Every year America pauses on the Fourth of July to celebrate its independence, the event in 1776 when the 13 colonies separated from England to form the United States of America. It is a day of fireworks, picnics and parades. One person I know reads the Declaration of Independence each year to be reminded of the ideas that led to the country's founding.
Most Americans today little understand the daring step taken by those 56 men who signed the Declaration and set the fledgling nation on a course for war with the world's then-strongest nation.
There was no standing army, no money and certainly no support from allied nations. It was a "David vs. Goliath" situation. The outcome was not certain and there was every reason to believe the rebellion would be quickly put down and the men who signed the document hanged as traitors.
We believe this fulfilled a prophecy in Genesis 48 in which Jacob placed his hands on the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, pronouncing a blessing for the ages.
"God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has fed me all my life long to this day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; let my name be named upon them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth...
"He [Manasseh] also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother [Ephraim] shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations" (Genesis 48:15-16, 19). For more information on this story see our booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy.
God promised that the physical blessings of Abraham would be realized in the modern descendants of Joseph's two sons. History and Bible prophecy show this has been done in the two nations, America and Great Britain.
For many years I have thought about the events of America's Revolutionary War. Every American child is taught the stories of American patriots like Patrick Henry, Paul Revere and George Washington, men who pledged their sacred honor to found the nation. There were issues of politics, taxation and colonization in the mix, but it was a rebellion and war that led to the start of the nation. Neither is the way God works.
Nevertheless, human nature does not know the way of peace; strife with bloodshed is often the way disputes are settled. Such was the case in the separation of two brothers, America (Manasseh) and England (Ephraim), on the way to their destiny.
God determines history
The prophecies of Daniel reveal that God knows the rise and fall of nations, that He establishes or removes their rulers (Daniel 2:21). The apostle Paul told the Greeks on Mars Hill that God "has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings" (Acts 17:26). God knew that America and Great Britain would grow to become great.
But did it have to happen through a bloody war fought between the two? Did thousands have to die in the war between 1775 and 1783 and again in the War of 1812? What if Great Britain had been able to see that it was in its national interest to treat the 13 colonies in a different manner? What if the colonists had been more patient and a method of representation and cooperation toward mutual interests had been able to be worked out? Would not the prophecies have been fulfilled and the resulting nations have been even greater than they became? It is a question to ponder.
History shows us that the two countries each grew into world powers in their respective times and manners. England turned its interest to other parts of the world and during the 19th century grew, or stumbled, as one historian put it, into the largest land- and sea-based empire in history. It was said the sun never set on the British Empire. Queen Victoria at the peak of her reign ruled over one quarter of the earth's inhabitants.
America, once it established itself through a constitution, land expansion and ultimately a Civil War, grew to become the single most powerful nation in the world. Protected by its oceans and stable borders, it grew, unencumbered by conflicts with Europe or other powers.
When the world wars of the 20th century erupted in Europe and Asia, it was the United States that entered to make a decisive difference. America's arsenal proved virtually limitless in those critical events, even while Great Britain was declining as a world power. By the end of World War II, Britain's time of domination was ending, while America's was ascending.
The times of the English-speaking peoples have been a remarkable run in world affairs. With few exceptions, the time of England and America's supremacy has been one of blessing for the entire world. Due in large measure to a strong Judeo-Christian ethic, both nations considered it a moral duty to extend a civilizing influence to the world's poorer developing nations. Yes, there was a material gain to be had, but that does not explain the main goals and policies of nearly 200 years of democratic governments on both sides of the Atlantic.
Perhaps Britain's Lord Palmerston summed it up before the House of Commons in March 1848: "I hold that the real policy of England is to be the champion of justice and right...not becoming the Quixote of the world, but giving the weight of her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks justice is, and wherever she thinks that wrong has been done" (Andrew Roberts, The History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, 2007, p. 6).
America has extended her birthright around the globe through many noble causes. American doctors, more than any others in the world, developed cures for crippling diseases, benefiting the entire world. The quest for knowledge is reflected in the fact that 270 Nobel Prizes were awarded to Americans between 1907-2004.
America's financial blessings have spread to various nations where the seeds were successfully sown in direct fulfillment of Genesis 49:22: "Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall." America and Great Britain together have formed what Roberts calls the "most decent, honest, generous, fair-minded and self-sacrificing imperium" (ibid., p. 648).
But "what if"?
God established Israel to be an example of His laws and way of life. The nations of the ancient world worshipped pagan gods and goddesses of various forms—gods of war and goddesses of fertility. Deuteronomy 28 shows part of Israel's duty.
"Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth...The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways. Then all peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD and they shall be afraid of you" (verses 1, 9-10).
Israel was to have shown the benefits of living by God's laws, statutes and judgments, so that every nation could share in those benefits. Had they done so, this report would have gone around the world as Deuteronomy 4:6-8 describes.
Israel rarely lived up to this challenge. For a brief time under King Solomon, their wealth and power enabled them to play a key role in Middle Eastern affairs. Leaders of other nations, such as the queen of Sheba, came to Jerusalem to see firsthand the glory of Solomon's reign. But Israel finally passed into the dustbin of history because of sin and disobedience to God. God used nations like Assyria and Babylon to punish Israel for their apostasy. Ancient Israel's time on the world stage had passed.
Yet God faithfully fulfilled His promises by raising up the modern nations of America and Britain. But the same requirement to obey God's laws applies to these nations today. The same God will call to account these peoples for their moral sins and mistakes. Unless there is a change of heart and an acknowledgement of the true God, there will be another day of reckoning and even the power of the mighty United States will fade, as Britain's has.
If America and Great Britain had been able to find a better way, completely founded on true godly principles, it is conceivable they would have had a far greater positive impact on the modern world than they have. But for now it is enough to look at the history and understand God has been completely faithful in fulfilling His promises. The prominence of these two nations in modern times is a sign and testimony that God will fulfill His spiritual promises to all nations and peoples as well.
The apostle Paul commented on this as he contemplated the history of his Israelite ancestors. He saw that God had not cast away His people (Romans 11:1). By God's grace, Israel's story did not end. They stumbled but did not fall (Romans 11:11). Salvation has come to all nations, in the sense that God is drawing from all nations to form His Church.
Of course, God hasn't finished with His plan. "Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!" (verse 12). Paul went on to say, "For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?" (verse 15).
In a few verses Paul shows the deep ageless wisdom of God that is beyond human understanding. History and the rise and fall of nations and empires fit within God's overall plan to bring salvation to all peoples. History is not left to the accidents of men and women or to their vain strivings. It follows a well-charted course set from the beginning of time.
Although God allows free choice, He reserves the right to intervene enough to cause His intended final result. He will grant the opportunity for salvation to all peoples. His work and faithfulness to Israel backs up that promise.
But God is not finished with America, Great Britain or any other nation. The good news is that the same kingdom they were to model, the Kingdom of God, will become a reality on the earth. Not through human effort or politics. Prophecy shows God will intervene in world affairs at our greatest time of peril, saving all human life. The glorious Kingdom will become a reality, producing a time of peace, security and abundance beyond any previous period.
So you see, when I take part in my country's Fourth of July festivities, I do so with more than a national celebration in mind. I have a keen appreciation for what God has given to my country and what it means to the world. But I also understand that America's great role is part of something infinitely greater—the plan of God to bring to this world His eternal Kingdom of peace and good will for all. When I sing "God Bless America," I know just how great that blessing is. WNP