It was 1897, and the most powerful man on the face of the earth … was a woman. Her name was Victoria, and her power extended from the tea plantations of Darjeeling to the razor-backed Drakensburg Mountains, from snowy Baffin Island to Ayers Rock. Mighty waterfalls were named in her honor, and far-flung provinces.
Victoria, Sovereign of the United Kingdom, and Queen of the British Empire. 1897 was her Diamond Jubilee anniversary. Sixty years of prosperous, stupendous glory for England. British ships drew wealth and glory from across the world to London. Festivities were planned in Victoria’s honor. Great Britain would celebrate her achievements and her glory, for she was truly Great Britain!
Her Majesty commissioned her Poet Laureate, Rudyard Kipling, to write a hymn in honor of Victoria and her great realm. But he fretted that something was missing. In the midst of the festivities, he surprised them with these words:
“God of our fathers, known of old ?-
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine
Lord God of hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.”
What had England forgotten? Kippling had been concerned about all the self-congratulation, the adulation of the nation, as if she had built her might with her own resources and superiority.
“The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart —
Still stands thine ancient sacrifice,
A humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of hosts be with us yet,
Lest we forget -? lest we forget.”
In becoming great, England had forgotten the source of greatness -? her dedication (“sacrifice”) to God. Kippling feared that unless she recaptured this spirit, the British Empire would soon collapse.
“Far-called, our navies melt away —
On dune and headland sinks the fire —
Lo all the pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!”
Kipling worried that England had forgotten something fundamental, her service to God, the real sovereign of the earth. So were his fears warranted? Well, you know the answer. England forgot. And, meaning no disrespect to the people of Britain, they are no longer “great.”
So who is the most powerful person in the world today? And what nation does he rule? And is this nation in danger of forgetting her blessings, and her God?
Will we add to Nineveh, Tyre and Britain another nation that forgot?
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
The Greatness of an Empire