Today’s message will take the form of a ‘State of the Nation’ address in two parts. The first part relates specifically to the current situation in the UK (or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland), but which is applicable to all countries to a greater or lesser degree.
As part of the biblical nation of Israel, we were once promised that following God’s Laws would result in blessings (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) but that disobedience would incur punishment or curses as an automatic - though not necessarily immediate - consequence (verses 15-68).
Those promises, particularly with respect to a number of the curses, are worth looking at in some detail in order to determine the true state of this nation today. After all, the verses mentioning the curses outnumber those describing the blessings by a factor of almost 4 to 1. There must be a reason for this. It may be that, as we are a physical and carnal people, God in His Omniscience knew that we’d require more of the ‘stick’ than the ‘carrot’ to make us ‘dumb asses’ listen and respond to Him. And, as we know, the Law of God applies to all mankind.
Verse 15 of chapter 28 states:
“But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
The word curse in Hebrew is qelalah (SHD 7405), which BDB defines as vilification or execration. Execration, in turn, is derived from the Latin exsecrare, from ex- (out of) and sacrare (devote), hence something that is no longer sacred or holy. In a sense, the cursed person’s or thing’s holiness has expired or been removed. Physical Israel was once a holy or consecrated nation, set aside for the Lord’s purpose. But no longer, as we shall see.
The text continues:
16 “Cursed shall you be in the city, …”
In our modern cities, particularly the largest ones, we have a majority of people living cheek by jowl, unnaturally jammed together like rats in some perverse lab experiment. The UK has a population of roughly 60 million occupying an area about the size of Oregon, and is the second most densely-populated country in Europe (after Holland). Consequently, the whole infrastructure of the nation is being stretched to the limit. The ever-increasing population, growing fastest in those largest cities, is putting great strain on the utilities and services, in particular the aging and inadequate water and sewerage systems.
Also, where there are people crowded together, there is inevitably an upsurge in violence and large-scale crime, as we see happening more and more in the UK. Unlike most countries in the world, the UK police don’t normally carry firearms. However, that situation is changing in response to the fact that the criminals are becoming more violent, often carrying and using weapons themselves.
Cities are naturally vibrant places, which is why so many are drawn to them, yet it’s a fact that individuals within those cities feel more lonely and isolated than ever before. Some are there by choice or for work purposes, while others are too feeble, bewildered or frightened to move away. They no longer know their neighbours and retreat into their own private worlds, with consequent mental health issues from that situation.
“… and cursed shall you be in the field.”
The curses in the field were highlighted in a recent UK study showing that the mineral content of meat, fruit and vegetables grown in this country has been dramatically depleted over the past 60 years. In the case of beef, the iron level has dropped by 55%. The magnesium content of milk has also fallen by some 21% and the iron content by 62%. It is also shown that organically-grown produce is no more likely to contain these minerals than traditionally-grown foods. One medical doctor, who for years spoke vigorously against the need to take vitamin and mineral supplements, has decided that the quality of food is now so poor that the supplements are a necessity for most people. Experts say that the drop in quality is the result of the general industrialisation of farming, with harmful changes in the breeding, rearing and feeding of animals and the rape of the land through monoculture and intensive cultivation.
As we know, the land hasn’t been given its Sabbaths for a very long time, and we are all paying a terrible price for this. An individual’s (and ultimately a nation’s) health is inextricably linked to the health of the soil and the crops growing in it. Although people in the UK are living longer than their parents or grandparents, their quality of life has been diminished by chronic illnesses. The onset of many middle-age diseases is also occurring at a much younger age than ever before.
The curses of the field are further explained in verses 17 and 18:
“Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading-trough … and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your cattle, and the young of your flock.”
Over recent years in the UK we have had several major health problems associated with our cattle and poultry, namely BSE and foot/hoof-and-mouth disease, together with salmonella in chickens and eggs. Millions of animals were slaughtered in an attempt to stem the spread of the diseases. Huge pyres were built to burn the carcasses of the animals infected with foot/hoof-and-mouth, or they were buried in lime pits. The outbreak of BSE (or mad-cow disease), which peaked in 1992, was directly attributable to the feeding of ground-up sheep carcases and offal (some of which carried the disease scrapie) to these cattle as blood-and-bone supplements in order to put more ‘beef’ onto the animals in a shorter time. Basically, it was greed on the part of the feed suppliers and the farmers, and the lack of government controls and monitoring that led to this totally manmade disaster. To further add to our woes, it is known that 5% of cattle in the UK currently carry tuberculosis (TB).
18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your body, …
It is reported that babies in the womb are now exposed to up to 17 toxic chemicals in everyday use. These chemicals are known to cause all sorts of abnormalities, cancers and birth defects even in relatively small doses. It was also shown recently, using prenatal diagnosis, that Down’s Syndrome is on the increase in this country, and has become a factor in the decision by many parents to demand abortions.
In fact, nearly 200,000 babies are aborted every year in the UK. While some terminations are right and necessary to protect the health of the mother, many are simply a form of contraception, as has been the case in many other countries around the world for years. Babies born prematurely at 20 weeks are able to survive, albeit with a great deal of medical assistance; however, in the UK it is perfectly legal to perform abortions of fully-formed foetuses at up to 24 weeks of gestation - the highest maximum time in Europe. In France and Germany it is half that.
The consequences of these abortions over the years have been far-reaching. As the population ages and the elderly live much longer than their forebears, so the need arises to provide support for them for a longer period. Normally this support would come from the younger people growing up and being added to the workforce, but, as fewer babies are now being born to maintain the correct balance, there is an increasing shortfall of those who will provide this physical or financial (old-age pension) assistance. Consequently, the UK has to ‘import’ workers from many countries around the world, and this brings with it a number of other long-term problems.
Deuteronomy 28 continues:
20 "The LORD will send upon you curses, confusion, and frustration, … 28 The LORD will smite you with madness and blindness and confusion of mind;
We see such ‘confusion and frustration’ showing up in an increasing number of people in this country with mental health issues and nervous system disorders, ranging from severe depression to schizophrenia, from Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s disease. It is reported that 25% of the UK population suffer from mental health problems in any one year. Stress at work alone cost the country £100bn (US$160bn) in 2003, and appears to be rising in our high-pressure and ever-demanding work environments.
21 “The LORD will make the pestilence cleave to you until he has consumed you off the land which you are entering to take possession of it.
Verses 22 and 27 go on to mention many of the diseases that will come upon our people, some with archaic names like scurvy, boils and itch … but deadly, nonetheless, especially in their modern equivalents. In fact, there are mutant strains of viruses and diseases appearing now which have either never been known before or are long thought to have been extinct, but which are coming back with a vengeance. This is, of course, a worldwide phenomenon, and the UK is bracing itself right now for the avian flu virus expected to hit these shores at any time.
23 “And the heavens over your head shall be brass, and the earth under you shall be iron. 24 The LORD will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down upon you until you are destroyed.”
This is quite the opposite of ‘rain in due season’ that we were promised for obedience to God. The UK is experiencing the driest winter in more than 80 years, following a particularly dry summer in 2005. In the south-east of the country, which includes London and which has the highest population density in these islands, the water reservoirs are at worryingly low levels; this is despite England being perceived as a rainy country. And where are we without rain or any other source of fresh water? Withholding this precious and vital resource (which most of us take for granted) would seem to be one of the most effective ways in which to destroy a nation.
Verses 25 to 68 of Deuteronomy 28 then go on to a prophecy concerning Israel which has been fulfilled at various times in its history, and which is highly likely to have application to the Last Days in which we are now living. It talks about defeat by our enemies, and of our sons and daughters being sold into slavery; about being oppressed and robbed continually, and being starved to death in our cities. Verses 53 to 57 in particular make for horrific reading.
There’s no mystery as to why these things are now happening and will happen more so in the future. In verse 21, God our Saviour tells us exactly why: “… on account of the evil of your doings, because you have forsaken me.” And the fact is that these things will come upon us with little warning and our destruction will be swift, as the rest of verse 21 shows: “… until you are destroyed and perish quickly,…” It’s increasingly true that, no sooner has one disaster in this country been averted, than another follows upon its heels.
Verses 45 to 47 continue the theme that our disobedience to God and His laws has dire, and seemingly inevitable, consequences.
45 All these curses shall come upon you and pursue you and overtake you, till you are destroyed, because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded you….47 Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart, by reason of the abundance of all things, … 61 Every sickness also, and every affliction which is not recorded in the book of this law, the LORD will bring upon you, until you are destroyed. 62 Whereas you were as the stars of heaven for multitude, you shall be left few in number; because you did not obey the voice of the LORD your God.
These verses seem to have particular relevance to this Sabbath year of 2005/6, which involved reading and explaining the Law of God at the Feast of Tabernacles. We were obligated to read His Commandments and His Statutes from the Book of His Law as a witness and a warning to all nations, not just the Israelite ones and not just the UK, which, as we can see, appears to be suffering many of the curses spoken of in the Book.
There are many other things about this nation that are more than a little worrying. For instance, in terms of personal freedom or the erosion of it: the UK now has the greatest number of surveillance CCTV cameras and the largest DNA database of its citizens in the world. We’re also racking up a huge national and personal debt, and UK borrowers account for two-thirds of all the credit card debt in the whole of Europe. To say that a serious day of reckoning for the UK is coming soon would in no way overstate the case.
This brings me to the second part of today’s message.
What is the State of the Nation you are living in? Do any of the above curses apply to your own city, or State, or Province? They most likely do. But what do you really think of the local or national situation, and what are you doing about it? Do you literally weep and grieve for your nation and its sins? Or are the people and the nation seen as being beyond help and who probably deserve what’s coming to them anyway?
We must remember that Messiah is constantly interceding for us sinners before the Father. It is surely incumbent upon us to do the same for the people in our nations, no matter how sinful we perceive them to be. In fact, as Samuel understood in 1Samuel 12:23 when he said, “As for me, far be it to for me to sin against the LORD and refrain from praying for you [Israel]”, it could also be counted a sin against us for not interceding. And Israel wasn’t a particularly law-abiding nation at any stage in its history.
A similar point was made in the paper Abraham and Sodom (No. 91), an extract of which is quoted here.
“The promise [of an heir] had not yet been given to Abraham, but it was at this point that God decided to deal with the nations of Canaan who were evil altogether. Abraham at this point interceded for the righteous in those nations and also for his kinsmen. This is a sign for the attitudes of the elect. We should be praying for all of the people within the nation with whom we reside.”
This was with regard to Genesis 18:22-33. Abraham knew quite well the sinfulness of Sodom and Gomorrah, yet he said to the Angel who became Messiah, “Will you indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked?” He was hoping that there were at least 50 righteous in those cities, so that their presence could somehow save the whole lot. Even though the people within our cities are sinful, there but for the grace and mercy of God goes any one of us, so we are required to pray and fast for them too. And we have no idea how many ‘righteous’ people are in the nations or how many God intends to call out of them for salvation in this age.
It seems that God only required one righteous man to be found in Jerusalem for Him to pardon that city (Jer. 5:1). From the text in Ezekiel 22:29-30, again regarding Jerusalem, God says:
“And I sought a man among them to repair the wall or to stand in the breach before Me in behalf of this land, that I might not destroy it; but I found none.” (Tanakh)
That is a pretty sobering indictment. God said that Jerusalem would be destroyed because there was not one person interceding for the people in the city.
Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 2, XXIII, 6) apparently found one person in the early NT Church in Jerusalem who was so doing.
“He [James, brother of Messiah] alone was allowed to enter into the sanctuary … and he used to enter alone into the temple and be found kneeling and praying for forgiveness for the people …”
Are we fulfilling the essence of the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves by praying for forgiveness on behalf of our ignorant and sinful people? We have freely received the Truth and forgiveness from God, so we are required to freely give ourselves in service to our fellow man (Mat. 10:8). We often feel totally powerless to help our people, so what better way is there to do this than to bring our concerns before our Father in intercessory prayer on their behalf.
We are positively encouraged to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), and to “study to show yourself approved unto God” (2Tim. 2:15); but, at the same time, are we putting some effort into interceding for our nation? For our future brethren in the Faith? Of course, it’s right and proper for us to be doing personal study. On the other hand, we won’t possibly have all knowledge before Messiah returns to set up the Kingdom, and chances are that our intercessions will be even more pleasing in God’s eyes than exclusive personal Bible study or research. We may even be prevented from wandering off into false understanding by a more selfless attitude toward others, the ‘others’ being not just our close circle of family or friends in the Church or those within our immediate community, but those out in the wider world - those for whom our Father has such love that He sacrificed the most righteous man who ever walked the planet (Jn. 3:16). Yes, for all the potential sons of God.
In addition, we don’t have to wait until the annual day of Fasting for the Simple and Erroneous (cf. Sanctification of the Simple and Erroneous (No. 291)) that will soon be upon us in order to do our duty (which it is) by praying for the nation; there’s no time like the present. We are in the Latter Days spoken of by the prophets, and time is growing increasingly short, so let us use it wisely.
If we are preoccupied principally with gaining our own salvation, or to be proven right over some doctrine or other issue, or if we are harbouring ill-will against a member or elder of the Church, there’s a good chance that we haven’t ‘caught the vision’ of the Church and its commission. Perhaps we should read again the paper The Commission of the Church (No. 171).
We have been given the incredible task of being priests to our nations. May our merciful Father in Heaven not say of us that we have been “weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Dan. 5:27). We have a far more important job to do than simply looking to our own concerns.
Therefore, let us be about our Father’s business.
Ed. Wade Cox