As the United States celebrates Independence Day, we remember and celebrate our freedom. We have always been a nation that cherishes independence and freedom from kings, rulers, and oppressive regimes whose tyranny crushes people rather than protecting, upholding and serving them.

At the same time, as a nation, we have recognized that we live under the sovereign and good reign of God who created and rules over our country, the world, and the cosmos.

The United States has always valued independence from human monarchies, as well as living in dependence on God, as evidenced by our national motto, “In God We Trust.” This relationship has been a sacred trust, or bond, that has preserved us as a people through both peaceful and dark, war-torn days.

Ingrained in us as humans is a tension between dependence and independence. Children, for example, are dependent on their parents and others for provision, protection, housing, clothing, and love. Yet even as they are cared for, children often bristle and rebel against their parents. The only hope in this tension is the bond of love that can bring the child and parent together in a healthy relationship that allows for growth and togetherness throughout life.

There is a recurring theme that stretches throughout the Old Testament regarding God and the people of Israel. The story of the nation of Israel is rooted in a covenant relationship with God. This was more than just a contract, or agreement, but a deep “all-in” bond between God and people. First of all, God called Israel into a covenant with Him. He was the one who created and initiated it. It is a relationship, so the covenant is as much (if not more) a matter of the heart as a legal agreement. The terms of this covenant—or better yet, the way this bond works—is simple:

  •  God— the One and Only God—is the One who will guide, protect, and bless the people of Israel. As the One who always keeps His promises, God will watch over, provide, and prosper them as a nation.
  • Israel—God’s beloved people—promised to acknowledge, worship, and love Him first and foremost. Their lives and actions would flow out of and reflect that loving bond with God by serving in His presence, being a “set-apart” witness to His faithful love, and being a blessing to each other and the world.

Of course, God always did His part. The problem was that the nation of Israel, like rebellious children, fell in and out of love with God. In the times when Israel’s love of God led them to faithful obedience, their path led to good and successful outcomes. However, When their love for God grew cold, and they chose the path of independence apart from Him, God allowed them to go their own way, and the consequences were disastrous: defeats, suffering, even captivity to enemy nations. In their pain and bondage, the people of Israel would, again and again, cry out to God, who led them back to Him and allowed them to experience His power and faithful love through deliverance, restoration, and blessing.

Through the centuries Israel’s love for God ebbed and flowed like the tide—along with the resulting consequences of either blessings or curses— while God’s love remained constant and true. The roller coaster of Israel’s history was directly linked to the state of their heart and relationship to God.

As we celebrate our nation’s rich history of independence from oppressive foreign rulers and governments, let’s also remember the One on whom we are all dependent: The Source of all that we have been given. In days of deep division and polarization, we would do well to pray that more and more hearts turn to Him.

He is the only One in whom blessings and peace are found.

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

God bless you!

Chris Atkins