Taking Grace for Granted

America! America! God shed His grace on thee,

and crowned thy good with brotherhood

 from sea to shining sea

I am greatly displeased with the nations that take my grace for granted. I was a little displeased with them, but they have only made things worse for themselves. Zechariah 1:15 (NET)

     Katherine Lee Bates, an English teacher from Wellesley College, made a trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. As she viewed the grandeur of the scenery from the top of Pikes Peak she was inspired to pen the words that became known as America the Beautiful.

     The poem extols the beauty of the American landscape. From amber waves of grain to purple mountain majesty. It reflects on the sacrifice of patriots and the endurance of the pioneers. However, the conclusion of the poem provides a fitting conclusion. All of this that has come to define the American experience is by the shed grace of God. It is only through God’s divine providence that unity and brotherhood can be found from sea to shining sea.

     As we look from the precipice of Pike Peak today and view America in 2024, brotherhood seems to be a foreign concept. Division, strife, and conflicts of various kinds now replace a sense of brotherhood. A brotherhood that unites instead of divides. A brotherhood that does not stem from conformity but the commonality of each person being made in the image of God.

     This morning, during my morning Bible reading, the words above from Zechariah arrested my attention. “God is displeased with the nation that takes His grace for granted.”

     I am reminded of Paul’s warning to the Corinthian believers: “…we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” (2 Corinthians 6:1 (ESV). We are challenged by the impact of the grace of God on our individual lives but fail to see the grace of God working on behalf of nations.

     In times past, it was common for the leaders of our nation and the people to recognize God’s authority over the universe and our independence and growth as a nation. In President Lincoln’s call to prayer in 1863, during the height of the Civil War, he began with the words,

Whereas the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations.

The resolution then contains this indictment:

But we have forgotten God.

 “We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us,

 and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts,

that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”

          How true those words are for today. Our nation has not only forgotten God but has treated God with contempt. The words of Zechariah to the Medes are true to the United States today. We have treated God’s grace with contempt and have made things worse. We have turned from Divine Wisdom to human wisdom and ingenuity.

     The good news in all of this is that the grace of God is still being shed abroad. It is manifested in the lives of all those who call on Him and submit their lives to His Word. Just as in Israel’s worse days of rebellion and idolatry, there are those who were faithful to the Lord in all areas of society. There are those who are voices for righteousness and truth and the love and grace of God.

     Just because a nation takes God’s grace for granted, individuals must not. A nation is comprised of a collective of people, governments, and leaders. Regardless of what is reflected in the masses, there are individuals who are experiencing the blessings of God’s grace, and that number is growing.      In our day, just like the servant of Elisha, we need our spiritual eyes to be open. (2 Kings 6:16) When the forces of secularism, humanism, and anti-Christism seem to overwhelm, with spiritual eyes open, we can see that those who are for us are greater than those who oppose the purposes of God. While it may not apply to our nation, the words of Katherine Bates still apply to the Church, “God shed His grace on Thee and crowned they good with brotherhood…”