25 06 2008

John Simpson has a very interesting article on the BBC News Website, relating to Robert Mugabe’s ability to cling to power in Zimbabwe. For my part I think Simpson is too hard on Morgan Tsvangirai and the opposition, given the dreadful inhumanity to which they have been exposed in recent days. Of chief interest, however, is the way in which the article describes Mugabe’s continued stay in office:

“His opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been completely outmanoeuvred. The outside world, which mostly sympathises with him, can do nothing whatever to help him…It all adds up to a remarkable sweeping victory for a man who only three months ago seemed to be on the ropes. The moral is clear: never underestimate Robert Mugabe’s ferocious determination to stay in power, nor the ability of his political opponents to destroy their own case”.

How disappointing this turn of events must be for Zimbabweans, and particularly for the MDC, and how unassailable Mugabe’s position appears to be at present.

Just after reading Simpson’s sentiments, however, I turned to Scripture and to Spurgeon’s comments on Psalm 75:1-5. There a different picture is painted of power, one which holds God at the centre, and not men like Mugabe with their malice and manipulation. Spurgeon writes of God’s Sovereignty in exultant terms:

“Even now he is actually judging. His seat is not vacant: his authority is not abdicated; the Lord reigns evermore. Empires rise and fall at his bidding. A dungeon here, and there a throne, his will assigns. Assyria yields to Babylon, and Babylon to the Medes. Kings are but puppets in his hand; they serve his purpose when they rise and when they fall. God only is; all power belongs to him; all else is shadow, coming and going, unsubstantial, misty, dreamlike.”

I much prefer Spurgeon over Simpson, sovereignty over the schemes of man, God’s righteous providence rather than man’s random posturing. Even though chaos, financial freefall, and electoral farce appear to characterise Zimbabwe at present, God is still on the throne, achieving His purposes and storing judgement for those pretending to a power and authority which bear no accountability to Him.


Between Weeping and Rejoicing

22 03 2008

With the passing of Good Friday in the Easter celebrations, and the anticipation of Resurrection Day tomorrow, we are left with the painful memory of Golgotha, and the powerful prospect of an empty tomb. We are between weeping and rejoicing, between all-pervading horror and overwhelming joy. This is the paradox of the passion of Christ, this is the wonder of setting aside time to think of what He has done for us in His death, and what He has gloriously achieved in His resurrection.

This note of muted pain, or suppressed joy, is wonderfully sounded by Spurgeon in a sermon preached on the 3rd November 1878 entitled ‘Sorrow at the Cross Turned Into Joy’. It is a meditation on John 16:20-22 where Christ states ‘ye now therefore have sorrow, but I will see you again, and you heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you’.

The great preacher’s thoughts on these words are characteristically lyrical, and filled with intense love for the suffering, now risen, Saviour. They have blessed me at this Easter season, and I trust that they will move your heart also.

“We were just singing now a hymn in which the first verse started a difficult question:

It is finished; shall we raise
Songs of sorrow, or of praise?
Mourn to see the Saviour die,
Or proclaim his victory?

The case is well argued in the second and third verses:

If of Calvary we tell,
How can songs of triumph swell?
If of man redeem’d from woe,
How shall notes of mourning flow?

Ours the guilt which pierced his side,
Ours the sin for which he died;
But the blood which flow’d that day
Wash’d our sin and guilt away.

The conclusion at which we arrived in the concluding verse seems to me to be the right one:

Lamb of God! Thy death hath given
Pardon, peace, and hope of heaven:
‘It is finished’; let us raise
Songs of thankfulness and praise!

The chief thought connected with the Redeemer’s death should be that of grateful praise. That our Lord Jesus Christ died upon the cross is a very natural cause for sorrow, and well may they who pierced him, and we are all among the number, look unto him and mourn for their sin, and be in bitterness for him as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. Before we know that we are pardoned our grief may well be exceeding heavy, for till sin is put away we stand guilty of the Saviour’s blood. While our souls are only conscious of our guilty share in the Redeemer’s blood, we may well stand aghast at the sight of the accursed tree, but the case is altered when by faith we discern the glorious fruit of our Lord’s sufferings, and know that on the cross he saved us and triumphed in the deed…