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1066 and all that

If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.  Psalm 130: 3,4


William the Conqueror. A man dear to the heart of every Jerseyman.


Why? Well, in 1066 Jersey was not a part of England but a part of the Duchy of Normandy. William was the Duke to whom all Jerseymen owed feudal allegiance. And “we” defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings on 14 October 1066 (anecdotally he died from one of “our” arrows in the eye). And “our” Duke conquered England.


Whilst there is little direct evidence that Jerseymen were on William’s ships that sailed to England, some historians believe that Jersey provided timber to build some of the ships and, maybe, even built some.


Ever since that time, Jersey has been able to say to Britain: you are a conquered people; we are not; we conquered you.


Between 1975 and 1985 Sir Frank Ereaut was Bailiff of Jersey. His service slightly overlapped the last term of office of Harold Wilson as Prime Minister in London.


This provided a magnificent opportunity when Sir Frank was guest speaker at functions when financial institutions hosted senior visitors to the Island. Speaking of Jersey’s continuing proud history he would recall, slowly, the time when Jersey gave Harold one in the eye.......


Guillaume le Conquérant. Was he proud (like us) of what he did? Take a look at what are, apparently, his last, dying words after 21 years as King of England: -


‘I’ve persecuted the natives of England beyond all reason, whether gentle or simple. I have cruelly oppressed them and unjustly disinherited them, killed innumerable multitudes by famine or the sword and become the barbarous murderer  of many thousands both young and old of that fine race of people.’


That’s where the words in bold above come in. “With you, O LORD, there is forgiveness.”


But this is not an easy forgiveness, a forgiveness that all receive without more ado.


“With you, O LORD, there is forgiveness that you may be feared.”


The writer of this ancient Psalm, so carefully preserved for at least 2,500 years, was convinced that the LORD (the original Hebrew word is YHWH) is deeply concerned about “iniquities” (the original Hebrew noun comes from the verb ‘to bend, to twist, to distort’). If God marked iniquities, who would stand (the Hebrew word is used for ‘pillar’)?


Would William the Conqueror stand?


Well, yes – if forgiven by the LORD.


But then, William the Conqueror, having been so forgiven, would no longer have lived for himself but for the one who was able to forgive him and who would have forgiven him and would have assured him that he was forgiven.


In short, William the Conqueror would have feared his forgiver.


Who is the forgiver of all ‘iniquities’? The forgiver of all bentness, twistedness and distortion?


When Jesus met a totally paralysed man, lying on a stretcher around AD 30 in Galilee, he said, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’ And the man was totally cured.


We don’t know that about William the Conqueror but we do know whether it’s true for ‘me’.

 ‘Go forth a conqueror and win great victories........’(Virgil, Classical Roman poet, BC 70-19)
‘None fear the LORD like those who have experienced his forgiving love.’ (C H Spurgeon, Preacher and writer, 1834-1892)
Richard Syvret

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