Many have heard the phrase “United we stand, divided we fall.” Perhaps it is best known from a speech given by Abraham Lincoln on June 16, 1858, at the Illinois Republican State Convention. But it is clearly an ancient Biblical precept well worth remembering.
In President Lincoln’s speech at the convention, he reflected on the deep division in the nation and opined that the division would not cease until a crisis was reached. During Lincoln’s presidency the nation did become divided and fell into a horrific, destructive war between states that were no longer united into one nation.
Aesop is known for his fables. As one fable goes, an old man about to die assembles his sons and asks them to try to break a bound bundle of sticks. They could not because the bundle was too strong. Then he had them untie the bundle, after which he gave each son a single stick that they easily broke. The object lesson was strength in unity, but failure in division.
Another one of Aesop’s fables tells of a lion on the prowl against four oxen. Whenever the lion tried to attack the oxen, they stood back to back, their horns facing outward, resisting the attack. But when the oxen quarreled and separated, the lion was able to attack each alone, making an end to all four.
A Bible scripture illustrates the same principle: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The individual fibers of a cord are weak, but are strong when bound together.
Jesus Christ illustrated the principle in a confrontation with the scribes who had accused Jesus of being possessed by the ruler of the demons. Jesus answered their charge with a parable. “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” Christ showed how illogical their accusation was (Mark 3:22–26).
The prophetic book of Amos describes God sending punishments on various nations, but especially predicts severe punishment on both Judah and the whole house of Israel for their sins. The sins mentioned include violence, robbery, oppression, taking bribes, injustices, pride, deceit, etc. Various punishments from God are described, but Israel and Judah fail to heed, repent and turn to God. Amos describes the near utter destruction of Israel and of survivors being “led away captive” (Amos 7:17). Thankfully, the last chapter ends positively with Israel being restored.
History is replete with the accounts of the punishment and destruction of sinning nations. But notice what God says through the prophet Amos: “Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying: ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?’” (Amos 3:1–3). God is most interested in His chosen people, Israel, who have not walked with Him.
The modern nations of Israel have disagreed with God and gone a separate way of sin and lawlessness. Increasingly today, we see the separation occurring between our nations and God, and the Godly principles on which these nations were founded. God has been thrown out of the school, the government and any public place. The violation of God’s law fills our television programs, movies, classrooms and even churches. As nations, we no longer “agree” with God, do not walk with God and have separated from God.
In the process, we have become divided from one another, as well. And, unless something changes, as the saying goes, can we be far from falling?