David Jeremiah - In a World of War, BE CALM
If you're able to visit the Karnak Temple Complex in central Egypt, you will view some of the oldest ruins in history decayed temples, chapels, and residences. On the wall of one of the temples you'll see Egyptian hieroglyphics which have been translated by linguists, and these ancient etchings provide a description of the first recorded war in the history of the world. This war wasn't really the first conflict in the history of the world; it was the first recorded conflict in the history of the world written in enduring form.
The battle took place on April the 16th back in 1457 between Pharaoh Thutmose III and a coalition of Canaanite tribes. Both armies boasted about 10,000 men, and they retreated into the walled city known as Megiddo. The Egyptians lay siege to the city and took it in 7 months. All of that's kind of interesting but not as interesting, to me, as the location of this war. You see, I've given you some clues so take a guess. Where did this battle happen? The battle between Egypt and the Canaanites, the first recorded battle in world history, occurred in the valley of Armageddon.
This conflict is commonly called the Battle of Megiddo, and I visited the ruins of Megiddo many times when I've been in Israel. From the top of Tel Megiddo, you can view the Valley of Jezreel known as the valley of Armageddon. It's the breadbasket of Israel, a perfect agricultural plane that yields huge amounts of barley and wheat and oranges and others. But throughout history, the valley of Megiddo has been the scene of countless battles. As many as 200 different battles have been fought. Some have said it's the perfect battleground in all of the world; and it's here that the Antichrist will set up his forward operating base in the final war of history, which we all know is the battle of Armageddon.
Stop and think about it for a moment. Our planet has a land surface of more than 57 million square miles and yet the first and last recorded battles in history are fought in the very same place. These two wars are like bookends in a history of warfare. Between them is volume after volume of the bloody battles that mar the human story. Our conflicts. In his message on the world of the end, Jesus warned that the ascension would increase and global warfare would envelop the world in mounting measure. Here's what he said in Matthew 24 as he gave the sermon to his four disciples on Mount Olivet. He said, "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".
I know that all of you believe, as I do, that war is a curse. According to an article in The New York Times, the world has been at peace for only 268 years. In other words, only 8% of history has been peaceful. No one knows how many people have died in times of war. The Times speculated that at least 108 million people were killed in wars in the 20th century alone, and some believe that over a billion people have lost their lives during the military conflicts that have pockmarked history like bomb craters.
C.S. Lewis, who we quote often here, knew the curse of war. During World War I, he was sent to the frontlines in France. After a few weeks there, he was hospitalized with a bout of trench fever. When he was discharged from the hospital, he immediately returned to the frontlines where 3 months later he was wounded in three places by an exploding shell that actually killed the sergeant who was standing next to him. Lewis carried those experiences with him for the rest of his life, and when World War II arrived he wrote these words. He said, "My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service to be plain includes the threat of every temporal evil, pain, and death; which is what we fear from sickness, isolation from those we love; which is what we fear from exile, toil under arbitrary masters; which is what we fear from slavery, hunger, thirst, and exposure; which is what we fear from poverty". He said, "I'm not a pacifist, but if it's got to be it's got to be. The flesh is weak and selfish, and I think death would be much better than to live through another war".
We have a lot of military people in our church both in present service and having served. If you've experienced war at any level, you know exactly what C.S. Lewis is talking about. War is an awful thing, but war is not the worst thing. I will never forget the first time I read this statement. "War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. The decayed state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth a war, that's worse". A man who has nothing which he cares about more than his own personal safety is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless he's made free and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
And while war is awful and war brings so much sadness and pain; if it had not been for those who were willing to fight we would not be free, and we are grateful today. Nobody wants war, but nobody wants a world that is not worth sacrifice. And freedom doesn't come free; it comes at great expense. Because the curse of war is so great, philosophers have long searched for the reason for it. What is the cause of war? Why do wars happen? The problem is in the human heart, and we can trace it back to the moment of Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God. The vertical rupture created a horizontal rupture between one person and another and from that day forward history and the pages of the Bible have been marked by war.
In fact, the Old Testament is full of war. The word for war occurs more than 300 times in the Old Testament Scriptures and more than 200 times in the Old Testament. Jehovah God is called the Lord of hosts or the Lord of armies. After Moses and the children of Israel escaped the clutches of Pharaoh, for the intervention of Jehovah they sang this song. "The Lord is a man of war. The Lord is His name". And many of God's great servants were military men: Saul, David, Moses, Gideon, many of the kings of Israel. This was the testimony of King David. He said, "Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle".
I think this is really incredibly important because oftentimes I hear things being said about modern-day warriors that just aren't true; and sometimes in the culture in which you and I live, to be a military man is not to be honored as it once was. The Bible honors military men. The Bible honors soldiers. It does not honor war, but it honors those who were willing to fight war so that good may happen. The point is often made that while in the Old Testament there's a lot of war, when you get to the New Testament and the time of Christ war disappears. But that's not true. If you read the New Testament you discover while war is not as prevalent as in the Old Testament, when a soldier appears on the pages of the New Testament Scripture he appears with commendation and appreciation.
In fact, there are five Roman centurions whose lives are told in the New Testament. If you read all their stories, they're all positive. There's no negative connotation to war in the New Testament as some would say. In fact, the apostles, if you remember, used the language of war on many occasions to illustrate the believers' sojourn. They spoke of lusts that war in your members. They were told that through Christ they could become conquerors and they could triumph. Timothy was encouraged by Paul to war a good warfare, and these are just a few of the uses of war as a picture of how we have to live every day. Can I just stop and say sometimes we just have to admit every day is like a war? Can I get a witness?
We have to get up every day, whether we feel like it or not, and go fight the war. I think it's safe to say that because of the conflict between good and evil that originated in the Garden of Eden war has become a major theme in the human's story, and James chapter 4 tells us where it all starts. Listen to these words. "Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and you do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war yet you do not have because you do not ask". In other words, war comes from our human desire to have that which is not ours. Say it and say it again. It's true. War comes from the evil in a man's heart.
Having looked at the curse and the cause of war, let's look at its course. It started with Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel; and throughout history the technology has increased until the world today has enough firepower to kill everyone on earth many times over, and that brings us to the words of Jesus again in Matthew 24. This is what he said: "And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars". As the time comes for Jesus to return, there will be an escalation of verbiage about war. That's Jesus's statement. Remarkably he spoke those words during a time of prolonged peace. If you've studied history, you've heard of Pax Romana, which is Roman peace. There was a 200-year period when Rome was in charge and there was no war, and Jesus lived on this earth during a portion of that time. When he spoke these words about the coming of war, he was living in a time of peace.
Few people would have predicted the return and acceleration of international warfare at a time like that. You usually don't talk about war when things are peaceful, but Jesus did because Jesus knew what was ahead. He unequivocally told his disciples, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. When the time comes for my return, get ready because it will be introduced by the escalation of intensity and frequency of war speak". And are we living in that day? We surely are. Jesus was telling his disciples they would hear of actual wars and of reports of other wars. In other words, you will hear about wars far away. You will hear the sound of wars close by and the wars will come to you, to your gates, to your cities. One translation translates this phrase, "You're going to hear the noise of battles close by and the news of battles far away".
Some of the biblical scholars who have commented on the phrase wars and rumors of wars have said that the earliest use of that phrase was a description of world war. In other words, when the writers wrote wars and rumors of wars, they were talking about world war. If that's the meaning of the phrase, Jesus was telling us and his disciples that before he returned the second time there would be another world war. Are we headed toward World War III? Some military experts think so, and it's possible that Jesus said so. So I don't know. In either case the idea is there will be wars everywhere, which will increase in intensity and scope and fearfulness as we draw close to the time when Jesus comes back.
So where are we today? At this time, nine countries are known to possess nuclear weapons and the global inventory is estimated at 13,000. The warheads on just one US nuclear-armed submarine have seven times the destructive power of all the bombs dropped during World War II. There's more firepower than all the bombs that were dropped, even the ones in Japan, and the oceans are filled with submarines from other nations carrying equal payloads. A new arms race has begun, with nearly all nuclear powers working overtime to increase their arsenals.
China has an estimated 350 nuclear warheads assigned to missiles, all of which are capable of reaching the United States. The United Kingdom has 225. I could go on and give you the list. I'm just telling you that we live in a time when armament is like it has never been before. Someone says, "What about Israel"? And the answer to that is Israel never discusses its nuclear capabilities, but you can be sure they're ready for whatever happens.
Now, the Lord has given us a vision into the future in Matthew 24 and in the Book of Revelation, and he says that at any moment Jesus is going to come for his church and then the events of Matthew 24 that have been growing in intensity and frequency will give birth to a series of war like nothing ever happened before in human history. That's the context in which I want to give you the major message from this particular story. We have conflicts, but we have confidence. There isn't anything I can do to stop war, there's not anything you can do to stop war; but here's what you can do, and this is what this is all about, and this is what I hope you will get today. You can become the person of God that he created you to be so that no matter what happens you're ready to stand up and be God's person, and our confidence becomes so powerful because Jesus summarized all that he wants us to know.
In fact, I kind of skimmed over it 'cause I didn't want to give it away too soon, but I want you to hear what Jesus said. We would have expected him to say, "You will hear of wars and rumors of war, so be prepared for trouble". Or we would have expected him to say, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Keep an anxious eye on the Times. Expect to feel uneasy, and prepare for the many foes and the woes to come". But that is not what Jesus said. Jesus said, "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled". Are you kidding me? I mean, I just gave you a pretty dire report and Jesus is saying to us at the end of this report, "Y'all, don't be troubled".
Sometimes the Scripture just almost makes you laugh. The Greek word for troubled means to be terrified, means to cry aloud. It means to scream. Jesus is telling us not to panic even when we are surrounded by wars and rumors of wars. How is that possible? How can you live in a world like we live in today and not be troubled? Well, here's the answer. It's all wrapped up in the peace that you find in God's promise, in God's presence, and in God's plan. Peace from God's promise. I feel grieved by the conflicts that harm and destroy so many people, especially so many innocent people.
We may ask good questions about why these things happen, but here's what I want to tell you. Here's God's promise. One day it's all going to end. Promise comes to us in Psalm 46:9. "He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth". One day King Jesus is going to stop war and it will never happen again. Isaiah spoke of the days when the kingdom of Jesus will reign from Jerusalem and all the tribes of the earth will hear his teachings and learn his ways, and Isaiah says, "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".
I thought about this this week. We've joked about it over the years, that there aren't going to be any preachers preaching in heaven because we will know everything we should know. So when I get to heaven I'm out of work, but I'm not the only one. All you military guys sitting out here, all you military families that live every day in preparation for the defense of this nation, the Bible says one day King Jesus is going to stop all war and you and I will sit down and figure out what to do next. But there won't be any war.
I have a wonderful quote from M. R. DeHaan. He said, "Can you imagine a time when war will be utterly unknown? There will be a day when not a single armament plant will be operating, not a soldier or sailor will be in uniform. No military camps will exist and not one cent will be spent for armaments of war. Not a single penny will be used for defense much less for offensive warfare. Can you imagine such an age when all nations will be at perfect peace? This is not merely imagination; it is certain, unquestionable, as certain as the sun rises and sets". But in the meantime, though there is warfare in the world, let's meditate on where we're going with all this. One day it'll all be over.
If you're a Christian, that should bring hope to your heart. You're not going to have to live with war for eternity. The king of peace is in charge. I don't think it will be long before he will set up his kingdom on this earth. In fact, sometimes we need to just give you the numbers so you realize this is not pie in the sky by and by. This could happen within 7 years. Just think about this. If Jesus were to come tomorrow, we'd go to heaven and the tribulation will take place for 7 years. At the end of that 7 years, he comes back and sets up his kingdom and war will be over. So let me just put it this way. We could be 7 years away from there ever being any more war again for eternity.
Now, if that doesn't crank you up, I don't know what will. I'm just glad, I'm glad I'm on the right side of the equation. Here's the second thing. Get peace not only from the promise of God but from his presence. You know, nothing is more important or more confidence boosting than the promise that God will be with us. There's not anything we ever face, men and women, as followers of Jesus Christ that we have to face alone. The Lord God doesn't just, he doesn't say to us, "I'll wait here. You go on". No. He says, "Let's go". And he goes with us. Deuteronomy 20 says it this way: "Do not let your heart faint, and do not be afraid. For the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, and to save you". 31:8, "The Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear, and do not be dismayed".
Joshua 1:5 and 9 to General Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will never leave you. I will never forsake you. Have I not commanded you to be strong and have a good courage? Don't be afraid or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go". Isaiah 43:2 says, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you". Hebrews 13 says, "He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So that we may boldly say, 'The Lord is my helper. I will not fear. What can man do to me?'"
The promise of the presence of God in our lives, especially in what could be scary times like the ones in which we currently live, the promise of God's presence is so important that when he sent his son into our world to provide for our salvation one of the names he gave him was this. "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, 'God with us.'" Say that with me. God with us. God is with us. Every day I get up and I'm reminded I'm getting ready to face this day but not by myself. God is with me. I have issues that I've been dealing with, as you know, but not by myself. God has been with me, and he's with you. And when you don't know what's going to happen and when the skies kind of look dark and you're a little bit frightened, just remember God's promise: "I will be with you. I will never ever leave you or forsake you".
Jim and Marina Noise were in Ukraine when Russia invaded. They spent the first 10 days of the war in Kyiv, where they had planted a church. They wanted to stay in Ukraine, but they had two grandchildren and one was a special needs child. She's a little girl who uses a walker to move about. And one day Marina heard the child talking to her baby doll, and she said, "Don't worry. Don't panic, sweetie. All will be well. Mommy is with you". From the lips of children. Jim and Marina, their son and daughter-in-law, and their two children wound their way around conflict to escape Ukraine.
When they arrived in the United States, they shared their story. Here's what they said. "When trouble comes we cry," said Maria. "When it gets bad we pray, and when it becomes unbearable we sing". She said, "The Ukrainians have written thousands of songs since the war began over there. Ukraine has always been religious," she added, "but now Ukraine is really turning to God because of what's happening".
Our peace amid conflict, our ability to sing in the storm comes from the one who is with us. We don't have the strength to do that on our own. How many of you know you don't feel like singing when rockets are flying overhead? But God gives you the power to do that. It's Jesus who said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid".
John 16:33 has become one of my favorite passages. "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I've overcome the world". Jesus didn't say, "In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome tribulation". He didn't say that. He said, "I've overcome the world". Jesus doesn't just overcome the tribulation in the world; he overcomes the world in which tribulation happens. He's in charge. Almighty God is on the throne and you can count on the fact that when he promises to be with you he will be with you this week, this day, this very moment in your life. So you have peace from God's promise, and peace from his presence, and then peace from God's plan.
Look again at Matthew 24. "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled, for all these things must come to pass". All these things must come to pass. I love it when Jesus says must. It indicates the indisputable, inexorable decree of Almighty God in things large and small, which Jesus controls. Because he knows the things that are going to be fulfilled, we can rest in him, we can trust in him. He's promised. On a certain level all of human history feels like a chess game between God and the devil, but there's no question about who has won and who is winning and who will always secure the victory. That's why Jesus told us we will hear of wars and rumors of wars but not be troubled. The only way to do that is to trust.
Who are you trusting in? The one who controls everything. He's the sovereign God. He's the Almighty. Isaiah said it this way: "You will keep him in perfect peace," how, "whose mind is stayed on You". When things are swirling around so unconventionally and uncomfortably, the Bible says concentrate on Jesus. Let your mind be filled with who he is and his power and his strength and his sovereignty. Peace is found in trusting the person who controls all the things you don't understand and who knows the mystery behind all. How do you experience this remarkable peace? You experience it by keeping your mind stayed on the Lord.
Do you ever take some time during the day to just stop and think about who Jesus really is and what he has done? You say, "Well, I'm worried about the future". Well, the Lord's already taking care of your ultimate future if you've put your trust in him. And if he is capable of dealing with you for eternity, don't you think he can get you from here to there? So you trust in the Lord with your soul: salvation. You trust in the Lord with the struggles and sorrows of life. You trust him with your service. He has work for you to do in these last days. And when you hit roadblocks, you find yourself in the midst of conflict, just say, "Now, Lord, what do we do next? What is going to happen now that I need to do"?
I find myself more energized about serving Jesus Christ in these uncertain days than I have ever been before. And one of the reasons why we have structured this series so that it's directed at you, and who you are, and where you are, and what you are becoming is because I believe with all my heart that's what God is saying to us during these days. God is not telling us that war is not going to happen. He's not telling us that there won't be devastation and sorrow and all the things that are happening in Israel, but what he's saying is this. In Christ you are sufficient. In Christ you are strengthened. In Christ you can be everything you need to be no matter what's happened. Let me remind you that this book that we love, this Bible, was written during a time of Roman domination that was way worse than anything you and I have ever experienced. It's a book full of promises, a book full of victory, a book full of Christians who were doing unimaginable great things, and it is a book written for such a time as this.
Bruce Belfrage was an English actor who became a reporter and a newsreader for the British Broadcasting Company. As the Battle of Britain terrorized London during World War II, the Germans bombed the city with unremitting air raids. The BBC headquarters were not spared. On the evening of October 15th, 1940, the BBC took a direct hit from a 500-pound delayed-reaction German bomb and exploded during the 9 o'clock news. Seven people were killed. But Bruce Belfrage was reading the news at that very moment and the plaster and soot and smoke rained down on him. To everyone's amazement, he didn't miss a beat. He calmly kept reading the news as if nothing had happened and all the listeners at home heard was a dull thud and someone whispering, "Are you all right"? Belfrage only comment was, "Carry on. It's all right".
That's what Jesus is telling us in Matthew 24. These times are coming. Jesus is going to return. It could be before we meet the next time. But what are we to do? Just carry on. Be the people God called you to be. Stand up for righteousness. Tell people that you love about Jesus Christ. Be the people God called you to be. That's what this is all about. It's not about sitting here wringing our hands over what's going to happen, it's about a new kind of strength that comes to our hearts when we realize that what God is telling us is this. As bad as war could be, as frightening as it might be, it ain't nothing compared to the strength God puts in you when you put your trust in him, and that's what you need to do. I'll sum it up like this. We live in a world that is warring from Armageddon to Armageddon, but we serve a Lord who is reigning from everlasting to everlasting. Amen?