“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Psalm 137:1-4
Remember Bonny M, that popular music group, and its rendition of ‘Rivers of Babylon’? Even the late Reggae music maestro, Bob Marley, also amplified the song woven out of the above scripture. It was that popular and the favourite song of many music lovers. However, how many truly understood the history of that hit song?
In fact, since I happened on this side of creation, I love going to church. From that Morning Mass I used to attend with Nmaezi, my grandma, and Sunday Mass and later Benediction in the evening, and Block Rosary, of course, where we learned about the Lady of Fatima and all, going to church was fun. Anybody that wanted to beat me into line only needed to threaten me with absence from such activities. That was how it was until I got a bite of the Pentecostal grace and exploded. Things took a much more amazing turn and I began to witness the raw manifestations of the power of God.
Life without the assembling of the saints was unimaginable. Actually, God enjoined us to always gather. As a kid in those early days, it was both a ritual and fun but, much later, the Pentecostal splendour splashed in full view the demonstration of God’s awesomeness, making it worth waiting for.
Then the locusts came. In my fifty-something odd years, I have never seen anything like it – that the four walls of any church is locked up or locked down. I don’t care about the guise that brought it about, whether coronavirus or corona-nonsense, but I do know an abomination has coursed through our land. Now, our houses have turned to churches; evasive fathers emergency pastors and mothers and children ushers. So strange indeed!
The same strangeness the children of Israel felt when their captors urged them to sing for them at the banks of the Babylonian rivers. Carried away into captivity by their disobedience, they were now confronted with an unusual proposition of entertaining their captors with the Lord’s song. But they wondered aloud, ‘how can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ Well, sing they must.
Many Christians had been singing the Lord’s song in a strange land, even long before the coronavirus scourge. We turned the churches to entertainment theatres for Babylonians. We handed over our pulpits to crowd-pulling jesters and ‘celebrities’, poking fun at the Holy Ghost, as we reclined, displaying dirty teeth and throwing up our legs in laughter of the damned. Our daughters, even Mommy GOs, junketed the stage in micro skirts, exposing defiant ruts in fashionable perdition. Self-proclaimed Men of God (Dogs of Men?) delivered whitewashed messages in affected mannerisms of oyibo chief priest, eyes trailed on the fat pockets of congregants. We came to church as sinners, hoping to be made saints but left as we came; sadly saints that came to church are made sinners. Confusion now reigns everywhere, as we can no longer tell saints from sinners; all have merged in one surreal admixture that has stunned even heaven.
So, coronavirus, a spiritual disease, has come to jag the church back to its senses. Coronavirus is the bank of river Babylon, compelling us to sing the Lord’s song in unusual and unlikely places, abandoning our huge cathedrals for reptilian creatures.
It is not about attacking the government for the church lockdown. I am one with Pastor Poju Oyemade of the Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos, when he said: “…Closing the doors of a physical building does not in any way mean the closure of the anointing of the Spirit from working. Church buildings may be shut down but true faith and the anointing of the Spirit has not stopped working.”
But that is where the problem begins. Where is the anointing, where is the Pentecostal power? We need to stop being paranoid and confronting the government for locking up or locking down the church. It is time we drove out the den of robbers in the Lord’s House of Prayer like Jesus did. It is time we sanitised the hearts of church members. It is time we made church the hallowed ground it should be. I am for the restoration of the church where the Spirit of God holds supreme reins. I believe that the churches should use this period to seek self-healing and come back stronger and better. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Our aimless wanderings have provoked the Lord to anger and we need to appease Him by genuinely repenting and turning away from our evil deeds and lust. That is the reason for the lockdown. Even the government we are attacking is fulfilling a prophecy without knowing it. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.” (Isaiah 26:20)
The problem of the church is that we have wandered away from Goshen and exposed ourselves to the plagues of Egypt. For us to thrive as a church, the Body of Christ, we need to bring back the overhanging glory cloud fast. We should be done with this spiritual debauchery and truly seek the Lord. The government has given us the opportunity to return from our wandering so that we can bring down the revival power.
The church has become leprous and must stay outside the camp or locked down until it is purged. Miriam had no choice in the mater when she attracted leprosy to herself by her unwholesome conduct. “But the LORD said to Moses, ‘If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.’ So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.” (Numbers 12:14-15)
No sane Christian can support church lockdown. However, I believe more important is the unlocking of the spiritual church than the physical. Let us give reins to the spiritual church. Neither the government nor corona-nonsense shall have power over the physical church.
Indeed, I am not bothered about the lockdown of the four walls of the church. I am rather bothered about the lockdown of the true church by Christians, not the government. The government does not have access to the true church and cannot lock it up or down. The true church is the spirit of God, the Anointing within. The true church is a spiritual move and cannot be confined within walls. The true church is still under Divine cover, whether spiritual or its outward manifestation in a building, and no gate of hell can prevail against it.
Until we weep and lament over the deplorable state of the church as the Jews did Zion in Babylon, we shall remain in captivity. Until we become nostalgic and yearn for the glory departed, the church will remain bereft and vulnerable. Until we uproot the interloping wolves in the sheepfold, the glory shall not return. Until we stop aping a vanishing world, danger shall still lurk and haunt us.
Nevertheless, though “we are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…” (2 Corinthians 4:8); that is the beauty of the hope of them that look unto the appearing of the Lord; not in the ovation of a defrauded madding crowd, plunging downhill on that fateful day of reckoning.