participate in government at this time.)
** Mid-twentieth century (1930s and first half of 1940s): the entire nation sacrificed and worked together to overcome the Great Depression and to defeat the Axis Powers– Germany, Italy, and Japan (World War II).
FOUNDERS, FRAMERS: The United States was founded and shaped by two small groups of men, who met in Philadelphia from 1774 to 1789. These two groups are called:
** Founding Fathers– these men created the impetus for the Colonies’ ragtag army to fight the powerful British Crown. By their meeting, they committed treason, for which they could be hanged. (They realized they were committing a capital offense, prompting Benjamin Franklin’s quip appealing for unity: “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”) Among other things, the Founding Fathers created a beautiful, powerful defense of the rationale for breaking ties with Great Britain, “The Declaration of Independence.” Read the text of the Declaration at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/Declaration-of-Independence/Text-of-the-Declaration-of-Independence . At five points in the Declaration, references are made to God. These references are discussed in:
** Framers– after the Revolutionary War was won, the difficult task of creating a government was undertaken by a group of men, the Framers. They were so named because they framed a document, the Constitution, which would define the course for a federal (central) government, for individual state governments, and for the people. This document should serve as a model for governance and for a relationship between government and citizens (the governed). Read the text of the Constitution at: https://constitutioncenter.org/interactive-constitution/full-text . The opening phrase of the Constitution, written in large, bold letters, reads: “WE THE PEOPLE.” Americans should proudly remember that the Constitution– the basis of our government and system of laws– is written and preserved for the people. The Constitution has served our nation admirably well.
Less than a century later (November 19, 1863), President Abraham Lincoln memorialized this relationship between government and people in his eloquent Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. … It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us– that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion– that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom– and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
SIDELIGHT 1: One great, indispensable feature of our Constitution is a system of checks and balances. Our government is divided into three separate Branches of equal power, each Branch exerting checks and balances (oversight and protection against abuse of power) over the other two Branches. The three Branches are: Executive Branch (president and various cabinets); Legislative Branch (Congress– Senate and House of Representatives); and Judiciary Branch (the Supreme Court and lower courts). James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, proposed at the Constitutional Convention of 1789, to divide the government into these three Branches, based on Isaiah 33:22: For Adonai is our Judge [basis of Judiciary Branch], Adonai is our Lawgiver [basis of Legislative Branch], Adonai is our King [basis of Executive Branch]– He will save us! END sidelight.
SIDELIGHT 2: As the Framers concluded their duties in writing a Constitution, they walked out of Independence Hall (Philadelphia). A lady, who has been identified as Elizabeth Willing Powel of Philadelphia, asked one of the Framers, Benjamin Franklin: “Doctor, what have we got? A republic or a monarchy?” Franklin’s response was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin recognized how difficult it would be (as it is now) to keep evil, selfish people from tearing apart the nation.
Never make the mistake of identifying the United States as a democracy. We were created as a republic. A republic is a form of government in which the government is “a public matter,” not the self-serving concern of or owned by a person or persons (for example, a monarchy). America’s republic is governed by certain guiding principles, including: (1) the people assent to being governed by democratic processes (voting); (2) the people elect representatives to act on their behalf; and (3) laws issued and other activities engaged in by the government must be in accordance with the Constitution and laws passed under its principles.
Franklin, through his answer of Mrs. Powel’s question, expressed fear that we Americans may some day lose our republican government (small “r,” not capital “R,” as in the Republican Party). On other occasions, Franklin feared for the future of our nation. For example: Our government was formed with contentious, raucous debate. George Washington sat in an ornate chair, The Rising Sun Armchair. This chair showed half a sun peeking over the top frame. A photograph of this chair may be seen at: https://www.ushistory.org/more/sun.htm . On the final day of the 1787 Constitutional Convention as the last delegates were signing the Constitution, Franklin pointed to the sun on the back of the Convention president’s (George Washington’s) chair. Observing that craftsmen had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a rising sun from a setting sun, he remarked: “I have often in the course of the session looked at that sun behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun.”
Franklin has properly interpreted “America’s sun” as rising for more than two centuries. With all of the problems our nation now faces, is “America’s sun” still rising, or is it beginning to set?
Anyone who loves America should fear for her future. I believe in the prophetic words Adonai has placed in the Bible. I have searched for a Biblical reference for the United States. One of the most powerful nations (most powerful nation?) in the end of the Age would surely be mentioned. I only find three hints that America is so mentioned– and some Bible students disagree with some of my interpretations:
** Is America among the “young lions of Tarshish” who will debate the invasion of Israel in the War of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel 38:13)? (Explanation: Tarshish was land far to the west of Israel– Spain and possibly Great Britain. The “young lions” could represent New World colonies, which were largely established by Spain and Great Britain. Therefore, the United States would be a “young lion of Tarshish.”)
** Is America “Babylon the Great,” which is destroyed for her excessive, irreverent indulgences (Revelation, chapter 18)?
** A nation resembling America is not found in the Tribulation wars leading up to the Battle of Armageddon. Why? America cannot let a good war pass without our center-stage involvement. During the Tribulation, does America remain a strong nation, or has America been greatly weakened?
Read a recently published article, “Trouble Ahead,” by Daymond Duck, https://www.raptureready.com/2020/06/14/trouble-ahead-by-daymond-duck/ . Pastor Duck summarizes some of the many dangers which lie ahead for our nation and world. The Apostle Paul warned us of bad times that would come in the last days (see 2 Timothy 3:1-9). The TLV translates these times as “hard” times. The Greek word, here, chalepos, is usually translated with a greater urgency and severity than shown by the TLV. “Perilous” (dangerous) is a more common translation. END sidelight.
YOUR “ASSIGNMENT:” I could write many, many pages on the subject of the United States’ origin as a nation intended for God’s glory. I will stop writing this RR at this point and let you draw your own conclusions to things I would like to say. I especially want to give you time to read the following WallBuilders article link.
Enemies of Yeshua downplay any involvement of a triune God in founding America. They argue that our Founding Fathers and Framers were atheists, agnostics, or Deists– that is, they were generally not Christians, Believers in Yeshua, or religious Jews. There is overwhelming evidence that these enemies of Yeshua are completely wrong. The men who founded America were mostly deeply devout in believing in and worshiping a triune God.
SIDELIGHT: A Deist believes in the existence of a god, but in few or none of the more special doctrines of Christianity (that is, they do not have Biblical faith). A Deist may accept some of the general moral teachings of Yeshua and other Biblical authors, but denies revelation and any authority of general faith bodies (churches, etc.). A Deist denies that there is a Supreme Being (God), who had or now has interest in the personal affairs of humans. A Deist believes a Supreme Being (God) is distinct and separated from the world and its people. END sidelight.
How do we prove these enemies of the cross wrong? Well, a logical place to start is to examine the writings of these men. Did they express faith in and love for God? Thank you, Raymond, for asking. WallBuilders has collected a sample of quotations from these men. In an article, “A Few Declarations of Founding Fathers and Early Statesmen on Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible,” quotations from these men show that they possessed uncommon faith. Okay, your “assignment” – please read this article at: https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/ .
It is worth your time to read how men of God labored to create a nation pleasing to Him. These men surely listened, as the Ruach HaKodesh led them to found the United States. How we have ruined their noble experiment! How we have ruined their great nation meant to be a tribute and offering to Adonai!
I fear we Americans have reached a “point of no return.” Regardless of how many good intentions we Believers may have, I fear all we can now do is watch our beloved America destroyed. Adonai severely punished His people Israel, when they sinned against Him. Why would we believe that Adonai will not punish His people America, when we sin against Him?
OUT OF LEFT FIELD: Today’s RR is a page or so shorter than usual. Not wishing to let this unused space go to waste, I will take the liberty of making comments that may seem to be disconnected to the topic at hand.
I am dismayed at the violence erupting throughout our nation. Such violence is claimed to protest unjust deaths of black people (Black Lives Matter, etc.), even though the nation is essentially unanimous in decrying the recent, senseless murders of black men. The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech (expression) and assembly, which would include protest marches. But, there is an all-important qualification. Such demonstrations must be “peaceable.” Rioting; burning buildings; looting; assaulting police officers; throwing rocks, bricks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails; and destruction of private and public property are NOT “peaceable” activities and are, therefore, outside the bounds of Constitutional protection. These riotous acts are not protests. They are crimes.
How far will the rioting progress? Many apparently fear it will progress to endanger individuals’ homes. Gun stores cannot keep certain popular home defense ammunition in stock, a shortfall that has been dubbed “the 2020 ammo shortage.”
Whether the riots worsen or subside, national scars will persist. Yeshua warned that a divided nation cannot stand (Matthew 12:25). As I see our nation torn apart, with every vestige of our old culture fair game for destruction, I am reminded of a George Orwell passage in his epic novel about future totalitarianism (“1984”): “Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”
Donald Trump popularized a campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” We Believers should adopt a slogan– perhaps, “Make America Holy to the Lord.” We are told how to make America holy (2 Chronicles 7:14): [Adonai said] “…when My people, over whom My Name is called, humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” Unfortunately, Yeshua and other prophets warned that we will ignore Adonai’s desires in the last days. I do not see America becoming a holy nation. Modern man is like the proverbial dog who returns to his vomit (Proverb 26:11): Like a dog that returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. We Americans and other citizens of the world– fools– always return to our folly of sinning against God. Shalom and Maranatha.