In August of 1776, in response to the Declaration of Independence, the British moved to take and control New York and the Hudson River. This would disrupt the trade between the northern and southern colonies. George Washington with 19,000 troops had to oppose the British with 32,000 troops. The colonials were defeated at the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, and it seemed all his army could do was to wait for annihilation. In a desperate attempt to escape, the Americans begin using small boats to ferry their troops across Long Island Sound. There was no moon that Leviticus night, so the British Ships did not see them. When the Sun began to rise, they still had almost 8,000 troops to evacuate. A dense fog rose from the water, so thick that one officer said it was hard to discern a man at 6 feet. When the fog finally lifted, all of Washington’s men, horses, and cannons were gone, and all the British found was an abandoned camp.
George Washington wrote in 1778: “The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all of this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.”
From the founding of Plymouth Colony, through the Revolutionary War, the saving of the Union and abolition of slavery with the Civil War, in most of its history, the United States of American has identified with Israel in the providential working of God in our nation. No, we did not always allow the better angels of our nature to direct us, just like the Israelites (read the book of Judges). Yet, we continually return to our message of proclaiming “liberty throughout the land” (Liberty Bell, Leviticus 25:10).
Independence Day is not a religious holiday, but it is a day that we can acknowledge the hand of Providence that has been conspicuous in our history, and our obligations to the God of History to heed our better angels and our mission of “liberty and justice for all.”
In the text for this Sunday, Deuteronomy 10:12-24, we hear the voice of our God calling us to blessing and telling us plainly what is required of us to be a good people and nation.