Saturday, 21 November 2015

When Terror Rattles the Bars

….You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall                     (Isaiah 25:4 NKJV)
Right up to the Jihadists of today, the tides of history show up the astonishing inability of violent power-mad men to learn from the past.  ‘Only with guns,’ wrote Chairman Mao, ‘can the whole world be transformed’ (Mao’s Thoughts, page 61).   The Jihadists too have fallen to the lie - oblivious to posterity’s verdict that resorting to violence to win your case is a candid admission that you have already lost the argument.

In Isaiah’s time it was the Assyrians.  Their supreme weapon was Terror; inspired by their distorted religious beliefs.  By enslavement and exile, butchery, mutilations and beheadings, their aim was universal domination.  Yet, despite the ‘blast’ threatened by their unremitting violence, the prophet predicted that this would eventually come to nothing as against ‘the wall’ that represented the stronghold of God’s rule.

And so it proved.  Assyria’s capital fortress-city of Nineveh was taken in August 612 BC, by a coalition of Babylonians and Medes.  The vivid Bible book of Nahum prophesied its downfall in amazing detail, as was confirmed later by nineteenth century archaeologists.  Nahum foresaw the coming disaster as the judgment of God, in the words “I will leave you no prey on the earth.”  For centuries to come, all that was left of Nineveh was a mound - Tell Kunyunjik – ‘The mound of many sheep.’

Its later name was Mosul – a modern city which today’s Jihadists have battled to make their own.  Their weapon is the gun.  The greater weapon by far is prayer by God’s people to Christ, the long-prophesied Son of Man.  The New King James Version gives us the true reading of Isaiah 32:2 in the words,  ‘A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest …. as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.’

‘It is prayer,’ wrote Jacques Ellul, ‘and prayer alone
that can make history’


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Partnership - when Faced by Evil

 ….the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any troubles with the comfort we ourselves have received from God  (2 Corinthians 1:4)

Whether it was Lockerbie in Scotland,  9/11 in America, or – as  in recent days - Paris in November 2015, these are some of the realities of life in a fallen world.   In his passage of 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul puts evil, suffering – and the hand of comfort - into a Christian context.  The comfort that derives from God Himself is described by a Greek word, PARAKALEO, which means ‘I call for aid alongside…. I summon assistance.’

Indeed the name, given by Jesus to the Holy Spirit of God, was that of
PARAKLETOS, literally, ‘The Comforter.’  In these words, then, the Bible brings to us the ideas of coming alongside, of counsel, of fortitude and consolation in the middle of adversity and evil. 

In verses 5 and 7 of this Bible chapter, the words ‘partaking’ or ‘sharing’ feature.  Such partnership they knew all about when slaves were sent to the galleys, or when gladiators faced lions.

In one way or another – faced by an evil ideology that comes out of the Pit - we are practising this partnership today, right across the world.  We are part of:

The Partnership of Pain – our common Frailty

Paul emphasizes that ‘If WE are comforted, it is for YOUR comfort and salvation’ (v.6).  In a strange way, the knowledge that many others know what adversity means - and are standing by in support -  creates an unseen bond of help and courage.

The Partnership of Prayer - our common Activity

This is bigger still.  When undisguised evil strikes a city, we fly to prayer - whatever our background.  It is part of being human; the underlying awareness that there is a power; more - a Person - who is only a hairsbreadth away from the heartbeat of our anxieties.

The Partnership of Posterity – our common Unity

We are called to be Builders of a world where freedom, mutual understanding and support can walk hand in hand.  The purveyors of destruction have to be out-argued and out-faced …. at every level.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Trigger of Remembrance

Oh that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll…. engraved in rock for ever!      (Job 19:23)

Days like Remembrance Sunday act as a ‘trigger’ for many emotions, What it is, to remember, and also BE remembered!  It was in the sufferings of Job that certain common questions came to the surface:

1. SHALL I BE REMEMBERED?  Job became desperate that something of his own ‘persona’ would survive, like a remembrance scroll, and in this he speaks not only for the last Spitfire pilot or today’s war casualties, but for common people everywhere.  But here is another question:

2. WHOM SHALL I REMEMBER?  “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). It was now that Job’s words glowed with hope.  Eventually they’d be part of the greatest oratorio ever composed, Handel’s Messiah: Job’s ultimate comfort would centre in the world’s divine Redeemer, in whom lay the prospect of RESURRECTION.   ‘In the flimsiness of my little life,’ we may wonder, ‘to whom can I turn? Whom shall I remember and hold onto?’  Way ahead of Christ’s coming, Job knew the answer.

3. SHALL HE (the Redeemer) REMEMBER ME?  Job was confident that the coming Redeemer would one day stand upon earth, and that “in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes, I and not another” (Job 19: 26,27).   It would be in his own resurrected body, not in some alien unrelated form, that he would meet the Lord in Person.

If a dying thief from the dregs of society could pray to Christ ‘Remember me’, then by simple trust it is possible for anyone so to be remembered by the Man of the Ages.  He is only a hairsbreadth away from any prayer.