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Nothing symbolizes liberty like the 4th of July! It is Americas celebration of freedom. There is a reason that America set the standard for liberty. On June 3, 1776, John Adams wrote a letter to Patrick Henry in which he said, The decree is gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty than has prevailed in other parts of the earth must be established in America. One month and one day later, July 4th, 1776, the history of the modern world was changed forever. A declaration was issued that did lead to a more equal liberty than was ever enjoyed anywhere on earth. I have the privilege of explaining a little about this amazing story of freedom. My name is Randy Weiss. I am a first generation American and I love my country! I am the son of Jewish immigrants who fled their land to escape religious persecution. Perhaps that is why this season and this special season is so important to me. Independence Day celebrates Our Divine Right of Freedom! I appreciate liberty. I also want to make sure that, as many people as possible understand the interesting Jewish connection to the history of the freedom that we enjoy in America. I have some little-known facts to discuss that will surprise you and I hope you will enjoy this message.
Every great leap for mankind begins with an idea. America was ready for the idea of freedom. The innovation of America was a belief that freedom comes from God not man. Freedom is a divine right. Not a commodity to be marketed by politicians. Our founding fathers believed in God and they proved willing to lay their lives down to restore and protect their God-granted freedom. You see, in earlier days, it was not universally agreed that liberty was a right from the Almighty. In fact, some assumed freedom to be a limited benefit conditionally granted by the government. During the colonial days of America, England controlled our destiny and dispensed freedom in limited quantities at their pleasure. In 1765, John Adams brilliantly explained the innovative view birthed by our forefathers in his Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law when he poignantly declared, Let the pulpit resound with the doctrine and sentiments of religious liberty. Let us hear of the dignity of man's nature, and the noble rank he holds among the works of God... Let it be known that British liberties are not the grants of princes and parliaments. This exciting belief resounded across America. This nation, above all before it, was founded on a belief in God and in the freedom that He ordains.
The American Revolution was the vehicle that delivered the divine right of freedom enjoyed in this great land. However, the freedom train moved slowly and many resisted. Do you know the difference between a revolt and a revolution? Well, the difference is usually determined by the winner. Revolts are put down; revolutions, like ours, overcome. Even in the dictionary, revolt comes before revolution. The leaders of a revolt are usually tried as treasonous criminals and then executed; whereas the leaders of a revolution are celebrated as heroes and then elected to office and awarded medals. So as you can see, the American Revolution was a real roll of the dice for the fellas whos faces now adorn our currency. And in stark contrast, Benedict Arnold was almost the greatest British hero instead of the Judas-like traitor of American history books. But in 1776, no one knew the outcome of Americas bold decision. The shot heard around the world could have backfired.
Freedom came hard and it came slow. In 1774, delegates from each of the 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia for the First Continental Congress. They were all unhappy about British control, but they were not all willing to fight a war to gain their freedom. The following May in 1775, the Second Continental Congress dealt with the same ongoing problems, but war was still not an acceptable alternative. Finally, in June of 1776, when it became clear that resolution with England was impossible, a committee was formed to write a decree defining our goals for freedom. The distinguished team included, among others, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. Of course Jefferson is credited with writing the document, but one of his biographers, suggests that Thomas Jefferson actually plagiarized much of his version of the declaration from a Presbyterian clergyman named Ephraim Brevard. A well-trained Princeton graduate, Brevard was part of a patriotic group of 27 staunch Calvinists who notified England that they declared themselves free from British rule. The Mecklenburg Declaration, as it was known, was drafted more than a year before the Declaration of Independence. Studying the text of both documents, it is clear that one borrowed from the other, yet both defined our sentiments in the clearest of terms. We delivered our thoughts to England and to all who would listen that, We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government. And so we did!
We unilaterally abolished one to form another. We pursued our divine right of freedom. It was a sovereign grant from God, not a limited right from the crown of England. And this Declaration of Independence launched us on the road to freedom. Americas desire to be free was greater than Englands ability to maintain their oppressive reign of control. Neither British royalty nor Englands military could restrain the natural impulse to be free that God had birthed in the American spirit.
Today, we love and respect our friends in Great Britain, but we do so as peers. There is no grudge between us and we serve as equals in a coalition of free and willing agents for good in this world. But it was a much different world in 1776. At that time, America was little more than 13 loosely organized colonies living under the common rule of Englands King George the III. We paid taxes to England, but we had no voice in the English Parliament. That Taxation without representation became one more rallying point for colonial revolutionaries. Yet the Declaration of Independence was still a tough sell.
Do you know the official name for our most famous American document? It is actually titled, The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. This is really quite remarkable because contrary to popular belief, it was not originally approved unanimously. The simple fact is that of the 13 colonies that voted, only 9 approved the document. Delaware couldnt make up its mind, New York abstained, and two states initially voted against the resolution. South Carolina rejected the Declaration of Independence and incredibly, Pennsylvania, the state where it was celebrated and signed also voted against the The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America. Isnt history odd? I love my country and I am personally very glad it was pushed through. You see I am a Jewish believer in a Jewish Messiah. This makes me part of a very small minority in America. But I have been granted certain freedoms that are protected by the legal foundation established in Americas Declaration of Independence.
Freedom is an idea to which most of us can relate. The big picture concept can be difficult to grasp but it is easy to enjoy. Some ideas, like freedom, are so big that they cannot be contained in a static document. They outgrow the pages where they were envisioned and require broader forms of _expression to capture the sentiment. Often, mankinds greatest ideas are best expressed in the art or music of those touched by the idea. Great songs, great poetry, great imagery, architecture, and artwork often tell the immortal stories that words alone might leave untold. Certain transcendent ideas need a supporting cast of heroes who have been challenged and changed by the concepts themselves. Freedom must have a face to best express the characteristics embodied in the idea of liberty. Once identified, a great concept like freedom takes on a life of its own. It becomes recognizable as an eternal truth worth any cost to protect. Why else would anyone die for an idea? Yet, freedom is a concept for which many have died. And American freedom has been birthed at such a deep level of our national psyche that even our greatest and most enduring heroes are best understood as symbols of that freedom. Therefore, our heroes are often larger than life.
Perhaps freedom is best symbolized by that great older woman known as the MOTHER OF EXILES. Have you ever met her? Let me tell you her story. In 1883, a woman from a New York family of Sephardic Jews named Emma Lazarus wrote a poem for the Mother of Exiles entitled The New Colossus. My father, and both of my mothers parents were personally introduced to the Mother of Exiles when they came to this great nation. They were fleeing hatred, death, and religious persecution. Like I said earlier, I am a 1st generation American. We are Jewish. My people are well acquainted with exile. During the last 1,000 years, most Jewish suffering has come at the hands of Christian people in Christian nations. When my grandfather escaped from Russia, it had already been a Christian nation for 900 years boasting 54,457 Russian Christian churches. My father escaped from Catholic Hungary between the pogroms and the Nazis. I hope that no one will forget the statistic that 95% of the population of Nazi Germany considered themselves to be either Catholic or Protestant. It took a nation that was 95% Christian to destroy most of the Jews of Europe.
Anyway, when my father reached our shores, he sailed into the harbor at Ellis Island and went passed Americas MOTHER OF EXILES. This beautiful womanly vision of freedom is also known as the Statue of Liberty. The poem written by that Sephardic Jewish woman is inscribed on the bronze plaque at her feet. The words of that Jewish poet describe the Mother of Exiles welcoming countless millions of immigrants who have fled from lands filled with untold horror. Emma Lazarus calls her a Mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. . . . Cries she with silent lips. Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door! My family came through that golden door. I have enjoyed the blessing of freedom because my father came to these shores from a land where he was hated for no other reason than the fact that he was Jewish. America has granted us the right to believe as we wish. Therefore I am a benefactor of the religious liberty spoken of by John Adams. This is the freedom promised in the Declaration of Independence. And it was purchased by the lives of those who fought to provide this liberty. It has been preserved by many brave souls of later generations, like my father, who proudly fought to protect the freedoms we cherish in this great land of liberty.
Liberty means something very special to every Jew because we have not always been free. To remind us, every year at Passover my family and I recite from the Hagaddah and we confess, as commanded by God, that we were slaves in Egypt. I am a freeborn citizen of a race of former slaves. Our deliverance came by the mighty hand of God who sent Moshe Rabbenu, our beloved Rabbi Moses. Well, I must quiz you now. Do you know where Moses fits into the glorious history of Americas Independence Day celebration? Can you make the connection? Let me give you a hint. Have you ever heard of the Old State House Bell? When our kiddoes were younger, my wife and I took them to see the famous old bell in Philadelphia. Its really quite impressive. The great bell weighs over 2,000 lbs. It was first rung in July of 1776 to announce the adoption of Americas Declaration of Independence. The OLD STATE HOUSE BELL has a glorious history. It rang every year on Independence Day as a memorial to freedom. The bell was heard annually until it broke while ringing at the funeral of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall.
Abolitionists in pre-Civil War America loved The OLD STATE HOUSE BELL. In 1839, they gave it a new name to fit their cause, and a righteous cause it was. They began calling it the Liberty Bell. The new name stuck. To this day, it is still called the Liberty Bell. Abolitionists rightly hated slavery. They wanted every slave in America to be set free so that all Americans, not just White Americans, could enjoy our God-given liberty. Let us remember that Moses had led a rag tag group of former slaves out of Egypt into a land of freedom. Now can you make the connection? Did you know that the words of Moses are inscribed on the Liberty Bell? They read, Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.
The idea of freedom came from the Lord. God wanted us to be free. We had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years with no hope in sight. And then suddenly, in Gods perfect timing, we were delivered from that bondage into the light of liberty. The Liberty Bell embodied Gods will for mans freedom. It is one more symbol that perfectly expressed the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence. Yes! One of Americas most famous, most enduring symbols of freedom is inextricably linked to the Jewish Scriptures and Moses. It makes me proud to be an American. It makes me proud to be a Jewish American. But it is the words on the Liberty Bell that particularly excite me. Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. Do you understand their context? The words of Moses were actually written about a very special Jewish holiday. Im sure that most of you have heard about Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It is the holiest day of the Jewish year. But the Liberty Bell points to a particularly rare Yom Kippur celebration. This extra special Day of Atonement only came during the year of Jubilee. Do you all know what the year of Jubilee is? The term Jubilee comes from the Hebrew word yovayl. The word is rendered as trumpet in Exodus 19:13 and it is even more clearly identified as a rams horn in the Masoretic text read by Jewish people.
I wish you could hear a rams horn, or as it is also called, the shofar, because it has a very powerful and memorable sound. As a youth I was trained to blow the rams horn for our synagogue during the Jewish High Holidays. I believe someday soon we will hear what Christians call the last trump before the Messiah comes. My belief is that when the saints go marching in, the archangel Michael will be playing a rams horn trumpet. Ill even go out on a limb and say that it will probably be a horn from that miracle ram caught in the thicket when God spared the life of Isaac on Mt. Moriah. Let me tell you a little more about the yovayl of Jubilee because I think the rams horn might be an even greater symbol of freedom than the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, or the Statue of Liberty.
In Gods economy, when the year of Jubilee came, everything changed. This cannot be overstated and you must grasp the magnitude of this connection. Jubilee meant freedom; true freedom! If you were in debt, your debts were forgiven in the year of Jubilee. If your home had been repossessed or your farm had been lost in a foreclosure; in the year of Jubilee, your property was restored. Every 50 years, God wanted to make sure that each family in Israel had a chance to have their slate wiped clean giving the impoverished a fresh start. His plan included measures for restoration and redemption. It was the perfect amnesty program. God prepared the most incredible plan to avoid the cycle of poverty that plagues so many families in so many nations. But even that wasnt the end of the celebration. For many, it was only the beginning. Because the best part of Gods idea of freedom was that in that special 50th year when the rams horn sounded on the special Day of Atonement in the Year of Jubilee, all the slaves were to be released. These were the people at the very bottom of the economic food chain. These were the marginalized. These were the pitiful huddled masses yearning to breathe free. These were the wretched refuse and tempest-tost who had no hope except for God. You see in the year of Jubilee all the slaves were to be set free. Freedom has always been Gods idea. But the people of God ignored His commands regarding the year of Jubilee. Slaves were valuable. Lenders didnt want to forgive debts. Landowners wanted to keep what they had obtained. Greed overtakes people and poverty enslaves where God would prefer to let freedom ring. As a result, none of us have seen the year of Jubilee celebrated as God commanded. It has been several thousand years since we honored this aspect of Gods Law. Better historians than I compute that the actual year in which Jesus Christ was crucified was one of those rare years of Jubilee. I guess that is why He is called the Redeemer.
What do you think? Do you need a freedom that goes beyond an evening of fireworks on the 4th of July? Are you waiting for your debts to be forgiven? Are you enslaved by a problem, needing to be set free by a redeemer? What you need is Gods Jubilee. Jubilee brings true freedom. It is Gods promise of redemption. You may find this shocking, but personally, even though I am Jewish, I believe that Gods perfect picture of our Jubilee might best be seen in Jesus, the Son of God.
Jesus came to set the captives free. He promises to redeem each impoverished soul who will believe. Before I conclude this message, I must confess that I am a living witness to that fact. Some folks assume I am pretty respectable. I host a TV show, write articles, and my name is followed by Ph.D. Today I have a wife and 6 kids and almost as many grandchildren. But a lot has changed in my life. I do come from a wonderful Jewish family and no man can lay claim to having been blessed with finer parents than mine. Nevertheless, through a series of bad decisions that I made beginning in 1968, I was in bondage. I was enslaved to sin. I used everything from hash to heroin. I loved Cocaine, speed, LSD, and an entire myriad of drugs that secretly controlled my life. I was a big-time user and a small time pusher, and I was on a road to certain destruction. My world was a series of daily reckless actions. Illicit behavior, illegal abortion, and selfish motives brought pain and terrible disappointment to many people. I guess, because I was Jewish, no one ever told me about Jesus. Nobody loved me enough to tell me I could be free. And then suddenly, in Gods perfect timing, I was delivered from that bondage into the light of liberty. It happened in early 1973. God revealed His love to me Himself. I have known perfect freedom ever since that day I met my Jewish Messiah. Its great to be an American. I love our liberty and the freedom of religion that permits even a Jewish guy like me to love Jesus. Its great to celebrate this season of American independence. But it is even greater to experience the freedom that can only come from God. If you would like to learn more about these matters, give me a call at 1-800-688-3422. I also have a free gift for every caller. May I send you a free audio CD or cassette copy of this message? I hope so. Write to me or give or give me a call toll free at 1-800-688-3422. You can also visit my website, www.crosstalk.org for more information. It would truly be my greatest privilege to join you in praying for your prayer requests. So please, contact me today. Til next time, Shalom!
Copyright 2003 by Randy Weiss, Ph.D