James F. McBride: Each of us, each nation, faces a stark choice - to submit to the authority of God or to that of man. The pattern of our daily life now will determine our destiny.
The foundation of civilization is the rule of law. Without it there can be no stability in commerce or finance or society at large. Without the underpinning of enforceable - and enforced - law human nature would ensure a rapid descent to chaos.
If law is bad law, or if not enforced. or if disregarded by the majority of citizens then a nation is in a tail-spin to oblivion. Evolving over centuries Anglo-Saxon law, rooted in the principles of the Bible, brought new stability where it had influence. But increasingly those roots are ignored and much recent legislation strays from these sound principles.
It is the increasing neglect of divine authority over generations that is set to bring our world to its knees. National and personal success derives from submission to the authority of the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. Mankind was created by God and given the rules - summarized in the Ten Commandments - that will make life work. Neglect of the "Maker's Instructions" - as with any machine or instrument - results in malfunction! These succinct Laws are the foundation of every healthy society. They are not simply for the "religious" among us.
Disrespect for the elderly, dysfunctional marriage, divorce, criminal activity from petty crime to corruption at the highest levels, the failures of the legal system - all derive from failure to submit to the authority of the divine blueprint for personal and national stability.
Of course, most of us pay at least lip service to the "Big Ten". We admit that theft is anti-social, wrong. Most pay at least lip service to the concepts of respect for parents, of stable marriages, of freedom from violence. We get occasional pangs of conscience as we spend, spend, spend to satisfy our desires. And few quarrel with the right to serve what they perceive as the one Supreme God. In sum, that's the Ten Commandments. They are principles - laws of life - that generally fit with every society.
A society which enshrines the divine blueprint in its Constitution and consistently upholds it, tempered with mercy, will be a society at peace with itself. Legislate contrary to the intent of the Laws of God and decline inevitably follows. Modern democracies have stepped on to this slippery slope, rejecting the authority of divine Law and replacing it with a tangled web of humanly devised substitutes.
Who, then, is responsible for national decline? Is it simply the nebulous notion of the "spirit of our time"? Why are we saddled with laws which discourage family life, encourage idleness, are soft on criminality?
We the people may indeed "get the government we deserve". But despite whatever means individuals become "shepherds" - leaders - of a nation (Russia, Britain, United States, Iraq, wherever), each holds office in trust from God. They are God's "ministers", servants, (Romans 13:1-6) appointed to oversee the welfare of the people. Each will be called before the bar of divine justice to account for how they have administered the divine Law. From the highest office in government to the minor office bureaucrat, each is accountable before God as a steward to the extent of his or her power.
Addressing the leadership of ancient Israel - and in a prophecy which refers to the twenty-first century - God said: "I am against the shepherds. and I will require my flock the people at their hand" (Ezekiel 34:10). In a reflection of the leadership of the modern western democracies. God thunders: "Woe to the shepherds of Israel that feed themselves. Should not the shepherd feed the flocks? You eat the fat (pay themselves fat salaries, skim the cream for themselves) ... but you do not feed [i.e., care for] the flock" (v. 2-3).
God's message continues: "I will feed my flock ... but I will destroy the fat and the strong: I will feed them with judgment" (v. 16). It's a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!
Not even in the United States of America, "land of freedom", has the national leadership ever been perfect. But, four centuries ago, the founding fathers - whatever their faults and motives - firmly based their fledgling nation on Bible principles. And they insisted on separation of Church and State, having seen the destructive power of (humanly-devised) religion when identified with the State in seventeenth century Europe. Thankfully, they raised the flag of religious freedom - the individual's right to worship as he pleased within reason. It's a concept that has spread to many nations, but is still widely abused.
History showed them - through Inquisitions, Crusades, corrupt clergy in high places, martyrdom of Bible believers - that even Christianity could be oppressive when distorted and separated from the love of Christ. The moral principles of the Christian Gospel were firmly and widely proclaimed and the nation prospered. A healthy respect for the Laws of God was instilled in the nation. Sadly, that has largely evaporated.
No longer do those, who make the laws for us to live by, bow to the authority of Scripture. Never is the question asked - what does God say? In the United Kingdom, no longer are laws "made in Britain" - that once-proud label. Rather they are concocted humanistically in Brussels and imposed on the subservient government of our nation.
With little more than a murmur from our spiritual leadership, national sovereignty is discarded like a dirty rag. Destruction of the unborn is institutionalized. Stable family life is discouraged by every twisted novel law. Divinely appointed boundaries are trampled on in sexuality, the arts, entertainment, food production. Greed - and poverty - is actively promoted through the gambling industries.
Where Is God?
Certainly neither our national civil nor our spiritual leadership proclaims the rightful authority of the Creator in the ordering of our national life. Wise laws based on Bible - that is, divine - principles are sidelined by humanly devised innovations which pander to unrestrained and sinful human nature.
The prophet Isaiah also condemns the leadership: "His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant; they are dumb dogs - they cannot bark [in warning]: sleeping, lying down. loving to slumber. Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough and they are shepherds who cannot understand. They all look to their own way, everyone for his own gain" (Isaiah 56:10-12).
Ministers, secular and religious, labor to build their own Tower of Babel to "make a name for themselves", to amass fat retirement fortunes, to be seen of men as movers and shakers.
God, rather, demands of all leadership, everywhere: "Cry aloud, spare not. Lift up your voice like a trumpet, tell my people their transgression" (Isaiah 58:1). Isaiah's description of ancient Israel is a photofit of our present national condition. He wrote: "Alas, sinful nation. a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters .... The whole head is sick and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it. but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up or soothed with ointment" (Isaiah 1:2-6).
It's fashionable to despise any notion that the Creator God has any authority over national governments. Besotted by vanity and lust for personal aggrandizement and power, our leaders trample underfoot the only perfect blueprint for a nation at peace with itself and the world - the divine Law. The fabric of society is shredded by humanly devised laws that undermine justice, promote greed, pervert family life.
Bishops and academics have for decades gnawed at the authority of the Word of God, subverting the nation to godless hedonism. The prophet Jeremiah - himself the undeserved victim of violent godless religious and political leadership - conveys God's message applicable to governments through the ages: "Because they have forsaken My law which I have set before them, and have not obeyed My voice nor walked according to it, but they have walked according to the dictates of their own heart and after the Baals [false religions] which their fathers taught them ... therefore I will feed them, this people, with wormwood and give them water of gall to drink. I will scatter them among the nations" (Jeremiah 9:13-16).
Clearly, the leaders of every nation reject the authority of their Creator. Mankind and individual nations will reap the bitter harvest of submission to human authority and human laws contrary to divine laws.
God is patient. In compassion, He gives a nation - and individuals - time to change its ways, time to continue in His laws - laws which are for our good [see Deuteronomy 10:13, 4:5-8]. Then - judgment.
Once God sees no prospect of change, for the benefit of mankind that nation will be uprooted - as have many nations and empires down the centuries. Jeremiah again: "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up, to pull down and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to build and to plant it - if it does evil in my sight so that it does not obey my voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I would benefit it" (Jeremiah 18:7-10).
The prophet Daniel, addressing an ancient king but writing for our time, said: "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he chooses" (Daniel 4:24-33).
Human God-rejecting authority is a quicksand that will inevitably swallow every nation, every leader, every individual. That "instant" of divine retribution for our western Anglo-saxon democracies may not be far away.
It's time to wake up.
To comment on this article or request more information, please contact James McBride by e-mail at the comment form below.
For PDF or mailed copy, see CGOM. Excerpt from New Horizons Volume 4 Issue 2, March/April 2000. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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