Sussex Martyrs Commemoration Council
THE LION HAS ROARED – God’s Alarm Call
All in a matter of a few weeks, a virulent virus spreads over the globe. The pandemic Coronavirus - Covid 19 - has caused widespread disruption in every nation it has visited, many are calling these 'unprecedented times', times when the medical services have been stretched, often beyond capacity, in terms of hospital beds, staff and equipment. The price of oil, man's liquid gold, has for the first time in its history reached negative territory. To add to these calamities the world's economies are in danger of a great, possibly the greatest, recession ever.
When the Bible, the Word of the Living God, in the book of Amos speaks of the "lion roaring"; what does this mean? It means that God by The Lord Jesus Christ who is also called in Scripture "The Lion of the Tribe of Judah", has roared out a warning to the inhabitants of the earth. How? By His acts of Providence in temporal judgements, we may say chastisements. Amos which speaks much of these Divine acts declares: "the lion has roared, who will not fear?"
Chance or Providence?
It should be remembered that Almighty God who has sent out this warning, holds in the hollow of His Hand all His creation and all events be they great or small. Lest any should ascribe these things to chance or the 'natural way of things', He asks by Amos: "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" The Puritans in the time of the black death had no doubt as to who had sent such a plague!
Nothing it seems, is more likely to incur the wrath of God than to ignore, or be oblivious, of these merciful warnings from our Creator. The word unprecedented seems to be an overused word now, but little else can describe these times, particularly this enforced silence of 'lock down'which envelopes the globe. Some are drawing a comparison with these events - not without some justification - with those of the divine plagues which were visited upon Egypt before the final release of the Jews out of captivity.
The Withdrawal of the privileges of the Church
If the virus and its attendant 'lock down' of persons, businesses, shops and economies be so remarkable and unique in the history of the world; let us now consider the parallel case which can only have come to pass by an awesome and terrible Divine Fiat, and that is the lock down of all the churches. (I speak here only of the professing churches of Christ). It is a troubling aspect of this pandemic that there seems to be a reticence of some ministers in the churches to boldly point out to their congregations, and a wicked world, that these calamities are sent in the providence of God as a warning: for surely few would deny today that such evil, and depravity walk on every side, and when even the vilest men, such as sodomites are exalted.
Necessity, is laid upon all preachers of the gospel to make known to the people what are the intentions of the Lord in regard to this pandemic; viz. that they should turn from their sin without delay and accept the mercy of God, which in His longsuffering has been held out to them for over 2000 years. To quote the commentator Matthew Henry on Amos 3:
"The threatenings of the Word and the providence of God are not bugbears to frighten children and fools but are certain presages of the judgement of God."
It is a sure sign of the drift and decline in the churches that many leaders and ministers of the gospel cannot discern the secret intentions of God in His acts of Divine interference in the world. Not to discern such providential judgements which are clear to those who love righteousness and truth, is a signal evidence of a form of spiritual blindness and declension in faith.
Not only is there a 'lock down' in general society in order that men might have "space for repentance", but also we of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ have had removed from us our privileges of assembly together for worship, praise, ministry and the act of remembrance and communion in the Lord's Supper. Never has such a tragedy been visited on the churches. Surely no words can express the sorrow that the people of God should feel when so dealt with by a grieved Lord and Saviour. Such a providential situation, ought to cause an awakening and a fear and trembling among the professing people of God.
Moreover, we should consider the shame of such public humiliation of the churches before a wicked world, a world in which such untrammeled sin prevails. How can we remain unaffected in heart by such a public chastisement? To remain dry eyed at such a time as this condemns us all, including this writer! We should all find some corner to weep in.
No one is free from sinfully departing from our God, for we have rebelled against our Loving Creator. As someone once said: "When nations are to perish in their sins, 'tis in the church the leprosy begins'". Again, to quote another old saying: "When a fish goes rotten, it rots from the head first", what should surprise us all, is not the visitation of this virus and other disasters, but the lack of heartfelt tears in prayer and repentance from the professing Christian churches.
As Daniel the prophet of God said many years ago when he sought God's mercy for his nation in the face of Divine judgements:
"As it is written the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us :
yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we
might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth." Dan. 9:13.
To understand the truth of God in our time is the thing needed, for the drift and slow decline in the churches is seen on every hand. 0 how far removed is the professing church today from the life of the early church of Jesus Christ. Twenty first century churches - if not living as the sinful world around them - are seeking to please the world. Perhaps one of the most destructive influences to our faith and practice, has been the evil communication of the world through the medium of television; and to a lesser extent music.
The music of the world has now been taken up by the modern compilers of choruses and hymns, to bring into the churches the unconverted young. Such attempts have now sadly become successful; but in many instances such unconverted young remain in that condition, and demand yet more bones of truth be thrown to them, as a condition of remaining in the church. So it is, when the spirit of the world comes into many churches, that we see the fulfillment of our Lord's prophesy, that when iniquity abounds; so the love of many will wax cold. It is at such a season as Dr John Owen once remarked: "That as some men's sins grow very high, other men's graces grow very low."
A World Silenced
But, it is truly a wonderful illustration of the mercy of God to a sinful world and the church, that is seen today in the providential time of silence and space for quiet reflection He has given us, by means of the 'Lock down'. A time when many remarked on the beauty of birdsong, and the intensity of the blue sky, yet most with a complete absence of praise for the God who created all things.