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Foot and Mouth Disease

After the initial complacency there was increasing national alarm at the progress of FMD. Over the first five weeks the seven-day moving average for farms confirmed to be affected was respectively 4, 10, 19, 29, and 42. At this point the cases levelled off somewhat but remained serious. What are we to make of it? Who is to blame? For the first time for some time agnostics begin to think of God and decide that if there should be a God he must be to blame. There are three profitable lines of thought.

Stewardship

The time has come to focus upon the rather obvious consideration that a bullock is not meat. There is a world of difference between livestock and dead carcases. The living animal is more than a meat machine. How the farm animal’s diet has changed since my youth when the meadows were full of flowers. What travellers these creatures have become, journeying not only from one end of the country to the other but overseas to. Several weeks into the crisis questions were being asked about the need for radical change. The realisation dawned that to carry on in the way in which we have been going is a high-risk enterprise. It is not exaggerating to say that FMD spread like wildfire. Did we forget that there is such a thing as agricultural stewardship as well as meat marketing? Man was moral man before he was economic man. As Moses records: ‘…the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.’ (Genesis 2.15) Husbandry came before profit and the husbandry of which Genesis speaks involves accountability to God. This is the ultimate stewardship. Now it is no good just blaming the farmers as though some how the problem of FMD is their fault entirely. We have all failed in our service to God and sinned against him and the crisis is a national crisis and knocks on every door saying ‘What about this?’ Our service is a failed stewardship. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that there only ever was one perfect servant of God after the fall. Jesus Christ kept steadily on with the work that his Father had given him to do right to the end. ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.’ (Isaiah 53.6-7) Not only was Jesus Christ steadfast in his sufferings to the point of death, he was acting on the behalf of others in order that he might atone for sin and make peace with God by the blood of his cross. John the Baptist called him the Lamb of God because Jesus had come to sacrifice himself for sinners, on their behalf and in their place. In his death he was a substitute for sinners and the wrath that the sheep deserved came upon the good shepherd who gave his life for them. He opened up the way of forgiveness by his faithfulness to his Father’s will. He was the perfect steward.

Satan’s Interference

Many people today leave the Devil out of the picture. He does not fit into their ‘scientific’ paradigm. That tells us something about the scientific paradigm they are using. It is not a complete description of reality. Satan is certainly in the frame whether people recognise it or not. Our present generation has less and less time for God, the kingdom of heaven and Christ as saviour. But there comes a time when it becomes plainer that to forsake God and to ignore Christ is to end up further under the power of Satan. The evil intentions of Satan are well illustrated by his attacks on the righteous man Job. When fire fell from heaven and destroyed Job’s sheep it was Satan who had instigated it. Satan was sure that Job would blame God and complain against God. He afflicted him more and more to secure this purpose and drive him from God. In Job we see the difference that faith makes. Job was not driven from God by his troubles. He was driven closer and closer to God. We need to look at our crises in a spiritual way. When troubles come thick and fast they have a message for us. They show us that left to ourselves we will be ruined. Whether ruined financially or not is not to the point. The danger is the loss of everything, even life itself, under the deserved judgement of God against sin. Job had found the answer. He could say, ‘I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God …’ (Job 19.25-26) Christ is the only conqueror of Satan. He showed that in his own temptations. He never yielded to Satan. He showed it when he met those possessed with demons. He was able to cast the demons out. He showed it by his resurrection. Although he really died under the curse of the broken law of God, he was able to rise again from the dead because death had no claims upon him. He is the resurrection and the life.

Spiritual Degeneration

Here is a root nearer home. The apostle Paul put his finger upon why things were going wrong in the Roman Empire of his day. He says of the Gentiles ‘Who knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.’ (Romans 1.32) Paul saw that people were giving in to their sin even against what their own consciences were telling them. He was not saying this to be condemnatory. He wanted to explain the need for the Gospel of Christ that he preached. He knew that Christ had dealt with the guilt of sin at the cross and its corruption, pollution, penalty and condemnation. Now when we see this terrible FMD crisis sweeping through the countryside in various areas we do not want to see our friends ruined. We hope the disease will not affect their farms and ruin their livelihoods and rural communities. We pray that they might escape. That is the obvious thing to do. But there is a worse ruin. Sin is like a disease too, it spreads, it unfits a person for God’s service and it ends in death, eternal death. When the Christian or Gospel minister, like Paul, sees such a situation he needs to speak out and explain that not only is there a devastating problem of sin but there is a wonderful answer in Christ. The good news is that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes. The message comes to you today as well as to every other reader. Look at things spiritually. Do you not see your need to believe?  The apostles were clear about the results of believing in Christ. The jailor at Philippi asked ‘What must I do to be saved.’ Paul and Silas had a ready answer: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.’ (Acts 16.30) Believe, believe, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ today and you will be saved.