Brexit and the decline of Britain: lessons from the Old Testament

Brexit continues to be a divisive issue in the UK.Reuters

Did you know that what happens next with Brexit is clearly prophesied in the pages of the Old Testament?

That's right. It's all in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, and it can now be clearly understood thanks to ground-breaking new research that I myself have carried out. My pioneering investigation has involved a new system of Hebrew numerology based on winning combinations of figures from recent National Lottery results, combined with copious amounts of alcohol. And it puts a whole new spin on Ezekiel (sometimes literally) I can tell you.

Of course, believe that, and you'll believe anything.

Some things are very specifically prophesied and foreshadowed in the Old Testament – such as the crucifixion of Jesus, for example. But Brexit is not one of them. However, that said, there are some surprisingly prescient lessons we can learn about Britain's current situation from parts of the Hebrew Scriptures. Here are a couple from just two OT books:

1. Ultimately, neither the UK nor EU matter that much.

In Daniel 2, there is a dream in which there is a great statute – with a head of gold, middle of silver, legs of iron, and feet partly of iron and clay (from which we get the saying 'feet of clay,' incidentally). The different substances, it is subsequently revealed, represent different kingdoms, governments and power structures that will come and go over time.

The point is that each, in its era, seems permanent and invulnerable. But history will prove that not to be the case, as indeed the fulfilment of these words in the time after Daniel proved. And the same goes for the United Kingdom. Those of us who have grown up in it might feel it surely 'must' be there forever. But that is not the case. It's possible Brexit developments will lead to the break-up of the UK in future years. And if it does, we may be sad, for we have been in decline for a while. But we should not be dismayed. Kingdoms come, and kingdoms go, as Daniel reminds us.

The same, of course, goes for the EU.

Whatever our views on Brexit, the European Union is not the answer to all our problems. It will face many challenges of its own in the next few years. Perhaps it will not survive, regardless of whatever the UK ultimately does. Like the seemingly unshakeable golden head of Daniel's statue, one day it too will be toppled. Only God's kingdom, represented in Daniel 2 by a hurtling stone, will survive until the end of time.

As the Old Testament commentator Dale Ralph Davis says of the book of Daniel: "Kings and kingdoms, presidents and dictators, democracies and tyrannies and monarchies come and go and enter the landfill of history... Jesus has a coffin for every empire and emperor; the only true security is in the kingdom of the carpenter's son."

2. The current wish for a strongman is futile.

Recent years have seen many countries opt for maverick 'strongmen' to lead their nations – Erdogan in Turkey; Putin in Russia; Berlusconi in Italy; even Trump, in a way, in America. And today in the UK polling by the Hansard Society indicates that 54% of voters would like "a strong ruler willing to break the rules". Only 23% said they were against such an idea. 

These are extraordinary figures, and yet the Hansard Society is a responsible organisation which one imagines conducts its polling to fairly high and rigorous standards. So we have to take the results seriously. Ruth Fox, director of the society, commented: "Unless something changes, this is a potentially toxic recipe for the future of British politics."

Britain today in its moral and political turbulence is reminiscent of Old Testament Israel in the 11th century BC. That too was a time when there was no guiding consensus and "all the people did what was right in their own eyes" (Judges 21v25). But instead of looking to God, of course, Israel demanded a new system of government in the form of a strong man (1 Samuel 8v5) – just as many in Britain are now apparently doing.

As Dale Ralph Davis (again) comments in another of his commentaries: "We have a tendency to assess our problems mechanically rather than spiritually..."

We instinctively think "the need is for adjustment, not repentance; [that] there is something wrong in the system that needs doctoring".

But, as Israel found, rejecting God's rule and changing its system of government didn't solve all its problems – it simply created new ones.

So what shall we take from all this? Perhaps the final words of the hymn The Day Thou Gavest, which are these: "So be it Lord, thy throne shall never, like earth's proud empires, pass away; thy Kingdom stands, and grows for ever, till all thy creatures own thy sway." Those words were sung when Hong Kong passed from British to Chinese rule in 1997. Perhaps we will sing them again before long when the UK and EU, like all powers before them, pass into history too.

David Baker is a former daily newspaper journalist now working as an Anglican minister in Sussex, England. Find him on Twitter @Baker_David_A