The poem, ‘Rule, Britannia!’, (later set to music in 1740) was written by a Scot named James Thompson. He was passionate about creating a unified, British identity to replace the traditional English, Irish, Scots and Welsh identities. This is certainly interesting in light of the recent Scottish referendum. However, many of the lines of the poem are hard to understand and use language that is now archaic. This is not surprising as the poem is three hundred years old. The poem begins…
When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
Azure main? What’s that supposed to mean? Well, it translates into modern English as blue sea and this is a totally Biblical idea. Read Genesis 1: God gathers together the waters in one place and creates dry land. As the Old Testament continues the sea becomes poetically synonymous with destruction and death. It is no surprise that God plunges the world back into the water to destroy it in the time of Noah. Jonah is swallowed by a whale for three days and three nights and Jesus uses the story as a metaphor for his own coming death and resurrection (Matthew 12:40). But in all of the references to the ‘sea’ and ‘sea monsters’ in the Old Testament, one thing is very clear: only God is in charge of them. So I have no problem in agreeing with Thompson. Britain exists at Heaven’s command. Have you ever considered that before? Your country exists because God brought it into existence. We regularly talk about God making us as individuals (Psalm 139) but we rarely consider God as the sovereign of the nations (Psalms 47 and 67).
If you ever go into St Aldate’s church, Oxford, you will see an unusual sight as you approach the East end of the church. The flags of many nations line the sanctuary. The symbolism of the sight is clear: all the nations exist under God. That church now has a strong tradition of praying for the nations. Not just praying that individual wars may cease and that the world may be more peaceful, but of interceding for individual nations in prayer. This passion is born out of the belief that God is the creator of the nations and that they matter to him because he made them.
Find out about a different nation today and spend time praying for it.
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