Lincoln: President and Prophet?

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President and Prophet?

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On Feb. 12 America celebrated the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of its most beloved and respected presidents, Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln took office in a time of great crisis. Although the issues are different today, the country he loved again faces great crises that, if unchecked, threaten its survival.

Lincoln was a student of the Bible. As many young men of his time experienced, books were rare and the Bible was often the only book found in many households. Lincoln himself noted of the schoolhouse he attended, “We had no reading books or grammars, and all our reading was done from the Bible” (quoted by Elton Trueblood, Abraham Lincoln: Theologian of American Anguish,  1973, p. 50).

It’s no wonder the Bible shaped his thinking, including how he viewed his country. His words echo those of the biblical prophets.

For example, after the Union’s humiliating July 1861 defeat at the Battle of Bull Run, President Lincoln declared a “National Day of Prayer and Fasting,” calling on the nation to repent and turn to God.

“It is fit and becoming in all people, at all times,” he stated, “to acknowledge and revere the supreme government of God; to bow in humble submission to his chastisements; to confess and deplore their sins and transgressions . . . and to pray, with all fervency and contrition, for the pardon of their past offenses . . . It is peculiarly fit for us to recognize the hand of God in this terrible visitation [of war], and in sorrowful remembrance of our own faults and crimes as a nation and as individuals, to humble ourselves before him, and to pray for his mercy—to pray that we may be spared further punishment . . .”

Lincoln may well have had in mind biblical chapters such as Deuteronomy 28, which describes the blessings God pours out for obedience—as well as the curses that follow when people choose to disobey Him. It’s sobering reading with a strong message for our day.

In one of the darkest periods of the Civil War, he repeated his pleas with a “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day” issued March 30, 1863. His words strikingly fit our day: “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God . . .

“We have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient . . . , too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

President Lincoln wasn’t afraid to tell it as he saw it. He felt a deep responsibility to his country. So do we at The Good News.

Sometimes we receive complaints that we have too much bad news in The Good News. We wish it weren’t so. We wish this nation, and others, were not plagued by the many problems we’ve brought on ourselves by turning our backs on God’s truth and laws. Like Lincoln, we have a responsibility to tell it like it is, and we do. Reading his heartfelt words above, we think he would approve.

Thankfully there is good news to proclaim as well. God has given us the best news possible. But to understand where He wants us to end up and the good that lies in store, we need to realize where we are now—and take steps such as those called for by Abraham Lincoln. GN

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