This is the first of a number of posts that I hope to write as Malawi mourns the sudden death of our beloved former President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, Lord willing.
First, I join many Malawians who have expressed deep sorrow and condolences to the Mutharika family and to the nation for this tragic loss. No one was prepared for this, not even the last President himself. Professor Mutharika was a great leader. He was an achiever and no one can really question the fact that he wanted to make Malawi a nation of achievers as he himself said at many times. Despite all the issues that one might have had with him, the fact remains that he did much good for Malawi as a nation during his tenure of office and for that we ought to be thankful.
But this post is not about the late President’s achievements (If you are interested in that, let me recommend Rex Chikoko’s article which you can access here). My main goal in writing this post is to offer some consolation, encouragement and hope to the nation during this time of mourning. My prayer is that the Lord will take whatever is shared here and use it to produce a God-ward focus in us all as we mourn. I also pray and trust that even through this great national tragedy, the Lord God will work out His own great and magnificent purposes to the glory of His Holy Name and to the blessing of the people of Malawi.
In any country, the death of a president would be a tragic and “earth-shaking” event. There is no doubt that the death of the President wa Mutharika has sent shock-waves across nation. Everyone has been affected in one way or another. For some, the President’s death has brought deep sorrow and grief. For some it has brought despair, uncertainty and fear due to broken dreams, shattered hopes. I have written this post mainly with such people in view. My word to you and us all is this: do not despair! Look to the Lord and commit yourself entirely to Him.
Many centuries ago (around 740 B.C.), the children of Israel found themselves in a similar (if not worse) predicament. Their beloved and strong king (Uzziah), who had ruled over them for fifty-two (52) years, died (Isaiah 6:1). You can imagine the trauma, despair and uncertainty that would have engulfed the people of Israel. Certainly, it must have been paralyzing to them.
The full account of the success of Uzziah’s kingship and the events that led to his death is recorded for us in 2 Chronicles 26. Uzziah became king at the tender age of sixteen (16) and reigned until he was sixty-eight (68). He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord (2 Chr. 26:4). He fought and won many battles for the children of Israel and did many wonderful things (2 Chr. 26:5-15). “His fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong (2 Chr. 26:15).
However, his success led to his downfall. The Bible says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). And so it was the case with Uzziah for we read, “But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chr. 26:16).
From that point on, everything went downhill for Uzziah. “…King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD” (2 Chr. 26:21). His fame, strength and achievements were all caught up in this irreversible downward spiral which worsened by the day until the time of his death so much so that the only thing that people could remember of him was the fact that “he was a leper” (2 Chr. 26:23). The epitaph on his tombstone would have read something like this, “Here lies Uzziah (808-740 B.C). He was a leper.”
It was against this background that Isaiah wrote the words that we find in Isaiah 6:1, “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up…” We could say that it took the death of King Uzziah for Isaiah (and indeed the whole nation of Israel), to see that the LORD God King above all! That He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14)! To put it more positively, the LORD God used King Uzziah’s death to show (Isaiah and the people of Israel), His great power and magnificent glory which is far better! In revealing His power and glory, the LORD was showing His grace and mercy towards the people of Israel. In the end, Israel’s great tragedy (King Uzziah’s death), became her great blessing (Israel realized that the LORD God alone was her True King). Romans 8:28 tells us that “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Oh, how I pray that Malawi will see “the LORD high and lifted up…” even through the death of our beloved President (the late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika). Let us not question God’s purposes. He is the LORD and He answers to no one. He does whatever He pleases for He is the LORD! Rather, let us (in faith) say with Job, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21). AMEN!!