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Forging a New Nation


It was the beginning of new era in the history of mankind. An otherwise ordinary man in ancient Egypt named Moses, had a meeting with the god of the Hebrew people over a burning bush, in which he was ordered to gather up the enslaved Hebrews and lead them out of Egypt, to freedom.

Alas, Moses did not believe he was up to the task. He was not articulate and he did not have a clue as to what to say to the Hebrew people. "What do I tell them when they ask, who sent me?"

God's reply is as simple as it was profound.

(From Exodus 3:14). "And God said unto Moses, 'I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me.'" ( Note: "I am" translates in Hebrew to "God . . . divine freedom . . . majesty").

In other words, the god of Israel was a god of freedom. What Moses wanted to make clear, was that he was appointed by their tribal god to lead the Hebrew people out of captivity, into a new land of divine freedom and majesty, where they would come to know their God as a great leader of all peoples and nations.

They didn't know it then but the Hebrews had much to learn, and were about to embark on a forty-year journey through an endless desert world, without adequate drinking water, or the plentiful food supply they were accustomed to getting in Egypt. For the children of Israel, it would be a journey of discovery, where they would learn to worship an invisible god who would provide for all their needs, as opposed to the golden idols they had been accustomed to worshipping while slaves living under Egyptian rule. Of course, they were fearful and deeply troubled by this desert crucible they were being put through, and highly skeptical of the man whom their god had chosen to lead them. In time they would be provided with an abundance of water and an endless food supply, and something more -- ten rules their leader would give them to live by. These rules were, of course, the Ten Commandments.

Moses would also institute the world's first democracy (fully 500 years before Classic Greece, and without slavery). It was Moses' father-in-law who suggested the idea. ". . . thou shalt provide out of the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and of tens." (Exodus 18:21).

These rulers were known as the Judges, and rotation in office would be the norm. What this new form of government did was free Moses from the day-to-day cares of his people, so he could concern himself with the direction.and welfare of his people as a whole and (much like our nation's Supreme Court) allow Moses to adjudicate disputes that exceeded the experience and authority of the Judges. It would also teach the people to trust and respect one another, and in so doing foster a new-born sense of equality. About this remarkable time of transformation, one Bible scholar writes: "With the advent of the Judges, the Israelites were, as nearly as can be discovered, the most democratic people of the ancient world."

At the end of their 40-year desert odyssey the Hebrew people would no longer be a loosely bound band of Semitic tribes, but a united national people governed by the rule of law, and worshippers of the one true, universal God.

An account of their journey's end is recorded in the fifth book of the Bible (Deuteronomy 10: 12-14) with these words: "And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all they soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is Lord's thy God, the earth also, and all that therein is."

Fourteen-hundred years later these powerful words would be repeated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.

IN GOD WE TRUST


In the time of our nation's founding, our founding fathers were not only well-read and college-educated men, but dedicated Bible readers too. Indeed, the most quoted book at the Continental Congress of 1774-6 that issued the Declaration of Independence, was the Bible. The same was true twelve years later, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where, again, the most quoted book was the Bible. Indeed, the words "IN GOD WE TRUST" would be printed on American currency.

The founders knew that if the American republic were long to survive, it must be guided by the rule of law, and be comprised of an educated citizenry. To insure that this would happen, the founders--particularly George Washington-- insisted that the government institute public education, knowing full well that an educated citizenry was sure to vote wisely, and to uphold the U.S. Constitution.

Despite their scholarly education and Bible reading, the founders could not stop the southern states from practicing chattel slavery. It was a huge failing that would lead to the American Civil War. However, a dedicated Bible reader named Abraham Lincoln rose to the occasion and after great difficulty, led the northern states to victory, thus ending the conflict, and ending chattel slavery, too.

After the war, there was an appetite in the North to punish the southern leaders, with trials and public hangings. Lincoln would hear nothing of this angry talk, and informed his top general Ulysses S. Grant there would be no recrimination. Period. He also told Grant: "Should (Confederate President) Jeff Davis escape the country, while I'm not looking, that would not bother him."

In our time of ceaseless gloomy news, and distant wars, the only relief I can find is in reading the Bible, specifically what God told the Hebrews at the end of their desert sojourn: "to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all they soul, To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is Lord's thy God, the earth also, and all that therein is."

To these noble words Jesus' Sermon on the Mount would add, "And to love thy neighbor as thyself."

Amen

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