This week it was announced that the immediate former and first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi would be arraigned in court on the 4th of November. Egypt as some of you may be aware is central to one of the defining incidents of this decade – the Arab Spring. It is said to have began in December 2010 when a young Tunisian man in his twenties, a graduate and jobless, frustrated with the authorities harassing him in his small business, set himself on fire. It sparked a revolt in Tunisia that exposed the frustration and anger that was simmering beneath the surface. The leadership fled into exile. But apparently it was not just in Tunisia. Here is how someone defined the Arab Spring when it began.
The Arab Spring is a term used to describe the movements in multiple Arab countries this year to overthrow dictators or authoritarian monarchies. The hope (and it is still too early in the transition process) is that these popular revolts will lead to truly democratic states. The fear is that, since the opposition in these countries has been kept from organizing for decades, groups that garner their support based on religion (primarily fundamentalist groups) will have an advantage in the early elections leading to Islamic states.
As we know, the very thing that the writer feared has come true. This cannot be symbolised better than in Egypt. Egypt became the story of how people power can overcome dictators and tyrants. Yet three years down the line, the country lies divided. Hundreds of lives have been lost and counting. What happened to the revolution?
NI KUHAMA. This is our theme and focus for the next three months as we look to the Lord to help us move into our new sanctuary. Yet not just our new sanctuary. We are looking to the Lord to help us move in different areas of our lives as well. Last week we introduced the series by looking at the scripture from Deuteronomy 1:6 where the lord said to the Israelites.” I elaborated on this by saying that there was a purpose for them being at that mountain for that long. And the purpose was twofold.
- God was forming them into a nation from the 12 tribes that they had been in Egypt.
- God was forming them into His people with Him as their God. This was the place where they were given the Law and the commandments.
And so at the end of it we asked the question of your own life – what is God saying about the mountain where you have been (have you been at that mountain too long?), and what is God doing at that mountain. Is it a time for shaping and forming?
Today we proceed to look at what makes people make successful moves in the time and season they are supposed to. I suggest to you that successful moves require unity and organisation.
As things stand now, the Arab Spring revolution has turned back and is eating itself. The government of Libya is toothless and anarchy has returned to the seat of the revolution in Benghazi. BBC ran a programme this week detailing how many militia are still holding weapons and ready to fight again. They are divided again. Tunisia has survived because their democratically elected government has agreed to stand down and hold new elections next year. Egypt is in total turmoil and the country is divided halfway between the supporters of the deposed president and his Muslim Brotherhood and those against them, including the army. And in Syria, the fight continues daily to precipitate a humanitarian crisis as hundreds continue hungry and homeless. The country is divided between the pro Assad people and the rebels.
Successful moves require unity and organisation.
If I may repeat the definition of the Arab Spring that I read earlier, you noted the author saying he feared that since they had not been organised in a while, the religious fundamentalists might come in and take advantage of the vacuum of leadership. Which is exactly what happened in Tunisia, the original country of the Arab Spring, and then Egypt. What they did not have was cohesion. The revolution was basically a mass movement of people who knew what they did not want (their dictators) but did not know what they wanted. There was no one to organise them around a vision.
Moses speaks exactly about this. They came out of Egypt with no communicated vision and plan. They were told to get up and go. They were slaves and suddenly they were free for the first time in their lives. They were used to a certain order and discipline but now all they did was walk and rest, walk and rest. And so it is no wonder that the Lord required for them to stay at Mt Horeb, where like I said last week, they were formed into a nation. The twelve tribes began to see themselves as one. And further to that, they were united under the vision of a land promised to their forefathers flowing with milk and honey (v 8). But they were also united under one God, something that they had to learn because all of them had been born in Egypt under the many gods of the Egyptians (Deut 6: 1 – 5). And so they found cohesion by being one people under one God. And not just that, there was also organisation when leaders were chosen to deal with issues that affected their day-to-day living. This is why Moses said to them,
9 At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. 10 The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. 11 May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! 12 But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? 13 Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.14 You answered me, “What you propose to do is good.”
And the people appreciated that because they were able to access justice with few inhibitions. This removed the restlessness from the people. Justice minimised conflict and disunity. But what it meant was that through this there was now a leadership structure that organised the people.
“15So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. 17 Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” 18 And at that time I told you everything you were to do.
This cohesion and organisation is what enabled the Israelites to MOVE when God asked them to. And note too that the organisation now provided for a leader and a voice. Note how it says in v 18 “And at that time I told you everything you were to do”. The lack of unity and organisation is what seems to have ailed the Arab Spring in especially in Egypt. If this is the case, we then should be careful that this does not ail us too. We thank God for the unity that he has given us as a church and the leaders he has provided to work with me and me with you. I thank you that for the years we have been at this mountain, we have been united as a church. You have honoured the leaders in our midst and as one of them, allowed us to lead you even when it seemed we were not moving. You have been patient and have faithfully continued to give financially over the years. And when there have been questions raised you have done so graciously as we have equally sought to give honest answers about where we are. I am deeply humbled by that. Because there has been unity and organisation, we can make a successful move.
At a localised level, I dare say the reason why many people get stuck on a mountain is lack of understanding amongst them. I read the papers and I see brothers taking each other to court over a business. That is a recipe for being stuck at a mountain. I see families unable to divide land and develop it because there is a lack of agreement amongst the siblings. Many years down the line they are still stuck at that mountain and the investment losing value. I have seen couples who plan for a project when they are young and newly married. Of course in some cases it is a lack of leadership from the man to suggest a direction and a plan – lack of organisation. But because of lack of agreement, lack of unity between them, they are still stuck at the same place where they began their discussion. No wonder Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they are agreed”. Indeed it is difficult for an organisation, group, even a couple to move from a mountain unless they are agreed. For the children of Israel, the very fact that they agreed to a form of organisation with a leadership structure enabled them to move from that mountain.
As I was doing this sermon on Thursday, I got home and watched the news – and there was Libya in the headlines again. I wonder how many of you are aware that the Libyan Prime minister was kidnapped in the early hours of Thursday morning and released in the afternoon. A group of revolutionaries claimed the kidnapping. It is not known what triggered his release. BBC in reporting on that matter concluded by saying that the lack of unity is a threat to Libya’s prosperity. How true! Yet how much more is the reverse? The presence of unity is a great aid to progress. As we MOVE, I thank you again for the unity you have shown over the years and pray that it will continue to be seen now and in the years to come. For we have been at this mountain too long, and now NI KUHAMA.