Illustration: Jeremiah in his Dungeon
Photo credit: see below

Barking up the Wrong Tree

Date: Monday, 01 September 2014
Author: Rev David M Blunt

Under the Old Testament there was a succession of prophets who were sent by the Lord with a message for the people of Israel. Anointed by the Spirit these God-fearing men were able to put their finger on the problems facing the nation. We are humbled by their faithfulness and the hardships they endured when their witness was not wanted; we stand in awe of a man like Jeremiah who was confined to a miry dungeon for declaring the truth.


Preachers of the gospel today should be of the same stamp. They may not be prophets but their ministry ought to be prophetic. If the Lord Jesus “preached righteousness in the great congregation” (Psa. 40:9) then so must His servants. They are to tell men the truth, “whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear” (Ezek. 2:5). Looking at the state of things in our land in general we believe Isaiah’s words to be appropriate: “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark” (Isa. 56:10). We confess that we ourselves are not crying aloud in our land as the prophets did: perhaps that is why we do not (yet) share the fate many of them experienced. 

Judging from a recent report one minister who is very unlikely to be incarcerated for any of his utterances is Rev Andrew McLellan. Mr McLellan is a former Moderator of the General Assembly and one of over thirty Church of Scotland ministers who have signed a declaration of support for Scottish independence. In doing so he took the opportunity to make a statement to the nation which went as follows:

“The worst thing in Scotland is Trident [the UK’s nuclear weapons system]. September 18th is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remove the worst thing in Scotland. Speaking against nuclear weapons is good, campaigning against nuclear weapons is good, and praying for their abolition is good. But what will change everything is voting Yes in the referendum.”


Though his words may chime with the sentiments of many this is a misguided message indeed. Mr McLellan is surely barking up the wrong tree. For one thing the action he wants to see taken would contribute precisely nothing to the goal of abolishing nuclear weapons: it would simply move a small number of them (eventually) from one location to another. In any case, how can these weapons actually be abolished? They can hardly be ‘uninvented’ for the know-how will always remain.

But what really beggars belief is the claim from a minister of religion that Trident is “the worst thing in Scotland”! Trident is a piece of technology which has helped keep the peace on an international level. It is a weapon of mass destruction which has not actually destroyed anyone – exactly in accordance with its stated purpose of providing “the minimum effective nuclear deterrent as the ultimate means to deter the most extreme threat.”


From a Christian standpoint we would like to suggest some more credible candidates for “the worst thing in Scotland” – in terms of the harm done and the lives lost. For instance, what about the crime of murder itself? Scotland has the highest murder rate in the UK. Although the level has fallen in recent years when attempted murders are included the total is still over 400. Yet while the law of God requires that murderers be put to death (Gen. 9:6) they are instead kept in comfort and eventually released – dealing a double blow to their victims’ families. Where is the justice in that?


Another scourge of our society is drug abuse, which leads to the death of nearly 600 people a year in Scotland, many of them teenagers. Heroin accounts for many of these tragic losses but it actually comes second as a killer to methadone which astonishingly, according to a long-running Scottish Government programme, is prescribed by GPs to over 20,000 thousand addicts as a substitute for heroin! This is a counsel of despair and a sign that we have really lost our moral compass.


These statistics are bad enough but there is something worse yet. Abortion must rank as one of the most wicked things we are guilty of as a nation. Unlike Trident abortion is responsible for slaying thousands upon thousands – the current rate being 12,000 per annum. That’s 12,000 individuals wiped off the face of the earth each year, never to see their childhood let alone their adulthood. That’s a mind-numbing 400,000 fellow human beings killed since abortion became legal – twice the number of people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the only two atomic bombs which have ever been used in warfare. Yet where are those who open their mouths for the dumb (Prov. 31:8)? Sadly there are plenty, and some shamefully even within the church, who will justify abortion. The late US President Ronald Reagan’s wry comment on the matter is worth mentioning: “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.”

Spiritual State

However the very worst thing of all in Scotland, judged by the Word of God, must be the lack of genuine gospel preaching, real repentance of sin and true faith in Jesus Christ. Those who continue in sin murder their own souls and will be punished with “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:9); ministers who do not warn them to flee from the wrath to come will one day find that God will require the blood of their souls at their hand (Ezek. 33:6). We should be weeping over Scotland’s spiritual state, that our Saviour is “as a stranger in the land” (Jer. 14:8).

Mr McLellan’s remarks also illustrate something very topical at the moment – namely a tendency to believe that independence is the panacea for all our ills. It isn’t – and neither is the Union – although we firmly believe that with its built-in safeguards for our protestant and presbyterian faith the Union provides a far better environment for Christianity to prosper than independence as proposed. If our land is to be delivered from its current malaise then we must look further and higher than constitutional change: we must cease from man and call upon the God who says: “I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds” (Jer. 30:17). May He grant us the grace we need.


Photo credit:
Jeremiah in his Dungeon
"Book of Jeremiah Chapter 38-2 (Bible Illustrations by Sweet Media)" by Jim Padgett - Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984.
Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -