Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations… (Haggai 2:6-7 ESV)
It is said that people always remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about certain world shaking events. The often quoted example is the assassination of President Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas in 1963. I hadn’t even been born when JFK died, but I know where I was and what I was doing for example when I heard about the death of Diana Princess of Wales . I happened to be a summer student in Manish Scarista Congregation , and getting ready to leave for Leverburgh to preach during my summer placement . I remember when I heard about the breaking news of the 9/11 attacks in New York . I was disposing of rubbish for my mother, at the rubbish dump in Bernera Lewis, when I heard this shocking news on the car radio.
In the same way, I think many of us, will remember where we were when we heard the news of the referendum result last Friday morning. I was onboard the MV Lochportain en route to Leverburgh, when I got Alison’s text. ( The photo above was taken as the Lochportain approached Leverburgh. The scene seemed so calm and tranquil to me, unlike what was happening in the nation that morning). I had been preaching the night before in Lochmaddy, at communion preparatory services. I had enjoyed the evening and the opportunity of renewing fellowship with the good people of Lochmaddy and Berneray congregations. I suppose with service the night before and with the early start on the friday, neither I nor my hosts John Angus and Sharon Mackillop had given any thought to the events unfolding that morning.
So we have voted as a nation to leave the European Union . I have to say that my initial reaction to this was one of sadness . I cannot in all honesty say that I felt any joy at this news, only sadness on one level and uncertainty on another . So where do we go from here as a nation ? and as a people? Well my perspective in this post is pastoral and not political. I make no excuses in not even attempting to bring a political slant into this post, as there has been an exhaustive and exhausting raft of correspondence on this issue, before, during and after the referendum.
One of the current buzz words in constant use in Church of Scotland circles these days is ‘ mature reflection ‘. This is a phrase that is used to describe a pause for thought to reflect on just about everything from a student’s placement at university, to major reports into the theological implications of what the church does. Is it too early yet to reflect maturely on the result of the referendum last Thursday ? Very likely it is, the dust hasn’t even begun to settle yet, and the profound implications of what happened is only just hitting us as a nation.
At our Summer family service last Sunday morning , our theme was the life of Joshua, and I tried to keep people focused on the stirring instruction and encouragement God gave to Joshua, at a critical time in his life and the nation’s history ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous…(Joshua 1:5-6 NIV). The events which unfolded on Friday morning will most likely impact the younger generation of Harris, much more than anyone else. But we must remember that no matter what God is still in complete control. Campbell Macrae reminded us powerfully in his prayer on Sunday morning, that the result of the referendum was no surprise in the courts of heaven. At the beginning of the service, I was not making a flippant, throw away comment when I said the best thing to do was to heed the now popular advice of the Second World war propaganda poster ” Keep Calm and Carry on ‘.
We have to Keep Calm and Carry on , and we bear in mind that nothing that has happened is a surprise to God, and He is still on His throne, and that He is the God who through centuries has lead and guided His own people, through all kinds of turmoil, confusion , war, famines , plagues . Events like Brexit serve to show the child of God, that nothing in this world is dependable except our God and His kingdom is one that cannot be shaken . The words of Corrie Ten Boom that were referred to on Sunday also are so apposite for the situation we find ourselves in as a nation ;
“ Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God “ Corrie Ten Boom
It seems as if everything has been shaken as a result of the referendum, but sometimes let us remember God has a purpose in doing exactly that and rocking the nations of this world. Let us make no mistake this referendum was a world shaking event, which has already had major repercussions. The important thing for us to remember and to declare is not the political noises that unfortunately emanate far too often from the church, but to declare what God the Lord has said in His Word , and that is that God has given us a kingdom that cannot be shaken. When everything else is , the Kingdom of God cannot be shaken by anything this world throws at it.
What does it take to rock the nations ? Well this last week has show us that it doesn’t really take much to rock the Nations! However that doesn’t mean that we will learn anything from this. All too often what happens during times of turmoil in our world today is that we only stop to ‘reflect’ for a minute afterwards.These earth shaking events give us a jolt for a minute, and then it is back to normal. Somehow I get the feeling that ‘ Brexit’ is not something that will be forgotten about In a week or two!
“Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26 NIV)
Hebrews 12 is referring to the Old Testament prophet Haggai in giving a warning that soon, as in past times in Israel’s history, God is going to shake everything that can be shaken. In Haggai 2: 6 God promises that He will shake heavens, the earth, the sea, the dry land. There will be nothing much that will not be shaken. There will be no place and no-one that God will not shake. The heavens will shake, the spiritual world will shake. The earth itself will shake, the seas will be shaken.
1God is our refuge and our strength, in straits a present aid; 2Therefore, although the earth remove, we will not be afraid: Though hills amidst the seas be cast; 3Though waters roaring make, And troubled be; yea, though the hills, by swelling seas do shake. ( Psalm 46:1-2 Metrical)
The cataclysmic shaking that psalm 46 speaks of is not confined to the physical world. Humna society and institutions can be rocked quite easily too. In a post modern world the old order of things is being challenged and shaken to its foundations. The old institutions that were the bedrock of many a community are being shaken. Banks, Building societies, Businesses, Corporations, Trade Unions, Political Parties, Churches institutions that were pillars of the nation have all been shaken in these tumultuous days. Who would have said a few years ago that Royal Bank of Scotland would almost crash, or that Glasgow Rangers would go bust ? Who would have said that traditional industries and trades would have died out in much of the industrial heartland of Scotland? Who would have said that crofting and fishing would have all but disappeared as a major aspect of community life in the Western Isles. We wonder why are all these things happening. The answer is that at the end of the day , God is allowing all these things to happen.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(Psalms 46:6-7 NIV)
Think of it this way. Going back to the Old Testament shows us clearly , how God allows things to achieve his purposes. He allowed the people He had chosen as His special people, to be taken captive, and to be transported to Babylon. God allowed this to happen, but He did this for a reason. This was a consequence of His people’s sin against Him, but also to prove Himself to be God when He would destroy their captors. What He did to Egypt, he did to Babylon. He did to Rome, He then later did to Nazi Germany. God allowed all this . So that His people would listen to Him once again.
” You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, declares the LORD, and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29: 13-14)
There is as purpose to it all. So that His people would listen to Him , obey Him and put their trust entirely in Him. Not in something that can be shaken , but in Him. We have seen the European Union, shaken and the United Kingdom shaken to its core too, but let us remember there is a Kingdom that shall not be moved .
“The heathen rag’d tumultuously, the kingdoms moved were: The Lord God uttered his voice, the earth did melt for fear. The Lord of hosts upon our side doth constantly remain: The God of Jacob’s our refuge, us safely to maintain.” ( Psalm 46: 6-7 Metrical )
The Kingdom of God cannot be shaken. Yes Kingdoms and empires, governments and peoples, churches, Denominations, congregations can and have been shaken . But the Church of God is built on a rock. That Rock is not Peter ( Petros ) That Rock is build on THE ROCK ( Petra) the church that is founded on Jesus Himself, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This is the consolation we have in such tumultous days, when the nation is crying out for leadership and direction, the Christian has an answer, which is not dependant upon the shifting sands of political fortune, but on the steadfast promises of God.
The words of John Ellerton in his well known hymn ‘ The day thou gavest Lord is ended ‘ sums up so well. the siutuation we have at present , and indeed the hope that the Christian has;
So be it, Lord; thy throne shall never,
like earth’s proud empires, pass away.
Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever,
till all thy creatures own thy sway.