We use the phrase: “With God on Our Side,” to justify our deadly decisions as morally right, especially when they’re not. Bob Dylan sings a song recounting how this phrase is used ignominiously in history.
Dylan Sings “With God On Our Side”
Before we go any further, let’s be clear, God gives the sword to rulers so that they act as His servant avenging wrong and carrying out His wrath. He will judge whether they have done this rightly. It is apparent that no government has yet lasted long.
In this context, CNN recently quoted a Ukrainian Priest: “We know how to fight a partisan (guerrilla) war. We know these forests and swamps like the back of our hand and it will be very hard to fight us. Truth will win. Truth is where God is and God is on our side.”
Nearer to home but longer ago, Lincoln said: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” In his second inaugural, Lincoln said in part:
…Both [i.e., North and South] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”
If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope — fervently do we pray — that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond–man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether”
The second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln, given on 4 March 1865 on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, photographed by Alexander Gardner (1821 – 1882), Image created between 1910 and 1920, from photograph taken in 1865, in the public domain in the US.
But where does this sentiment we write about come from and in what context was it said? For the answer, we look to the book of psalms:
The Lord is on my side; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
Clearly, this is not a justification for princes to use. But, rather, it is an admission of their futility as protection and an admonition for fealty to the Lord of all.
But, is He really on one nation’s side versus that of another? In the following passage, He declares to us No (or Neither) in no uncertain terms. And this took place just prior to a key battle He Himself would use in conquering territory for Israel.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
So, whether or not the Lord is on our side, nationally, is not a significant question with which to be occupied. The answer is: “Neither.” The most important question we must ask ourselves is: whose side am I on? We choose to serve the Lord.