Dear readers, we find ourselves in a challenging time as a nation. Our lives have been turned upside down by the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of us are unable to leave our homes, some have lost employment, some are sick, and some of our loved ones have died. We can’t attend public worship. We look for answers from the Bible, from religious leaders, and from government leaders; we hear conflicting news and opinions. Despite these conditions, there is no doubt that God is with us and loves us.
God proved that by sending his Son Jesus to be our Savior. Considering this crisis, might there be something that God wants to say to us? Is there something we need to do? As we open God’s Word and let it speak to us, let’s hear from a significant American from the past. How did he respond to an earlier national crisis? Abraham Lincoln was our president during the dark and difficult days of the American Civil War. Let’s read what he proclaimed in April 1863 and then ponder a few thoughts together.
He being dead yet speaketh (Hebrews 11:4 KJV)
By the President of the United States of America.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.
And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.
And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
…I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace….
What Can We Do?
Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president, could boldly call all Americans to a time of prayer, reflection, and repentance due to the power and influence of his office. What can you do, stuck at home, away from the normal routine of your life?
Scripture certainly reminds us that while God loves us intensely, as a perfect parent, our heavenly Father does permit trials and suffering into our lives to draw our attention, our lives, back to what really matters: loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews (12:5b-6 ESV) reminds us:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Consider how you might examine yourself regarding your personal and professional life, and also as a citizen of your country. Is there something for which you need to repent? Do you find yourself distracted and ignoring the concerns that move the heart of God? Will you join me in praying this prayer from the Psalms?
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24 ESV).
Even if you are unable to go out and resume your normal routine, take this as an opportunity from God to engage in prayer for others, to encourage someone who is hurting, or perhaps to restore a broken or neglected relationship. Follow God’s lead in being his agent of restoration in a time of suffering. You may not be able to leave your home, but you can call, write, or send an email. Your obedience will bring restoration in ways you cannot possibly imagine, yet God, who sees over all, will use you to bring healing where it is most needed.
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