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Opinions of Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Columnist: Dr. Daniel Gyebi

Captain of Ghana’s host and Guide

Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Captain of Israel’s host and Guide,” is an inspirational hymn that fits our own present Ghanaian situation. The hymn invokes protection, strength, love, grace, and hope for a better life under the leadership of the Almighty God.

It is my understanding that the hymn was an inspiration for the students from Prempeh College who won the 2017 National Science and Maths Quiz competition on June 29, 2017.

As an old student of St. Thomas Aquinas, I believe that if the students from my school had been inspired by that hymn, they would have won first place instead of second. Congratulations to both schools.

Charles Wesley wrote the hymn based on Exodus 13:21-22 where it is stated, among other things, that the Lord went before the people of Israel by day in a pillar of cloud to guide them, and by night in the pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel day and night.

The people of Israel had been freed from bondage by God through Moses, and were on their way to the promised land, but Pharaoh, the King of Egypt, changed his mind. He and his officials regretted setting the Israelites free so they gathered their army and chariots and pursued the Israelites to bring them back as slaves.

The Red Sea was a barrier ahead of the Israelites with no apparent way to cross or escape.

They thought the Egyptians would kill them or take them back to Egypt as slaves and face harsher treatment for daring to be free. The Israelites were terrified and cried out to God for help (Exodus 14:10).

Help was on the way. God, the captain of Israel host and guide, knew what to do and how to do it. When many people read or hear about the story of Israel’s freedom from captivity, they remember well the miracles God performed to set them free from Pharaoh and the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground.

However, many do not remember the interesting interventions and miracles God performed from the time Pharaoh changed his mind to the time Israel successfully crossed the Red Sea, as recorded in Exodus Chapter 14.

First, God told Moses to assure the people to move on and not be afraid of the advancing Egyptian army. Second, God told Moses to raise up his staff and stretch out his hand over the sea to divide it so that the Israelites could cross on dry ground.

Third, God caused His angel who had been travelling in front of Israel’s army, and the pillar of cloud which was in front, to withdraw and stay behind, in order to separate the armies of Egypt and Israel. This brought darkness to one side and light to the other side so that neither army went near the other all night.

Fourth, God drove the sea back with a strong wind and turned it into dry land for Israel to cross.

Fifth, with the Egyptian army still in hot pursuit, God looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud and threw the Egyptian army into confusion. Sixth, God made the wheels of the army’s chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving.

Seventh, God put fear into the Egyptians by letting them recognize that He was fighting for Israel and against them.

Finally, God told Moses to stretch out his hand over the sea and the waters flowed back and swept the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea.

From this account, we can see that God actively demonstrated all the leadership skills of a captain determined to achieve victory for His people, and a people ready and willing to follow the guidance and directions of their captain.

Without that co-operation and team work, the Egyptians would have caught up with the Israelites and taken them back into slavery.

The troubles that God had with the Israelites started mostly after the Israelite crossed the Red Sea, primarily due to sin and disobedience, and they wandered in the wilderness for forty years.

In a small way, Ghana’s experience may be likened to Israel’s. Ghana was in bondage under our colonial masters until 1957, but without the inhumane treatment suffered by the Israelites. Since then, Ghanaians have wandered in the wilderness seeking the “milk and honey” that were supposed to be the dividends of independence and democracy.

There is hope. We can achieve our goal by setting ourselves on the path of righteousness and claiming by faith the promises God made to Abraham and the Israelites. The Apostle Paul tells us that if we belong to Christ, then we are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:29).

That means we need to turn away from sin and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we do so individually, and collectively as a nation, we can claim God as the captain of Ghana’s host and guide who will take us out of wilderness onto victory.

When the Israelites left Egypt, they were “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” (Exodus 12:37). God could have chosen one person from that large number of people to lead them out of bondage.

Yet, God chose Moses, an 80-year old stammerer and fugitive from justice wanted for murder, who declared himself as unqualified for the task, to return to the jurisdiction where he committed the murder, and argue the case before Pharaoh to free Israel from bondage. You and I may not have chosen Moses for that monumental task.

Similarly, God will be able to use our leaders, with all their imperfections, to free Ghana from spiritual and economic wilderness.

It is not necessary that our leaders possess all the qualities we have come to expect of leaders, but it is very necessary that they be willing to work under the captainship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who alone can show us the way out of the wilderness. What we need to do as a nation is to pray for our land, ourselves, and our leaders.

We should hold our leaders accountable, but also make it our goal that for every minute we use to criticize a leader, we will use at least the same number of minutes to pray for that person.

Imagine the many positive and targeted prayers that would be offered in Ghana! Prayers open Heaven’s door.

The good news is that, as He did for Israel, God, the captain of Ghana’s host and guide, is an all-round captain who can defend, block, tackle, dribble, and score victory for Ghana. God’s grace will provide the strength Ghanaians need to succeed; His Word will rule our lives; and our end will bring glory to His Holy Name. Let’s taste and see His goodness, as we sing the hymn:

Captain of Israel's host, and Guide
Of all who seek the land above,
Beneath Thy shadow we abide,
The cloud of Thy protecting love;
Our strength, Thy grace, our rule, Thy Word;
Our end, the glory of the Lord.

Prayer is the key. May God grant us the grace to seek Him daily through our prayers.

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