O God, our help in ages past
If God was our Help in ages past, His unchallengeable nature means that He is our Help now, and in the years to come. Therefore, we are never going to be without a dependable Helper.
Looking back at our history, both as a nation and as a Church, we could see that God has been our Help in ages past. We have gone through a lot that, if not for God on our side, our story would have been negatively different, worse than it is today and ever have been. We have seen political, religious and economic crises, the magnitude that would have destroyed many nations put together, but we have survived and are still surviving because God has been our Helper in ages past, our hope today and for the years to come. Let us now attempt an articulation of our experiences, first as a nation, and then as a Church.
As A Nation
The following points of our history are eloquent testimonies of God’s help in ages past:
Civil War – Perhaps, the first point should be the Nigerian civil war. The civil war was capable of dividing and destroying the nation completely. But God our Help in ages past healed and sustained us, and today, we are still one nation marching unto greatness.
Abacha’s Regime – The era of Abacha as Head of State was one of the most tension-saturated period of our national life. No one knew what to expect at any point and no one could tell how it was going to end. But God our Help in ages past intervened and rescued us.
Ebola Crisis – When Ebola outbreak was experienced in Nigeria, it would have easily affected a greater part of the country. But God our Help in ages past delivered us. With our obvious weaknesses in managing crises, only a miracle would have made the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare Nigeria Ebola-free within such a short while, and with such minimal casualty.
2015 General Elections – The days leading up to the 2015 General Elections were certainly the most apprehensive period of our existence as a nation. With the widespread prediction from the Western world of Nigeria’s breakup in 2015, and the tensed atmosphere created by rough campaign and the accompanying propaganda, it was like the end of Nigeria had come. Many saw nothing but outbreak of war after the elections, but God our Help in ages past calmed all the storms. The elections came and passed and we are still here.
Insecurity/Boko Haram – The rise of insecurity in the land, especially the activities of Boko Haram, was enough to be tagged an internal war. It has over time taken different dimensions, children being used as suicide bombers, abduction of school children and subsequent indoctrination into Islamic radicalism, herdsmen attacks, kidnapping for ritual and ransom, killings by bandits and unknown gunmen, maiming and raping, and so on. These would have been enough to ignite an internal war but in all these things, we are more than conquerors through God our Help in ages past. He has kept us through it all and is still keeping us. Nigeria shall survive these hard times and evil people in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Natural Disasters like Tsunami – It is remarkable that virtually all the problems faced by Nigeria, as enumerated above, can be classified as manmade. God our Help in ages past has shielded us from natural disasters like tsunami. We hear of the devastating effects of such natural disasters, but God has not allowed us to experience any.
As A Church
On this, we speak, not only for the Anglican Church, but also for all the churches in Nigeria, especially those situated in the most affected parts of the country. The above listed points are part of the testimonies of the churches; Civil War, Abacha’s Regime, Ebola Crisis, 2015 General Elections, Insecurity/Boko Haram, Natural Disasters like Tsunami. However, in some more specific ways, the Church was affected:
Ebola Crisis – Due to the fear of Ebola, shaking hands in the greeting of peace with brethren and sharing common cup at communion became risk-prone acts, and these affected our fellowship. But God our Help speedily came to our rescue, and no congregation was recorded to have been destroyed by the virus, as it happened in some other countries.
Insecurity/Boko Haram – At the wake of rising wave of insecurity in the country, churches appeared to be the target. But soon after, the attacks became multi-dimensional. At a stage, everyone was a suspect and in some places, you could not enter to worship on Sunday or any gathering without being searched by rented security agents. During the 2016 edition of DIVCCON, delegates were scared of Boko Haram attacks, and some did not attend due to fear. But today, God our Help in ages past has arisen for us and we can now gather without fear.
Herdsmen/Gunmen/Bandits Attacks – The Church in Nigeria has been facing undefined attacks from herdsmen, unknown gunmen and bandits, as they are called. Congregations have been attacked and killed with their priests or pastors while in worship. God our Help is fighting the battle for His Church, and is stemming the tide. We have confidence that He will give us complete victory.
Political Forces against the Church – There are subtle political forces fighting against the Church in Nigeria. But as in the generations past, the Church will continue to outlive her enemies because that same God, Who has been her Help in ages past will remain her hope for years to come. We can, therefore, confidently say with the Psalmist; “If the Lord had not been on our side — let Israel say — if the Lord had not been on our side when men attacked us, when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; the flood would have engulfed us…Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth…Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124).
As Individuals: In our individual and family lives, we have had experiences of God’s help in times past. When forces greater than us arose against us, God came to our help. We have been delivered from spiritual attacks, deadly sicknesses, armed robbers, kidnappers, accidents, and many other life threatening situations because God has been our Help.
God, Our Hope For Years To Come
It is comforting to know that God is our Help in ages past, but even more eternally reassuring that He remains our hope for years to come. In this world of uncertainties and unpredictable changes, both in people and nature, the only safe refuge is to cling to the unchanging God.
God has been our Help in ages past, even when we had not known Him or served Him as God. As He was in the beginning, so He is now, and so He will remain forevermore, unchangeably the same.
In the journey of faith and the race of life, no man can do it on his own. We all need help, and the only reliable help at all times and in all circumstances is God. Let us put absolute confidence in His immutable nature, for He has promised never to leave nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He is our God, our Help in ages past, our hope for years to come, Who shelters us from the stormy blast. Beneath the shadow of His throne, His saints have dwelt secure because His arm alone is sufficient, making our defence sure. From everlasting He is God, to endless years He is the same. Kingdoms may wax and wane, nations may rise and fall, we may grow, blosom and die, but He is immortal, timeless and ageless. He is God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, and our eternal home.
(The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh delivered this address during DIVCCON 2019)
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