The hunt is now on in Libya for an elusive Colonel Muammar Gaddafi following the capture of his compound and his capital by the Libyan rebels. How long will he remain at large? In Iraq Saddam Hussein managed to evade capture for eight months before he was captured in December 2003. He was found at the bottom of a dark hole in the ground beneath a two-room mud shack on a sheep farm. Nicolae Ceaucescu, former dictator of Romania, was suddenly deposed by people power after he ordered his security forces to fire on anti-government protestors in the city of Timisoara in December 1989. He and his wife, Elena, were executed by firing squad just eight days after this terrible atrocity.
Dictators cause great suffering, but they don’t last forever. One day they seem so permanent, the next they are on the run. Gaddafi was in power for 42 years, which must have seemed an eternity for those living under his rule, but now he’s in hiding.
Before he became the king of Israel, David knew what it was to live under the rule of a tyrant, being hunted down by the reigning King Saul. David managed to keep one step ahead, and left for us in Psalm 37 a beautiful reminder that evil never has the last laugh.
“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
“A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
“The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.
“I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.”
David trusted in the goodness of God no matter how difficult life became. He knew of a better refuge than heavy weapons and high walls.
“The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.”
Now that the dust is settling and peace has returned to British streets, politicians are admitting that something has gone wrong with British society. Street protests against a police shooting, which seemed to be the initial spark for the London riots, soon gave way to a desire to create mayhem and grab as many luxury goods as people could carry. Appearing in court a 13 year old teenager from Manchester, who promised never to accept a social network invitation to a riot again, told the judge: “To be honest, it’s the worst, stupidest thing I have ever done.” A variety of underlying causes are being put forward to explain the rioters’ criminal behaviour. Suggestions that it was because of poverty proved false as rioters with jobs and prospects were also arrested and taken to court. Indeed those trying to pin the blame on poverty should be asked why they expect the poor to have lower moral standards than the rich.
But why should this orgy of violence and greed be so surprising? For many years “morals” has become a dirty word in British society. It’s no longer cool to talk about right and wrong; everyone should be allowed to do what they want … shouldn’t they? Some years ago I spoke to a man who thought that British youth would behave better if they knew the Ten Commandments, which, among other things, teach us not to steal or kill. This man then admitted to me that he had failed to teach them to his own sons. We have seen the consequences this week of young people, growing up without a sense of right and wrong, doing what they wanted. We who are supposedly older, wiser, more mature, have to admit that not only have we not cultivated a sense of right and wrong in British society, but neither have we been a good example. In 1994, after a lot of pressure from major retailers, the British Parliament passed the Sunday Trading Act allowing shops to trade on Sundays. All of a sudden TV’s and trainers were given a higher status than getting to know our Creator, who promises a full life with thought for others, where material possessions lose their significance, and the true value of ourselves and others is revealed through the passionate love God has for each one of us.
We have been sold a lie. We may not all be rioters, but we all have to learn that fast cars, designer clothes and widescreen TV’s are not the most important things in life. Our family, our neighbours, our character, our relationship with God are the things that give life value. What will we tell our children?
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the LORD, the God of your ancestors, promised you.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-7)