What does it take to drive a nation to its knees?
Britain has never been a Utopia. Not in fifteen hundred years could its citizens begin to imagine they lived in a paradise. There has been foreign invasion and attempted invasion, civil war, plague and famine, oppressive government and persecution of minorities by church and by state. We have lost millions of our precious manpower in far-off battles not of our own making. The rich and powerful have lorded over the poor.
But the battering by all that life can throw at a nation in recent centuries forged a nation of stable government and moderate prosperity. Britain virtually ruled a dark world with a generally benign influence. Near empty continents were peopled by civilizing force. Withdrawal over the last half-century left an inheritance of democratic rule and sound government. She led the way in abolishing the malign slave trade, her navies opened up global trade routes, the Englishman's word was widely seen as his bond - a mark of honesty and integrity.
For all her internal tensions, the nation had common purpose - a purpose driven by a Bible-fed morality. The great principles of freedom, social compassion, equality before God stemmed from the love of 'the Book' that permeated much of the nation and its leaders and opinion makers. National calamity - as in two world wars - was faced by the sentiment of [Chaplain Forgy at Pearl Harbor, 1941:] 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition'.
Royal decree dictated Days of Prayer, calling on God - who was seen as the source of our national well-being - to deliver us from our enemies. Results on the battlefields confirmed His positive response.
That, apparently, is history. Britain, today, is different. Branded by some as virtually a 'Third World' nation we are in headlong decline. Prosperity - for most - remains. We appear, however, to have entered a new era of adversity. Unseasonal floods swamp vast tracts of the land and abnormal storms fell thousands of trees. Wave after wave of disease afflicts our national herds and flocks-swine fever, BSE ('mad cow disease'), 'foot and mouth' disease, fowl pest call for desperate and costly measures to eradicate. Medical services cannot cope with human demand, and largely self-inflicted diseases such as the STDs and smoking burden the service. Transportation is in terminal decline. Policing is low in morale for such reasons as insufficient numbers, bureaucracy, perverted justice in the courts and, as a result, criminal activity burgeons.
Turn to the foundation of national stability, the family, and we witness the same decline. Marriages have declined by over a third in forty years. Co-habitation- insufficient to be statistically relevant then - has now soared to over sixteen million. Births outside marriage now account for 38% of all births - forty years ago it was two percent. Ignorant and irresponsible youths copulate like so many alley cats. So what? Ask the multiple thousands of abandoned single mothers struggling on welfare with a brood sired by multiple 'fathers'. Ask the women suffering from cervical cancer - often a result of multiple sexual partners. Ask the welfare service about the abandoned children, the battered single women, the drug-induced crime, the truancy.
What about the national leadership, the Government in Westminster - or the White House, for that matter? They have a God-given responsibility to govern well for the benefit of the people. It is 'God's agency for your welfare' Paul told the Christians in Rome (ch. 13:4). For all its trumpeting of being 'whiter than white' morally, the present [British] government surpasses the last one in the depths of sleaze in which it wallows and in its contempt for Parliament. What we see is hypocrisy, promotion of perverse sex, self-serving 'Ministers of the Crown' lining their velvet purses with bribes, extending favors to pressure groups, packing Parliament with cronies and obstructing it with blatant lies, changing electoral law to favor the governing party, releasing murderous terrorists into the community, strangling the nation with red tape and devious and complex taxes. Even 'Mr. Clean', the Prime Minister, is no longer viewed as the standard-bearer of a new politics, but as a 'master of the political fix'.
Can we make sense of this precipitous national decline? Can it be stopped dead and our nation return to a semblance of normality? Given that the impetus of the decline is a moral slide, we might ask Where is the church? It's a surprise, now, when a Bishop actually mentions 'God' in Parliament! A call by Dr. Ian Paisley in the House of Commons for prayer was loudly laughed at! The national church makes little impact and fewer than ten percent are regular churchgoers. And few churchgoers live by the precepts of the Word of God, instead absorbing the 'ways of the world'. Young Christians polled recently saw nothing wrong with co-habitation or with divorce of Christians.
Principles of Success
The great moral principles - the Ten Commandments - on which the Creator formed His human creation, today have little impact. Our educational system teaches only a watered down humanism. A couple of generations of children no longer receive 'religious instruction' at home or in school or Sunday School.
One of the most successful of past national leaders said, "Right conduct exalts a nation - but sin is a reproach to any people" (Proverbs 14:34). That was King Solomon of ancient Israel. Based on the principles of right conduct - i.e., God's Commandments - he led his nation into riches and stability, becoming an international example. 'Sin' is the abandonment of those principles. In practical terms righteous conduct means appropriate and generous care and respect for the elderly. It means a stop to all sexual activity outside marriage. It means swift justice for violence and for property theft. It means transparent courtroom procedures with fair trials backed by the majesty of the Law and an end to perjury. And it means the curbing of greed and unfettered consumerism.
Get those right and our nation can revive! Supine government need no longer feel the need to sell our sovereignty to alien nations. For the supreme ruler of the universe will back up any nation that will respect His instruction for good government.
The Hedge Removed
The divine law is a hedge that protects the 'national garden'. Cast aside that law and in come the predators to tear up and destroy our heritage. Anciently God explained the consequence of a nation - any nation - not implementing these principles. Israel was established by Him as a model nation, an example for all-for good or ill!
Here's what God said: "If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and seek fully to carry out his commandments which I enjoin upon you today, then the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth" (Deuteronomy 28:1). Sounds like a great promise, and one which was bountifully fulfilled in Israel's subsequent history. Blessings would follow, in both urban and country: healthy humans and children, healthy productive livestock and fine crops, defeat of any enemy and respect among the nations. A creditor nation too - no national debt. Even the weather would co-operate (vv. 2-14).
And if they didn't submit to this 'path of right behavior'? The hedge would, root by root, be removed, the wall of God's protection crumble - the nation's choice. God's vineyard would become trampled underfoot, a desolation followed by national exile (Isaiah 5:5-30). Illness would become endemic, crops destroyed by pests and weather and yields decrease, 'your ox shall be slain before your eyes, but you shall not eat of it', invasion by a foreign power, the dreaded animal and human plagues of Egypt. All because they - and we - refuse to listen to the fundamental principles of success! You see, all these 'blessings and curses' are the inevitable and natural consequence of human behavior - good or perverse.
Israel reached the heights, but prosperity dulled their awareness of why they prospered - God's blessing and not simply their own diligence (Deuteronomy 8:11-20). As a nation they forgot God and His guidance and the 'curses' dogged their heels. They experienced them to the point of being carried captive to distant lands, exiled for seventy years in the case of the House of Judah.
Are we - who are among the descendants of ancient Israel - any better? Has our prosperity 'gone to our head', dulled our senses, caused us to forget the true source of our blessings?
The clues are there! We can shrug off our national calamities as 'just one of those things'. Or with a shudder we can come to see them as a divine warning, perhaps a chastening by a loving God. As a nation we must turn to those values that make for true prosperity. They are not full employment, nor a burgeoning [Financial Times Industrial] 'Footsie' Index, nor malls overflowing with consumer goods. What we must have are respect for the elderly, formal and cohesive marriages, law and order, justice tempered with mercy - and contentment, humility, mutual concern.
All such are vital if we are to avert the ultimate calamity - exile and enslavement. But they will not, alone, restore us as a 'most favoured nation' in God's eyes!
These 'guidelines for prosperity' are but part of the story. The final straw for ancient Israel was a spiritual reason. They had turned from the true worship of their Creator to idols. Israel imported a host of idolatrous religions which ensnared them and led to alienation from the God of their fathers. Indeed Judah's seventy years in exile was to make up for their long-time abandonment of that worship.
It's time for us to pray!
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 Vol. 5 No. 3, May-June, 2001. Edited by James McBride of the Churches of God, United Kingdom.
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