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Thursday, June 16, 2011

What is flag day?

June 14 is not one of our more well-publicized holidays, but it should be meaningful to all Americans. Officially proclaimed "Flag Day", June 14 marks the date in 1777 when the Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as the flag of the new United States of America. The hope is that many citizens will not only fly their flags on that date, but also learn more about the history of this patriotic symbol.
The flag is indeed a patriotic symbol. In most sporting venues spectators are urged to stand and face the flag while "The Star- Spangled Banner", our national anthem, is played or sung. School children often begin their day by pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Emotions run high if someone chooses to exercise their First Amendment rights by burning or desecrating a flag. We take Old Glory seriously.
Other nations do the same. You've observed, I trust, what happens at the medal ceremonies of the Olympic Games. The top three contestants are brought out, and the national anthem for the country of the gold medalist is played while the flag of that nation is raised. Tears are shed, regardless of the country the athlete is from. For them, as for us, the flag is a reminder that they have a homeland they consider quite dear.
Flags appear in the Bible, too, though they are referred to there as "banners" or "standards". Numbers 1:52, for example, records Moses' instructions to Israel as they prepared to begin their journey from the Red Sea to the Promised Land. With such a large number of people on the move (perhaps in the millions!), orderliness was vital. Here are Moses' words: "The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies." Thus, each of the tribes of Israel apparently had their own flag for identification.
But what about a national flag for ancient Israel? Did they have a standard for the entire nation? Here's what we find in Exodus 17:15: "And Moses built an altar and called its name, The-Lord-Is-My-Banner." God Himself would serve as the standard for His people. Instead of looking to a piece of decorated fabric, God wanted them to look to Him for their hope. "In God We Trust" was to be the motto for Israel, just as it has come to be America's motto.
There's another interesting occurrence of this idea in Song of Solomon 2:4: "He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love." The Song of Solomon is a poem of love. Its ultimate meaning is in the love that God has for His people. When we come to the Lord, it is as if we are rushing to the flag that has been planted at His palace. But instead of an actual flag, what we find is love. That identifies God to us.
This idea agrees very well with John's description of God: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7,8).
Flags are powerful symbols, and we who love our country are glad to frequently face the Star-Spangled Banner and pledge our allegiance. How much greater it is to come to the banner of God - His love - and pledge our eternal devotion to Him and to His Son!
Timothy D. Hall

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