INDEPENDENCE MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN BAPTIST CONVENTION- REV’D ISRAEL ADELANI AKANJI, PhD.

Title: When God Rouses Himself

Text: Psalm 44

I wish every one of us Happy 62nd Anniversary of Nigeria’s Independence. Welcome to another season of celebration of our nationhood. 62 years ago, we got our independence and we began the Journey of nationhood. We have a lot of reasons today to thank God for all that God has done for us in our nation. There has been so much growth in every aspect of the national Life; growth in education, growth in agricultural, growth in commerce, growth even in our habitations. Our cities have enlarged, our small towns have grown, so many things have happened since Independence. Communities that had no schools now have schools, lots of infrastructures are there, we have greatly developed and we have reasons to give, thanks to the almighty God, on this 62nd Independence celebration.

However, we all know that as a nation, we have been struggling during these 62 years struggling for nationhood, struggling to develop ourselves into what is expected of, also, struggling to become like other nations that are reckon with as exemplary Nations among the community of States, we have been struggling and in this area we have a lot of deficiencies, there are a lot of grounds uncovered and there are a lot of things to do. Therefore during this Independence, as we thank God for what God has done for us and celebrate with one another, for all the achievements that we see. We must challenge ourselves. We must challenge ourselves to what ought to be. And that is why this morning, I am sharing from the word of God Psalm 44 and I tied to the sharing ‘When God Rouses Himself’. Actually by using this topic ‘When God Rouses Himself’, I really wish in the end to end with a prayer for Nigeria, and the prayer for Nigeria is ‘God, please Rouse yourself concerning Nigeria’. Now, Psalm 44, which we want to look at this morning, is called a psalm of communal lamentation and hope. The Psalm is talking about a whole people, a whole nation, the people of Israel; therefore, it is quite adequate for us to look at this psalm as we celebrate our own nationhood. It is the Cry of a nation, the lamentation of a nation. And if we want to do what is right at this 62nd Independence, definitely, we must also look inward and bring our lamentation and cry.

The psalm does not end with the cry, the psalm ends with a sense of great hope. And that is how I really hope that we will also end as we celebrate this 62nd independence of our nation, that we will end it with great hope. Hope that God will Rouse Himself and God will participate with us because the Bible says that, ‘unless the Lord builds the house, those who build labor in vain’. In our nation building, we can do nothing unless God Himself helps us. We will try all our best but unless God comes to our aid, we will fail in the end. It is because we have been doing so many things in our own that we have not received the kind of help we need from God.

I have divided this Psalm 44 into five portions and I would like us to look at the communal lamentation of the people of Israel as presented in Psalm 44. Verses 1-3 of this psalm, says ‘We have heard it with our ears, O God; our ancestors have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago. With your hand you drove out the nations and planted our ancestors; you crushed the peoples and made our ancestors flourish.It was not by their sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.’

This first portion, the people as a community were talking about their history. In that history they heard about all that God did for their ancestors. God assisted their ancestors, God was with them. It was not by the strength of their ancestors that they were able to conquer the land and establish themselves. It was God, who was there with them to assist them to conquer the land. So their history shows, a robust presence of God participating actively in their matters and granting them nationhood and settling them. So they have a history and they referred to their history.

The next we see Verses 4 to 8, which has to do with their confession. As a people they confessed what they believed and this is why they said ‘You are my King and my God, who decreesvictories for Jacob.Through you we push back our enemies; through your name we trample our foes. I put no trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory;but you give us victory over our enemies, you put our adversaries to shame.In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise your name forever.’ Not only do these people have a robust history of the presence of God, their own immediate confession was in a God who was doing so much for them. A God, in whom they trusted.

The next is that this psalm shows us their experience and we can see their experience recorded for us from verse 9 to verse 17. ‘But now you have rejected and humbled us; you no longer go out with our armies. You made us retreat before the enemy, and our adversaries have plundered us. You gave us up to be devoured like sheep and have scattered us among the nations.You sold your people for a pittance, gaining nothing from their sale. You have made us a reproach to our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us. You have made us a byword among the nations; the peoples shake their heads at us. I live in disgrace all day long, and my face is covered with shame at the taunts of those who reproach and revile me, because of the enemy, who is bent on revenge. All this came upon us, though we had not forgotten you; we had not been false to your covenant.’

The summary was that in their experience, they were very ashamed. They were being defeated by their enemies. This were the same people who spoke about their ancestors that God was there. In their history, there was a rich presence of God. They also give us their confession. Their confession was that they put their trust in God and not in themselves but now, in their experience. Their experience was that of shame, was that of defeat, they were running away even from their enemies.  They have been counted, they had fallen into derision, they had become a byword and they were looked down upon. That was the experience. So you can see clearly that the history and the confession do not tally with the experience. The experience was different from what they called their history and their confession. They were going through hard times, they knew it and that was why they were bringing out their lamentation about their situation. So the history did not conform to the experience. The confession also did not conform to the experience.

In the next stage of the psalm where we have the complaints. The people now began to complain, before God, beginning from verse 18 down to verse 22, Our hearts had not turned back; our feet had not strayed from your path. But you crushed us and made us a haunt for jackals; you covered us over with deep darkness. If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart? Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

Now this people came up with complaints. Complaints about why God allowed their experience.

Now, if you look at these four segments, the history of the people, the confession of the people, the experience of the people and the complaints of the people, you will definitely understand why these people were in lamentation ‘It’s like God has left us and we are in perils and dangers. In troubles, we are put to shame. We are being overthrown by others. You look so much down on us and they say all kinds of things about us’. If you look at this particular example, you will discover that this psalm has a lot of things to do with Nigeria. Nigeria began as a great country. Our forefathers, who got the independence of this nation came up with a robust idea of an independent nation. They actually fought for the independence of our country Nigeria that we will no longer be under colonial rule, so that we will have self-governance, so that we will be able to determine our own path to growth and development. But what has happened to Nigeria today?

Just like the lamentation of the Israelites, Nigeria is like a byword. All kinds of things are spoken about Nigeria. Our neighbors, they speak to deride us because in Nigeria the simplest of things are not properly done. It is such a country that is so blessed by God and yet, the country does not reflect this blessing as it ought to be. Nigeria, is a rich country, but poverty is high in Nigeria. Illiteracy is high in Nigeria. Nigeria is a highly-placed country, every part of this country you can plant, the Vegetation is wonderful, the rainfall is great, the weather is good, climate balance, and everything is favorable for us in Nigeria.  In this same country, where we have many intellectuals that have been great blessings to many parts of the world, we have so much problems. Schools will close down for so long, Tertiary institutions cannot function as well. So we see that we have a lot of challenges.  Now, this was how the Israelites saw themselves and there was communal laments and I feel that during this 62nd anniversary we also have reasons to lament for some of the bad experiences which we are experiencing as a people. But then there was hope for the people, it did not end with the Laments.

In the end of the Psalm from verses, 23 to 26 the community said ‘Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.’

Now, even though these people complain, even though they lamented, even though they were crying, they did not forget the fact that their hope was in God, and that’s why they were saying, ‘Awake Lord’ as if they were talking to somebody who was sleeping.  God neither sleeps nor Slumbers yet they were calling on God to awake because they did not see God connecting himself with their situation. They did not sees God acting upon their perils and their dangers and that is why they were calling on God to Rouse Himself. And that’s why the topic we are sharing is ‘When God Rouses Himself’. We have an example in the New Testament, In Mark, chapter 4, reading from verse 35- 40 ‘That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

This is what happens When the Lord Rouses Himself. Jesus and his disciples in the boat were going, there was a storm, the wind was blowing, and the water was getting into the boat, it was about to sink.  Jesus was in the part of the boat where he was sleeping and the disciples ran to him to wake him up.

When Jesus woke up, several things began to happen. When he woke up, he woke up into action. When Jesus woke up, he confronted the wind and confronted the waves and confronted the storm and Jesus spoke to it confronted and overcame the storm and its powers. The people became free from the powers of the storm. Their fears were taken away, their comfort return to them because Jesus spoke to the storm. Through this speaking to the storm Jesus, reveals Himself as the one who had power over the storms of life. That, what the disciples could not handle, Jesus when he rouse Himself, he was able to handle for them.

And therefore, as we celebrate our independence in Nigeria, and we lament a lot of things that have gone wrong. Let us not ended in lament, let us remember that Jesus has the power to stop the storm. He has the power to speak to that, which is this trying to destroy our lives? Jesus can interrupt it. Jesus, can we rebuke it and Jesus can stop it completely and make it die. And therefore as we celebrate this 62nd Independence, and we lament, let’s not end it with laments. Let us call on God for His mercies and when God Rouses himself concerning Nigeria, He will speak and the storms will die and the storms will go down and the storms will be stopped. That which we cannot do for ourselves like those disciples, Jesus can do for us. That is the Hope.

Wishing you a happy celebration and I pray that the Lord will rouse Himself concerning Nigeria, He will still the storm, we shall be free and we shall carry on with a developing nationhood that will glorify God and bless humanity.  

God bless you

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