“Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and celebrate his rule with trembling. Kiss his son, or he will be angry… blessed are all those who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10-12, NKJV).
For thirty minutes in the early morning, ringing church bells heralded the historic inauguration day of George Washington. Escorted by a ceremonial procession through the streets of New York City, the president-elect progressed to Federal Hall, where he was received by John Adams and subsequently ushered to the second-floor balcony.
Standing ready to administer the oath of office was Robert Livingston, the chancellor of New York who had served 15 years earlier on the drafting committee for the Declaration of Independence. With great solemnity, Washington raised his right hand, placed the other on the Holy Bible, and began taking the oath prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.
The new president concluded his oath with a solemn appeal to Heaven: “So help me God!” And in a beautiful display of holy reverence, Washington then bowed down and kissed the sacred pages of God’s Word. Recognizing the gravity of the event, Livingston turned to the crowd and declared, “It is done! Long live George Washington!”
An onlooker later recalled that the ceremony “was one of the most august and interesting spectacles ever exhibited” and that it felt as though “the gracious Ruler of the universe was looking down at that moment with peculiar [pleasure] on an act which to a part of his creatures was so very important.”
Directly following the inauguration, members of Congress joined the president for divine service at St. Paul’s Chapel, where prayers suited for the occasion were offered to the King of heaven and earth. How amazing that the opening act of the first presidential administration included the public recognition and worship of God Almighty!
PRAYER: We thank you, God, for all the faithful generations of American leaders who have recognized you in their official capacity. Please enlighten our current public officeholders of their responsibility to serve you with fear and to celebrate the rule of your Son with trembling. In the name of our Lord Jesus we pray, amen.