Today's Christians are "strangers and pilgrims" on planet Earth (Hebrews 11:13), living in anticipation of the soon-coming Kingdom of God wherein will be our true citizenship. Yet each of us is born in some nation, somewhere. How do we respond to our nation's holidays? And what if those holidays are more somber than joyous?
Christians understand that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). In one sense, it is absurd to proclaim personal or national "independence" when human beings are utterly dependent on God.
But this does not mean we should not observe national holidays. Indeed, we can often learn important lessons from them. For example, the Old Testament book of Esther introduces a Jewish national holiday known as Purim, honoring virtuous Queen Esther who saved her people from the plotting of the king’s chief servant, Haman.
Scripture also alludes to Hanukkah (John 10:22–23), which commemorates the Maccabees’ successful struggle against Syria’s King Antiochus, and is also associated with the tradition that God kept a ceremonial lamp burning eight days with just one day’s oil. Jesus Christ Himself came to the temple on that national holiday, also called the Feast of Dedication, showing by example that Christians can give proper honor to their nations without dishonoring God.
Like the Jewish people at Hanukkah, Americans on July 4 can thank God for what He has done for them. America’s expansion and prosperity, properly understood, is not a sign of righteousness, but rather of God’s fidelity to His promises. God told the Israelites that He would withhold His promised blessing as punishment for their sins, for 2,520 years after they went into captivity in 721bc. His promise, however, was unconditional—so, beginning around 1800ad, the United States and Britain began to receive this long-withheld blessing, and these nations entered into a period of unprecedented wealth, expansion and world leadership.
Today, more than 200 years later, the British-descended nations have fallen from the heights of their wealth and prominence, and the U.S.—though still the world’s only "superpower"—is no longer the unchallenged moral, political and economic leader of the "free world." Much of the world sees the U.S. as a corrupter of youth and an exporter of culture-destroying filth, not as the paragon of democracy and freedom so many celebrate every July 4.
Even so, millions across the U.S. will rejoice on July 4. In stark contrast, on August 9 this year, millions of Jews will soberly observe Tisha B’Av—the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av. On that date, over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered many tragedies. Both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed on Av 9; the first in 586bc by the Babylonians and the second in 70ad by the Romans. Those tragedies alone would justify a national day of mourning. Yet Av 9 has gained further sad significance. In 1492, King Ferdinand of Spain demanded that all Jews leave his kingdom. Their deadline was Av 9. More recently, World War I began on Av 9 in 1914, setting in motion a time of European turmoil leading to the Holocaust.
The U.S. and British-descended nations still enjoy many God-given blessings. But how have they handled them? Have we carried out a Holocaust of our own? Fifty million aborted babies would say "yes"—if they could. Bible prophecy shows that the English-speaking nations will, sooner rather than later, reap what they have sown, as they become pariahs in world affairs and many true Christians face horrific persecution—even martyrdom—for their faith.
So, while America is enjoying its Independence Day celebrations this weekend, thankful for its blessings, we may also want to reflect, by contrast, on the sober anniversary of Tisha B’Av. God does not guarantee that America’s times of remembrance will always be joyous, and Scripture warns that the English-speaking nations face severe trials ahead. As we rejoice, let us also remember the Source of our blessings, and our need for repentance—nationally and individually—before Him.