This is a long post, but one which I feel compelled to write. I hope you will read it through to the end and then comment freely to add your ‘word of witness’.
There is a foul wind blowing across the nations of the world, and its malignant force is most obvious in the land of my birth, the Republic of South Africa. Many local voices are speaking out at this time, but we all need to add our words until the gale of righteous protest is strong enough to counter the evil wind we confront. We all have something to say, we all have a circle of influence, and we are all citizens with birth rights and responsibilities.
It is easy to identify the effects of this noxious squall: poverty, violent crime, economic woes, and political instability. These are just broad categories, but the effects are intensely personal. Our people are dying, our women are being raped, many of our youth are derelict, addicted and without hope. Our currency is becoming increasingly worthless, our education standards a cause of sad derision, and our political antics a pathetic parody of leadership.
What is not so obvious though are the underlying causes of our current calamity. It is too easy and trite to simply blame the past, but we have to go deeper, for the underlying issues that blighted the past are the same that are devastating the present. And it will come as no surprise that the same malevolent causes of our current condition have been evident throughout human history.
The prophet Isaiah identified them in the ancient nation of Israel when he raised his voice and proclaimed:
“For our offenses are many in your sight,
and our sins testify against us.
Our offenses are ever with us,
and we acknowledge our iniquities:
rebellion and treachery against the Lord,
turning our backs on our God,
fomenting oppression and revolt,
uttering lies our hearts have conceived.
So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey”.
When we investigate the causes of today’s obnoxious gusts we find three low-pressure areas; injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth. Furthermore, there is one calamity that has given rise to this malign trinity, but to appreciate this fully we first need to understand these three.
Injustice has been a problem for our nation for several generations. In the past, it was most evident in racial prejudice and social inequality. Today it manifests in a number of ways. It is unjust that power, privilege, and wealth are in the hands of a few while the majority live in want of all three. In the past, the culprits were exclusively white, but today colour is not the determinant, despite the vain attempts of government mouthpieces to say otherwise. It is unjust that many politically connected criminals go free while multitudes of lesser offenders languish in an overloaded penal system. It is unjust that millions of our young people are subjected to expensive and increasingly worthless education. And it is unjust that those who deeply desire to work the land, run business, and contribute to society in other ways cannot do so because the opportunities are given to the family, friends and sycophants of those in power.
What is just or unjust is meant to be determined by the justice system of the nation, and it is here where the foul wind is blowing strongest. Despite their transparently disingenuous protestations to the contrary, the political leaders of our land are consistently attacking our juristic foundations. The examples are all too numerous: flouting international law and then protesting that our nation should not be subject to it, blatantly overturning the lawful ruling of the Public Protector, and then pleading ignorance of constitutional law; and so on, ad nauseam. The government agenda is obvious as it seeks to break down that which it is constitutionally responsible for upholding. The latest, not so subtle, onslaught against justice came the other day. The constitutional court ruled that our president had acted in a way that violated the constitution of the country, and his response was to address a gathering of traditional leaders and state that he would be very happy if matters could be settled outside of the legal system because judges dealt only with cold facts and did not take into consideration other perspectives. I need say no more!
The second low-pressure system over our land is unrighteousness. At a social level, this translates as, ‘lack of moral virtue’. When we look at the lives of our president and his henchmen, what do we observe? We see adultery, fornication, greed, corruption, lying, and arrogance. I am a 68-year-old with the incredulity that comes with age, but what of our young people? What models are they observing, and what are they aspiring to as they seek to emulate the powerful figures in our nation?
And as for truth, well Isaiah expressed it better that I ever could when he said that ‘truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey’. It is appalling to realise that we expect politicians to lie. When they spin the truth, distort the truth, or just flat out lie, we tend to grimace or laugh and wait for the next outrageous fabrication. Quotes given in blatant isolation of their context, half-truths and pathetically nonsensical prevarications are the norm. Yet politicians are supposed to be servants of truth, justice, and the wellbeing of the people. They should be held to the highest standard and we, the citizens of the land, fail ourselves and future generations when we do not demand the best from them and of them. But, as it stands now, truth is a swear word, honesty an inconvenience, and anyone who shuns this evil becomes a prey, as is obvious in how our Public Protector has been treated.
It is no coincidence that Matthew applied Isaiah’s prophecy to the Lord Jesus when he said; “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim JUSTICE to the nations” (Matthew 12:18). And Paul was choosing his words carefully when he concluded his sermon to the people of Jerusalem with; “The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the RIGHTEOUS One and to hear words from his mouth” (Acts 22:14). And Jesus was quite specific when he declared; “I am the way and the TRUTH and the life” (John 14:6). So, to look for justice, righteousness, and truth we need to look to Jesus, the divine incarnation of these qualities.
Now, the underlying source of our bad national air is also found in Isaiah’s words; ‘For our offenses are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us. Our offenses are ever with us, and we acknowledge our iniquities: rebellion and treachery against the Lord, turning our backs on our God,’ When our new constitution was hammered out some twenty years ago, it was presented to the nation as the body of fundamental principles by which our secular state would be governed. Accordingly, the preamble to the constitution reads ‘We, the people of South Africa, Recognise the injustices of our past; Honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land; Respect those who have worked to build and develop our country; and Believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity. We therefore, through our freely elected representatives, adopt this Constitution as the supreme law of the Republic…’ The original document did not read this way, but commenced with the words, ‘In humble submission to Almighty God, we the people of South Africa…’ The label ‘secular state’ carries with it the idea of being non-religious, and so the first six words were erased from the constitution. This, in my view, was a disastrous deletion. Those six words would place the constitution and the people who are governed in terms of it under the authority and providence of Almighty God. They imply that there is a higher source of authority and that the constitution itself is an expression of the values established by this higher power, God. Those six words would have given context and perspective to all that the constitution embodies and a final point of reference for the way our government lives up to their constitutional obligations.
If we, the people of South Africa, are to survive the poisonous winds that threaten us, then we must restore Justice, Righteousness, and Truth to our nation.
Ultimately we must restore the lost phrase to our constitution; ‘in humble submission to Almighty God’. And this restoration must start with us, ‘the people of Almighty God’. It is we, who are sons and daughters of the Most High, who need to raise the standard and raise our voices. If we, the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, do what is right, if we speak out to the rulers of our land, and if we humble ourselves and pray for divine intervention, will God not bring a mighty Revival hurricane to blow away the foul wind of corruption, lies, and violence that pollutes our nation?
What can we do to make a difference? We can recognise the true causes of our national ailment, we can speak out into whatever circle of influence we have, and we can pray and ask God to send a mighty wind of revival through the church and across our nation. In this wind of the Spirit, the injustice, unrighteousness, and untruth of our current leaders will be exposed. In this wind of the Spirit, Christian men and women will be inspired to stand up and ascend to the positions of power in our land. In this wind of the Spirit, we the people of South Africa will be refreshed and empowered to take our place as citizens of a nation that is in humble submission to Almighty God.