Posted by: rcottrill | June 1, 2016

A Flag to Follow

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Words: John Willard Peterson (b. Nov. 1, 1921; d. Sept. 20, 2006)
Music: John Willard Peterson

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org

Note: John Peterson was the most prominent and prolific hymn writer of the middle of the twentieth century. In addition to dozens of choir cantatas he wrote many fine gospel songs that are still in use (sometimes providing both words and music for them). A few examples: Surely Goodness and Mercy; It’s Not an Easy Road; Heaven Came Down; and Over the Sunset Mountains. In 1959 he published the song called A Flag to Follow. In it, allegiance to a symbolic flag represents our loyalty to Christ.

The Canadian flag, with its striking red maple leaf, was adopted in 1965. Before that, the nation used the Red Ensign, which included the British Union Jack in one corner, and a centred shield depicting the royal arms of Canada.

There was a strong loyalty to the Red Ensign, both because many in Canada were proud of their British roots, and also because Canadians fought in two world wars under that banner. This allegiance caused adopting a new and distinctly national flag a matter of great debate in the country. Various designs were discussed and rejected, until the present flag was officially adopted. Now, half a century later, Canadians proudly display the flag, and it’s a recognized and respected symbol around the world.

Flags have had many uses for hundreds of years. Sometimes they are simply decorative. But they are also used to identify national entities. And before electronic means of communication, ships at sea depended upon them for both identification and signaling. They also have become symbols of one’s patriotic allegiance, and rallying points for the troops in battle.

The word flag does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible. However, there are words that represent something similar.

When the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, organization was important. Each of the tribes had its position in the procession. And when they camped, each tribe had an assigned place. The Lord commanded. “Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting” (Num. 2:2).

When the nation of Israel won a great victory against the Amalekites, Moses set up an altar to worship and praise the Lord (Exod. 17:15). He named the altar The-Lord-Is-My-Banner (Jehovah Nissi), indicating that the Lord Himself was the standard of His people. That is, His very presence in the camp of Israel, and His power displayed on their behalf, was what set them apart as His own people.

The Song of Solomon depicts how Solomon fell in love with and married a peasant girl from the hill country of Ephraim. Later, she rejoices in his love, saying, “He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love” (S.S. 2:4). As far as her earlier social standing was concerned, she had no right to sit at the king’s table. But the identifying sign that she had a claim to do so was Solomon’s love for her.

The love relationship between Solomon and his bride has a secondary application to Christians, having to do with what we are, and who we are.

As to what we are, we are objects of His love. “He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the full satisfaction of His justice] for our sins” (I Jn. 4:10). “Our God and Father…has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace” (II Thess. 2:16). “The Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). That is the banner under which we live and serve Him.

Concerning who we are, “Beloved, now we are children of God” says John (I Jn. 3:2). Not only that, but the evidence that we belong to the Lord ought to be Christ’s character reproduced in us, and His love in evidence in and through us. God’s desire and goal is that we might be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

1) I sought a flag to follow, a cause for which to stand,
I sought a valiant leader who could my love command,
I sought a stirring challenge, some noble work to try,
To give my life fulfilment, my dreams to satisfy.

I found them all in Jesus,
The Life, the Truth, the Way,
Beneath His flag I’ll take my stand
And follow Him today.

Questions:
1) What things in your life today show to others your faith in Christ and loyalty to Him?

2) What other hymns do you know that challenge us to follow Christ faithfully?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns (John Peterson)
The Cyber Hymnal (John Peterson)
Hymnary.org


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