The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Should we be surprised?

with 6 comments

A few days ago my father and I were talking about the current crisis and its causes and consequences. He suggested some possible causes for the divine displeasure, and we began to add a few more. We talked about the hand of God in all this, and our failure to see it and to respond to it. He wrote up his developing thoughts, we batted it back and forth a few times, and this guest post by Austin Walker is the result.

The pandemic caused by a coronavirus has brought the world as we know it to a virtual standstill. The normal life of a few months ago is a fading memory. The hustle and bustle of town and city life, the hum of constant traffic, guiding your shopping trolley through crowded supermarket aisles, are—for the moment—things of the past. I live within sight of Gatwick Airport’s take-off and landing flight path. It has now been silent for weeks.

What are we to make of this pandemic? Should we be surprised? Is it possible to discover any reasons for it? The prophet Amos asks a pertinent question of his contemporaries: “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” (Am 3:6). Hosea remonstrated with Israel, saying that the Lord had a complaint against them: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint, with bloodshed upon bloodshed” (Hos 2:1–2). There are some dangers in comparing the theocracy of Old Testament Israel with any nation today. However, the link in Scripture between calamities and human sinfulness and the judgment of God can scarcely be denied.

Christ warns his disciples about “the beginnings of sorrows” (Mt 24:8) which precede his coming to judge the world. Among those sorrows are wars and rumours of wars. He also spoke of “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Mt 24:7). At the time of writing, Covid-19 has accounted for over 32,000 deaths in the UK (the most in Europe) and an estimated 250,000 world-wide. It has plunged many families into distress and sorrow. In the mercy of God, our Prime Minister survived Covid-19. We were spared a political crisis in addition to the health crisis. For a few days, his life was in the balance and contingency plans were drawn up in case he became another casualty. We live in a time of extraordinary uncertainty. Many will be asking, “Why?”

But should we be surprised by what we are experiencing? Is it not the case that our nation has consistently put the word of God behind its back? What should surprise us is that God has been merciful and patient towards us because he has not judged us more severely and more quickly! There have been very few public voices suggesting that this crisis is, in fact, an expression of God’s mercy and patience calling us to wake up, to consider the way we are living and repent of our sins. The Bible tells us that such temporal judgments are a gracious warning from God and a precursor of Christ’s return to judge the world. Yet he is merciful. Speaking in the context of the judgment of the flood in Noah’s day, Peter reminds his readers, that “the Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Pt 3:9).

Reflect for a moment on what has taken place in our nation in the seventy or so years since the Second World War. The years of post-war austerity were followed by the advent of the ‘permissive society’ in the 1960s. This was popularly associated with the discovery of sex, drugs, and rock and roll by the younger generation. There was no single event that marked the beginning of these changes, although many commentators at the time pointed to the 1960 trial of Penguin Books for publishing an unexpurgated version of the novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Without doubt there was a marked change in social attitudes and behaviour from this time, which has continued to the present day.

Consider some of those changes. God’s name is repeatedly blasphemed in public, in television programmes, on the streets, and in offices and schools. Capital punishment was finally abolished in the UK in 1969. Hardly anyone talks about it anymore. The mass murder of thousands of unborn babies was sanctioned by law in 1967, and some are now campaigning for abortion up to birth. There are those who want to change the law promoting euthanasia and make assisted suicide permissible in law. Homosexuality is promoted on every side, together with same-sex ‘marriage’ and civil partnerships. Great confusion is being sown in people’s minds as our God-given identity as either male or female is rejected. The dignity of marriage and family life has been steadily eroded, and easy divorce is available should things not work out. No wonder thousands simply choose to live together! Sexual abuse and pornography thrive. The Lord’s day is desecrated and often filled with shopping trips, even labelled ‘Super Sunday’ with sporting activities on a large scale. Pluralism in religion is promoted so that Christianity is seen as just one option—and not a very popular or accepted option either. Free speech is constantly under threat. It would appear that materialism and secularisation have won the hearts of our nation.

Sadly, even among those who call themselves Christians, there have been examples of the sexual abuse of children, the sanctioning of same-sex ‘marriage,’ the promotion of a feminist agenda, and attacks on just about every doctrine taught in the Scriptures. The urge to modernise and to change has transformed ‘worship’ in many churches; having only one service on Sunday is commonplace.

The list makes frightening reading. The law of God summarised in the Ten Commandments is flouted daily in our land by all kinds of people. It would not take a great deal of effort to identify what has been described as a trampling in the dust of all of God’s commandments. Does God look on and smile complacently? What we have described is lawlessness, ungodliness and unrighteousness. Sin is lawlessness. The fact is, there is little or no knowledge of God in our land. Rather, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18). We should not be surprised at all. What we are experiencing today are the warning judgments of God after years of placing God’s laws behind our backs. Very few will be willing to listen to that conclusion.

Those who are leading us through this crisis seem to be totally unaware of what we have been describing. There is an assumption that we, as human beings, with all our vaunted wisdom, technology and medical understanding can ultimately handle this crisis, despite the fears and sorrows it brings, and the economic ruin that is playing out before our eyes.

We are thankful for all the NHS workers, some of whom have died caring for Covid-19 patients. We are thankful for those who have medical skills. We are thankful for those who, for example, are now striving hard to find a vaccine that will save many more thousands of lives. Our hearts go out in sympathy to those who have lost loved ones. Many are lonely and suffer in silence, shut off from others in their homes, quarantined, or in hospital. We continue to pray to the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort as the only certain help in this our time of need.

Is it not time to seek God’s face and ask him in his great mercy to relieve us of our afflictions? Is it not time to humble ourselves before the God of heaven and earth and confess our sins as a nation? Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah were great men of prayer. Each of them was caught up in the judgments of God and their consequences. Yet in those times of divine judgment they called on the Lord, confessing their nation’s sins against God, and found he was merciful, even though it was the very opposite of what they deserved.

The true church of Christ should lead the way. Those three Old Testament saints serve as a pattern for the prayers of God’s people in the present crisis. Some speak of the possibility of revival but it will surely not happen until these and many other sins are confessed before God. He will finally bring the whole world to judgment. The Lord Jesus tells us that “as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Mt 24:37–39). In his great love God sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into this world. We deserve nothing less than condemnation. By his death on the cross in the place of sinners, Christ makes atonement for sin and turns aside the wrath of God we deserve. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name alone: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16). To believe on Christ will mean being humbled, acknowledging and repenting of our sin and our pride, and putting our trust for salvation in him alone.

Will the true church of Christ set the tone? There is a great danger of falling into the way of thinking that characterises our nation. However, our response must be directed by the word of God and, in particular, by the godly example of men like Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Daniel pleaded God’s great mercies: “I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession … we do not present our supplications before you because of our righteous deeds, but because of your great mercies” (Dan 9:3–19). By reading the entire prayer we see how Daniel humbled himself before God. He cried out sincerely, “we have sinned, we have done wickedly” (Dan 9:15). The truth is that we are definitely not in control of our lives and do not have the power or the wisdom that too many think we possess. God loves a broken spirit and a contrite heart, a heart that heeds his word instead of despising it, and thus casts itself on a merciful God.

Daniel was not surprised by the judgments that fell on his nation. What was more surprising was the mercy that God showed towards those who humbled themselves and set their faces towards him, who made urgent heartfelt requests to him by prayers and supplications. Has God changed? Will he not show himself merciful again to our generation if we but seek his face? Would that surprise you?

Written by Jeremy Walker

Thursday 7 May 2020 at 08:24

6 Responses

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  1. Hi Jeremy, Clearly such thoughts, supported by Scripture are valid, I have been thinking and praying along the same lines recently, especially in regard to Amos and Hosea. The question is what next? I have been thinking that a Christian leader should write to the Prime Minister or The Queen, or both, in order to express these concerns and to recommend National Days of Prayer focusing on an awareness of these matters and the need for repentance more openly! Could you persuade someone to try please? Yours in Christ Jesus, Phill

    From Phill on the move!

    >

    Phill Gmail

    Thursday 7 May 2020 at 12:15

    • I know a number of men who have done just that, but I think the point of this essay is that we should not expect unregenerate leaders to establish a righteous tone for the nation. It is the church which needs to act first.

      Jeremy Walker

      Thursday 7 May 2020 at 14:11

  2. We need to humble ourselves, pray, seeking God’s forgiveness for ourselves and Countrymen, praise and worship. Glory be to God.

    tinky62

    Thursday 7 May 2020 at 16:50

  3. This is an excellent evaluation of the current situation with Scriptural directions for our actions at this time and going forward. Will judgement first begin at the church? Repentance, fasting and prayer may be more useful activities even though they may seem “Old-fashioned” They proved effective in the past.

    Sam Gordon

    Thursday 7 May 2020 at 18:30

  4. Thanks for a very well thought out and gracious articulation of the truth. This is truth worth we are sure of the reason or purpose of this pandemic it is certainly truth.

    Rick

    Friday 8 May 2020 at 10:26

  5. […] my first article I outlined some of the biblical reasons why I believe we are facing the present crisis. I suggested […]


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