It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, “See what God has done!” (Numbers 23:23)
We tend to want credit for things we did not do. We do that as individuals and we do that collectively, as a human race. Earlier Americans were more likely to give credit to God.
Communication has always been vital in our lives. We want to tell others the news they should know. We want to hear what others have to say.
When people are far apart, they must communicate with something beyond the human voice. Writing was a common tool. Pony Express riders galloped to connect the East to the West by means of letters in the early days of our country. This was faster than most methods, but it still could be agonizingly slow. Friendly letters and business advertisements might survive with that pace. Military forces might not. May 24, 1844, marked a milestone event in the history of communication speed. The U.S. Military quickly moved to take advantage of the new speed. It proved indispensable in some future wars.
Samuel F.B. Morse had come up with a way of communicating through a metal wire. Clicks from one side of the wire could instantly be heard on the other. An ingenious system of these clicks (which were called dots and dashes) was set forth as a code. It was called Morse Code. In a dramatic demonstration, a wire was stretched from the U.S. Capitol to a railroad station in Baltimore. Witnesses, including members of Congress, marveled at the sound that came over that long wire. The message was also striking. It read: “What hath God wrought.”
Samuel Morse would become famous, but he knew he was only an instrument in the hand of his God. He had turned to the Bible for the famous words he would send.
We don’t use the word, wrought, very much today. So, we quote from the Book of Numbers with the words, “It will now be said of Jacob and Israel, “See what God has done!” “See what God has done!” Not the man named, Morse. Not the human race. “See what God has done!”
We appreciate and praise the people who found out how to safely conduct electricity or those who discovered how to use x-rays, or realized that penicillin could be made from mold.
Troops who had been preparing to invade mainland Japan after the bloodbath on Okinawa told us how much they appreciated the people who developed the Atomic Bomb.
But the source of all these things is not found in the ingenuity of humans or in the materials they used. The source was and always is, God.
The words found in Numbers were spoken in a most unusual situation. A man who claimed to see the future had been hired by an enemy of Israel to curse God’s people. But every time he opened his mouth to curse, a blessing on Israel came out, instead. He finally submitted to God’s will and told his disappointed client, “It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, ‘See what God has done!’”
Escaping from Egypt, passing through dangerous countries, with women and children in their midst, the Israelites were headed toward a wondrous future. From the former slaves would come a nation that would be the envy of many, including the Queen of Sheba. Great leaders would arise. Power and glory would be enjoyed. But a King David and Solomon could not, and did not, claim that they were the cause of all this.
They had to quickly point heavenward and declare, “See what God has done!”
The same phrase had to be used to describe the Savior of the world coming from their midst. The same is true for us. Any success that America has gained, any development that has brought wonder by others, any greatness of all is not of our doing. The victory over sin and death, the inheritance that we shall receive in glory—all of this, and everything else that is good and right—is not our doing. In grateful humility, we look at the achievements in the history of our nation and find that we must quote the inventor of the Morse Code and declare, “What hath God wrought!”
We pray: Eternal Lord, source of all that is good, we acknowledge that you have not only showered us with gifts, but you have given us the privilege of serving as your instruments. Use us today and tomorrow, use us in ways that we have not yet seen, to bring your blessings to our nation and its people. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida-Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military