In the course of any given year, most of us hear our national anthem sung dozens of times. But what we hear is not really our national anthem, but only a small part of it. Every time I hear it sung, I am frustrated at having to stop singing at the end of the first stanza. We never seem to go on to the end of the song and find out why it is that we can trust that our star-spangled banner will continue to wave, and why we can be sure our land will continue to be brave and free.
Several years ago, as a high school teacher, I was given the responsibility of creating a large production in honor of our nation and our constitution, and my instructions included making sure that the whole community was involved. I immediately decided that this was my opportunity to include the last stanza of our national anthem as part of the program. I realized that most people did not know the words to that stanza at all, and, in fact, some people did not even know the song had four stanzas total.
I’m asking my blog readers to stop right now and take just a few minutes to think about the final verse of our national anthem. It has a whole lot more to say beyond the fact that we are proud of our flag and the nation for which it stands. In fact, the last stanza makes the most important statements of the whole song.
“So thus be it ever, when free men shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blessed with victory and peace, may this Heaven-rescued land
Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust!’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
We need to sing this last stanza every time we sing the first one, because it is only the fact that God Himself made us a nation and preserved us as such — and that He is the one who has rescued us each and every time from destruction — that allows our star-spangled banner to wave anywhere at all.
I hear a lot of people today talking about how this country is doomed. I also hear a number of religious leaders preaching that God will judge the United States for all of its evils and allow foreign powers to come in and overthrow it. Now, I am a strong Christian, and I am deeply troubled by the abortion, drugs, crime, child abuse, pornography, and sexual laxness of our nation. But I also spend an enormous amount of time with God — in His Word and in prayer. And I believe that the Lord has made clear to me that He created this nation for His own purposes. Except for Israel, this nation is the only one on earth that can point to the fact that God literally called His own people to travel to these shores and found a new beginning.
He did so because he intended this nation to be so established in freedom and justice for all that it would be free to put forth the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an extent unknown in any other part of the world. And we have done that. True, we have not always done other things right. But the fact remains that thousands of God’s faithful people are citizens of this nation, and as such, they live Godly lives, influence others to do the same, and continue to put forth the Gospel. As long as those people are praying and keeping the door open for God to intervene in this nation — and to fight on its behalf — we will not be destroyed.
So, even though we need to work at getting our act cleaned up in a lot of ways, we can, nevertheless, take a deep breath, put a smile on our face, and continue to lift our voices in song, singing: “Praise the God that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
No matter how many atheists try to get the words changed — no matter how many elected officials misquote the words of our Constitution in order to try to keep faith out of our government — no matter what —- the words of Francis Scott Key still reverberate through the hearts of millions of Americans, and indeed this is still our motto: “In God Is Our Trust!”
If you’d like to learn the words to the the remaining two stanzas of the song, you can find them here.