Righteous War

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war.”
Revelation‬ ‭19:11‬ ‭NLT

The curtains preventing a glimpse into Heaven were parted. And standing there for all to see was a white horse and rider. And the rider had a special name. He was called “Faithful and True”. He had a responsibility to judge fairly, but that wasn’t a problem, as we can see from his name. But what is a “righteous war”

This is a difficult concept for many because they believe all wars are wrong. And it is true to say that a sinless world would not experience war. But that isn’t reality. We live in a world under the jurisdiction of the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4a, “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe ….. ). Wars between peoples and nations happen in a world blighted by sin. In schools, ethics lessons consider “Just Wars”, and here is a definition found on the BBC schools web site:

“A just war is a war which is declared for right and noble reasons and fought in a certain way. A just war is not a war that is ‘good’ as such – it is a war that Christians feel to be necessary or ‘just’ in the circumstances, when all other solutions have been tried and have failed. It is a necessary evil and a last resort.”

But we don’t need to turn to secular material to define the type of war our Revelation 19 rider was waging. Deuteronomy 20 is a chapter full of instructions about waging war. Verse 1 reads, “When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭20:1‬ ‭NLT). The Israelites of old regularly fought battles with God on their side. In fact, in one battle God held the sun in place for a whole day to facilitate an Israelite victory (Joshua 10:12-13, “On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies …). 

In the New Testament, there are no specific references to support pacifism. And it is true to say that the wars that have taken place in recent times have been necessary to prevent a greater evil. Jesus wasn’t a pacifist and His second coming, which we are about to explore in the next few verses in Revelation 19, was going to be accompanied by an extremely violent and death-filled war. Those who opposed Jesus were not going to have a peaceful death in their beds!

What do we pilgrims do in a time of war? We face into that dilemma right now as war in Europe continues unabated in Eastern Ukraine. We do what the Bible encourages us to do – we pray for our leaders, we pray for our soldiers, we pray for safety for civilians, and we pray that God will bring about a quick and righteous end to the turmoil of sin and strife.

Dear Father God, we don’t like wars. It brings so much pain, misery and death to so many people. We pray for our politicians and the leaders in the armed forces, that You will help them and lead them, in the conflicts that they encounter. And, topically, we pray about the situation in Ukraine, that You will quickly bring this conflict to an end. We pray for our Christian brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe, and especially those caught up in this tragedy, that You will strengthen them, protect them and help them in these difficult times. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Luxury Goods No More

“The merchants of the world will weep and mourn for her, for there is no one left to buy their goods. 
And they will weep and throw dust on their heads to show their grief. And they will cry out, “How terrible, how terrible for that great city! The shipowners became wealthy by transporting her great wealth on the seas. In a single moment it is all gone.” Rejoice over her fate, O heaven and people of God and apostles and prophets! For at last God has judged her for your sakes.”
Revelation‬ ‭18:11, 19-20‬ ‭NLT

The precarious nature of the world economic system has been exposed. We have received hints of what this might look like in this century. The financial meltdown around 2008. The impact of the war in Ukraine. The Covid pandemic. It doesn’t take much to shock the world economy into recession or worse. Babylon is a picture for a global social-religious-economic hybrid that has its foundations on nothing more substantial than thin air.

The impact of the destruction of “Babylon” is described in great detail in Revelation 18 – a sobering read at the best of times. But Jesus taught us about the folly of hanging our coats on the Babylonian peg. He taught constantly about a new Kingdom. God’s Kingdom. The true and lasting Kingdom. But making the transition from the kingdom of the world, “Babylon”, to God’s Kingdom was a step too far for some. We read about the “Rich Young Ruler” in Matthew 19:21-22, “Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” However, Zacchaeus managed it. In Luke 19:8-9 we read, “Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.

God brought an end to “Babylon” for the sake of His people. Only lasting fruit in His Kingdom will survive the transition into our Heavenly home.

Dear Jesus. Only You have the words to eternal life. Only You can show us the way to the father, because only You are the way, the truth and the life. we praise and worship You today. Amen.


“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.”
‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:17-19‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Strong words from Paul. He presented to his friends the inviolable requirement that they had to change the way they live. No more living in a worldly way. No more going with the flow. No more following the crowd. Obviously his friends in Ephesus were once steeped in worldliness and he points out that living in this way was futile. It would lead nowhere other than to death and destruction. Paul’s observations of living life the Gentile way involved having hard hearts, insensitivity, sensuality, impurity and greed. Strong words indeed. The problem the Gentiles had was that they didn’t know any better. They had no moral compass. They had no appreciation of sin and its consequences. If it felt right they did it, regardless of what might happen. 

Here we are in the 21st Century and Paul’s analysis seems just as relevant today as it was in his day. Nothing has changed. In fact things may even seem to have got worse. Human nature has not been changed by the intervening years, by the improvements in “civilisation”, by the embracing of technologies totally beyond the thinking of the Ephesian Christians. We look around us at the behaviour of worldly people – take just the war in Ukraine as an example of futile thinking, of greed, of hard hearts. Our depressing analysis of human nature today won’t change the reality of the sort of world in which we live. But as Christians we must double our efforts to show those around us that there is a better way. Jesus came to this world bringing His Kingdom, a counter-cultural new way of living. Living God’s way, not the way of human nature dominated by “futile thinking”. And so today we reach out to Jesus and pray. We pray for those around us. We pray for divine appointments. We share our message of hope with our families, our communities. And we pray for our governments, that God will penetrate the dark thinking, the sinful ways, showing them that there is a better way. God’s way.

War and Peace

“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.”
‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Peace. A lovely concept but beyond human capability to achieve? All my life I have never known a total absence of strife. There seems to be something within human beings that desires war in preference to peace. As individuals, we battle anything that we feel encroaches on our space, disturbing our peace. The aggressive driver who annoys us on the roads. The person who cuts in front of us in the shopping queue. The spouse who disagrees with something we say. As nations we rattle sabres at the borders with the adjacent country, stressed over a few yards of barren soil. Religious groups fight and kill to eliminate other religions in their country, in some cases committing genocide in the process. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 120:7, “I search for peace; but when I speak of peace, they want war!“. 

So in this personal and national mayhem, a counter-cultural whisper calls out. “Christ himself has brought peace to us”. Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). And right at the start of the early church an age old conflict between Jews and Gentiles was resolved. At a stroke. Over a period of about six hours one dark and dismal day. Jesus’ death at Calvary brought to an end the Old Covenant and replaced it with the New. A New Covenant of grace and love. The Old was discarded. The New was welcomed in. And there is no difference between the Jews and Gentiles any more. Regardless of our origins we are all one in Christ. 

So we pilgrims, making our way through a complex and strife-infused world, shake our heads in disbelief. We long for the whisper of Christ’s peace to amplify into an audible shout, so clear that it penetrates people, principalities, palaces and parliaments, even pieties and principles. So clear that the world becomes a peaceful place. But our enemy the devil will have none of that. He thrives on wars and strife, doing what he can to stoke up anger and dissent. But peace will come one day – there is no war or strife in Heaven. In the meantime, our pilgrimage through life brings us into contact with all sorts of opportunities to be counter-cultural. Situations where we can bring a kind word to angry hearts, dispensing God’s love and grace to troubled souls. We pray today for our governments, our politicians, our civic leaders. But also our friends, families and communities. That “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,” (Philippians 4:7) will be with them all. And us too.

The Silent God

“O God, do not be silent! 
Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O God. 
Don’t you hear the uproar of your enemies? 
Don’t you see that your arrogant enemies are rising up? 
“Come,” they say, “let us wipe out Israel as a nation. 
We will destroy the very memory of its existence.””
‭Psalms‬ ‭83:1-2, 4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Feelings of fear and anxiety are rising up in Israel. The Jewish people see their enemies amassing their military assets just over the border. They hear other reports of enemy alliances, conspiring to eliminate the Jews from the face of the earth. And they are fearful. You can just imagine the talk on street corners, in the pub, over the dinner tables. Ratcheting up the feelings of worry and helplessness, as they look up the road or at the horizon, scanning for signs of the coming of war. The menfolk taking their swords and spears out of the rafters, polishing and sharpening, but hoping they won’t be needed. And then along comes Asaph the writer of this Psalm. “Wake up, God!” was his cry. And he forensically lays out before God the scale of the problem. The military intelligence. The predicament God’s people were in. As if God wasn’t aware of what was going on. And Asaph continues with some graphic details of what he wanted God to do about the situation. Some theologians have concluded that this Psalm may have been a prophesy about Israel’s Six Day war in 1967. But however the situation appears today, Israel was in a pickle.

The world as we know it has always seemed to be gripped by strife. Both within and without nations. And the pettiest of situations seems to ignite a response far beyond reason. There seems to be something within human beings that reacts badly when provoked. Pride, individual and national, rears its ugly head. Political leaders stir up dissent, stoking the embers of nationalism into flames of strife. And before people can take stock of what is happening, another unnecessary war erupts, with death and destruction following.

As Christians, how should we respond to social unrest, to wars, to nationalistic threats, to all types of aggression? Jesus’s teaching was clear. He counter-culturally taught about loving enemies. Going the second mile. Giving in to aggressive acts. Because by doing so we would then display God’s love for people through us. Difficult I know, but we have to take the long view. Perhaps one day how we have responded in love to an aggressive situation will birth the seed of a new life in Christ. So we bring our natural feelings of anger to the Cross, asking God to deal with them, and the situation that is bothering us. We pray for our enemies, for those around us intent on creating mayhem and stirring up trouble. We pray for those in society, in our communities, who seem unable to understand or accept that their behaviour is hurting their fellow neighbours and friends. We pray for our governmental leaders, that God’s will would prevail in their lives and in their political acts. And we allow God to deal with the people, the nations, as we gaze forward to the new Kingdom, that’s coming, that’s just over the horizon.

National Security

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm.
Psalm 20:7-8 NIVUK

What do we trust in? These verses would seem to imply some form of warlike background. National thought would tend to focus on weaponry, and we can look back in our lifetimes at the technological development and manufacture of arms of different complexities, all in the name of “defence”. A race builds up between nations to produce the most effective weapon in the hope that it would discourage potential attackers from going to war. Such thinking shapes a nation’s foreign policies and strategic alliances. And all this with the knowledge that nations and civilisations rise and fall, and have done ever since history started to be recorded. In the end weaponry doesn’t seem to make much difference.  Whatever happened to the Persian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman empires, after all? So the Psalmist, David, was quite right when he said, “They are brought to their knees and fall”. 

However, God’s people “trust in the name of the Lord“. But what does that mean in practice? Does it, as some have concluded, mean that a nation should become peopled by passivists, with no money being spent on weapons of any type? Instead should they adopt a dependency on God, a nation of God-believers who totally trust in Him for their protection? A nice Utopian thought, but one that, sadly, has never been achieved in history. 

But before we continue to develop this line of argument, what can we conclude from what David was saying in these verses? Back to our starting question, “What do we trust in”? What does trusting “in the name of the Lord our God” look like in our age? We live in a sinful world and as God’s people we have choices to make. We are richly blessed with His Word, the Bible, and 2 Timothy 3:16 famously says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” In the Bible we can find the guidance and encouragement we need, but we have to believe, and live it, wholeheartedly. And trust that if God said it, then we must believe it. So trusting in God infers a life style of dependency on Him. That is not to say that we abdicate our own responsibilities for earning a living, looking after our families and so on, lazily depending on God for what we should be doing. But it does mean we must partner with God in everything we do, recognising of course that He is the Senior Partner in the relationship. 

But back to our national defence. Personally, I think that the man-God partnership involves at least some national responsibility for looking after the security of the people living within its society. That may involve the research and production of weaponry and the development of strategic alliances with other like-minded nations. It may also include God’s people in a military or policing role. And God’s people must pray. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 reads, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”

Isaiah wrote down an “in the last days” prophecy which we can find in Isaiah 2.  Verse 4 reads, 

He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.

Down through the mists of time, Isaiah could see a day coming when there would be the rule and reign of the Kingdom of God. If we are troubled about war and long for a universal peace, perhaps our prayer should be, “Come Lord Jesus”. Amen?

Be Still

“Come and see what the Lord has done, the desolations He has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the shields with fire. He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalms‬ ‭46:8-10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

“Be still and know that I am God” is one of those Scripture verses much quoted by Christians in times of stressful activity. But in its Scriptural context it has associations with wars and weapons of destruction, within an environment where God is dealing with the warring tendencies of people, replacing them with an acknowledgement of His status as God of all nations everywhere. Of course the Psalmist was writing in an age of armed strife between the Israelites and the surrounding nations, but wars didn’t end then and are still taking place today. So perhaps this was a prophetic message for the apocalyptic times we read about in Biblical books such as Ezekiel, Isaiah and Revelation. When the world as we know it will end and be replaced by a “new Heaven and a new earth”, as the Apostle John wrote about in Revelation 21, or when the last days prophesy in Isaiah 2:1-4 comes to pass.

But whatever the circumstances, to be still in God’s presence is an important part of our devotions, our personal time spent with God. I don’t know if you are like me, and through activity want to “fix” things in our families or in the communities of faith of which we are a part. Well, God sometimes encourages us to be still in His presence. Allowing Him to do what is necessary to bring about His will and purposes in the lives of the people around us.

“Being still” perhaps involves a time of worship, reading a passage of Scripture, sitting or kneeling in prayer, allowing His Spirit to wash over us. And enabling us to exalt Him in our time of solitude, seeing Him lifted up and given His proper place as Lord of all we are. How many times have I done that and found that whatever I wanted to “fix” had somehow been resolved by God Himself, and in a much better way than I would have achieved? Being still in God’s presence helps us see God for who He really is – the high and exalted One, the Lord over all the earth.