It was no light matter, what those 56 men did. They risked death, for indeed they had just signed their own death warrants. And when we remember them on this 4th of July, we remember what they did for this country, and why they did it. We remember the freedom they fought for by signing the Declaration of Independence, the freedoms we still have and fight for today.
Many of those freedoms are highlighted in the Bill of Rights; the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution, which governs this nation. These amendments are often mentioned as what sets America apart and makes her governing different from other nations in the world. These freedoms are guaranteed and cannot be taken away by the government. They were important, because they were what the founders felt was lacking from the British rule they were under.
The First Amendment guarantees that, “Congress shall make no low respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” How fortunate we are to live in a nation where we may freely practice whatever religion we desire! In whatever manner we choose!
This was not always the case and, in some countries, certain religions are still forbidden today. Sometimes even worshipping the wrong form of the religion can lead to your death! The Founding Fathers knew this, for many in the New World had left England due to religious persecution for refusing to worship as the State demanded.
Then these high officials and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! All the high officials of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an injunction, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.”Therefore King Darius signed the document and injunction. When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” (Daniel 6:6-16, ESV)
We are extremely fortunate in America that we have our religious freedom, for throughout history, religious freedom has been a rarity. Daniel - and the other Israelites - did not always have it. Jesus and His disciples were persecuted for their beliefs. Early Christians were not welcomed in the Roman world. Even today, there are many parts of the world where Christians must hide their faith and their worship - and face death if they are caught.
We can go to church every Sunday without fear. We can go to church everyday without fear! Yes, things have changed in the past years - we are no longer allowed
to publicly pray in school or have prayer before major sporting events - but we are still allowed to offer up our personal prayer.
This 4th of July, enjoy the fireworks and BBQ! Enjoy lounging by the pool, cold drink in your hand! Enjoy the day off from work and time with friends and family! But take a moment to remember and celebrate the freedoms of this nation. The freedom to worship! And pray for those who are not free. “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”