Making Sense of War
“. . . God is on our side when we have made sure that we are on God’s.” [i]
I’m not typically one who spends much time praying over worldwide events, I guess because drama here in our United States keeps my prayer plate plenty full. But in the last month, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has kept me fully engaged and my prayers fervent. My heart has been immensely gripped by the ghastly images of bombed-out vehicles, cities in ruins, families fleeing for their lives. Indelibly etched in my mind’s eye are the bloodied bodies, empty strollers of murdered children, mass graves, a heroic president’s pleas for aid for the sake of justice. God help them!
The victim/bully thing never fails to get me riled. Surely, God will come through for the underdog. Surely, He will stop these dastardly crimes against humanity and freedom. “Lord, bring justice! Give the bully a good thrashing. Send him home with his tail between his legs. Cause salvation to spring up from Ukraine’s ashes of death and suffering.”
At times I feel like a grocery clerk running around cleaning up spills on aisles four, five, and nine with my prayers. The emotional heights and depths of tracking with such atrocities of war can be wearing. Especially if my tracking is limited to what I see and hear on the news, or if my thinking is that this is another senseless war of hate, killing, and destruction. If I am to keep my heart engaged and my prayers fueled for what appears to be the long haul, I must focus on the underlying story behind the scenes. What is God’s objective in allowing wars between nations (ethnic groups) and between kingdoms? What good could possibly come of them? That answer for me was reiterated through a powerful story in Joshua chapters four and five when one of our Hope City pastors pulled it out of her arsenal.
With great pomp and ceremony, God parts the Jordan River and Israel passes over on dry ground. The wall of water closes up behind them; there’s no turning back. Before them lies their long-awaited promised land. Blocking their way forward is the fortified city of Jericho with its high walls, its mighty men of valor. Its corrupt ways. By all appearances it is not about to go down without a doozy of a fight.
When Joshua slips away from his men, perhaps to contemplate his next move as Israel’s new commander, he is surprised by a Man with His sword drawn. “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Joshua asks. [ii] It’s a logical question when suddenly face to face with an intimidating warrior-type stranger on enemy territory.
“No (neither),” the Man answers, “but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” [iii]
In other words, “I am the One who plucked you out of Egypt, Joshua. I dried up the floodwaters of Jordan so you could enter the promised land on dry ground. I planted you on Jericho’s doorstep. You follow Me. As Commander of this army, I intend to destroy everything that hinders and corrupts your wholehearted devotion to Me so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” [iv]
My takeaway from Joshua’s story is this:
The Bible says these end times will be pocked with wars. Nation (ethnic groups) will continue to rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. [v] We will no doubt continue to see dreadful things done to our fellow man. Our hearts will assuredly be broken countless times over injustices committed. If we are to make sense of these heart wrenching events, our understanding must go deeper than that of a grocery clerk cleaning up spills. The floodwaters of history, like the Jordan, have closed behind us. Like Israel, there is no turning back. If mankind is to move forward into all God promised us in Christ, corruption in hearts must come down. For “worse than outer enemies are the foes that each man carries about in his own heart.” [vi]
As Commander of the LORD’S army, Jesus’ underlying objective is to remove every wickedness that corrupts hearts—in underdog and bully alike. He intends to send sin packing and return hearts to pure devotion to Him.
The best bet for all of us is to do as Joshua did—fall face down in awe of our Commander and say, “I am your servant . . . Tell me what to do.” [vii]
[i] MacLaren’s Expositions [ii] Joshua 5:13 [iii] Joshua 5:14 [iv] Joshua 4:24 [v] Mark 13:8; Matthew 24:6–7 [vi] MacLaren’s Expositions [vii] Joshua 5:14, CEV