Meditation on Isaiah 1:21ff.: All the Colours of Cape Town


We'll be landing in Cape Town soon.

Since we left flat, industrial Johannesburg, we've been flying over flat, dry, red land. Then ten minutes ago, a small sea of snow-covered crags came at us wave after wave.

Now we're descending to the coast. We'll be landing in Cape Town in a minute.

Green fields and vineyards, then the city, first masses of small silver dots. Since taking off from Johannesburg, I've realised they are the squatter camps and "townships", then the broad suburban streets and the factories. At last, the high-rise, skyscraper, offices and hotels at the waterfront.

The plane banks round, and there at last is the famed Table Mountain.

This huge mass of stone that the creator left behind when he levelled out the great semicircular plain, on which this city is built, dwarfs the tallest human buildings. They don't reach even up to its foundation skirt of skree.

This city has one of the most beautiful situations on earth. Steep craggy mountains on almost every side, rich fields and orchards in between, the huge harbour, and right in the middle a magnificent chunk of rock, so tall that today its got a tablecloth of cloud.

But beautiful Cape Town has enormous problems too.

The squatter camps with their mix of displaced South African blacks and the hopeful jetsam of a continent in pain washed up on its most southern shore. For many of the inhabitants of the tiny corrugated iron shacks are from Angola, Congo, Mozambique...

Africa is the continent of civil war, poverty and disease.

At the airport there are more adverts about aids than about holidays! They are only the most evident signs. 40% unemployment means violence and crime. Our hosts insist on driving us to the conference a few hundred meters away, "lest you get mugged". "Don't ride the trains - except during rush hour!"

There are still signs of apartheid in this new "rainbow nation".

At Stellenbosch University there were almost no black faces (just a visiting soccer team), and the milk chocolate skinned "coloureds" were mostly the cleaners and cooks.

"Nkosi Sikelel'i Afrika" the sign says: Lord, save Africa!

Cape Town Baptist Church is a sharp contrast to the city around. The faces are every colour, from energy chocolate to lilly-white. Greeting each other with hugs and smiles.

Pastor Paques (his name means "Easter" in French, there are lots of Huguenot names here) preaches a powerful sermon about praying for the city. Praying for conversion, salvation for the lost.

The old message takes on a new urgency in this place.

There is hope for a city (cf. Job 14:7), but I've only seen it in just one place, not on the hoardings, not in the shops, nor on TV - just in the rainbow church praying for their rainbow nation.

There's only one brandname that can offer hope for this city (Acts 4:12). The one who long ago left Table Mountain behind as a reminder, and who, 2000 years ago, was executed in Palestine.

Nkosi Sikelel'í Afrika!



Table Mountain from Milnerton Beach
by "gypseyt" from



Isaiah 1:27

  Zion will be redeemed by justice,
    her people repent, by right.