Happy Independence Day! Like many of you, my family celebrates this holiday with a cook-out and fireworks. But do any of us take time to truly remember why we celebrate? I was asked to briefly speak at church about our country’s founding and independence. I didn’t know where to start, so I asked the Lord, “What do you want me to say?” He said, “Tell them I’ve always wanted them to be free.”
Well, this got me to thinking. Adam and Eve were God’s final touch and glory of creation. He prepared everything beforehand, creating a beautiful, lush and perfect garden for them. Their job was to care for it, enjoy it, and share their experience with Him through divine friendship. They were free to live a very abundant life.
You know the story. God gave them access to everything in the garden but told them not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was deceived by the serpent that tempted her to take and eat the fruit anyway. Adam went along with her choice. Sin and its curse entered their lives and all future generations. As a result of sin people became self-serving. God desired that His children live in peace and harmony with each other. Now, there was division, strife and competition for control and dominion; not just over the creatures of the earth, but also over each other. Rather than having freedom, people were bound-up in sin.
I thought of the generations and predictable patterns that followed. When the people were selfish, they turned away from God and to their own ways. They ultimately enslaved themselves. When they repented and returned to God, He had compassion on them and set them free.
People multiplied on the earth until nearly everyone acted only with violence and wickedness (Genesis 6). God sent a flood to wipe out all that He had made except for Noah, the only righteous man, and his immediate family. God offered new freedom to Noah and his family and told them to be fruitful and multiply. While God considered Noah to be righteous, he was still imperfect, with imperfect children. Following the flood, evil actions increased again, especially through the line of Noah’s son Ham.
Then we have Abraham who was another one that wholeheartedly sought God. God brought him out and away from his family to increase and bless him. That sounds like an opportunity for freedom to me! Genesis 12:3 says that all the people of the world would be blessed through Abraham.
Isaac, Jacob and Joseph followed. Many people, through their selfishness and wickedness, tried to destroy Joseph. However, God protected him. Through God’s and Pharaoh’s favor upon Joseph, many were set free from death due to a devastating seven-year drought.
Over the course of time, God’s people fell back into slavery under a different Pharaoh of Egypt for hundreds of years. God brought freedom once again through Moses’ leadership. Moses continually approached Pharaoh for their release. Each time Pharaoh refused to release them, God sent a plague upon the Egyptians as punishment. Pharaoh finally relented after the tenth plague, and the people were freed.
Following Moses, the people asked to be ruled by a king. In this way, they would know and follow the Lord. So the Lord gave them kings. In their humanity, the kings increasingly became power-hungry and self-exalting. The people were again under a slavery of their own making.
God also used women to set his people free. There was Deborah and Jael; two very different but strong women written about in Judges 4-5. Again, because of the sins of the people, they had come under bondage and were harshly oppressed by the king of Canaan. When they turned back to cry out to the Lord, He used Deborah and Jael to free them.
Esther was a trustworthy and honorable young woman who was obedient to her uncle and to God. She was placed in position as a queen and God gave her great favor with the king. She bravely exposed an evil plot meant to destroy her people. Her actions brought about freedom to the Jewish people in her time.
Eventually, under the rule of the Roman Empire, God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save them and set them free once and for all. Although a perfect man, He took the sin and sickness of all humanity upon Himself as He was beaten and hung upon a cross. Recognizing Him as their Savior, many threw off the yoke of Rome and religious bondage and were truly set free.
As the gospel message of Jesus Christ spread throughout the world, many believed incorrect or incomplete doctrines. They again came under the bondage of religion and man-made rules.
Let’s fast-forward to the early 1600’s. In England was a man named William Brewster who poured his time into studying scripture. He recognized the burden that false doctrine and religion had upon the people of England. He began to exercise his freedom in Christ and led others to discover and do the same. The king of England was not happy about this small group of people who were turning others away from his state-run religion, and persecution began.
Brewster and his group stood firmly on the word of God and against the king’s control. Under heavy persecution, Brewster’s group fled to Amsterdam in the Netherlands in search of freedom to live and worship God. The people began to assimilate into popular culture (we all like to fit in, don’t we). Brewster recognized the dangers that assimilation posed to their faith and their families. Looking for a fresh start away from worldly influence, the group fled again to another place. That place was America.
The king of England continued to exercise control over these people and the many others who went to America. He increasingly taxed supplies that were shipped to the colonies, cut off trade, made new laws to place upon the people, and sent troops to monitor and control behaviors.
The American people finally had had enough. When the king refused to let a shipment of tea return to England—rejected by the Americans due to the high tax levied upon it—the people decided to throw a tea party. It was time again to throw off a yoke of slavery that had snuck in through government control. The tea was thrown from the ship into the water and this event became known as the Boston Tea Party. These brave people had traveled to America for the freedom it offered, and they would fight to maintain that freedom.
The American people united together to draft a declaration. The Declaration of Independence, from the tyranny of the king of England, was finalized and established in Congress on July 4, 1776. Read some excerpts from it’s text.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and institute new Government…
…when a long train of abuses and usurpations, …evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government…
…these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved…
So, help us God! He has always wanted us to be free. His ways promote healthy freedom, joy and life. Sin’s ways lead to destruction and death.
As we celebrate the 246th year since the signing of our declaration, it is good to remember what happened to bring us to the point of declaring freedom from tyranny. Take time today to read the declaration and see how we are doing at maintaining our freedom. It is still up to “we, the people,” to choose and fight for freedom. Pray for our country. Let’s act in ways that promote healthy freedom. God made us to be free.