Whither Britain in 2007?
No one can answer such a question with confidence. All we can do is consider where we are at the moment and where current trends point to.
This article is being written on the day after more than 200 people were slaughtered in Baghdad, most in a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks, and just a few days after it was announced that a record 3700 had met a violent death in October as a result of the lawlessness that is sweeping Iraq, in spite of the efforts of American and British forces to bring that troubled country to a state of normality. Questions are increasingly being raised about how long, in such circumstances, these forces can remain in the country. And, nearer home, the head of British security organisation MI5 has announced: “My officers and the police are working to contend with some 200 groupings or networks, totalling over 1600 identified individuals and there will be many we don’t know who are actively engaged in plotting, or facilitating, terrorist acts here and overseas”.
It is not the purpose of this article to address the military and political questions raised by the current situation. But, leaving aside the position in the USA, one matter should be blatantly obvious to every observer: as the British Government endeavours to discharge its responsibilities at home and abroad, it steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the hand of God. Likewise, the media, and the British people as a whole, refuse to acknowledge God’s existence and His overruling providence in the events that affect the nation. It seems inconceivable that any government minister today would suggest prayer particularly prayer to the true God as an appropriate response to our present difficulties. Even if the threat to our nation were very much more serious than it is, it would no doubt be deemed absurd to call for a national day of prayer to plead for peace in Iraq, for the safety of our troops there and in Afghanistan, and for protection from home-grown terrorists. After all, it might disturb the followers of false religions if an exclusively-Christian event were suggested by the Government. And perhaps opposition from prominent atheists reflecting the militancy of irreligion in today’s Britain would be even more vocal.
But it is no light sin to ignore God; the Bible describes as a fool the one who has “said in his heart, There is no God” (Ps 14:1). But those who openly deny the existence of a divine Creator display an even more rebellious attitude. The wicked is condemned because “through the pride of his countenance, [he] will not seek after God” and because “God is not in all his thoughts” (Psa. 10:4). Today there is no doubt a particularly serious degree of pride behind the refusal of almost a whole generation to seek after God, and acting as if He did not exist. This is not to deny that significant numbers accept God does exist. But in practice they ignore Him; they refuse to seek after Him; He is nowhere in their thoughts. Their hearts never go out to Him in prayer; only in the most desperate emergency might they cry for His help.
But God most certainly does exist, and we would do well to echo the words of Moses the man of God: “From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God” (Psa. 90:2). He is the eternal Being to whom we, our rulers and all the peoples of the world must give account at last for everything we have done ““ and not least for our attitude to Him.
The One who made the world, and everything in it, is in control of all that is happening, whether our rulers are prepared to accept this or not. “Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,” asked Isaiah the prophet, “and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?” (Isa. 40:12). We are clearly directed here to the almightiness of Jehovah, the true God, who has a real existence and before whom all His creatures, even all nations, are as nothing, words which sum up what Isaiah had gone on to direct attention to: “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, He taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” Great as the empires of the past have been and great as the superpowers of today may be, they are as nothing before the great God of eternity.
Yet today’s leaders refuse to acknowledge the God who, in His providence, has given them their place of authority and their moment of fame. And that providence includes everything that happens. The Westminster Confession of Faith sums up, in typically-concise fashion, Scripture teaching on the subject: “God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy” (5.1). It is the duty not only of individuals, but also of nations, to acknowledge that God is upholding and governing all He has created. Rulers ought to recognise that He has everything under His control, including all the matters that He has committed to them to administer just as He overrules every individual voter’s decision at the ballot box, and all the events that influence such decisions. So rulers ought to seek His help and direction in all that they do in relation to great events and small.
If God’s favour were measured in terms of gross domestic product and other economic statistics, it would have to be said that we have never had more of His blessing. But it is not so. This is an age when, in God’s judgement, Britain suffers “not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). And, perhaps more solemnly still, even where the words of the Lord are heard, the power of the Holy Spirit is to a great extent withheld.
What then can we say of 2007? If we look at trends in religion over the past century and a half, we cannot be hopeful. All we can expect is that, over these 12 months, Britain’s spiritual condition will deteriorate further. We certainly deserve nothing better. Indeed, if God deals with us as we deserve, we must expect all kinds of judgements temporal as well as spiritual.
Yet there remains in Britain “a remnant according to the election of grace”. Thus when, morally and religiously and spiritually, the country is corrupting around them, they act as salt so that the decay is not total. Each of them is more or less, given to prayer. Sodom itself might have been saved from destruction had there been even ten praying people in the city. And we have the example of Moses, who cried to God in the face of looming judgement against the Israelites: “Pardon, I beseech Thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy mercy” (Num. 14:19).
God has not changed. He is the One who brought proud Nebuchadnezzar, the supreme ruler of Babylon (in modern Iraq) to confess that God “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” (Dan. 4:35). The Lord can act in the same way today; it is not impossible for Him to bring our rulers also to acknowledge God’s providential control of events and to begin to seek God’s direction in the decisions they must make and to seek His blessing on their policies as they are implemented.
Nor is it beyond God’s power to bring the people of Britain and of other countries to seek Him sincerely. Let God’s children seek earnestly for an outpouring of the Spirit which would bring this about. Let them remember the command: “Keep not silence, and give Him no rest, till He establish, and till He make Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isa. 62:6,7). If the Most High were to give grace to His people so to pray, and if in mercy He were to answer their petitions, 2007 would indeed be a year to remember.
The editorial of the Free Presbyterian Magazine, January 2007, with permission.
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