Scotland Deserves Better?
Scotland has voted. The results have been declared and now, hopefully, all the political parties’ placards hanging from lampposts all over the country will come down. Among them were placards, from one small party, which declared: “Scotland deserves better”. Obviously, very few voters believed that this party would rule better than the others; none of their candidates was returned to the Scottish Parliament.
It is worth considering what Scotland really deserves. This is a country with a great heritage. The Scottish Reformation of 1560 set the nation on a truly scriptural course, when John Knox was the country’s most prominent minister, preaching the pure doctrine of the Bible. There have been many setbacks since then, but if you lived in Scotland about 1850 you probably would have little difficulty, in most parts of the country, in finding a church where the pure gospel was preached. You would probably find that your minister was what a minister ought to be: a man who sought to live a holy life, who believed that the Bible is God’s Word, who recognised the authority of its teachings over him and over you, who set Jesus Christ before you as the eternal Son of God who died for sinners, who called on you to come to Christ and receive from Him a free salvation.
How things have changed! In large parts of Scotland it is now very difficult to find a minister who takes the Bible seriously and submits to all its teachings. How many of them believe that all their hearers are sinners who need such a salvation as only Christ can provide? Very few. And therefore the Scottish people as a whole are, in the Scripture phrase, “as sheep not having a shepherd”. God is rejected; the Bible is ignored; its standards are forgotten; and we live with the consequences.
There was a time when every boy and girl learned the Ten Commandments by heart in school. Now it is as if they no longer exist. Certainly everyone wants the commands not to steal or to bear false witness to apply to everyone else. Almost everyone accepts that they are bound by the command which forbids killing – although they may not give that protection to unborn babies in the early stages of development.
It is a long time now since the Fourth Commandment was thrown away, because people would not allow God to have a claim on any part of their time. Then the Seventh was thrown away – the command forbidding adultery. And because parents do not recognise God’s authority behind the Fifth Commandment, which demands honour for father and mother and for all in authority, they have no basis for demanding obedience from their children. So children are far too often out of control at home and on the streets and in school. Why did pupils in Hawick High School think they could get away with assaulting their new head teacher and capturing the incident on a mobile phone? Because of the extent to which discipline has broken down in society generally. This has happened because Scotland has lost its respect for the Ten Commandments generally and for the Fifth Commandment in particular.
So what does Scotland deserve? Perhaps we should ask first: Deserve from whom? Probably the slogan on the lampposts was saying that Scotland deserves better from her politicians; so better men and women should be elected – our politicians should have more ability, be more honest, have better policies, and apply themselves more energetically to their work? The trouble with most political slogans is that they often do not really mean anything. But one thing is sure about today’s politicians: they do not seek God’s blessing on what they do; they do not ask Him to help them to make wise decisions. And that is serious.
What would most people in Scotland today see as a successful government? Probably one which would so manage the country that everyone’s income would rise very quickly, crime would disappear and everything would run smoothly. Most people are looking for an easy and prosperous life, and lots of free time to use – or, more accurately, misuse – on more and better entertainment. They do not consider that before long they must meet God, and that there is an eternity beyond this world for which we must prepare. God just does not enter into their thinking. And that is what makes Scotland’s position so dangerous. “God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man [or a country] soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
But what does Scotland deserve from God? That He would leave the country to itself. This is what we are already seeing to a great extent, when so many are allowed to drift through life without thinking about their souls and their desperate need for salvation.
But what if God was to leave Scotland to an even greater extent? Then there might no more conversions; as godly people were taken home to heaven there might be no one to take their place. This would mean that Scotland would have no salt. You may ask, What does that mean? Do you remember what Jesus told His followers: “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)? He meant that, by their godly lives and their prayers, they were preserving the world from further decay – like salt may be used to preserve meat or fish. A country without the example of godly people is in a dangerous position. And a country without anybody to pray for it is in a very dangerous position.
When God leaves a country, He takes away what we call restraining grace. When God gives restraining grace He, in His kindness, keeps people from sinning as seriously as they would otherwise do. That is a great blessing, even though it is only for this life. And when He takes away restraining grace, it leaves a country in a serious state. The people are left to follow their own ideas. Crime is likely to increase drastically; people will be less thoughtful of each other; what is now called anti-social behaviour may get completely out of control. Scotland would then become a much less pleasant place to live in. It is not a pretty picture. But that is what Scotland deserves.
Members of government in all parts of the world will at last have to appear before God to give an account of how they ruled their nation. So must all politicians appear, and all voters who elected them. As sinners, we deserve nothing good from God. If God was to give us what we deserve, He would cast us away to a lost eternity.
That was why Isaiah cried “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger” (Isaiah 1:4). But he spoke in the hope that his people would turn back to the God whom they despised. He went on: “Why should ye be stricken any more?” Why, he asked them, should they have to endure all the difficulties and punishments which were ahead of them when God would deal with them because of their sins? Instead, they should put away their sins and turn back to God. They were to hear Him calling to them: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool”. And this is God’s message to us today wherever we live in His world – in Scotland in particular.
We should pray that the Lord would give us a godly government. But in our present situation, if there was such a government, the men and women who formed it would almost certainly be voted out at the next election – for passing scriptural laws. What we should pray for, of course, is that our nation, wherever we live, would be profoundly influenced by the Bible. Then people would be much more content with what they have, rather than always seeking more and more of this world’s goods. The Shorter Catechism speaks of “a competent portion of the good things of this life”. That is what we should be content with. But, even more, we should seek God’s grace in our hearts, so that we would have what Jesus described as “treasure in heaven”.
Taken with permission from The Young People’s Magazine of the Free Presbyterian Church, June 2007, written by its editor, Rev. Kenneth D Macleod, Leverburgh, Isle of Harris.
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