Stars & Stripes Forever!
Did you know that our “Stars & Stripes” wasn’t Washington’s official flag as he crossed the Delaware River (regardless of what artist Emanuel Leutze says!)?
In fact, in 1776, the “typical” flag was 13 stripes - but the union was the British Union Jack! Or it may have been “Don’t Tread On Me” - a rattle snake on red and white stripes; or perhaps the snake was coiled up on a yellow background. Or it may have been something completely different.
So, where does the “Stars & Stripes” come from? Well, have you ever heard of “The Great Seal”?
wiki - On July 4, 1776, the same day that independence from Great Britain was declared by the thirteen states, the Continental Congress named the first committee to design a Great Seal, or national emblem, for the country. Similar to other nations, The United States of America needed an official symbol of sovereignty to formalize and seal (or sign) international treaties and transactions. It took six years, three committees, and the contributions of fourteen men before the Congress finally accepted a design (which included elements proposed by each of the three committees) in 1782.
What’s interesting is that they didn’t commission a flag that day.
You can see The American Great Seal on the back of the Dollar Bill! If you’ll take a look at the eagle’s shield, you’ll notice stripes (white and red, not red and white, by the way), a “chief” of blue with no stars - and 13 stars over the eagle’s head. It was this design that gave inspiration for the flag.
I hope you don’t take me for an heretic; but did you know that the colors of the flag - technically speaking - are not symbolic? So then - what do the colors of the Flag mean?
Sentimental writers and orators sometimes ascribe meanings to the colors in the flag. The practice is erroneous, as are statements on this subject attributed to George Washington and other founders of the country.
The mission to design The Great Seal, designed to reflect the Founding Fathers' beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, did not become a reality until June 20, 1782. In heraldic devices, such as seals, each element has a specific meaning. Even colors have specific meanings. The colors red, white, and blue did not have meanings for The Stars and Stripes when it was adopted in 1777. However, the colors in the Great Seal did have specific meanings. Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated:
"The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America;
* White: Signifies purity and innocence
* Red: Signifies valor and bravery
* Blue: Signifies Vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
Also this from a book about the flag published in 1977 by the House of Representatives...
"The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun."
Flags are allowed to have gold fringe - but they are usually only indoor flags. The quote below concerning gold fringe on the Flag is from the book "So Proudly We Hail, The History of the United States Flag" Smithsonian Institute Press 1981, by Wiliam R. Furlong and Byron McCandless.
"The placing of a fringe on Our Flag is optional with the person of organization, and no Act of Congress or Executive Order either prohibits the practice, according to the Institute of Hearaldry. Fringe is used on indoor flags only, as fringe on flags on outdoor flags would deteriorate rapidly. The fringe on a Flag is considered an 'honorable enrichment only', and its official use by the US Army dates from 1895. A 1925 Attorney General's Opinion states: 'the fringe does not appear to be regarded as an integral part of the Flag, and its presence cannot be said to constitute an unauthorized addition to the design prescribed by statute. An external fringe is to be distinguished from letters, words, or emblematic designs printed or superimposed upon the body of the flag itself. Under law, such additions might be open to OBjection as unauthorized; but the same is not necessarily true of the fringe.'"
Why stars and stripes? Stars are considered a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.
I. Lessons From The Colors
* White: Signifies purity and innocence - Christians should be holy & righteous!
* Red: Signifies valor and bravery - Christians should be brave in their testimony!
* Blue: Signifies Vigilance, perseverance, and justice. - we’re to be ever watchful, and always striving for justice.
II. Lessons From The Stripes
Did you know that the flag Francis Scott Key saw over Fort Baltimore had 15 stripes? When Kentucky & Vermont were admitted to The Union, two stars and two stripes were added to the flag. But in 1819, when Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, & Tennessee were added to the Union, it was decided that there would be too many stripes. The flag then reverted back from 15 to 13, in honor of the 13 original colonies.
As we look at the flag, the stripes are a good reminder to keep first things first. We get so caught up in our schedule and the cares of the day, we often forget just what the Ephesian church forgot:
Rev 2:4-5 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
III. Lessons From The Fringe
Did you remember that phrase about the fringe - “honorable enrichment only.” Whoa! What a statement!
The Bible isn’t against riches. In fact, Paul gave Timothy a message for the rich
1Ti 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
1Ti 6:9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
1Ti 6:17-19 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Honorable Enrichment Indeed!!
IV. Lessons From The Stars
The stars remind us that men have a divine goal - to get to heaven! And the stripes remind us of light coming from the sun.
Now how can we miss that kind of a lesson!
You want to get to heaven? Then you need the stripes that give light from the Son!!
Isa 53:5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
John Phillips Sousa’s most famous march is Star & Stripes Forever. It was made by act of Congress the National March of the United States of America.
I hope as you hear it, you’ll think of The Stars & His Stripes and how they make you fit to live Forever - Stars & Stripes Forever!!