Cry the beloved country

by Gavin  

Cry the beloved country

 The title of Alan Paton’s seminal work might have been penned in a different era, and in response to a very different socio-political climate than we face in South Africa in 2016.  The book of that name is a poignant tale that captured much of the deeply rooted racial dynamics in our nation at that time, as well as exploring through narrative many of the associated socio-economic results which impacted the lives of real people across the spectrum in South Africa.

 

Having watched and listened to the events at the end of March unfolding, one is tempted I think, without any sense of political agenda, to echo the cry of Paton many decades later: “Cry the beloved country.”  We have witnessed the ground-breaking judgement handed down by our Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in the Constitutional Court again both the incumbent President and National Assembly of the Republic of South Africa.  The judgement was comprehensive, insightful and damning.  On Friday 1st April we were witness to the broadcast of President Jacob Zuma called at short notice for 7pm last night, followed by the ANC announcement of Gwede Mantashe at 8pm on Friday 1st April.  Alas, sadly, neither broadcast was an April Fool’s joke.  I was personally both incredulous and angered at the sheer arrogance portrayed (although labelled as “humble” by the ruling party), staggered at the gross lack of accountability and moral conscience, and glib write-off of the matters as a mere mistake.  In my opinion, watching it unfold, it was spin-doctoring of the highest order.  Additionally, I have listened to and read the responses of the various political commentators, opposition leaders and other voices, sensing the widespread disappointment, anger and frustration at the governmental responses mounted.

 

It is at that stage that one needed to take a step back as believer in Christ, and think through the issues and events using a biblical lens.  See, as believers we should have a biblical worldview, one shaped by the Word and strong, unshakable views on God, His attributes and plans.  Therefore, in the interests of reinforcing my own thinking, and providing some pastoral guidance for our Randburg Baptist Church family, I offer the following reminders from Scripture and prayer thoughts, rushed and simple as they might be at this stage.  This is not in any way a political diatribe, and certainly not written in support of any party.  This is merely the application of God’s truth to the issues that have emerged as reality in our country, and which could well be applied to many other nations at various times in the history of humankind.

 

 

  1. God is still sovereign

 

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalm 115:3, ESV)

 

all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:35, ESV)

 

Ephesians 1:11 tells us that God works all things according to the counsel of his will.  He can because He alone is God. We as fallible, sinful and mortal humans might not understand the purposes of God, but it does not mean that He is not at work.  Even through the more dire circumstances, involving pain and affliction at times, our God is still on His throne, doing all things well.  What is happening in the South African political landscape is not a surprise to God, and much as it blows our minds, He is actively at work in all which is unfolding.  That is a source of confidence for the believer.  Pray for increased faith to trust His plans and purposes which unfold. 

  

  1. God is ultimately responsible for the appointment and “dethroning” of leaders

 

I can’t say it better than the inspired text of Isaiah… see the bigness and vastness and power of God, and then see how people  are contrasted…

 

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. 18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move. 21 Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; 23 who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. 24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. [Isaiah 40:12–24 (ESV)]

 

Those last few verses are staggering in their application to our age.  Nothing has changed.  As God raised up and used sinful, violent nations like the Babylonians and Assyrians, so God’s power has not diminished or being lost through the subsequent millennia.  Kings, Prime Ministers, Presidents and governments in our own era are subject to the same sovereign God – the One who brings them to nothing, malkes them as emptiness, plants them and uproots them, and causes them to be remembered no more.

 

While not biblical in the least, Percy Bysshe Shelley got that right in his epic poem, “Ozymandias.”  I don’t know where that though came from… possible flashback to Standard 7 English class at Blairgowrie High School… but the sentiment rings true.  When God brings someone down, all that is left is stubble and dust…

 

I met a Traveler from an antique land,

Who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings."

Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!

No thing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,

The lone and level sands stretch far away.

 

 

 3. Governmental leaders who reject God are derided by God and will be judged by God

 

Again, let’s just let God speak through His Word, using the whole text of Psalm 2…

 

1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. [Psalm 2 (ESV)]

 

  1. We are called to pray for our government

 

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, ESV)

 

The command there leaves little room for debate, right?  Believers are called by God to pray for their governments, irrespective of whether they are good, bad or indifferent.  I think it is fair to say, based on some experience of conversations, social events and reading the social media postings of believers that Christians tend to spend more time grumbling about the things we see around us than we do actually interceding for the events around us.  Maybe that is something to be confessed and repented of?

 

God wants us to be praying for our President, the so-called “Top 6,” the NEC, the National Assembly.  He wants us to be praying for those people and those institutions with a result – so that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  Should we noy commit to that as a local church body, individually and corporately?

 

Additionally, while conceding the actual command was given to Judah 2700 years ago as she faced certain exile, the principle of the following timeless words holds true for us as well, right?

 

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)

 

Pray for the very and openly Godless, secular, corrupt society in which we live.  It the welfare of South Africa, Gauteng and Joburg, we will find our own welfare.

 

What can we pray for?  Well, many things.  Here are a few ideas…

 

If we take some selected thoughts, what about Psalm 2 (cited above)?  Pray that our President and Cabinet feel some sense of conviction of their rank rejection of God, as per the pattern of verses 2-3… the rejection of God, the rejection of Christ, the desire to not function under godly authority, to break off all restraint.  Verse 4 tells us that God, who is on His exalted and eternal throne, laughs in derision at those who so reject Him… “Who are you, you little, feeble, mortal man reigning under my ultimate control, thinking that you are something great when you are nothing apart from Me and the power I have so granted you for a teeny-weeny moment in eternal history?” 

 

We can legitimately pray along the lines of verse 9 as well (and any other imprecatory psalm text) – that God (in His justice, righteous anger and compassion for the afflicted subjects)  would break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.  Let’s pray boldly for God’s intervention in the sin-affected mess, to bring about real divine correction flowing from His righteous Hand.

 

We can and should pray that President Zuma, his cabinet, advisors, sycophants and business partners would heed the God-given warning of the closing words to submit by faith to Christ, and to thus avoid the eternal judgement that awaits those outside of a faith relationship with Jesus, who alone can save:

 

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10–12, ESV)

 

Closing thoughts…

 

Those believers who love South Africa should be praying for her and her leaders.  It is right that we say, using Paton’s words, “Cry the beloved country.”  But more than that, to exercise a trust in God and His purposes, and be faithful to pray for divine intervention in the sin-affected mess that we are in as a nation. 

 

With all due respect, our President’s bad theological drivel given at an Easter event at Ellis Park last week is not the issue… Mr Zuma is quoted as saying the following during his address to thousands of members of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg on Good Friday:

 

“We are here to get blessings and prayers. We want you to pray for us as leaders so that when we make mistakes, you can ask God to forgive us because Satan is always around trying to derail us…”

 

No! Satan is at work, and this true.  But Satan will not derail those running fast and far from God, living and ruling in ways inconsistent with God’s Word. 

 

What is needed in South Africa and government is gospel transformation, a return of government to serve the interests of the people of our land, and ideally total surrender to the Son, who is ruling on His throne, and Who will come back to judge our rulers with perfect justice.  Pray that our national leaders will be ready to meet Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords on that fateful Day of the Lord when He returns, and all things are laid bare.

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