Sixty-nine years ago today the Japanese launched, what was believed to be impossible, a surprise attack on the US Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The death and destruction in just two wave attacks was devastating: 4 battleships sunk and 4 battleships damaged including 1 run aground; 2 destroyers sunk and 1 damaged; 3 cruisers damaged; 1 other ship sunk and three others damaged; 188 aircraft destroyed and 155 damaged; 2,402 military killed and 1,247 wounded; 57 civilians killed and 35 wounded.
The horrors of war have plagued mankind ever since Cain killed Abel. As we look upon December 7, 1941 as “a date that will live in infamy” we can see instances in the Bible of warfare that make the losses at Pearl Harbor pale in comparison. One such instance is found with Jephthah the Gilead’s conflict with Ephraim:
“Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!’ And Jephthah said to them, ‘My people and I were in a great struggle with the people of Ammon; and when I called you, you did not deliver me out of their hands. So when I saw that you would not deliver me, I took my life in my hands and crossed over against the people of Ammon; and the LORD delivered them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?’ Now Jephthah gathered together all the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. And the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, ‘You Gileadites are fugitives of Ephraim among the Ephraimites and among the Manassites.’ The Gileadites seized the fords of the Jordan before the Ephraimites arrived. And when any Ephraimite who escaped said, ‘Let me cross over,’ the men of Gilead would say to him, ‘Are you an Ephraimite?’ If he said, ‘No,’ then they would say to him, ‘Then say, “Shibboleth”!’ And he would say, ‘Sibboleth,’ for he could not pronounce it right. Then they would take him and kill him at the fords of the Jordan. There fell at that time forty-two thousand Ephraimites.” (Judges 12:1-6)
Forty-two thousand soldiers fell at one battle! Imagine the horrible scene. In Afghanistan we have lost more US military this year than we did in the combined years preceding 2010. War is a horrible thing; it has affected my family personally. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus once said:
“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”
How can Christians condone war? Is there a such thing as just war? I wrote about that in my book on the chapter titled “Military”; the seminal work done on just war is by Martyn Lloyd-Jones titled “Why Does God Allow War” and explains the roots of war:
“As James reminds us, the ultimate cause of war is lust and desire; this restlessness that is a part of us as the result of sin; this craving for that which is illicit and for that which we cannot obtain. It shows itself in many ways, both in personal, individual life, and also in the life of nations. It is the root cause of theft and robbery, jealousy and envy, pride and hate, infidelity and divorce. And in precisely the same way it leads to personal quarrels and strife, and also to wars between nations. The Bible does not isolate war, as if it were something separate and unique and quite apart, as we tend to do in our thinking. It is but one of the manifestations of sin, one of the consequences of sin.”
The Apostle Paul calls us to live peaceably:
“Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” (Romans 12:17-18)
So Bro Dave do you believe that mankind will ever see peace? Not as long as it is up to mankind, no. Jesus told us as much:
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matthew 24:6-8)
My son Eddie understood the nature of evil probably better than most men; he saw it upfront live and in person. He wrote in his second article “Freedom Feels Good”:
“I am in a modern day crusade to exterminate evil. People whose atrocities I cannot even begin to name cannot be allowed to exist among us. As long as these people are here, everything that is just and good is at risk.”
So then what’s the use Bro Dave? Why should we strive for peace if it is inevitably unattainable? I didn’t say it was unattainable; I said it is unattainable by mankind. That is because the prince of this world, Satan, has been given dominion but alas one day he will be defeated once and for all by the Prince of Peace.
Just as you can find many instances of war in the Old Testament, can you find as many instances of a forever peace when Jesus returns to reign on earth.
“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire.” (Psalm 46:9)
“He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
“I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the horse from Jerusalem; the battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.’” (Zechariah 9:10)
I quoted Jesus earlier from Matthew 24 and if that was all He had said about war then our future would be hopeless but He left us with this blessed hope:
“But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:13-14)
Then the end will come; the end on this earth as we know it. Beloved, Jesus was not born in a manger to the Virgin Mary and Joseph while the shepherds were watching over their sheep so we could have Christmas and argue over putting a manger scene on public property. The baby Jesus was not born so three wise men could bring Him presents and then we could get Christmas presents too and the merchants of this world could make a fortune.
Jesus was born because God cannot die. The wages of sin is death. Death is the propitiation for sin. The price to be paid for our sin is our death, eternal separation from God in heaven, condemned by our sins to a hellish eternity. Jesus was born, lived as the God-man, died as a man, and was resurrected by the power of God so that we might have life and have it more abundantly, both on earth and in heaven. Jesus paid the price; only He did. You cannot pay it and neither can I. And if you refuse to be redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ then all Christmas will be for you is decorated trees and houses, presents and food, and enormous credit card bills in January.
How do we overcome war? We do so understanding why Jesus was born. And in that light might I invite you to read this Christmas passage again for the first time with new eyes?
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)
Even so, come, Lord Jesus…
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Copyright © 2010 David Jeffers
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