What is Our Civic Duty? Part 1

Jul 10
Civic duty

When America’s Founding Fathers created the U.S. Constitution, they looked to the way God organized ancient Israel’s law in the book of Deuteronomy as their primary source of guidance and inspiration. There were many other sources, 15,000 of them I believe have been catalogued, but by far, they were influenced most by Biblical law because they wanted to reestablish the covenant relationship God had with ancient Israel so that this would be a promised land.

Why did they believe they could do this?

Perhaps it started because they knew Israel with its 12 tribes no longer existed as a nation. They were the children of exiles who came to this country seeking freedom to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience and not to have it imposed upon them by a powerful government. They wanted to receive all the promises God had made to Israel by living God’s law and receiving an inheritance in this land.

Inaugural Prophesy

When George Washington was sworn into office as the first president, a Bible was procured and, according to the library of congress’ record, randomly opened to a page which he then placed his hand upon. Of all pages, it was opened to Genesis 49 and 50, the promises of Israel to his sons. I do not know if the founders considered this or not, but it’s possible they viewed themselves as the fulfillment of this singular prophecy.

Consider they had just finished a war with Britain, the greatest military in the world.

Recall that Washington wrote the Congress something like 50 times after various events telling them if it were not for the imposition of God’s hand on their behalf, they would have lost their objective.

Washington saw God’s miracles in everything, as well he should have. He was a miracle himself being divinely protected and unable to be killed by the enemy.

Understanding this, now read Joseph’s blessing in Genesis 49 with new eyes.

  1. Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: (they left their mother country crossing the ocean/well)
  2. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: (King George made war against the American colonists)
  3. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) (they were victorious and gave God the glory for the victory)
  4. Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: (America is the land of promise and opportunity and the Founders knew this and sought to claim those blessings)
  5. The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (they lived among everlasting hills, the Appalachians, and they were separated from their brethren)

Now I don’t know that they viewed themselves this way, but it’s entirely possible.

Founder’s Beliefs

What do we know about what the Founders believed? We know they were good and wise men whom God raised up to this very purpose. We know our nation was strongly religious.

The denigration of the Founders beliefs is an action to tear down the work they engaged in, and the work they engaged in was one of the most important acts to take place in the timeline of this world.

They viewed it as a solemn duty to God to establish his law in this land and by that law secure the blessings of liberty to their children.

Obedience vs. Tyranny

Isn’t it interesting then, that when a national motto was discussed, Benjamin Franklin suggested our motto be, “rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”

Is obedience to God, rebellion against tyranny? Is that a civic duty of God-fearing people? Is that the path to liberty?

“In God We Trust” eventually became our motto (which fits on coinage while the former may have been unreadable without a microscope). Thomas Jefferson liked Franklin’s line to much though that he put it on his personal seal.

Civic Duty

There are many statements of civic duty in the scriptures. Perhaps the most famous of them is Christ’s line to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17)

In line with this statement, we have the following from some of the Founders of America.

“It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” – George Washington

“[C]an the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? – that they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” – Thomas Jefferson

“The safety and prosperity of nations ultimately and essentially depend on the protection and the blessing of Almighty God, and the national acknowledgment of this truth is an indispensable duty which the people owe to Him.” – John Adams

“May every citizen . . . have a proper sense of the Deity upon his mind and an impression of the declaration recorded in the Bible, ‘Him that honoreth Me I will honor, but he that despiseth Me shall be lightly esteemed’ [I Samuel 2:30].” – Sam Adams

In part 2, I will come back to the phrase, rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.

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About the Author

Oak Norton - Just trying to share a love of the scriptures with others.

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