A scattered confetti of promises in the run up to the General Election

Jun 14, 2024 | READ

O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD! (Jer. 22:29)

It is commonplace to claim that governments run out of steam after eleven years in office. With the present government having been in power for fourteen, the call for change has been reaching fever pitch across the nation.

For most of us reading this, our concern is not only for what is going on at a political level but that these precious islands should be places that bear fruit for the Lord, and that honour all He has invested in them. We might think of our politicians and leaders as the ‘stewards of the land’ who have the responsibility to plan what is sown in each field, and to take overall care of the cultivation and planting of the land. Our task as intercessors too is to be willing to get our spiritual hands dirty, to labour that good seed might be sown and to seek to remove the stones and weeds that taint and distort as we till the soil.

We are praying for ways to harness existing resources and to nurture new ones, so that people may have the freedom to plan long rather than short term – and above all to retain the freedom to proclaim the gospel in such a way that it raises up a generation of those on fire for Jesus.

We know that the Lord had to contend with Israel because of her spiritual condition. He called her to account and then, with a fierce blast, He had to send her into exile, far from her own land, as though blown there by a storm from the east. (Is. 27:8) What does He see when He examines the ‘condition’ of our own land? And what does He propose to do about it?

First of all, let’s note the obvious things that are developing in the runup to the election. The internal squabbles that have riven the Conservative Party, and its very checkered track record, have wearied so many people, not least because in all too many instances it has exuded an air of sleaze. A change of government feels overdue to many, and, as we all know, polls, with their equally checkered record, are predicting a runaway win for the Labour Party.

Some are calling for the Conservatives to fall in line with the European trend and to move toward the right, not least as an attempt to counteract the surging support for the Reform Party in many predominantly Brexit-voting parts of the country. The party proposes a much tougher line on immigration, as well as scrapping the government’s net zero commitments – and these resonante well with many on the Tory right. With tactical voting likely to play a larger part than ever in this election, and no hint of compromise on the table at the moment between Reform and the Tories, such as happened in 2019, there is very chance that these two parties will effectively cancel each other’s votes out and leave the way open for other parties to in crucial seats.

Meanwhile, Christians of whatever background who feel a call to serve the Lord in government face an ever more challenging task. The Liberal Party, for instance, deselected a candidate for no other reason than that he holds to the Bible, a position that is becoming increasingly less tolerated.

We have seen, too, how much abuse Kate Forbes has endured from fellow members of the SNP party as the result of being so open about her Christian faith. The SNP would appear to be losing ground recently, as Scottish voters increasingly tire of hearing Westminster being blamed for issues that, in reality, have been long since devolved to the Scottish Government. The implication that a vote for Scotland to be an independent nation is a panacea for all woes has long begun to appear unrealistic to more and more thinking people.

Does the Judah of Jeremiah’s day have anything to say to us today?

As we approach the General Election, and the airwaves are heavy laden with promises and pledges, diatribes and accusations, may I take you back for a moment to the Judah of Jeremiah’s day to discover matters we might perhaps find relevant to our own times?

There appear to have been far more false than genuine prophets in the Judah of Jeremiah’s day, who had convinced themselves that what people wanted to hear must indeed be what God was saying. Central to the message of these false prophets was that the Lord would never allow Jerusalem to fall into enemy hands. After all, had the Lord not chosen Zion forever and set His seal on David? (Ps. 132:14, and 89:20). Had He not delivered the city in the past from the hand of Sennacherib?

But they were making the fatal mistake of making a doctrine out of a deliverance, and had failed to realise that it was only as the city sought God that it would remain under the Lord’s hand of protection. People instinctively wanted to trust and believe in what the prophets were telling them, and Jeremiah – the true prophet of God – found himself the odd man out in the face of so much fallacy, prejudice and gullibility.

Even today, people look to ‘prophets’ (try filling the blank between the apostrophes with some such collective replacement noun for prophets as ‘pollsters,’ ‘economists,’ ‘political and social media influencers and gurus’) to reinforce their perspective on the our world. The truth is that where these ‘foretellers’ are not looking to the Source of truth and wisdom, their promises and warnings serve only to mislead and, corporately, to immunise people against God’s genuine warnings. (e.g. Jer.14:13)

False prophets found a ready audience in Jeremiah’s day because, deep down, people were and are only too eager to be deceived by smooth words. (Is. 30:10) But when Jerusalem was captured, and ten thousand of their leading figures were taken to Babylon in the first of three deportations, another explanation was called for. (Jer. 28:2-4,11) Step up Hananiah, and his bold declaration that the Lord would break the Babylonian yoke within two years, and restore all the sacred things that had been taken from the Temple. The war, in other words, will be over by Christmas next year!

Jeremiah’s response to what he knew to be blatantly untrue was robust, for the Lord had told him that the exile would last for seventy years. Indeed, he knew that it was the Lord’s will for Judah to accept Babylonian overlordship, until the appointed time came to restore the people to the Land: something that would only happen in the distant future, far beyond his own life span, but which He trusted God to bring about in His time and way. (Jer. 25:11–12 and 29:10)

Surrendering the Babylonians was no more popular in Jerusalem than the issue to surrender to the Nazis in countries such as Norway – least of all to the leaders. No wonder that Pashur, the head of the ‘Temple police,’ moved to ban Jeremiah from speaking out on the grounds that his words were disheartening people from fighting, and were therefore treasonable. (Jer. 20:1ff)

The threats made by the king and the priests were far from idle, with King Jehoiakim going so far as to pursue Uriah, one of Yahweh’s true prophets, to Egypt to kill him there – just as China and Iran hunt down to the ends of the earth those they believe to be traitors to their cause. (Jer. 26:20-23)

God’s indignation is ever directed against lies, whether expressed through official organs of state or through self-appointed leaders. So far as the Lord was concerned, Hananiah was preaching rebellion against Himself. (See Jeremiah 28). Jeremiah warned him that the Lord would ‘remove [him] from the face of the earth,’ and so it came about. False prophecy carries a heavy price tag for the prophet who ‘persuades a nation to trust in lies.’ (See Jer. 28: 15-16.)

Our present-day politicians may not quite be proffering free trips to the Moon, or waiting times of less than five minutes in A&E, but there are no shortage of those like Hananiah, who scatter dazzling pledges like confetti. Our plight is certainly not as desperate as in America, where Donald Trump is brazenly ‘selling’ policies to the highest bidder, but it was bad enough even back in 2019 for the cartoonist Matt to quip during the last election that ‘Some parts of the UK have received a year’s spending pledges in the last month!’ It would take fairy gold from the magic money tree to pay for many of these grandiose promises.

It must have taken so much great courage for Jeremiah to remain faithful to his commission, and to condemn what he knew to be an abomination in the sight of the Lord. (Jer. 1:14-19) And it is not only the ancient prophets who have that call. The fact is that virtually every New Testament epistle addresses the need to discern and combat false teaching and wrong practices reminds us that the Lord’s people are called to live and move in the power of His Holy Spirit, not that of the world, with all its prating, pundits, polemic and propaganda.

With conspiracy theories swirling everywhere online, and embedded in certain news media, it is so important to pray against fantasies taking hold in people’s hearts. Proverbs reminds us that ‘Truthful lips endure forever, whereas a lying tongue lasts only a moment,’ (Proverbs 12:19) – but oh, how much damage can be done when lying tongues deliberately spread deceit and deception! Don’t forget to do your own fact checking, and to remember our post of finding the most unbiased news, and looking up the factual accuracy and political bias of the articles and magazines we come across. See 1) ruachministries.co.uk/ 2) Media Bias/Fact Check and 3) Allsides Are not all deliberately false promises a perfect example of ‘Death creeping in through our windows and entering our homes?’ (Jer. 9:21 TLB)
Let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know You, that You are the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these You delight.’ (Jer. 9:24)

Prayer

Father, our nation’s resources are stretched on every front, and there is already less than enough to go round to meet present expenditure, let alone to meet the vast increase in defence spending now required. We pray for how this election works out for each individual constituency and for the hugely demanding task that the new government will face as it responds to many pressing challenges and increasingly desperate needs in the years ahead.

Open people’s hearts to perceive what is true, and to see through many of the alluring promises that are being scattered like confetti. Not with anger and cynicism, but with discernment and a willingness to press in to seek You. Expose deliberate deception and barefaced blandishments, and cause them to plummet even as spent fireworks fall to the ground.

Raise up those who have truth to impart, and accord them a platform from which to share a positive and truly hopeful message. Let those initiatives that are of You triumph and prosper, we pray. Unblock the ears of people in our land, and keep us from dullness of hearing that deadens the sound of Your Word of life and You true and eternal promises.

Touch and open the hearts of young and old alike in our nation to hear and respond to You, and to experience and encounter You. Shape our outlook on life. Forgive our great waywardness and visit our nation again we pray.

Oh Lord, may our land be one that You can bless and honour, where You are able to raise up those who will love you passionately and do great exploits for You, ‘strenuously contending with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in them.’ May this be a land where Jesus is proclaimed, and where it remains possible to ‘teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ’. (Col. 1:28-29)

In Jesus’ name, amen.

NB: With regard to these forthcoming Elections, more live debates will be held on Thursday, 20th June and Wednesday, 26th June, just before the General Election on 4 July. It is good to pray for these, as for many people these constitute their primary political input, and are likely to play a major part in determining their vote.

We can pray along similar lines for the live Biden-Trump debates, which are scheduled to be held on June 27th and September 10th.

Looking beyond the election itself, spare a thought and a prayer for those who will experience the great shock of going from government to being in opposition!

Photo by Max Kleinen on Unsplash

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