Illustration: Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, where
the National Covenant was signed in 1638
Photo credit: see below
A Nation Forsaking God
What is the worst thing that can happen to any people? Surely it is for God to give them up, as we read in the Epistle to the Romans (1:24,26). He withdraws from them and leaves them to their own sinful devices. It has happened before and it may happen again. Indeed it could be happening right now in our own nation.
A nation is a people united by their ancestry, history or culture and often occupying a particular territory. Though every nation has a purpose in God’s redemptive plan there are some nations even now in which there are very few who know the Lord. The apostles never visited their shores, the great Reformation passed them by and when missionaries came as heralds of our Lord Jesus Christ they were not welcome. The histories of these nations are full of pagan superstition and spiritual darkness and to this day they remain largely in the grip of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Romanism or some other false religion.
It is not that such peoples know nothing of the true God. Paul tells us that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). By His works in creation and providence God reveals His power, wisdom and goodness to every man’s conscience. For this reason Paul and Barnabas could say at Lystra that God “left not himself without witness” among the nations (Acts 14:17). But natural revelation speaking of the existence of God is one thing: special revelation testifying of the cross of Christ is another. There are nations yet which do not have the Bible in their own language and where most have not heard of our loving and gracious Saviour.
It is sad to say it but our own nation is in a very different situation. We have enjoyed great spiritual privileges and advantages over many centuries. The Scriptures have been translated into our native tongue, preachers have been sent into every corner of our land, generations of sinners have been saved and righteousness has long been established. Gospel light has shone throughout this realm – until recently. In the last few decades things have changed markedly. Now in the place of true religion we see the dark shadows of apostasy encroaching and the storm clouds of judgment approaching.
What has happened? Many explanations may be given but essentially our nation has forgotten God. The United Kingdom, through a great collective effort, seems determined to blot the God of the Bible out of its memory. In homes everywhere, in the Houses of Parliament, even in the house of God in some instances, the name of the Lord and what it represents is an embarrassment. It seems that we want to abandon our former ways as a nation as fast as possible.
Many changes have occurred in our country since the last world war, making it a very different place from what it once was. As well as developments which have brought benefits, such as advances in technology and improvements in living standards, there have been developments which have been harmful, like the ‘permissive society’ and ‘multiculturalism’. These things have weakened our society, separating it from its vital root in Protestant Christianity. We have forgotten God’s mighty works, His past deliverances, His precious Word and His holy day.
Attitudes to the Bible have certainly changed. Once it was not only revered by God’s people but also respected by those who did not profess a personal faith in Christ. Nowadays those in authority do not want to be reminded of the Bible’s contents and especially of God’s holy law. Some of them attack its morality as incompatible with the values of a modern, tolerant and inclusive society. In many respects the church is at fault for it was there that the inspiration and the infallibility – or the truthfulness and the trustworthiness – of the Scriptures was first questioned.
Forgetting God quickly leads to forsaking God. When a nation forsakes God it does not mean that religion disappears entirely. What happens is that the ignorance which results makes way for idolatry to enter as men change the truth of God into a lie, and worship and serve the creature more than the Creator (Rom. 1:25). Any god will do for fallen man, so long as it is not the God of the Bible. The false gods in Britain today include prosperity, pleasure, science and sport. There are ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’ too. These false gods are very demanding and those who worship them are in reality their hapless slaves. Shameful things may be done in their name such as redefining marriage to include same sex unions, though these are forbidden by the God of the Bible.
The history of Israel gives us some helpful guidance concerning our relation to God as a nation. Early in the reign of king Asa of Judah the prophet Azariah was directed by the Spirit of God to address the monarch in the following terms: “Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). As a nation we have enjoyed the same blessing as Judah did: now we must heed the same warning.
Asa was one of those few kings who did what was good and right in eyes of the Lord. He engaged in a reformation of religion, taking away the sodomites out of the land, removing all idols and even removing his grandmother from being queen because of her idolatry (1 Kings 15:12,13). During his reign the nation was blessed with peace. When eventually the Ethiopians attacked with a superior force Asa cried to the Lord for help, expressing the nation’s confidence in Jehovah, and the Ethiopians were utterly overthrown. In Asa’s time the nation entered into a covenant to seek the Lord “with all their heart and with all their soul” (2 Chron. 15:12). Did not Scotland make the same promise in 1638? God holds us to it.
What will become of Britain as a nation? We cannot say of course but the Word of God is plain in its threatenings: “they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed” (Isa. 1:28); “the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish” (Isa. 60:12). Yet our God is a most merciful God. He is able to change things for the better and we have every encouragement to look to Him in our present difficulties. Let us pray that God would give us national repentance and turn us again to Himself – before it is too late.
Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh, where the National Covenant was signed in 1638
By Kim Traynor (Own work)
[CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons