[Juba, South Sudan] On December 15, 2013, South Sudan became a nation wounded. Two years later, it has yet to heal. The wounds that were opened on that terrible day have remained open and have festered because we, as a nation, have refused to avail ourselves of the only remedy that will bring help, hope and healing.
I do not want to be overly negative, but at the same time, I want to honour the truth. I would like to draw our attention to what I believe is the greatest need in South Sudan today. Many believe, rightly so, that our greatest needs are security, justice, while others are sure that the economy should be the priority. Still others would tell us that our greatest need is political; that we somehow must heal the political and ethnic divides that hinder our nation from solving its problems. But I want you to know that our greatest problem, as a nation, is something far more easily solved than the economy, security, jobs, or political partisanship. Our greatest need in South Sudan is spiritual. ‘Simple repentance’ and a return to biblical principles would do more to heal the wounds of this nation than anything else that can be named.
People often think I am out of my mind when I argue for forgiveness as an alternative path to the journey of healing! And yet, not only would a true spiritual revival cure the problems in South Sudan, it would be a swift solution that would result in immediate changes in every realm of South Sudanese life. Even justice cannot be placed before inner personal healing. Please allow me to take us back to the final days of the nation of Judah. A prophet named Jeremiah had been sent to them to preach the Word of the Lord. Judah, like South Sudan, refused to hear or heed the Word of God, and they were judged for their sins. South Sudan is headed toward the same end, if she does not repent of her sins and turn back to God. I want to show you some of the lessons we can learn from ancient Judah. Let me share the lessons this text makes crystal clear. Think with me about ‘A nation wounded, but not healed’.
The nation and their apostasy (Jeremiah 8:4-7)
In these verses, the Lord states his case against the nation of Judah. They had been given the Law of the Lord, but they had refused to walk in it. Spiritually, they lack even the common sense of the animal kingdom (8:6-7); the animals know how to do what they were created to do, yet the people of God seemed unable to walk for God or live out his will in the world around them. They turned their back on God and on his truth and they embraced the false gods of the Canaanites. The people of Judah were guilty of terrible sins against the Lord. They had become involved in the worst kind of idolatry. The people of Judah were guilty of sacrificing their children to the false gods of the Canaanites (Jeremiah 7:30-34). The word “Topheth” comes from the root word “Toph”, which in Hebrew is the word for “drum.” While the children died, screaming in the arms of a pagan idol, the priests of Moloch would beat their drums to drown out their cries of pain and torment. This is the place to where the people of Judah had come. They had totally forsaken the God of their fathers. They had forsaken the Law of the Lord. They had abandoned his ways for their own ways.
God calls their behaviour “backsliding,” which means, ‘to turn away; to go off into apostasy.’ It speaks of ‘a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion.’ Apostasy means to ‘totally abandon God.’ That is what Judah did. Of course, not every person in Judah was guilty of this kind of apostasy. In Elijah’s day in the northern kingdom of Israel, God gave the prophet some encouraging news. God said, “Yet reserve seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him,” (1 Kings 19:18). Even in the dark in which Jeremiah ministered, there were some who still clung to the ways of God, but as a general rule, the nation was filled with apostates. They had turned away from the things of God and judgment was coming!
This is a clear picture of modern South Sudan. Our nation was born, having been saturated in prayer and biblical truth. The leaders of the movement quoted the Bible freely, and they invoked the name of God on regular basis, including our beautifully crafted national anthem. That was South Sudan then, but we live in a different nation today. Consider where we are as a nation today! Spiritually we are in a deplorable condition.
Having defined the sin and spoken to the spiritual condition of the people of Judah, God spoke to them. He confront them on a very personal level. He admonishes them concerning four important areas of their spiritual lives:
1. They are admonished concerning their pride (Jer. 8:8-9): The people of Judah were guilty of believing that just because they had the Law of the Lord, they were under special protection from judgment. But, God says they were unwise fools because they had forsaken the Word of God.I am convinced that our nation lives under the same delusion. I hear our politicians as they stand and make their speeches. They often close their remarks with “God bless you and God bless South Sudan.” “God bless South Sudan!” it sounds terrific and most of us grew up believing that we could count on the blessings of the Lord. But, I say to you that you can search the Bible from front to back and you will find no promise from the Lord to bless this nation. God does say this, however, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance,” Psalm 33:12. By interpretation, that promise was given to Israel, by application, it applies to all nations who will bow before he Lord and humble themselves under his will.
Does that describe our nation? Is South Sudan a nation that honours God? Absolutely not! He will not honour us because we have forsaken his Word. He will not honour us because we have abandoned his house. He will not honour us because we have ignored his commandments. He will not honour us because we have refused his Son. South Sudan is no different than ancient Judah. They were guilty of foolish pride, and so are we!
2. They are admonished concerning their pretense (Jer. 8:11): Plainly stated, this verse says, “They have treated the wound of my people as if it were not serious at all. They say, ‘peace, peace;’ when there is no peace.” In other words, Judah was guilty of seeing the tragedies the nation was suffering as just a minor bump in their spiritual road. They were guilty of putting a band-aid on a severed limb. God was judging them, but they were clinging to the false hope that God was somehow obligated to bless them just because they were his people. South Sudan is guilty of the same thinking. Our leaders, both secular and religious, are busy slapping band-aids on the gaping wounds that are killing our society. They tell us that they have everything under control, while the country is bleeding out right before their eyes. This nation is a nation wearing the blinders of self-deception. South Sudanese blindly follow their leaders off the cliffs of immorality, ungodliness, and paganism like a herd of conformists. Our nation is a nation in the midst of social, economic and spiritual collapse, yet most South Sudanese cannot see the writing on the wall. Our nation is in its death throes.
Fellow countrymen and women, we must face the truth that our nation is not just ill, it is dying. South Sudan does not simply require a band-aid applied to its wounds; it needs a new birth. South Sudan does not need an economic saviour; South Sudan needs God Almighty. South Sudan needs to return to the Lord as a nation. South Sudan needs a time of national repentance. South Sudan needs a day of repentance. South Sudan does not need some temporary fix; South Sudan needs a new birth!
3. They are admonished concerning their presumption (Jer. 8:12): God speaks to Judah and condemns them because they are not ashamed of their sins. They live as they please and flaunt it in the face of God with no concern for his Word or his will. Because they have this attitude toward the things of God, he promises to judge them as a nation. This verse is like a snapshot of our nation. Look at the sin that ravages our country. Look and consider the fact that alcohol abuse, sex, crime, absence of rule of law, corruption and increasing ungodliness are the rule of the day.
There is no shame in our culture! People believe they have the right to live as they please and they are entitled to anything under the sun. They believe that they should not have to answer to anyone for the choices they make. They believe that no one has the right to judge their actions. No one is ashamed when they fall, when they are found out, or when they are exposed. They shrug it off and act like everyone should just leave them alone to do as they please. One former senior government official was quoted to have said, “to be rich in South Sudan, one must commit a crime”.
While it is not my place to tell this nation what it can and cannot do, it is the Lord’s place and here is what he says about it: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, who put darkness for light, and light to darkness, who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter,” Isaiah 5:20. And “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their God is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame” Philippians 3:18-19. Do you blush when you see something on our streets that crosses the line into ungodliness? Do some of the vulgar languages and the level of aggression that is so prevalent in our society enrage and embarrass you? Does it cause you shame to be in close proximity to people and things that dishonour the Lord? Our nation has lost its shame, and that is just another sign that judgment is at the door! Our consciences have been seared by too much exposure to evil and we have lost the ability to be embarrassed.
4. They are admonished concerning their punishment (Jer. 8:13): God tells the people of Judah that their sins have resulted in his judgment. They are about to be punished for their sins against him, and when judgment comes, it will be complete and total. All the blessings they have enjoyed will be stripped away.
There is no doubt that God has blessed South Sudan in the years of our struggle and in the brief years that we have existed as a nation. Time and again, God has proven those blessings on this nation by giving us victory in war, and momentary peace. We have been blessed! But, by the same token, who can deny that the tide has turned in recent months. South Sudan as a nation, has abandoned God, and God is about to ‘spit it out’ due to its rejection of him.
The nation and their awakening (Jer. 8:20-22)
Jeremiah laments the fall of his people. He is shattered by the judgment that he knows is coming to the nation. He closes this chapter with a pitiful series of questions. He cries, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wounds of my people?” Jeremiah realizes that the nation has refused the only hope they had. The nation has refused to apply the ‘balm’ that would have healed them. They refused to receive the advice of the Great Physician, who would have restored them. They chose their path over his path and they will face the consequences of their decision.
I fear the same thing is true for South Sudan. Our nation has abandoned the only hope of salvation it has. It has abandoned Jesus Christ as its Saviour. It has abandoned the Word of God as its rudder. It has abandoned the holiness of God as its standard. It has abandoned the love of God as its mission. South Sudan is a nation adrift on a tempestuous sea of sin, immortality and godlessness. South Sudan is a ship without a rudder. South Sudan is a nation headed for judgment! I don’t want to close this message on a subdued note. I want you to know that I still believe there is hope for South Sudan. I still believe that God can send revival to our nation. The only way that will happen is for South Sudan to heed an ancient warning. When Israel sinned against God, judgment was the result. God’s word to them in the day of their sin is the same word South Sudan must heed today, if she expects to survive. “If my people, who are called by my name, will 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.
South Sudan must turn back to the Creator, God. South Sudan must bow before the Lord God Almighty. South Sudan must repent of its many sins and embrace the Lord Jesus Christ as its only hope of salvation. For South Sudan, the challenge is: repent or perish (Luke 13:3). There are people who will read this article and probably think I am crazy! If that were true, and our nation could still return to God, I would be happy to be labeled as such! But the fact is that our nation is a nation in trouble. The ship called South Sudan is being dragged on the sharp rocks of sin and moral bankruptcy. The wave of God’s judgment is slamming against the exterior of our nation, and the imminent signs of destruction are clear to see.
What are we to do? I think there are concrete steps that every person in this country can do. These steps can help South Sudan, but South Sudan will only be changed when her citizens are changed. What we need is revival, repentance, renewal, transformation, and it needs to start with you. It must start with you as my reader and it must start with me as the writer of this article. If you are lost, you need to come to Jesus Christ for salvation today! If you are saved, you need to do several things: You need to search your own heart to be sure your anger and bitterness have been dealt with according to God’s Word. You need to humble yourself to pray for your nation. You need to do everything in your power to see that this country is healed and restored to the divine purpose of God. If the Lord has spoken to your heart on any level, please come before him in repentance. If for no other reason, please pray for South Sudan. We are a nation in trouble, and it is only the prayers of God’s people that are keeping the vessel called South Sudan afloat.