A Nation's Greatest Strength
The book of Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, was written about the downfall of a nation (Edom). The same things that led to Edom’s fall will lead to the downfall of any nation. For the Edomites, we find no record of God. They claimed no allegiance to a god of any kind. “They were the very embodiment then of practical defiant godlessness, expressing itself in the deification of self, and the conviction that self was sufficient . . .” (Morgan 56). In our nation today, God has been taken out of the public classroom, and other like situations, because He has been taken out of life (cf. Rom. 1:25). God told Edom, “I will bring you down” because of its godlessness (Obad. 4). He will bring down any nation characterized by the same attitude (Prov. 16:18). Their self-sufficiency had brought them to a state of misplaced security. They had built a city (Petra), which they thought was impregnable. It now lies in ruins. We need to see that the strength of our nation lies not in nuclear warheads or other high tech defense systems (as important and impressive as these might be), but our ultimate strength must be in spiritual qualities. Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!” (Isa. 31:1). “RIGHTEOUSNESS exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34, emp. added).
Abraham Lincoln was elected the sixteenth President of the United States on November 6, 1860. February 11, 1861, he departed from his home at Springfield, IL, on a train trip that would take him across Ohio, western Pennsylvania, New York state, and on to Washington, D.C. Prior to his departure, Lincoln gave a brief, impromptu speech of farewell to a crowd of about one thousand that had assembled at the train depot. He said:
. . . I now leave, not knowing when or whether ever I may return, with a task before me greater than that which rested upon Washington. Without the assistance of that Divine Being who ever attended him, I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell. (qtd in Appelbaum 52)
Lincoln believed deeply in the presence of God. He spoke of how He “ever attended” President Washington, and that he was “trusting in Him who can go with me.” The Psalmist asked, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Ps. 139:7). Lincoln believed in the providence of God. He affirmed that God is “everywhere for good,” and he affirmed his confident “hope that all will yet be well.” God’s beneficent provide-ence is real and ongoing (cf. Gen. 50:20; Rom. 8:28). Lincoln believed in prayer to God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude he declared the Proclamation of National Fast-Day (August 21, 1861). This day of “humiliation, prayer and fasting for all the people of the nation” was “to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace, and bring down plentiful blessings upon our Country” (77).
May we see the need to put God back into the life of our nation before it is too late.
Charles C. Pugh III
Appelbaum, Stanley, ed. Great Speeches Abraham Lincoln. New York: Dover, 1991.
Morgan, G. Campbell. Voices of the Twelve Hebrew Prophets. N. D. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975.