Following September 11, God Bless America signs appeared everywhere. Some reflect a prayerful sentiment, others a statement to let people know that the immigrant living there—or driving this car—is not anti-American. For some it has been a rallying cry . . . even, sadly, some might cynically observe it has been a business promotion placard, a traffic builder, when shown in a store window. But what does "God Bless America" mean to us?

Hopefully, we are not exclusionary. Do others see and hear something like this, "God Bless me and my country, never mind you and yours"? But it should have been perfectly clear to all that after the callous act of September, the victimized nation was reaching out to the Almighty for help, comfort, guidance and grace. Memorial services brought the unused words, "God Bless America," to the lips of many who had not remembered them since their school days-or since they heard Kate Smith singing them.

Appeals for God's grace can and should be consistent with the words Jesus taught his disciples. "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven." Remarkably, those words are not ethnocentric. They are not nationalistic; they are not exclusionary of any people. When John wrote the oft quoted, oft cited John 3:16, he was not speaking of a limited group who were to be blessed. God, who "so loved the world," did not give his Son to sacrifice life for just a few and give in to evil by losing the blinded majority of humanity to eternal death.

God has already richly blessed America with unprecedented freedoms for the common man. God has especially blessed America with a Constitution guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, worship and the right to assemble—as well as great material wealth, natural resources and technology.

A century ago, one writer suggested a scriptural reference to America, as a land protected of God, "in the deep shadow of wings" [most sheltered land], Isaiah 18:1, (TANAKH, Jewish Pub.). (Similarly, the Christian is said to "abide under the shadow of the of the Almighty. . .under his wings shalt thou trust," Psalm 91:1,4.) Incidentally, the first word of Isaiah 18, "Woe," should be more properly translated "Ho!" according to Prof. Young's translation. Thus, it is not a warning, but rather an exclamation. This land is also described as "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia." In ancient times little was known of the world's size—and Ethiopia was spoken of as "the ends of the earth." Certainly, in Bible times America was yet unknown to the Israelites, nevertheless it is clearly beyond Ethiopia.

Now, of course, with blessings come responsibility. Britain's American colonies were, virtually from their inception, refuge from religious persecution as well as temporal oppression. Thus when the United States was established, its founders incorporated basic rights into its political framework which allowed the expansion of religious liberty and free and open Bible Study. Isaiah's interesting prophecy continues to explain why America might be providentially blessed and used of God: "A land. . .that sendeth ambassadors by the sea, even in vessels of bulrushes, upon the waters, Go ye swift messengers, to a nation scattered and peeled...(Isaiah 18:2). What could "vessels of bulrushes" be? The more proper Hebrew, "vessels of papyrus"—or paper, would suggest that much printed material would be sent out from this special land. To whom? "To a nation scattered and peeled" or variously described, "a nation far and remote" (Hebrew is of uncertain meaning. TANAKH).

What is this "holy nation" which is sent messages from America? Actually it is not a specific nation. Rather, the true Christian church is called a "holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9). The Church of Christ is gathered from all over the world at the end of the Age in a time of "harvest" (Matthew 13:30, 39). Worthy of note, the next two verses in the Isaiah prophecy describe a "harvest" setting (Vss. 4, 5).

So the prophecy is describing what has been happening, for what is now over one hundred years—the sending of enlightening messages of harvesting Truths out from the United States to all the continents of the earth to gather the ripe "wheat" of the earth. (Ripe wheat are the true Christians.) Thus the providential care over the United States has been in the interests of the people of God within the country.

The harvest at the end of the Age is also a time of trouble. And we see that the past century was the most violent in history. Will this pace continue? In spite of the rallying of a nation, with anthems, hymns flags and prayers, still, there is much pain and sorrow in America—and everywhere. What plans does God have for wiping away sorrow and tears—and really blessing people? Will God use America as a leader in the world to stop the pain and terror and bless all the nations of the world? After all, we know that God intends to bless the whole world, "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son. . ." (John 3:16).

The first mention of blessings in the Bible is to Abraham. Extensive blessing, meaningful comprehensive, all-inclusive blessings for all nations. Apostle Paul said that those blessings were "good news," "the gospel" (Galatians 3:8), as promised to father Abraham. "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). From Abraham, this promise of being an agency of blessing was passed on to Isaac, then Jacob and his twelve sons, which family, of course, became the nation of Israel. However, did the nation of Israel forfeit the promise to Abraham? Are not Christians the true seed of Abraham? "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). Yes, Christians are the "stars" of the promise. But the promise says more. There is also "sand." Thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore" (Genesis 22:17).

The Apostle Paul says clearly, "all Israel will be saved" (Romans 11:26) referring to the "new covenant" arrangement (also Jeremiah 31:31). How is this possible? "...From the standpoint of God's choice, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28-29 NAS).

Many Christians understand and appreciate the regathering of Israel in these last days as fulfilling prophecy. But what is Israel's full and final destiny? Is it merely to have a small portion, a million or so Jews, accept their Messiah—and the rest go to eternal damnation? If so, would not Apostle Paul's statement that "All Israel shall be saved" be a gross exaggeration? (Not to mention poor planning on God's part too?)

On the other hand, is the present government of Israel ready to bless the world? Israel seems like it is having a hard enough time just surviving—let alone blessing anybody else. Besides, are the Israeli leaders really interested in God's promises and looking to Him for help? (Or do they look to America?)

Just as the preparation and transformation of a Christian is often a long process, so the preparation of Israel for blessing others is a process. Christians who believe that as the Bible predicted the coming of Jesus as Messiah also know that the reestablishment of Israel was to be the harbinger of the establishment of Christ's Kingdom (Daniel 12:1). When Jesus was about to ascend to his Father, the Apostles asked him when he would restore the kingdom to Israel. The bringing of the nation of Israel back from the dead, so to speak, was prophesied by the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 37:1-14 we have illustrated the steps of that rebirth. Israel is first described as "dry bones." "These bones are the whole house of Israel" which were scattered for almost two thousand years (Ezekiel 37:11). Beginning with 1878, however, an upsurge in immigration brought a significant Jewish presence to the Land (in spite of severe limitations by the Turkish and later the British).

The Scriptures are explicit regarding who is going to bless whom. "As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong" (Zechariah 8:13 NIV). How is it possible to imagine the nations of the world looking to Israel for blessing? "And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him. This is what the LORD Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, 'Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you'"( Zechariah 8:22-23 NIV).

Whereas now all nations are intent on "internationalizing" Jerusalem—in reality, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart" (Jeremiah 3:17-18). Jerusalem will be Jewish. And yes, Jews will need to learn some things, but the Gentiles have more to learn. "Nations will come to your light. . . Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations—their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined" (Isaiah 60:3, 11-12, 14 NIV).

Yes, it will be difficult for some to come "to the house of the God of Jacob" and say, "he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2:3). But, Buddhists, Hindus, Moslems, agnostics, atheists, and even nominal Christians will learn of the true "God of Jacob" and be delighted and blessed. It is then that God will bless the whole world through Israel.