The joy of many school children this month is that there is a long weekend for President’s Day. While some of the children are very familiar with President Washington and President Lincoln, the ignorance of our history reaches new heights every year. It is also true that the knowledge of the Scriptures in our churches goes in the same direction. In this context I want to look at two kings and two presidents.
The two kings are King David and King Solomon. Both were uniquely qualified to be king. Both were chosen by God and anointed by Him to be king over Israel. David was chosen because he was pure in heart and was a man after God’s heart. Solomon was the son of promise and God declared that the earth has never seen a person as brilliant as he was. The historians of the Jewish nation accept that this particular time in the history of the Jewish nation has been the apex of achievement. David sang songs that brought calmness to the heart of Saul, yet he became one the most warlike kings that Israel had. These wars extended the borders of Israel like never before. King Solomon inherited this expanded kingdom and became known for building the Temple that has been regarded as one of the pearls of beauty in the ancient world.
When one looks to this nation that we call the United States, while there have been many great presidents, the two that have always soared have been Washington and Lincoln. It is interesting that many people find Thomas Jefferson very appealing and while founding father Alexander Hamilton is currently praised on Broadway, the two never came close to the stature of Washington and Lincoln. Washington was a formidable army general and a fantastic president whose presidency made some people do the very thing they fought against – they wanted to make Washington a king. Washington soars not only in his achievements, but in the things that he refused to do for the betterment of this country. Lincoln followed 64 years later and found this country ready to splinter in the middle.
Balkanizing is a verb that is practiced not only by the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, but it has been practiced internationally. It means that this country that came together in 1773 was about to be pull asunder over economic issues and a growing division over slavery. Washington was willing to give his life and the life of his soldiers to fight against King George and the imposition of taxation without representation, while Lincoln was willing to send thousands of soldiers into battle to free the slaves and give them what Washington was not able to give them.
I recently saw an article diminishing the stature of Washington and Lincoln and when I saw it, I was thinking of King David and King Solomon. Both of these kings brought their nation to a position that it did not have before. One can take their accomplishments apart and come to different conclusions. One can study the accomplishments of Washington and Lincoln and have a different interpretation. Yet in the midst of these re-evaluations we come back again and again to the idea that indeed these men have been great men in their own times and from their greatness, we are beneficiaries today.