Wednesday, December 8, 2010

If You Really Want to Support the Troops, Repent

Yesterday we commemorated the attack on Pearl Harbor, an attack that thrust our nation headlong into World War II. Our nation is once again at war and the war we are in now have lasted longer than the second war to end all wars with still no end really in sight.  We support our troops, we brag about ours being the greatest fighting force in the history of the world, we brag about we being the only remaining superpower, we brag about the rightness of our cause, and we shake our fingers at the evil of our enemy.  We feel we are fighting a battle of good vs. evil and us being on the good side we are destined to win this war.  We also feel that no one can match our might and in that no one can defeat us.  In other words, we feel we deserve to win and strong enough so no one can beat us.  But what does the Bible say about being victorious in war?  Does rightness of our cause, the evil of our enemy, or even the strength of our military give us the victory?  Today I want to talk about war, but more specifically about victory in war. 

First of all, let us discuss the rightness of our cause.  We feel that we are spreading "freedom" and defending our interests through our current wars.  They seem like laudable goals.  It seems like we are doing God's work in breaking nations free from tyranny and in that we have to win, right?  Even if we ignore the logical issue that if freedom always wins over tyranny, how did tyranny win to begin with for us to have to give them freedom, there are still some Scriptural issues.  Let's look at some Scripture.
So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of AI. And the men of AI struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. And Joshua said, "Alas, Lord GOD, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?"  Joshua 7:4-9 NKJV
The Israelites, after conquering Jericho, move on to the next target in their conquest of the Promised Land  They were doing what God had told them to do in that they were taking the land God had promised to them.  Their purpose was right.  They claiming God's promise and following His command to take the land.  They were defeated.  They were not only defeated, they were humiliated.  They ran away scared.  What happened? 
So the LORD said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.  Joshua 7:10-12 NKJV
Here we see the problem.  While their war was right, their hearts were not.  They allowed sin to exist in their midst.  There is no guarantee God will give the victory to an army or nation who allow sin to exist in its midst.  Israel was on hold for their conquest until they dealt with their sin.  Our nation must to the same. 

The next issue is about victory over an evil nation or government.  Good will ultimately triumph over evil, but that is not until Jesus returns.  To say that an evil nation is always defeated by a "good" nation ignores the fact that God prophesies in Revelation that the Antichrist will take over the whole world.  It also ignores history when many evil regimes, governments, and religions have taken over and oppressed countless nations.  What does the Bible say about a "good" nation always defeating an evil one?  Here is the answer.
For indeed I am raising up the Chaldeans, A bitter and hasty nation Which marches through the breadth of the earth, To possess dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful; Their judgment and their dignity proceed from themselves. Their horses also are swifter than leopards, And more fierce than evening wolves. Their chargers charge ahead; Their cavalry comes from afar; They fly as the eagle that hastens to eat. They all come for violence; Their faces are set like the east wind. They gather captives like sand. They scoff at kings, And princes are scorned by them. They deride every stronghold, For they heap up earthen mounds and seize it. Then his mind changes, and he transgresses; He commits offense, Ascribing this power to his god."  Are You not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O LORD, You have appointed them for judgment; O Rock, You have marked them for correction. You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness. Why do You look on those who deal treacherously, And hold Your tongue when the wicked devours A person more righteous than he? Habakkuk 1:6-13 NKJV
This is a tough passage.  Habakkuk cried out to God for not doing anything about the sin in Judah.  He complains about things getting worse and worse and wondering if God is going to do anything about it.  God's answer is astonishing.  God is "raising up" the Chaldeans (the Babylonians) to come and destroy Judah.  He is raising up a wicked evil nation who worships and gives credit to false gods for their conquest and He is bringing that wicked nation against His own people.  Habakkuk then questions God saying that while he knows Israel is bad, the Babylonians are even worse.  He is questioning how God can punish the relatively righteous (compared to the Babylonians at least) with the terribly wicked.  He is asking how God is allowing, even in this case, for evil to triumph.  Here is God's answer.
"Indeed, because he transgresses by wine, He is a proud man, And he does not stay at home. Because he enlarges his desire as hell, And he is like death, and cannot be satisfied, He gathers to himself all nations And heaps up for himself all peoples. Will not all these take up a proverb against him, And a taunting riddle against him, and say, 'Woe to him who increases What is not his—how long? And to him who loads himself with many pledges'? Will not your creditors rise up suddenly? Will they not awaken who oppress you? And you will become their booty. Because you have plundered many nations, All the remnant of the people shall plunder you, Because of men's blood And the violence of the land and the city, And of all who dwell in it.  Habakkuk 2:5-8 NKJV
God's answer is for him not to worry about the Babylonians as He will deal with them as well.  And, of course, He really did.  Babylon has been a wasteland since God took care of it.  The point is that God will use evil nations as a rod of judgment against "less" evil nations.  You should never assume victory because you think you are more righteous than your enemy.  How righteous you are or are not compared to your enemy is meaningless.  The important thing is how righteous you are before God.  Another point is that many believe that our war is a war of Christianity against Islam (it is never said, but if we are honest with ourselves many in our churches do believe that).  Just because we claim to worship the real God while others do not does not mean victory.  The Babylonians did not worship the true God yet they won.  If anything, it makes us even more deserving of judgment because we should know better regarding our national sin. 

And, finally, we have the idea that we have the strongest army ever and in that will be victorious.  History has proven this wrong time and time again.  Just ask the Soviet Union about that idea when they left Afghanistan with their tails between their legs.  Just because our army is strong does not mean it will win.  Here is some more Scripture.
Then the LORD said to Gideon, "By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place." So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands. And he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. It happened on the same night that the LORD said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand. But if you are afraid to go down, go down to the camp with Purah your servant, and you shall hear what they say; and afterward your hands shall be strengthened to go down against the camp." Then he went down with Purah his servant to the outpost of the armed men who were in the camp.Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude.  Judges 7:7-12 NKJV
Here we have Gideon and 300 soldiers facing off against an immense size so large it could not even be numbered.  A mighty army vs. a rag rag band of 300 men.  We all know that Gideon was given a great victory over the Midianites.  That is because Gideon had a 301st soldier that made all the difference.  Gideon had God on His side and when God is on your side no enemy can ever stand before you.  Why would God send an army of 300 against an immeasurable army?  Here is His answer.
And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.'" Judges 7:2 NKJV
God ultimately wants and deserve the glory in our victories.  If we put our trust in ourselves then there is no guarantee of victory no matter how large an army you have. 

So where does that leave us as our own men and women are putting their lives on the line in a war that is seeming to go on forever?  How do we support our troops?  We see today that calling our cause right or calling our enemies evil have little meaning.  We also see that the strength of our army is also meaningless.  We all say we support our troops, but we never do what is really necessary to assure their victory.  We are stubborn and rebellious before God and as long as we remain that state, our armies and our own freedoms remain in peril.  We still see ourselves as victims due to 9/11 but rarely do we take the time to wonder why God allowed a mere 20 men to succeed in such a devastating attack on our nation.  We spend so much time judging them that we fail to look into ourselves.  Those men succeeded because God allowed them to.  We remain at war against a few poorly trained cave-dwelling men for 10 years because God has not given us the victory.  The sad fact is this: 9/11 happened and Afghanistan remains a quagmire because our nation remains in rebellion to God.  Our victory in this war is not dependent on what justice we deserve for what Al Qaida did to us, but what justice God requires for how we have rebelled against Him. 

So, in the end, if we want to "support our troops" and "defend out freedom" we have to repent of our national sin.  As long as we remain in sin against Him as a nation, the more He will withhold victory from us.  The more we rebel against Him, the more He will give our enemies victory over us.  And in that spirit, we have to realize that our victory is not ultimately dependent of how strong our army is compared to theirs, but our victory is dependent upon whether or not God gives it to us.  Our national repentance needs to begin with a repentance of our churches.  The nation will never be right with God if our churches aren't.  "Judgment begins at the house of God."  So, brothers and sisters, let's cast unrepentant sin from our midst, humble ourselves before the Lord, and plead with God for the victory He is withholding from us.  Victory begins with us, let us support our troops.
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14 NKJV

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