Providence Today: Vine and Fig

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
We’re standing by the Liberty Bell exhibit here in Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell, of course, represents the aspiration of freedom, going back to the Pennsylvania Provincial Council that used Leviticus 25:10, proclaimed liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof to celebrate the Jubilee Year, 50 years of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges. And, of course, the Jubilee Years comes right from Leviticus 25.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
But there’s another great Old Testament text that we want to keep in mind as we stand here in Philadelphia and think about freedom. And that’s George Washington’s favorite Bible verse. Here we are with this beautiful vine that’s giving a shade on a very hot July day today, while we’re talking to you. This vine represents, if you will, that message that says every man will sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there will be none to make them afraid. That verse was a vision of a peaceable kingdom yet to come, where every person could sit down in the shade of his own home, on his agricultural blessings, having food and shade, and not worried about some gestapo, some Nazi, some enemy of the state, some enemy of your religion, persecuting you. You could sit quietly and enjoy your peace.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Washington loved that verse because, first of all, it became the symbol of his agricultural delight, Mount Vernon, the place where he was creating all of his inventions that it would use to make better farming possible. He always saw himself much more as a farmer than as a soldier. He wanted to be at Mount Vernon, at his vine and fig tree. But he never could get there. America saw him as the indispensable man. They sent him to war. They sent him to government. They sent him to solve problems. He wanted to be at Mount Vernon, his vine and fig tree. But he began to appreciate that verse over time, when he actually talked often about the Jewish persecuted people in the world. He recognized that America, this new world, could become an asylum for the persecuted peoples of the earth. And he said his hope was that America would become the vine and fig tree where every man could sit in the shade of this wonderful place and not be afraid.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
That verse from the old Testament prophet Micah became his favorite verse as he envisioned America. And in a remarkable letter that he wrote to the Jewish people here in a congregation in the United States, he said, “May America become your vine and fig tree or none will make you afraid.” So it’s appropriate here in Philadelphia, under Penn’s Charter, where the oldest continuously occupied Jewish synagogue is present because of the freedom of Penn’s Charter, the place where the first amendment was adopted to protect everyone’s conscience from the government. That we can stand by the Liberty Bell exhibit and see this vine and remember that this is what Washington wanted us to have. Here I am. I’m outside, in public property, and I’m talking about my faith in the gospel and the word of God and America’s history and connection with the Bible and the Christian faith. And I’m not afraid that anyone will do anything to take away my freedom.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
This is what America is, and it’s the great gift to the world. George Washington’s favorite Bible verse ought to be close to your heart, too. America is a place for minorities like the Jewish people, but all of us, regardless of our faith and practice, where we can be here and be unafraid. That’s the work of the Providence Forum. We hope that you know more about our faith and freedom commitment. We have this guide that’s available. We have a downloadable free app called Our Faith and Freedom Guide, [inaudible 00:04:14] the tour of Philadelphia. You can go online, providenceforum.org, and learn more about what we’re doing. We hope you become our friends and share the message of God’s providence, how the Bible has shaped American history and shapes us by our Judeo-Christian values to this day. And so, thanks for listening. And this is Providence Today.

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