May We Never Forget14 min read

Spoken about 150 years ago, the following words by one of the most respected Presidents of the United States of America recognized and exposed a current problem that continues to plague our country. (His suggested remedy, appointing a National Fast Day, should also be given serious consideration.)

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. (Emphasis mine) We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved 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. Intoxicated with the unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” – Abraham L­incoln’s proclamation appointing a National Fast Day, March 30, 1863.1

President Lincoln’s words are quite reminiscent of Moses’s words to the children of Israel before they enter the Promised Land in Deuteronomy 8:6-20. Although I would encourage you to read the citation fully, here are some selected verses: 10When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you. 11Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; 12otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, 13and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, 14then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God …  17Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ 18But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth…” (NASB).

These verses are a perfect passage to apply to our beloved US of A. God was telling Israel through Moses — and us today — NOT TO FORGET Him when they have entered the land and enjoyed its rich stores and bounty, and have had plenty to eat, and have experienced His protection and blessing.

Please remember that until they entered the Promised Land, the Israelites depended on God to provide everything. He provided the food, the guidance, the leadership of Moses, and the moral code. God had made everything possible and He was warning the Israelites not to forget all that He had done and was still doing.

But what happened? Abundant stores of food would lead to satisfaction. Satisfaction would lead to comfort. Comfort to security, seemingly a result of their hard work.

Comfort, security, and satisfaction would lead to Israel forgetting God. Forgetting God meant no longer remembering Him in their daily thoughts and the daily affairs of life.

Forgetting God would lead to a disregard of His Word and His commands. Having no regard for His Word and commandments has continually led to the disintegration of nations and societies.

Does this at all sound familiar?

Let me be more specific and at the same time share a warning that comes from clear lessons of history.

Dr. J. D. Unwin (1895-1936), a British scholar, social anthropologist, and an expert on cultures, spent seven years of his life studying the birth and death of the 86 major societies and civilizations in the world throughout history. In his landmark book, Sex and Culture, published in 1934, he shares his discovery of the same pattern of prosperity and then disintegration consistently showing up in all of them. Each society or national power fell because of one thing — a breakdown of the family and morality. What’s interesting is that Unwin had no religious convictions and applied no moral judgments.

Here is the general track that EACH of these civilizations followed: during the early days of each society, premarital and extramarital sexual relationships were strictly prohibited. Great creative energy was associated with the inhibition of sexual expression, causing the culture to prosper. Much later in the life of the society, its people began to rebel against the strict prohibitions, demanding the freedom to release their internal passions and do whatever they wanted.

As the morals weakened, the social “energy” abated. This resulted in the eventual decay or destruction of the civilization. When a man is devoted to one woman and one family, he is motivated to build, save, protect, plan, and prosper on their behalf. However, when his sexual interests are dispersed and generalized, his effort is invested in the gratification of sensual desires.

Dr. Unwin concluded: “Any human society is free either to display great energy, or to enjoy sexual freedom; the evidence is that they cannot do both for more than one generation.”

Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) wrote about one of the great civilizations in history – the Roman Empire. He listed five reasons for the fall of Rome in his book, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (published in 1776):

  1. The decay of religion—faith fading to form and losing its power, resulting in moral collapse.
  2. The rapid increase of divorce and breakdown of the family—which is the basis of human society.
  3. The mad craze for pleasure—sports and fun became increasingly important and more and more exciting and brutal.
  4. Higher and higher taxes—to compensate for higher spending.
  5. The building of huge armaments—for protection from outside enemies…when the real enemy lies within.

Dr. Bill Bright (1921-2003, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) once stated, “The level of America’s sins today would have astounded even ancient Rome, whose own moral decay resulted in her self-destruction.”

Psalms 33:12 says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people he chose for his inheritance” (NIV).

Well, God was at one time very important to this nation. Yet, revisionist historians continually emphasize over and over again that the United States was not founded on Christian principles.  That is totally untrue! It is a lie … poppycock … baloney! That is revisionist history at its best (or worst) and it is being promulgated by our educational system and in the media.

But, did you know that it has been proposed that the Bible directly contributed to nearly one-third of our founding fathers’ expressions and writings? Listen to some of their quotes:

James Madison, the Chief Architect of the Constitution once said, “We have the future … upon the capacity of each … of us to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Benjamin Franklin said, “Whoever shall introduce into public affairs the principles of … Christianity will change the face of the world.”

John Adams said, “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book … What a Utopia, what a paradise would this region be.”

This quote from John Adams is highly instructive as we consider what is happening in the United States today, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

He also said, “The destiny of America is to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ to all men, everywhere.”

President George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

Many more quotes can be found in Oz Guinness’ book, A Free People’s Suicide:  Sustainable Freedom and the American Future, InterVarsity Press, c.2012.

Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), a Frenchmen that toured around the United States in 1831 to observe our institutions because of the great energy, creativity, and blessing that the world took note of as characteristics of the United States, shared this observation:

“I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of the America in her harbors; in her fertile fields and boundless forests; in her rich mines and vast world commerce; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”2

We would do well to remember Proverbs 14:34: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (NIV).

The December 1991 edition of “Time Magazine” concluded with this commentary: “For God to be kept out of the classroom or out of America’s public debate by nervous school administrators or over-cautious politicians serves no one’s interest. That restriction prevents people from drawing on the country’s rich and diverse religious heritage for guidance, and it degrades the nation’s moral discourse by placing a whole realm of theological reasoning out of bounds. The price of that sort of quarantine, at a time of moral dislocation, is — and has been — far too high. The courts need to find a better balance between separation and accommodation, and Americans need to respect the new religious freedom they would gain as a result.”

A few decades earlier, in 1949 I believe, the editors of “LIFE” magazine stated: “The worst enemy of western civilization faces in not communism! The worst enemy is within our civilization. The heart of it is secularism. A blunter word is Godlessness!” 

Godlessness is at the root of the disintegration of any people or nation. But, please note that Godlessness is not atheism! Godlessness is to live without regard for God, His will, and His plan. Godlessness is to not think about God in our daily thoughts and to marginalize Him in our everyday life.

How guilty are we?

Although 65 percent of Americans say they consider the Bible to be the Word of God, few have any sense of right and wrong. Jesus said: “You hypocrites! … These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Matthew 15:7-8 NIV) and Isaiah 5:20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil …” (NIV).

We have the increase of senseless, violent murders and gang killings in urban areas. Life has been devalued, and I don’t doubt that this is, in some regard, the direct result of the millions of abortions that have taken place in the United States. Then, at the end of June of this year, the Supreme Court strikes down DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, and legitimizes homosexual “marriage.” Couple that (no pun intended) with the ever increasing rate of divorce, which leads to the disintegration of the family and society, and you wonder what the future will be like.

Ted Koppel said, “We have actually convinced ourselves that slogans will save us: ‘Shoot up, if you must, but use a clean needle.’  ‘Enjoy sex whenever and with whomever – just use protection.’ NO. The answer is NO, and not just because it isn’t cool or smart or because you might end up dying in an AIDS ward, but NO, because it is wrong. Because we have spent 5,000 years as a race of rational human beings trying to drive ourselves out of the primeval slime by searching for the truth and moral absolutes. In its purest form, truth is not a polite tap in the shoulder. It is howling reproach. What Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai were not The Ten Suggestions.” ABC Nightline Moderator, Ted Koppel, at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, giving the 1987 commencement address.

During the darkest time of Israel’s history, the period of the judges, the end of the book concludes with what six words? Do you know? “… everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25 NIV) or “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (NKJV).

WE have forgotten God today. Way too often WE have forgotten God. God, during the founding years of this nation and for a century or more afterwards, was the focal point and the foundation of America. It is obvious now, however, that we in the United States have forgotten God. We were once a thankful people. But in so many regards we have lost the truth of what the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (NIV).

The only way for the USA to stop this downward spiral is to return to God. That will only happen when God’s people, when churches, not only take a stand in their community against the things that are wrong that cause the downward spiral, but also demonstrate a love and compassion for every sinner, and are involved in the community endeavoring to help folks, especially the down and out. It has been proven and acknowledged that the most effective social work done in America today is done by faith-based organizations. Churches that have soup kitchens, clothes closets, English as a Second Language classes, etc. and truly care for people are making a transformational difference.

Friends, God is calling us to return to Him; or let me use the biblical word, REPENT. We must heartily and sincerely repent of our own sin and of our own complicity in the downward spiral of our nation. Turning to the only true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may He help us to understand and remember that we are so bad that God’s Son had to die for us to set us free, and so loved by Him that He did it with joy. Jesus, “for the joy set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). Full, free, and final forgiveness is ours as a gift from God through faith in Jesus. And with that forgiveness comes God’s power through our connection with Jesus. In His strength, we can change individually, personally. In His strength we can work to change our nation with His love.

By grace, You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14 NIV). God invites and empowers us to take up our calling.

As God’s freed and forgiven people may we, remembering that “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36 NASB):

Return to the importance of Scripture — Scripture and the correct study of it must become a priority within the walls of the church and homes and from there taken out into the world.

Return to the priority of prayer — Prayer unlocks the power of God on the Church. The people of the church must make it a priority in their lives as well as in the life of the church. I am convinced we need to spend more time praying together. We won’t be able to do anything significant in the world until we humbly come before God in prayer, and beseech “Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NASB) to help us as families, churches, communities, and as a nation return to Him.

Return to the importance of Evangelism — We have been given the privilege of carrying on the mission and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10 NASB).

Knowing that all people are loved by God and desperately in need of what only He can give — forgiveness, new life, renewal, salvation — we must consistently present this Good News, the Gospel, to people in our families, churches, communities, and around the world in word and deed.

The crucified and risen Lord Jesus – the lover of all mankind, the Redeemer of our lives, desires to freely bestow and continually give of His love and blessings to those who believe, to those who know His voice and follow Him.

Forgiven, freed, empowered may we, therefore, not only be hearers of the Word, but doers as by God’s calling and grace we heed His words in Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NASB).

David P. E. Maier

1The Collected Words of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Ray Basler, vol. 6, p. 156)
2Democracy in America. Alexis de Tocqueville, published in 1935; as quoted from

Subscribe to Blog Button

About the Author

Rev. Dr. David P. E. Maier is president emeritus of the Michigan District, LCMS.

More by This Author