God likes to start small. He loves to build big things out of little things, displaying His awesome power for all to see. That’s why Jesus describes the Kingdom of God in terms of a tiny mustard seed, which becomes the largest of garden plants, with plenty of room for the birds to rest in its branches.
So it is with this country we call the United States of America. God started out small. And we know that God doesn’t love only one country; Jesus did not die only for the sins of Americans. But this country is here because God planned it that way. And He started small.
God established this land of America, a nation in His providence, to be unique in the history of the world. For the first time in human history, there was religious liberty. In so many societies religion was not tolerated or barely tolerated, or the religion of the state was forced upon the people. This was unacceptable. For the first time in the history of the planet, religious liberty as a fundamental right was established.
The nation God established here was a certain kind of country, a nation founded by Pilgrims and Puritans who brought with them an evangelical Christianity. Here was a nation where the Bible was believed and the Gospel preached. Even the Supreme Court stated in 1893, in examining the foundations of our country, stated, “this is a religious people; this is a Christian nation.” Yes, that Supreme Court! As late as 1776, 99% of the people were of this basic religious persuasion.
How did this come to be? Very easily, humanly speaking, we could have been something else. But God determined, by His divine plan and His divine providence, that this nation would be exactly what He set it out to be.
Do you realize, were it not for His providential Hand, the invisible Hand of the Almighty God, we could have been Zoroastrians? That was the pagan religion of the ancient Persian Empire. In 490 BC, when Xerxes reigned from India to Africa, the great and innumerable armies of the Persians landed at Marathon in Greece. The small army of Greece was totally incapable of fending off this massive attack.
But then, it started to rain.
It rained heavily, and the marshes of Marathon were flooded with water, immobilizing the huge armies of the Persians. This allowed the smaller and more mobile Greeks to gain the victory on the land.
Ten years later, the Persians tried again. They sent the full force of their navy against the Greeks at Salamis.
But then, it started to rain.
The great storm that ensued destroyed some 200 Persian ships, and the Greeks delivered the final crushing blow to the Persian advance. But for the fact that God placed His footsteps on the sea and rode upon that storm, the Persians would have swept across Europe. And we would most likely now be Orientals, under the Zoroastrian religion of Persia.
Then too, we could have been Muslims, but for the providential Hand of God. In the 8th Century AD the Crescent flag of Islam waved over the Mohammedan hordes which swept from North Africa into Europe. The Europeans seemed incapable of stopping them.
Finally at Tours in France, the decisive battle was fought. As the cry was given to attack, and the great Muslim cavalry charged forward, a rumor spread quickly that some of their enemy were plundering the camp. Three or four squadrons of horsemen reeled around and rode back to defend the camp. When the others saw them turning, they thought that they were fleeing in retreat. In the resulting confusion, more and more turned until the entire army was in retreat. There was a great rout, the Crescent flag came down and the flag of the Cross waved over Europe. The rumor, by the way, was false.
Some time later the Muslims made another attempt when they sent a great fleet to take Rome. But then, it started to rain! A great tempest stirred up and the entire Muslim fleet was destroyed.
Still another attempt was made centuries before Columbus, when the Muslims sent a fleet to discover what was on the west side of the Atlantic. They sailed through the Mediterranean westward, through the gates of Gibraltar, out into the Atlantic. They would have founded and colonized America.
But then, it started to rain.
A great storm arose before they were very far out into the Atlantic, and the entire Muslim fleet sank in the depths of the sea. It just wasn’t God’s plan for America to be a Muslim nation.
Perhaps America could have been a Latin nation, had the Spanish Armada succeeded against the British. But then, it started to rain, and the British crushed them and became the mistress of the seas. The French also tried to attack the British colonies in New England and claim them as their own, but they too were thwarted by the One who plants His footsteps upon the sea and rides upon the storm.
Columbus, we are told, was the discoverer of America. It that’s the case, why then were we not colonized by the Portuguese or the Spanish, as was Central and South America? Columbus’ ships were headed directly toward the Carolinas, but the crew was growing increasingly restless and mutinous. They planned to throw the Admiral overboard and return to Europe. Suddenly a cry went up that land to the southwest had been sighted. They headed toward the southwest, only to discover a cloud on the horizon. Days later the crew was ready to mutiny again when a flight of birds came over the ship, heading south-southwest. At this point they had been heading for north Florida, but a second correction was made to follow the birds, and they landed at San Salvador.
Who would send some explorers off their intended course with a little cloud and a couple birds? God had a different plan for this nation we call America.
Which brings us to George Washington. Washington made no secret of his Christian faith. He was discovered many times on his knees in fervent prayer, and he had a standing order calling for Christian services every Sunday.
Once during the French and Indian wars, an Indian lay in concealment and leaped up and fired at Washington from only three or four paces away. He missed. Another Indian shot 15 bullets at Washington; he missed 15 times. Washington had two horses shot out from under him (maybe the horses should have had as strong a faith as he did). He had numerous bullet holes in his coat, but he was never once wounded in all of the years that he served his country.
And then there was the famous incident at Brooklyn Heights, when Washington’s army was surrounded on land by the British, and the British fleet lay offshore. There was no way of escape. Washington decided to slip away during the night on every rowboat and sloop he could muster. His officers said they would easily be seen from the British ships and be destroyed. Nevertheless, Washington was determined to go ahead. As they started to embark, a fog rolled in from the sea, totally concealing them. When the fog lifted in the morning, the British discovered that the American army was gone!
We all know the story of Washington crossing the Delaware to attack the British, who had a vastly superior army. The surprise attack occurred during a snowstorm that reduced visibility and concealed the Americans’ advance. The Americans capture a thousand British troops, and lost only three.
Then there was the time that Washington’s army was trapped in Trenton. The ground was muddy from the rain and the artillery could not be moved. The British, seeing the helpless condition of the American army, and the lateness of the hour, decided to call it a night, believing the Americans could not escape. But, during the night, the wind changed and came from the north, and the temperature plummeted. The wet ground froze solid as concrete, and with this new street beneath them, Washington led his artillery away down a side road. By dawn, he had escaped again.
And then came the final battle, at Yorktown. Many people do not realize that when Cornwallis discovered he was trapped at Yorktown with no place to go, he decided to pull a Washington. During that final night, he tried to escape under the cover of darkness by slipping away with his army of small boats.
But then, it started to rain.
A sudden storm came up and swamped them, leaving Cornwallis in utter despair. The next morning, he surrendered.
Indeed, He who planted His feet upon the sea and rode upon the storm had determined that it was neither to be Britain’s state church nor her monarchy that would govern America. America would be a free nation.
Indeed, it is the work of God, who sends clouds and birds and fog and snow, who built this nation. God is the One who raises up winds and waves and storms upon the earth. He is the One who starts the rain. God likes to start small.
Washington once said, “No people have more reason to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand of Him who conducts the affairs of men, than do the people of the United States.” Every step along the way, the advancement of this nations seems to have been distinguished by some act of God. Truly there is a divinity which shapes our ends, and we know who that divinity is: the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God sent His Son into this world to establish His Kingdom among men, to demonstrate His love through the power of His Cross. God sent this nation into the world, to establish freedom through the power of His Hand. All glory to His name and to His providential care for us. God bless America! Amen.