The Believer’s Duty in a Dark Day
By Maurice Roberts
Reprinted from the March 2020 issue of The Banner of Truth Magazine
It is a dark day when society plunges into pleasures which God forbids. Sin is always present in society in this world. We know this both from Scripture and from experience. This world is always a land of shadows and a place of moral confusion. But some ages are worse by far than others. In better times society shows respect for the moral laws of God. In darker days God’s laws are trampled underfoot and human pride shouts loudly for freedom to please our proud natures by a majority insistence on living without regard for God’s laws or God’s holiness.
It is very clear from Scripture that all people know there is a God who is above us all. But Scripture makes it also very clear that, in some periods of history, mankind’s proud and rebellious nature stirs people to do things which greatly displease God.
There is a very great price to pay when society so rebels against God’s laws that they provoke him to pay society back with condign punishment. This punishment is, in Scripture, explained to us in Romans chapter 1 to be “reprobation” (Romans 1:18f.). Put simply, it says that God, when highly provoked by the sin of society, gives men over to do that which he hates. The terrible consequence is that society is given over to do such crimes as God will very severely punish.
The first principle of Scripture which the Lord’s people must remember in a dark day is that God will not close his eyes when society treats his laws with contempt. Our evidence for this is very clear. The flood of Noah’s day; the tower of Babel, the Babylonian captivity and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 are among the proofs which warn us of the fearful reality of the words: “Be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32-23).
A second principle which believers must face up to in a day of moral collapse is that it is always our duty to suffer rather than to sin. The believer who should stand up against evil behaviour is sure to face verbal abuse and even worse, scorn. But it is always safe to fear God rather than to fear man.
Our Saviour’s advice is very clear: “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him [that is, God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
This is the inspiring lesson which we learn from the courageous behaviour of Daniel and his three friends. It was the way the apostles behaved when the unbelieving society of New Testament days scorned the gospel of Christ. It was the way the Reformers had to live when false religion threatened them on every side.
Sadly, the old saying is as true today as ever: “When nations are to perish in their sins, ’tis in the church the leprosy begins.” A church in decline is a church which treats God’s Bible as if it were a fairy-tale. When sound Scripture is ignored and human wisdom fills the pulpits of any nation it is a sure sign that society will backslide into ruinous collapse.
For this reason all serious, born-again church-goers must, in a time when the moral standards of society are collapsing, set their faces courageously to hold to God’s moral laws and to seek supernatural and divine help from heaven. Courage is to be sought in God’s sacred promise: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
A time when society backslides from God’s moral laws must recognize that it is now a season when God is summoning his dear people to give special attention to prayer. When Nehemiah began to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem he set himself before God and cried: “Hear, O our God; for we are despised” (Nehemiah 4:1-4).
If at this time of moral darkness the Lord’s people everywhere set aside special time for earnest prayer to the great and holy God, who knows what blessing may come down to protect his name and promote his cause? Here is our great hope and assurance in a dark and difficult day of trouble: “I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
Let us not forget the wonderful truth that God may permit sin to abound for a season in order to bring his great and eternal purpose a step further forward in this world. Pharaoh’s cruelty to God’s people turned out to be part of the divine plan to deliver them and take them to their promised land (Exodus 14:31). Herod’s cruel slaughter of the children of Bethlehem was a pointer to the arrival of the Messiah, who would soon preach the glorious gospel (Matthew 2:16f). The cruel persecution of our great and courageous reformers was the event which led to the translation of our English Bible and the wonderful age of the Puritans and God-honouring religion.
Nothing in history is without the plan of God behind it to further his cause. Thus we ought to look at the disturbing events of recent days. Who knows? It may be that God will bring in a new and wonderful event in our dark day which will astonish his enemies and cause people to leap with joy.
The basic lesson is: Let us look up to God as the darkness comes down on society and let us cry out to him to do a new work which will astonish the world and promote his blessed gospel.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).