A Religious Exodus
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Thanksgiving Reflections: A Religious Exodus
The guarantee of religious freedom is the foundation of all other freedoms.
[Darris McNeely] This month, November in 2020, is the 400th anniversary of the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, and what is today Massachusetts on the Mayflower, a wonderful story is well-known from American history of 37 pilgrims, as we call them later, coming from Holland, and before that, England, to America, to this new world, looking for freedom, looking to get a new start. It's a fantastic story in the story of the beginning of the United States of America, and those who first came to these shores, believing that they were doing something that was in the pattern of the biblical accounts, the story, especially of the Exodus of the children of Israel, out of Egyptian slavery to the promised land under Moses and Joshua, story well known quite well.
But these people coming from Europe, at that time in 1620, felt that they too were being released from a bondage, where they were not able to worship God according to their conscience. And now, in this new land, they were able to do that. They were actually blown off course. When they landed in what is today Massachusetts, they were really bound for the area of Virginia, and where there was already an establishment, but providentially, many feel they wound up in Massachusetts and there they were able to establish their own colony and culture based on the principles that they came to actually do, which, again, was that of religious freedom.
They looked at a Scripture like that in Exodus 8, where it says that the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go to Pharaoh and say to him," thus says the Lord, "Let my people go that they may serve me." And Moses was telling the pharaoh that let these enslaved Israelites go out into the wilderness to worship Him. The Pilgrims felt they were coming into the wilderness of a new land, in order to worship God. And this was their founding principle and founding idea. Those same 37 men and women had actually before they ever set foot on land entered into an agreement, they call it the Mayflower Compact, by which they would govern themselves as free, independent individuals in this new settlement.
And so, after them, came many, many others to this land of people fleeing religious persecution, coming here looking for freedom. One historian, Gabriel Salen, said this, "No Christian community in history, identified more with the people of the book, meaning the Israelites in the story from the Bible, then did the early settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who believe their own lives to be a literal reenactment of the Biblical drama of the Hebrew nation." Going on, he said, "They thought themselves were the children of Israel and that America was a promised land. The Atlantic Ocean was their Red Sea. And the kings of England were the Egyptian pharaohs and the ordinance by which they lived there and would live today in this new land was their divine law.
And so, they dramatized their own situation is kind of a religious remnant of the church and saw themselves as instruments of God's guiding hand. And that's literally what they felt. And that's part of the story of the roots of America. It's actually founded in people seeking religious liberty. And what they did there, what others did, frankly opened up the paths of freedom and liberty for eventually, every other person who came to America, no matter the circumstances, slave or free.
As part of the true story, as part of the real story, as part of the important story of the roots and the founding of what later became the United States of America, people seeking religious freedom. When religious freedom is given and guaranteed, that's the basis for every other freedom man might ever hope for. It's important to understand as we think about what happened 400 years ago and as we think about looking ahead, at the season of thanksgiving.
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