Today is March 4th. But most of us don’t realize that this date is one of the most forgotten dates in American history. That’s because, unfortunately, not too many of us are history buffs and we live out our lives minimally concerned with the laws and traditions that were the foundation of the country. To understand the significance of March 4th, it is important to go back in time to the founding of the country after the Revolutionary War.
The first real government of the United States predated the Constitution and was called the The Confederation Congress, run under the Articles of Confederation. That government chose March 4, 1789 as the day to hand off authority to the new government according the the Constitution that would be the benchmark of the land after that date. Congress convened for the first time that day, but it would take almost another month for enough people to show up in New York to be able to have a quorum and conduct business. In fact, March 4th was the date that was chosen for the presidential inaugurations and this was the normal way to change presidents until 1933. That year, the law was changed to reduce the “lame duck” time for Congress and for the transfer of power to a new administration.
Since 1933, Congress is now seated on January 3rd and the presidential inauguration is on January 20th. But it is interesting to note that some of the greatest speeches in history were given on March 4th. For example, both of President Lincoln’s inaugural addresses were given on this date. So were the rest of the inaugural addresses, including Roosevelt’s in 1933, the last one under the old law. Throughout the years, there have been several very interesting things that were decided on this date as well. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson was actually selected as the president during a lame duck session of Congress when the election was thrown into the House of Representatives for determining the winner. The same things happened in 1824 when John Quincy Adams was chosen as president under similar circumstances; again by a “lame duck” House.
One thing that continued to be recognized is that March 4th was the last day of the session of Congress. There was much debate as to the exact time of the ending of the old session and the beginning of the new session of Congress. Finally, it was decided that 11:59 am on March 4th would signify the end of the old Congressional session and 12:00 pm would be the opening minute of the new session. Not necessarily very important today, but certainly a little footnote in history for those of us who find this stuff fascinating.
Even more interesting than all this is the fact that God created government. There is some debate as to when this actually occurred but it is generally acknowledged back in Genesis there is evidence to support this idea. For sure, Moses was advised by his father-in-law, Jethro, to set up magistrates, or judges, to help administrate some of the disputes that occurred between the people of God. But far and away, when we think of government, we should emulate the life of Jesus Christ.
The prophet Isaiah made one of the first announcements about Christ and government and that verse just happens to be our verse of the evening. We are told, in Isaiah 9:6-7, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.” In other words, the government of Christ will be like no other. Just like the church (the called out assembly) of Jesus was different than any other assembly before that.
My encouragement this evening, in this time of uncertainty and politicizing of our government, is to not lose faith in the system that was created by God. After all, while we believe things are complicated and tough, and Lord knows that there is a deep divide in the support of the president, it will all work out in the end. Because we know that ultimately, Christ rules forever. And I, for one, am in support of His government, whatever it is. My prayer is that you will join me in this quest to become more concerned with Jesus and less concerned with everything else. I don’t know about you, but I think we all need a Prince of Peace, a Wonderful Counselor, in our lives. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…