Some evenings the 6 o'clock news is not very exciting. Recently events in the UK have led to predictability in the subject matter of many of the news stories, if not in the details. So whilst the news may always be informative, it is not very often out of the ordinary.
Tonight, however, the news was very much out of the ordinary. Some of the main stories from the BBC website earlier in the day didn't even make it to our screens, so it certainly wasn't predictable. And tonight's out of the ordinary news stories not only informed, but also got me thinking.
The snow dominated tonight's news. With over 8000 schools closed, transport networks grinding to a halt and city centres abandoned the wintry weather really was the biggest thing to happen in Britain today. Yet who would have thought that in the 21st Century one of the world's most developed countries could be conquered by a bit of precipitation? Despite all our advances in technology, snow can still bring the country to a standstill. Trains have had to be evacuated, the army has been called in to rescue stranded motorists, and thousands of homes have been without electricity since yesterday. Even the rescue services and road gritters have been getting stuck in the snow. The footage showed Liverpool city centre devoid of people and traffic; the people have been warned not to go out unless essential and the buses aren't running.
Next week the snow will likely be gone and life will have returned to normal. The schools will probably be open, Liverpool buses will no doubt be running, electricity supplies will be restored and the UK will rejoin the speedy advance of western society. But for the moment we have a powerful reminder of the importance of God's providence. The future prosperity of the UK, or any other country for that matter, is not assured by advances in technology and the recovery of the economy. Our wellbeing does not depend on the government in Westminster, the devolved administrations in Stormont, Holyrood or Cardiff Bay, or the efficiency of the local council. Today none of the above could do a great deal about the situation. God sent snow, whether the powers that be liked it or not.
And just as God in His providence can send snow or sunshine, so can He direct everything else. Our safety, security, health, happiness, prosperity, productivity and everything else is dependent upon God's providence. 'The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.'
If it is God upon whom we depend for everything, that means that our trust should be in God for everything. We cannot place our trust in economic recovery or government policy (though God can and does use such to accomplish His will), rather we should cry out to Him who reigns over everything. Our God is not confined by the economy or the government; He controls even those things that they cannot reach. And today was an example of that. When all our economic and technological development as well as the government are powerless, God is still in control. Today's weather demonstrates that we cannot fully rely on anyone or anything other than God.
The snow, however, as much as it dominated today's headlines was not the only thought-provoking story on tonight's news. Later on came the story of walking fish. Not live ones, but fossils, or rather fossilized footprints. The scientists seemed to be very excited about how these footprints from Poland challenge the prevailing view of evolutionary development. The footprints are dated to long before the fossil of what had been considered the intermediary development between fish and tetrapods. While palaeontologists will no doubt be rushing to re-write their evolutionary timelines, I was just thinking that this is a good reminder of how open to change scientific orthodoxy really is. Today's scientific truth can occasionally become tomorrow's mistaken assumption (N.B. I did say occasionally). The discovery neither proves nor disproves evolution, but it does remind us that unlike science, God's Word never changes.
Some unusual vocabulary was also used on the news tonight. Neither the word 'God' nor the word 'repentance' is frequently heard on the 6 o'clock news, yet tonight they came tonight in the same news story. That story of course was the sad tale of Mrs Robinson MP, wife of the Right Honourable Peter Robinson MP, First Minister of Northern Ireland. As news of her brief affair and subsequent attempted suicide came to light, both the First Minister and his wife spoke of repentance and forgiveness and pointed out that the most important forgiveness was not Peter's, but God's. On the news Mr Robinson said:
In Iris Robinson's statement she says:
The story is sad, yet at the same time there is something different about how the Robinsons have handled it than what is normally expected from politicians. Iris Robinson is stepping down from her parliamentary seat at the election. She is not justifying her actions in any way; rather she refuses to 'dilute the blame' and insists on taking full responsibility. And furthermore she has looked to Christ in repentance to receive forgiveness. While many today seek to downplay moral failings, Mrs Robinson shows clearly that adultery is a sin which requires a Saviour.
Now, in the UK it is very unusual for politicians to talk about their faith. It's not like in America. But Northern Ireland is still a bit different from the mainland. Our First Minister and his wife are Pentecostals. No doubt the story is very big news in Northern Ireland, but the few sentences uttered by Mr Robinson on the 6 o'clock news said all that needed to be said. We the public do not need to pry further into the life of this family, but Christian folk in Northern Ireland should pray for them - after all, the Bible tells us to pray for our government leaders as well as to pray for one another, so praying for our Christian First Minister would seem to be a very biblical thing to do.
Finally, tonight's 6 o'clock news had a wee bit of encouragement for preachers when they make a slip of the tongue in the pulpit. Halfway through the 6 o'clock news, the newsreader told the nation that the time was seventeen minutes past one - even on the BBC slips of the tongue happen!