"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon." - Isaiah 55:6-7
My devotional this week celebrates the birth of a nation other than the United States of America. That nation, born on July 9, 2011, is the Republic of South Sudan. Franklin Graham witnessed their celebration of independence:
In a ceremony attended by the head of the United Nations, dozens of heads of state, and over a quarter of a million people, we heard frequent prayers, Scripture references, and even a military marching band playing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."
President Salva Kiir said in his inaugural address, "Let us give praise to Almighty God for having made it possible for us to witness this day. We have waited 56 years for this day. It is a dream that has come true!"
There was a time when America sought the Lord while He could be found. A report from the Senate Judiciary Committee to the Congress of the United States on January 19, 1853, declared:
We are a Christian people... not because the law demands it, not to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian, what is to be expected, what desired, but that we shall pay due regard to Christianity.
Sadly, as Americans have retreated from such a glorious faith, we have also retreated from a glorious beginning and are witnessing less and less the presence, blessing, and mercy of God within our own land.
Instead of rejecting the loving will of our Creator, the South Sudanese embrace the mercy and pardon that God pours out on any nation that calls upon His name. Consider the first verse of their new national anthem:
We praise and glorify You
For your grace on South Sudan
Land of great abundance
Uphold us united in peace and harmony.
Dr. Daniel Madit Thon Duop, who left Sudan at age 13 and returned as a surgeon trained through Samaritan's Purse, testified:
Our crime of being a Christian in the united Sudan is over. Our dignity as human beings will never be touched again. Only God Almighty and the people of the Republic of South Sudan will be responsible for the destiny of this newborn nation.
Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, Americans will once again discover the light of the Lord as Christian missionaries from South Sudan point us back to His saving grace.
Lord, by Your hand entire nations are moved. We lift to You with thanksgiving the new life of independence You have given to our Brothers and Sisters in South Sudan. We grieve that in our own nation, America, the evil and wicked have found ways to push You aside and to trample Your everlasting justice underfoot. Perhaps we will learn from Your servants in South Sudan to once more to honor and glorify You. We pray for Your peace to rest upon them; we pray for Your peace to return to us. In the name of Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.