“God Bless America”

Can God Bless America?

Undoubtedly, many celebrated the recent passing of this year’s Independence Day with the patriotic anthem, “God Bless America”. But, do people really think about the words that they are singing? I confess that I had not really given much thought to the lyrics until I read a little book, which really caused me to question the overall theme of the beloved song.

In the spirit of Independence Day, I recently began reading a book by Pastor John MacArthur entitled “Can God Bless America?”. The title caught my eye immediately as I browsed my husband’s book collection at home, but it was ultimately the dynamic content that kept me reading.

MacArthur begins the book by posing a series of questions that few have dared to ask:

Will God bless America? Can God bless America? Should God bless America? Or is our society on the brink of judgment rather than blessing? Are the recent catastrophes merely harbingers of something worse yet to come?

Given the moral bankruptcy of modern society, it seems fair to ask such questions. Are we fit for blessing, or has our nation forfeited any claim to divine blessing? If God did bless America, what would He be saying about His holiness? What would He be saying about our morality? What would He be saying about our spiritual condition?

Can God bless America without compromising His reputation as a holy God? This is a vital question.

Of course, God can always do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. But when it comes to blessing, he has clearly and repeatedly set down conditions.

Listen carefully to the song, ‘God Bless America,’ and you will see that there is no verse that identifies the conditions for divine blessing. Nor do Americans seem to be opening their Bibles to try to find out what the conditions are. I don’t hear anyone asking, ‘God, what do we need to do to be blessed?’

In fact, to raise that question might be seen by many as serious intrusion. Do the American people really want to know what the conditions are that precede God’s blessing? The sentiment sometimes seems to be, ‘Don’t tell us what to do; just bless us,’ as if God were not suppose to ask anything of us. Many would prefer blessing without any conditions being imposed. Give us protection. Give us safety. Give us freedom. Give us prosperity. Just don’t meddle with our morality… The reproofs, rebukes, and exhortations of God’s Word are simply not what most people today want to hear. They won’t tolerate it (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3).”

Then, MacArthur, in his usual direct approach, answers the question dead-on:

“Frankly, our nation is in no position at the moment to be blessed. We’re actually more likely to be cursed by God.

So is our prayer for blessing futile? I don’t believe it is futile. But we need to understand that a prayer for divine blessing presupposes a willingness to cultivate the conditions under which divine blessing can come.”

He goes on to provide a clear, systematic outline of the biblical conditions for blessing from the Scriptures. The following is a brief summary of his main points, which are drawn from the imperatives of the text, in James 4:7-10:

“7 Submit therefore to God and He will draw near to you.”

  • Submitting one’s life to the Lord through saving faith in Him is the first and primary condition of the Lord’s blessing

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

  • Before we can expect to be blessed by God, we must turn away from the evil that hinders His blessing.

“8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

  • The greatest blessing a believer can know is that which comes from intimate fellowship with the Lord.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

  • The more we repent of our sins, the more intimate our fellowship can be with the Lord and the more we will be blessed.

“9 Be miserable and mourn and weep;

  • As we grow more intimate in our relationship with the Lord, the more we ought to be grievfed over our sins. Lamentation over sins is a necessary condition for true blessing because the more we are grieved over our sins, the less likely we are to pursue them. The less sin we pursue, the more intimate we can fellowship with the Lord

let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom.

  • As we contemplate our sin, it ought to make us sorrowful, sober, and serious-minded. Those who realize their sin and mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4), but the mourning is the necessary prelude to the blessing of divine comfort.

“10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

  • This point summarizes all of the previous… we must humble ourselves before the Lord and be broken over our sin if we are really to receive the Lord’s blessing.

To conclude, MacArthur states, “Can God bless America? Yes, but if we are to be the recipients of His blessing, we must be humble and repentant over our own sin.” Are we?

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About Elizabeth

I am a sinner, saved by grace striving to increase in the knowledge of my Savior and His precious Word each day. The reader should know that there are a few presuppositions with which I approach this blog: 1) I believe in the biblical gospel, which basically purports that all mankind is born under the curse of sin (due to the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden). Therefore, man is separated from God and can have no relationship with God because He is perfectly holy, not even able to look upon sin. Unfortunately, God is also perfectly just and must not only separate Himself from sin, but must also punish it. In order to reconcile man to Himself, God, the Father, sent God, the Son, down to earth to live as a man and take our sins upon Himself on the cross. While on the cross, God, the Son, bore the full weight of the wrath of God, the Father, against our sins in order that we who believe in Him might be set free from the curse of our sin. God, the Son, Jesus Christ, died as a propitiation for our sin in order to appease God, the Father's, holy and just character, redeem us from sin, and reconcile those who believe in this gospel to God, the Father. 2) I am primarily writing to those who already believe in this biblical gospel. In other words, this blog is not focused on evangelizing the lost, but edifying believers. 3) I believe that the Christian Bible is the very word of God. Therefore, it is completely inerrant, infallible, sufficient, and authoritative in the life of a believer.
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One Response to “God Bless America”

  1. Mom says:

    It’s difficult enough for a single person to receive God’s blessing (good job outlining it above, Beth!) – as you know, it would never happen without His Grace and without Jesus and the Holy Spirit working within us, leading us to submission – but it would be impossible, if you think about it, for any nation to receive His blessing. Nations are made up of people and there is no nation that is made up solely of God’s people. God has shown mercy or forgiveness toward a nation due to one man, but His blessing? No (let’s just leave Israel out of this, okay?).

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