PSALM 44:1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. 2 How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. 3 For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them. 4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. 5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. 6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. 7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. 8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever.
Democrats Drop God From Party Platform [emphasis in 1st paragraph original; added in 3rd, below]
[2008:] “We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential.”
Now the words “God-given” have been removed. The paragraph has been restructured to say this:
[2012:] “We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth – the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us.”
Lest any be tempted to focus overmuch on the pride, idolatry, hypocrisy and deep subterfuge behind such an obscene shift in language (a predictable symptom, not cause, of longstanding rebellion), I would urge you to consider how the primary focus of the opposing party is much the same. Each works within its own deceptive frame of reference. Both necessarily give honor and glory to the ultimate American god, Mammon. Each promises a return to material prosperity, differing only on the best mechanisms for achieving it and who is to blame for our “god’s” near-fatal illness. In a very roughly similar context, past the apex of their national wealth, and right on the eve of their destruction and deportation, YHWH said to the Southern Kingdom of the Israelites (Judah):
JEREMIAH 22:21 I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not listen.’ This has been your way from your youth, that you have not obeyed my voice. 22 The wind shall shepherd all your shepherds, and your lovers shall go into captivity; then you will be ashamed and confounded because of all your evil.
In the ‘pragmatic’ interest of not re-electing someone whom I still strongly suspect is the Biblical antichrist, many are being tempted to accept the only ‘realistic’ alternative presented to them. In the interest of ‘practicality’ and ‘realism’ they are being asked to ignore the vast, yawning, flame-tickled chasm between Biblical Christianity and a fantastical Mormon doctrine in which America, not Israel is the real promised land of hidden gold, the office of Eternal Creator is something we can all more or less each aspire to achieving and in which adding to scripture isn’t such a big deal after all. (Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 and Revelation 3:14-22 and 22:18, among others, are all instructive in that vein.)
The Most High Creator God YHWH and His Christ have become mere props for a culture whose values and deepest aspirations look much more like those of Tyre, Egypt or Babylon than any others I can find in the scriptures. (Despite numerous social similarities, I’ll avoid taking a cheap shot at Sodom and Gomorrah, the economy and politics of which we know little about. As Billy Graham has quipped, they may come out better than we at the judgment.)
In the case of each political party in America, a few basic moral precepts and values have been isolated from reverent fear in our deepest soul of of the person-hood of the One Eternal Triune God Who provided the commands which gave rise to such morals — commands given in love, for our good, fulfilled only in the refuge of Christ’s blood.
Ideas like hard work, responsibility and fairness serve as a few of the remaining points around which a deeply fractured and increasingly godless society, can rally, so long as we don’t work too hard to define them precisely. Most preschool playrooms aspire to more. Having become enamored of a fragile ‘tolerance’ essential to the furtherance of our dream of earthly wealth, we have struck a bargain which too often pushes Truth to the side.
As others have chronicled in detail, the so-called American Dream has morphed, over just a few generations, from one of humble gratitude for and joy in God’s gifts of food, shelter, peace and freedom to one of greed, envy and entitlement. The latter terms are most often applied by opposing parties, but they are really the same. Greed and envy enslave one to the cold beast of the market (using people to get stuff). Entitlement enslaves as much or more to the ravenous beast of the government. Both foster servile dependence, just in different guises. The True God and His Christ get relegated to the status of hobby or social club in favor of one’s earthly master-of-choice and his demands.
One case in point is the whole debate which has raged over the president’s comment, a few weeks ago, that business owners aren’t really responsible for their own success. The collectivist lie that “you didn’t build that,” has become a rallying cry for a ‘conservative’ response, deluded into thinking that we did, in our own human strength and great cleverness. (I say this as a current and former business owner myself. Conserving what remains the key question.)
Neither one seems to acknowledge our utter helplessness and need as sinners — our dependence on the Sovereign God Who sent His Son to die for us… the same God Who knew and planned every one of our steps before Creation.
Do we have ‘free will’ and responsibility for our actions? Of course we do, within the context of time’s flow where we’re stuck for the moment. Should we take credit for and pride in the outcomes of those works? We do so at our peril, for our deeds are as filthy rags. Only for those who love God and His Christ (King Y’Shuah/Jesus) do all things work together for good. For those who don’t, even the ‘good’ things, like hard work, thrift and innovation serve only to heap up condemnation. Human pride in accomplishment is meant to be passed on to our Maker for His glory. That which we keep overnight tends to rot like the manna.
Let’s take another quick look at the passage we started with:
PSALM 44:1 O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old: 2 you with your own hand drove out the nations, but them you planted; you afflicted the peoples, but them you set free; 3 for not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them. 4 You are my King, O God; ordain salvation for Jacob! 5 Through you we push down our foes; through your name we tread down those who rise up against us. 6 For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. 7 But you have saved us from our foes and have put to shame those who hate us. 8 In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.
Here is a comment which reader Shad made the other day (blue), and my response (green):
The Armstrong motto is “Invictus Maneo,” which can be translated as “I remain unvanquished.”
Something just occurred to me. Lance Armstrong was stripped of all of his Tour de France titles due to “doping” last week. Neil Armstrong was stripped of his life this past week as well.
The name Armstrong is literally derived as “someone with strong arms”. Thinking about the Arab spring disarming strong leaders, thinking about the sudden destruction of the strong armed land of current day Babylon (U.S. ?).
Good observations, Shad. Thanks. Wikipedia notes that the full motto is “Vi et armis invictus maneo,” which means “By the force of arms I remain unconquered,” indicating one who is placing faith in the flesh — in physical power, violence and military strength. It is a motto of defiance if not rebellion against the God who has said that man has strength only through Him.
The name Armstrong derives originally from one who carried armor for a Scottish king. In the context we’re talking about (America) the question is: Which king is having his armor removed? And what kind of armor are we talking about? Scripture is of great help here.
We know that YHWH has a strong arm. For example, see:
Psalm 89:10 — “Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.”
Jeremiah 21:5 — “And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.”
Clearly, that is not the arm being broken in the parable of Lance and Neil! Instead, take a look at Isaiah 44:9-12, recalling the degree to which America has become a veritable idol factory (and idol exporter) –
All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. 10 Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together. 12 The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.
Water, throughout scripture, is symbolic of the Word of God; e.g., see Amos 8:11, John 4, Ezekiel 47, Revelation 22, etc. Note also in connection with the unprecedented U.S. drought. In other words, this is a picture of someone (or a nation) not relying on the spiritual armor available to us in Christ, as spelled out in Ephesians 6, but on their own idolatrous armor instead.
Ezekiel 30:21-22 also highly instructive in this context.
“I have broken the arm of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and behold, it has not been bound up, to heal it by binding it with a bandage, so that it may become strong to wield the sword. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I am against Pharaoh king of Egypt and will break his arms, both the strong arm and the one that was broken, and I will make the sword fall from his hand.”
Recall how closely BHO was associated with Pharaoh by his supporters on his Egypt trip, the ‘coincidence’ of the Egyptian god of death, Anubis coming into NY harbor on the day that ‘deathcare’ legislation was signed, and how instrumental this administration’s foreign policy has been in enabling the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ in Egypt and elsewhere, and the Islamization and threat to Israel which has come with it.
This all a few days before the right arm of the sand sculpture of Obama at the DNC was washed way by heavy, blowing rains. As if to underline the point, and motivate this post, the man whom I work with coaching, each Fall showed up at practice shortly thereafter with a broken right arm — the result of a hard, fast line drive which he was unable to avoid playing third base in a pick-up softball game. I’ve written before about how, even as a lifelong athlete and coach, there is an element to sports culture which has become deeply idolatrous.
Lance Armstrong’s non-unique desire to win at all costs, and our collective desire to affirm him and many others much like him in that grand lie are just one highly visible symptom of the dark spirit which gives life to a vast, multi-billion-dollar industry taken for granted as ‘good’ if not ultimate in our culture. The following morning, in church, printed in the bulletin well before the DNC sandcastle episode, the the first reading came from Matthew 7, about building houses on sand vs. the Rock of Christ. Go figure.
The big thought wrapping up all of this is simply this: Neil Armstrong, Lance Armstrong, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney all represent, in their own ways, the highest aspirations and achievements of our culture. To varying degrees and again, in quite different ways (and I’m speaking about what each has come to represent, and not about their inner thoughts, which I cannot possibly know, much less judge), they serve as heroic focal points — natural magnets for the violation of the first commandment within a culture already suffused with pride and ambition.
It’s difficult to read scripture honestly and holistically without concluding that ours is a culture increasingly willing — on the margin — to push aside the Truth of Christ and the unchanging Godhead in favor of the promise that we too might also reign on our own little personal mountains of ‘freedom’, if only for a short time in this life. We’d all do well to be very careful about who we worship with our heart, soul, mind and strength –the scarcest resource we have to offer: our time and attention… our lives.