G.E. Altree Coley
OF all the tribes of Israel from which one would be proud to trace descent, the tribe of Issachar probably holds small appeal. Not a leading tribe, its scutcheon bearing an ass couchant between two burdens, it attracts little attention. Yet one of the highest appreciations in Holy Writ is recorded of the men of lssachar who 'had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do'. Such an understanding is like the accurate diagnosis of a skilled physician, without which much precious time may be lost and much suffering entailed through a mistaken course of treatment.
THE FIRST STEP-CONFESSION OF SIN
What is the first step required of Israel to end the present unhappy disorder and enter the new order foretold by all the prophets since the world began? God's Word has left us in no shadow of doubt about it. From Leviticus to Revelation the first step prescribed for an improved condition, personal or national, is confession of sin. This is associated, in both type and teaching, with faith in Christ for cleansing from sin, but the first act necessarily is confession.
No other course will be of the slightest avail until this essential step demanded by God is taken. The study of the further steps to the Kingdom will by itself never put us in the pathway thither. A witty Frenchwornan, hearing the legend of a saint who walked after he was beheaded, responded that the incident was not significant after the first step. It is the first step that makes the rest of the journey possible. We might well ask ourselves-are we really making any progress toward the Kingdom or are we only hopefully, wistfully scanning the way to it?CONFESSION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Let us consider this first step from Scripture. Leviticus 26:40 ff., must be our starting point. In this chapter, thundering from Sinai, are summed up the 'penalty clauses', for disobedience to the Mosaic Covenant. These have all gone into effect, and the 'seven times' of chastisement of each of the four sections have reached their final close now. Consequently what follows is of the first importance in the days in which we are now living. Here is the provision for restoration. If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they have trespassed against me, and that they have walked contrary to me ... if then their uncircumcised hearts be humbled, and they then accept of the punishment of their iniquity, then I will remember my covenant...'
The same condition is reiterated in Solomon's prayer when, dedicating the Temple, he foreshadowed the golden age which is to be. If there is to be any blessing after sin and disobedience there must first be confession and turning from sin to God. (See I Kings 8:33, 35 and 47-50.) This principle is enunciated in Psalm 32 which describes the blessednesses (Heb.) of the man whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Until confession there was misery and dispeace. But after confession there is the joy of forgiveness. Then the fruit, safety in presence of great perils - 'floods of great waters' such as confront us nationally now - deliverance and songs of praise. Surely these are blessednessess our race yearns for to-day. How are they reached? By confession of sin.
This principle or law of Confession as the first step to Restoration and Blessing was thoroughly understood by Daniel. His prayer of intercessory confession should be our pattern now. The circumstances are similar. As Daniel 'knew by books the number of the years' during which Jerusalem should lie desolate, so it has been given to us to know the times of Israel's chastisement and the times of the Gentiles. We have witnessed their closing scenes. But Daniel did not assume that since the time of punishment was at its close the restoration would automatically begin. He knew that one important thing had to be done first. Therefore he set himself to make confession on behalf of his people with fasting and sackcloth and ashes (Dan. 9:1 ff). Nehemiah did the same at a later date (Neh. 1: 11 ff). It was on the ground of such confession that the remnant was restored.
CONFESSION IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The same fundamental law remains unchanged under the New Covenant. A prophecy concerning Christ said, 'Behold I send My messenger before Thy face who shall prepare Thy way before Thee.' The record of its fulfilment says that the first word of John the Baptist's message was, repent,with the result of confession and cleansing. The people were 'baptised of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.' The work was imperfect. The people proved materialistic and the rulers hostile. Yet it was on the ground of that confession that Jesus was able to manifest the grace of God to the Jewish people.
Our Lord in His ministry emphasized the same message. His words have special weight in our own day: 'The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent ye, and, believe the Gospel.' His warning has not exhausted its meaning yet -'Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.' The story of the prodigal son is the story of repentance, return and confession of sin to a loving father. The value of repentance is left in no doubt -'There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which need no repentance." Nor may the Church feel itself exempt from the rule. In the vision of Revelation the risen Christ sends solemn warnings to repent to Five Churches out of seven (Rev. 2 and 3). Lastly the Apostle Peter's words should come with fresh meaning and power now at the end of the age -'Repent ye, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.'THE ABSOLUTE NECESSITY OF CONFESSION
Can we adduce a reason for this stern insistence upon penitent confession? There are many reasons, but let us state the case like this. Accumulated and unconfessed sin might be compared to an insulating shield, a cloud intercepting and nullifying God's will to blessing. The full revelation of the Bible shows that the God Whose name is Love is always ready to bless. So Isaiah says, 'The Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save ... but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that He will not hear.'
Therefore it is useless to say in effect, Yes, we have done very badly in the past, but we will forget all that and do right in future. The cloud still remains. It is necessary to remove the cloud. Now, in one sense, and in a terribly real sense, we cannot remove it. Here is the situation. A loving God has showered upon His people every possible evidence of love, yet they have wantonly rebelled against Him. The very wealth of the earth has been wasted in luxurious forgetfulness of God. That sin can never be undone, the guilt can never be removed; it has set up effects which can never be arrested by anything we can do. What our generation needs desperately to know is that sin is a tremendous reality. As a father God might forgive the sin, but that does not remove it. But what repentant confession can do is dissolve our complicity with it.
Ever since God created man with a will, made him a glorious being in His Own image with a will to choose, He has never invaded that Divine faculty and coerced man's will. Man must choose to give up sin. He can do no more. He is so utterly vitiated and devitalised through sin that he cannot even keep his resolve to sin no more. But he can will to let it go. He can confess his weakness - and as quick as an electric flash the power of God can do the rest. When once the sin is acknowledged, the whole weary weight of it can then he referred to the all-availing transaction of the Cross where the Son of God died to put away sin, and in the light of that redemptive mediation the heart has peace with God. Praise His infinite grace! Well might Micah say, prophetic of our own times, 'Who is a God like unto Thee, which pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, He will subdue our iniquities, and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old.' (Micah 7:18-20)NATIONAL REPENTANCE
What, then, ought Israel to do? The whole race of Israel that is, the Britannic Commonwealth of Nations, with the United States and the remnant of Judah, are required by the law of God to make solemn confession of sin. Until that is done we can expect no removal of the difficulties and dangers which thicken around us every day. Let that be solemnly realised. Therefore, to that end all Christians, and especially those who know that our race is under the covenant of Abraham, should put the necessity of national repentance in the forefront of their thoughts, their teaching and their prayers. While we may thankfully acknowledge that, owing to long racial training and Christian teaching which has not entirely lost its power, we can as a race still show some example of mercy and justice, we must confess that internally we are a sinful nation laden with iniquity.
Nor must we suppose that we have discharged our responsibility when we have personally admitted the truth. National repentance will have to be worked for with the same consecrated and selfless devotion that all great movements have demanded. It is a dangerous excuse for inaction to suppose that pressure of events alone will bring about the change. We suffered the agony of the world war without coming to repentance. Nothing will take the place of witnessing for God and His truth though we have the assurance that events will work with us. Let us take up this vitally important task, sure that the outcome will be the cleansing of the nation, the bringing in of the kingdom of Christ and the blessing of the world.
|In the field of ideas the aim of international finance is to defile and destroy. For the money power nothing is sacred but its law. Every noble idea of honour, family, nation, faith and race is systematically dragged through the mire of 'homogeneity', 'equality', and 'debate', until the genetic and moral fibre of nations lies in ruins.|
|ROGER C. ELLETSON Auckland Branch, B.I.W.F.|
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