A Historic Look Back on Inaugural Scriptures

A Historic Look Back on Inaugural Scriptures

“I do solemnly swear ….”

At noon on Friday, January 20, the 45th president of the Unites States will recite the oath, beginning with those four familiar words, and assume the duties of chief executive of our country. While not mandatory, it is customary for new presidents to place their hand on the Bible for their swearing-in. Historians tell us that some presidents opt to keep the Bible closed while others select a specific passage of Scripture to which the Bible will be opened.

Most certainly, the men who have undertaken this enormous responsibility were careful in selecting just the right passage to personalize this formal and serious occasion. Looking back, some verses were clear reflections of the president’s personal faith. In other instances, the passages chosen provide more of a glimpse into the culture and times in which they served.

For example, Woodrow Wilson’s second inauguration in 1917 came shortly after the U.S. entered World War I. Americans were hopeful that this would be the “war to end all wars” and Wilson’s chosen passage, Psalm 46, reflects that sentiment:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt also began his presidency in a time of fear and crisis. Yet he chose to focus on love as written in I Corinthians 13:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal …. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Using the same Bible George Washington first used in 1789, Dwight Eisenhower’s selection for his first inauguration, Psalm 127, is a good reminder for us today that a city, or country, will crumble if we fail to make God our first priority:

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.”

Ronald Reagan had the Bible open to 2 Chronicles 7:14, a familiar verse also used by two other presidents:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

President George W. Bush’s choice in 2005 appeared to be more personal. Well known for his reliance on prayer, he chose Isaiah 40:31:

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Finally, President William McKinley’s 1897 selection of 2 Chronicles 1:10, perhaps revealed his personal prayer for God’s guidance and direction in leading our nation:

“Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

Regardless of their personal convictions, we can be sure these presidents knew the power of God’s Word and how His truth can unify and bring hope to a nation. As we look ahead to the next four years and the many unknowns that lie ahead for all of us, we can experience God’s peace as we place our full trust in Him:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him. Romans 15:13

What about you? Is there a favorite verse you turn to when you struggle with trust and need assurance of God’s sovereignty? Is there someone in your life that could use a similar message of hope or a reminder of God’s power and ultimate control? Check out our free, shareable Ecards which feature Scripture verses. Share your favorite passage today with someone you love.

"His truth can unify a nation."
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