Since this post is going up on a national holiday here in the United States (July 4), it seemed appropriate to have an “Independence Day” theme. This week, we will see lots of red, white, and blue, as flags, food, and fireworks abound. As I thought about what to write, Stars and Stripes Forever came to mind. I will confess that as I prepared this post, I learned for the first time that this classic Sousa march actually has lyrics. Who knew? Here is a portion of the anthem:
Let martial note in triumph float
And liberty extend its mighty hand
A flag appears 'mid thunderous cheers,
The banner of the Western land.
The emblem of the brave and true
Its folds protect no tyrant crew;
The red and white and starry blue
Is freedom's shield and hope.
Other nations may deem their flags the best
And cheer them with fervid elation
But the flag of the North and South and West
Is the flag of flags, the flag of Freedom's nation.
Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right it waves forever.
While these lyrics speak of both might and freedom, they of course speak of a temporal and national might and freedom. As I reflect on stars and stripes and old glory this week, I am reminded of our Lord Jesus Christ and his eternal and total reign and rule. I think of the Creator who determines the number of the stars and gives them their names (Ps. 147:4) and who promised Abraham that his offspring would be as the number of the stars (Gen. 15:5). This is the same one who said, “I, Jesus … am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star” (Rev. 22:16).
This Creator God is also our Redeemer. Isaiah prophesied, “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (53:5). And Peter echoes the same when he reminds us that it was Christ, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).
And what of waving banners? It is the Lord who is our banner (Exod. 17:15), who stands as a banner (Isa. 11:10), and who sets up a banner for us (Isa. 11:12). And of the Lord’s people, Zechariah says,
The Lord their God will save them in that day,
As the flock of His people.
For they shall be like the jewels of a crown,
Lifted like a banner over His land—
For how great is its goodness
And how great its beauty! (Zech. 9:6-17a)
So, hurrah for the flag of the free! Those of us who are free in Christ, who are lifted like a banner, ought to cheer with fervid elation for the One who is our shield and hope. Christ who made the stars and endured painful stripes on our behalf is the One who reigns and rules forever!