Building a nation – Death of a nation and the lessons for us ~ Dr. Ngul Khan Pau
I am grateful to the Organizing Committee for their favour and the opportunity given to me to share the gospel message on the occasion of the 72nd Zomi Namni 2020. It is an honour and a privilege to share the gospel in this august gathering comprising of officials from the government, public leaders, church leaders and, especially, our honourable chief guest, Mr. Daimary.
Eleanor Roosevelt is credited with the famous saying “Great Minds discuss ideas, Average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people”. Looking at the Zomi as a community through the lens of this noteworthy saying, especially in the context of the country we live in, there will be occasions when we will discuss ideas, a time when we will talk about events and, certainly, a time when we will talk about people and individuals. People in developed nations do not fight or disagree over people or individuals but discuss and deliberate over ideas.
The mark of developed nation is to deliberate, discuss and agree or disagree over ideas and opinion without alienating each other. Debates in British parliament would be on ideas and opinion over which they may disagree vehemently but they would do so without abhorring the individuals for their ideas. If we are to grow and mature as a nation, we must also let our mind and mindsets grow accordingly. In his latest writing on leadership, John Maxwell stated that “Leadership is not only influence. Leadership is growing inside”. We must, therefore, grow within and mature in our character.
We started the day with “Hallelujah Chorus” and performed our beautiful cultural dances. The culture of the Zomis is colourful, God loves our culture and wants to preserve our culture. Man cannot exist without culture and, similarly, the word of God is essential for the survival of our culture. The Bible verse I have chosen for today is taken from the book of Daniel 5: 1 to 7. An appropriate title for the Bible verses I have chosen may be “The death of a nation”. Daniel recorded this for us where the nation of Babylon perished in one night during the reign of King Belshazzar. The death was not prolonged over weeks or months, but the death happened in just a matter of one night. The reasons for the death of the nation were:
(a) Drunken feast (Daniel 5:1): Not mindful of his responsibility as king, Belshazzar hosted a feast where wine was freely served, and they were intoxicated with it. Our focus here is on anything that causes the mind and reason to go numb and senseless and lead us astray. Wine or any other intoxicant, in and of themselves, may not be harmful. What is of concern here is how wine or any other intoxicants numb our senses and reasoning, govern us and control our behaviour, decisions and actions.
Nations can be destroyed due to numbing of reason and senses. We have innumerable instances of families in our community living from hand to mouth, unable to pay monthly tuition fee for the children’s school yet the father would somehow find the resources to get his daily dose of alcohol. When such instances become a regular feature in the community, it leads not only to the fall of the individual or family but eventually to our fall as a nation.
(b) Desecration of Holy objects (Daniel 5:2-3): The cups and other utensils in the Temple in Jerusalem are made holy and ordained for worship of the one true God. They were brought to Babylon by Kind Nebuchadnezzar during his conquest of Israel. His son, Belshazzar used them for drinking wine during the feast, notwithstanding that there are enough cups and utensils in the king’s court in Babylon. What is holy and consecrated by God should be kept and maintained as such but they were being misused to satisfy lustful pleasure. It is not just about being drunk and intoxicated with wine that God despised but also the misuse of holy objects.
We would be wise to reflect on our own lives today, whether we are being good steward of what God has placed in our hands and using them for the purpose that He has ordained it for. A village benefits from the lives of a few good men as much as the peace and orderly conduct in the village is disturbed by few who are troublesome. When our life is not lived according to God ordained purposes, it leads to the downfall of the individual, family and nation. On this occasion, I would like to exhort all of us to learn to discern what is holy and unholy, keep the holy things as holy and refrain from all unholy things, be it object, habits, practices or values we live by.
(c) Women – wives and concubines (Daniel 5:2): The party and drinking hosted by the king was not only with the men but also with the nobles and their wives and concubines. Women participating in the party is not wrong per se but what it represents here is sexual immorality. When we no longer protect and maintain the sanctity of sexual relation within the bounds of marriage, as ordained by God, and are overcome by lustful pleasure, the fall of our nation is not far behind. In our community various kinds of sin prevails, in addition to sexual immorality. It is ungodly to live our life the way we selfishly desire, without being mindful to the conscience and health of the community.
We are accountable to one another and also accountable to our creator. The fall and suffering of one person leads to the suffering of many. An honest and upright man or woman is faithful, sincere and committed in his or her marital relationship. Our forefathers practised the culture of drinking wine and there is no denying that they would drink often. However, they refrained from illicit relationships and their drinking did not cause them to commit sin against others. Rather, they maintained high moral standards and had a way of stigmatising anyone who practices immoral behaviour. It will be wise, therefore, to reconsider on our own history and ensure that high moral standard is the character of our tribe or community.
(d) The gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone (Daniel 5:4): The text in Daniel 5:4 tells us that they worshipped gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. We have reached a stage where we not only desire material things and money but we also worship them. Examine the god that you worship and if it is money, you are an idol worshipper; the Bible tells us that greed is idol worship (Colossians 3:5). When we have the living God who created us, we need to examine whether we are also worshipping the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron. If we are not mindful, the day will come when we will worship what we are not meant to, the day will come when we will worship money and possessions and make them the priority in our lives and depend on it. Children of Zomi today must re-examine ourselves and declare that we worship only Jehovah, the living God, and nothing else. We are to travel from darkness to light; God did not save us to worship gold or money or possessions but, rather, He saved us to use gold or money or possessions for the glory of His name and not to be their slaves.
(e) Consulting the wrong people (Daniel 5:7): On seeing the hand writing on the wall, king Belshazzar gave orders for the enchanters, astrologers and diviners to be called for consultation. Whom do we call or consult when we face trouble in our homes and in our nation? If we have been rushing to the magicians and diviners of idol worshippers in the community around us, starting such august gathering with Halleluiah Chorus would be meaningless. Rather, we Zomis should be looking forward to our own land which we will inaugurate with Hallelujah Chorus and end with it; a land where we will love and care for each other, a land that will be known as the new Israel.
Nebuchadnezzar, the father of Belshazzar consulted Daniel in the day of his trouble. If only Belshazzar had remembered, he would not have consulted the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. If we do not consciously make effort to depend on the living God, we are prone to depend on mere human beings even before we realise. Instead of looking to the stars for our future, we must look at the creator of the stars. The God who created the stars, called them each by name and directed their paths desires to be our friend and is looking for an opportunity to spend time with us. He wants to be consulted and He is worth consulting. Let us be careful not to seek consultation at the wrong place or with the wrong people when our God, the right consultant, is always available.
(f) Armless Fingers (Daniel 5:5): The finger wrote “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:27-28) and stated that the kingdom of Belshazzar would end. That very night his kingdom was taken away from him. If we forget the God who created us and worship other gods and consult astrologers and diviners, we too will be found wanting.
Having looked at six reasons for the death of nations, let us meditate on three thoughts:
(i) The foundation of our nation
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” says the Psalmist (Psalm 90: 1-2). Let us remind ourselves that the living God is our foundation and make every effort to rebuild that foundation. We were an unknown entity, wandering about in the jungles and living in anonymity. The gospel of the living God searched us, found us from our lostness and made us into a people because of which we sing Hallelujah Chorus today.
We will prosper only if we faithfully follow this God and allow Him to build us. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders builds in vain” says the Psalmist. Since 1869, the USA has been proclaiming “in God we trust” and even printed it in their currency note, something that they deal with in their everyday life. It is my desire that this same God, Jehovah, be the God on whom we rest and build ourselves upon. The God who gave land to Israel and built it into a nation can very well build us if only we will let Him do it. Let us reconsider and rebuild our foundation again
George Washington said that “it is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible”. We must also make it a practice to govern ourselves with prayer and with the word of God. Dr. Ravi Zacharias stated that the secret of the success of the USA as a nation is because the American socio-religious values is founded on Judeo-Christian teachings, education and philosophy from the Greek and the Parliamentarian administration from the Romans. We need to learn from developed nations and allow God to continue to build and nurture us if we are to travel further as a nation.
In a debate in the US senate, Benjamin Franklin, ambassador to France at the age of 70 years, stated “I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid?” We will never rise and progress as a nation without the aid of our God, Jehovah. Let us fall into the hands of Jehovah again because the God who holds the universe by the palm of His hand can very well hold us up, if only we will let Him do it.
(ii) The direction of our nation
There are people who just live their life, wandering about aimlessly. Any nation or tribe is never static, it is always on the move. No nation or tribe just stands but is either moving towards better or worse circumstances or situation. Whatever be the direction, we are on the move and the direction depends on the choices we make which will determine the situation or circumstances we will find ourselves in.
We need to look back on our path as a nation and make sure we are on the right path. We see in Proverbs 4: 18-19 that “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” Let us, therefore, reflect on the direction we are heading and make sure that we are headed towards betterment, towards what is right and holy. A former good neighbour, Mr. N Lhungdim once told me that “some people are really busy, heading towards progress and development, whereas some people and equally busy, heading towards their own downfall.” Which direction are we headed, as an individual, as a family and as a nation? Make an honest assessment to see whether we are on the path towards progress and development or we are on our way to our own downfall.
(iii) The bond that holds us as a nation
What our community apparently lack today is the sense of oneness and unity, a bond that holds us together. We seem to practice our Christianity only within the limits of our denomination, tribe or clan. It is impossible for a man to progress and develop on his own and, therefore, we need to govern ourselves keeping our brethren in mind, so that the development we seek is for the community not only individuals. I have no doubt that the brotherhood of the Zomis is through our bloodline, through hereditary, but my utmost desire is that our brotherhood is through God, through the love of God alone.
During the apartheid regime in South Africa, the nation was ruled by the white people who oppressed the black people and there was deep social divide between the two ethnic groups. The division sowed the seed of enmity and mutual hatred, leading to ethnic clashes wherein many people lost their lives. Nelson Mandela spent about 30 years in jail fighting against the apartheid regime and on assuming power at the end of it, he initiated governance measures with representation from all communities. He even forgave those who sent him to jail. After the end of apartheid in South Africa, Bishop Desmond Tutu was appointed the head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and, based on his experience, he wrote a book and titled it “There is no future without forgiveness”.
God created us to love and care for each other, forgive each other of our failings and support each other in times of trouble or difficulties. In his book titled “Zoram Khovel”, Pu L. Keivom stated that one of the main problem with the Zomis is our “Island Mentality”; we cannot think beyond ourselves or perceive beyond our limited territorial or geographical presence. Today, our brotherhood appears to be merely based on belonging to the same church denomination or speaking the same language; in fact, the different languages the Zomis’ speak are not even language but merely dialects. We need to enlarge our hearts to grow in our love for each other, strengthen the bond of our relationships and learn to forgive from our hearts.
If our desire is for Zogam to be a land people living in other parts of the world desperately long for, we need to first of all make it a land worth living. There are comments in some quarters that our land is desirable for living but the people are not desirable to live with. My response is that in due course the people will also be desirable to live with. If we learn to love and forgive in the name of God and live as Christians should, our land will not only be desirable, but it will be a land worth living in. I have my hope because we are people who pray and if we continue to pray, the Lord will once again look at our land favourably and He will laugh with us, not laugh at us.
I attended Lausanne Working Congress at Pattaya, Thailand in 2004 and was part of the committee on Conflict Resolution. I want to conclude with the testimony shared by one of our group members from Rwanda in Africa. The nation of Rwanda was in the midst of ethnic conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the year 1994 where about one million people were murdered in a matter of 100 days of conflict. He was out of his country at the time, studying at Dallas Theological Seminary. His entire family was murdered during the ethnic conflict and on hearing the news, he rushed to the church to pray and cry out to God.
During his prayer, seeking God’s will in the situation, the only message he received from the Lord was to forgive the people who murdered his family members. In the afternoon, a condolence service was held at 3 PM under the guidance of the President of Dallas Theological Seminary. During the service, he shared in the congregation that he will forgive those who killed his parents and brothers and sisters in the name of Jesus. As a tribute to his mother he also stated, “Mum, I will not only forgive those who killed you. I will look after the children of those who killed you.” And he worked it out on his return to his country, taking care of the children of the people who killed his mother like his own children, providing for them.
This is the extent to which people have lived and worked out the gospel in their lives. I want to challenge my Zomi brothers and sisters with this story today and encourage each of us to look for the things that unite us rather those that differentiate us. If people are willing to forgive those who killed their near and dear ones in the name of Jesus, care for their children, then they have truly received the gospel. Let us also truly received the gospel. Unlike Belshazzar who allowed the land be consumed in a matter of just one night, my desire and wish for the Zomi is that we continue to live in our land with Jehovah, the omnipotent God, the Lord who has been faithful not only to sustain us but also gave us the opportunity to celebrate the centenary of the gospel in our land. Rev. Dr. J.M. Ngul Khan Pau (Written and translated into English by Mr. P.S. Khual and Esther Kimbuang, Delhi)