I was reading the Bible to my 4 year old son the other night, when I noticed at the beginning of this little Gideon distributed Bible were several hymns; two hymns in particular caught my attention: America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) and the Star-Spangled Banner.
First, the Star-Spangled Banner – it is our national anthem, but we only sing the first verse at ball games or when the flag is raised at the Olympics. What caught my attention is the final verse, which reads:
O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!
I bolded certain words that praise the Creator God who “rescued” and in whom we as a nation at one point declared as a motto: “In God is our trust.”
– What does it mean “Heav’n rescued land”?
– Who is this “Power” that deserves praise for rescuing and preserving us a nation?
– Who is this “God” in whom we as a nation once trusted?
What stands out to me is the words “Heav’n” and “Power” start with a capital “H” and a capital “P” – and it is this “Power” that is being praised in the song for rescuing and preserving our nation when we fight for a just cause. The song is not explicitly saying this is the God of the Bible (or more specifically Jesus) but consider these points:
(1) “Heaven” in the Bible and more specifically the Gospels was used interchangeably with “God.” For example, when Jesus says in Matthew 4:17, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” this phrase is used interchangeably with what Jesus says in Mark 1:15, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!”
In Dr. Blomberg’s commentary on Matthew he points out, “The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is a circumlocution for the kingdom of God, reflecting pious Jewish avoidance of the divine name. The expression appears only in Matthew, but it occurs thirty-three times and is largely interchangeable with ‘kingdom of God,’ as 19:23-24 makes clear. ‘Kingdom of heaven’ perhaps refers to the fact that all power and authority in heaven are given to Jesus.” (p. 73)
In other words, if the authors of the Star-Spangled Banner knew this, then could it be they were pointing to the God of the Bible as the one who rescues and who is the Power that preserves?
This leads to my second point to consider:
(2) Notice at the end of Blomberg’s quote that all “power” and “authority” in heaven are given to Jesus. I assume Blomberg is referring to Matthew 28:18-20, in which Jesus says, “All authority and power in heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore go make disciples…”
So could it be that the one who rescues and who is the Power that preserves (according to the Star-Spangled Banner) is referring to Jesus Christ?
This leads to my third point to consider:
(3) Jesus’ name in Hebrew means “Yahweh” Saves = “God” saves (i.e., rescues). Again in the song the Star-Spangled Banner there is a phrase that says, “…may the Heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!” Could it be this “rescue” to “Heav’n” is referring to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s rescue plan to save humanity through Jesus? Could it be the song was referring to our nation being a nation that believes this Gospel?
Second, the song America (My Country, ‘Tis of Thee) has several verses with reference to God. Since this is a super long song with 13 verses I will only point out two, verse 4 and 13:
(Verse 4) Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, to Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, with freedom’s holy light, protect us by Thy might, great God our King.
(Verse 13) Trump of glad jubilee! Echo o’er land and sea freedom for all. Let the glad tidings fly, and every tribe reply, “Glory to God on high,” at Slavery’s fall.
In verse 4 notice it speaks of our “fathers’ God” being the “Author of liberty” and that it is in this song we sing to “Thee” = Him, God. It is also God that Americans were calling upon for protection as the Great God and “our King.” This all these words are biblical words and point toward Jesus Christ being our ruler and King, for the very word “Christ” means “King” and “Anointed One.”
In verse 13 it speaks of jubilee, a biblical word for the release of people from debt and more specifically the release of slaves announced by Jesus. Jesus spoke about this in Luke 4:18-19 (see Isaiah 61:1-3) and declared it fulfilled for His followers in Luke 4:21.
Notice at the end of verse 13 that the hymnist speaks of the abolition of slavery, which is a Biblical concept rooted in the Old and New Testament and ultimately fulfilled in Christ, and that this abolition of slavery would bring every tribe and nation together to say “Glory to God on high.”
My point? It seems our founding fathers of this great nation knew the Bible, believed it, trusted in God, and used God’s ideas rooted in the Bible to form a free nation under God that seeks justice for all.
I never learned the above in public school or even college. It took reading the beginning of a Gideon distributed Bible and knowledge of the Scriptures to put two-and-two together to formulate these thoughts.
Honestly, it makes me sad to think that we sing parts of these songs as our National Anthem or in learning about the Revolutionary War in school, but that we are not taught the full picture.