War is hell! And war between brothers is an affront to God Almighty.
Again this year, ceremonies will take place across most Israel lands, whether referred to as Remembrance Day, Veteran’s Day or Armistice Day. It’s a time when we honour and pay tribute to our fallen heroes, and behind the sincerity of the words and the tears that go along with words, we naturally deplore the appalling destructiveness and uselessness of war. Yes, we long for the time when we shall beat our swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks and learn war no more. Still, while we long for that moment, we know it can only take place when the Prince of Peace rules, when He returns to take up the reins of power, and establish His kingdom and extend it throughout the whole world; indeed, covering the whole world with His glory.
Wars certainly go back to antiquity and one of the first, if not the first, was waged by Nimrod. He was killed in the field hunting, by none other than Esau, which makes him a contemporary of Abraham and Isaac. As the Bible story focuses on Abraham, the discussion of wars languishes until Moses leads the children of Israel out of Egypt and we learn of the destruction of the Egyptian army in the overflowing Red Sea. As the Israelites trekked through the wilderness, they were attacked by Amelek, Esau’s grandson, so it can be described as a war between, “cousins”.
Coming out of the wilderness, the children of Israel invaded the Holy land at the behest of God, who, using them as His battle axe, commissioned them to destroy the inhabitants of the land because of their idolatry and iniquity. After the conquest and settlement of the land, Israel was/is expected to only fight defensive battles and not to be an aggressor. Too bad our recent history was not governed by that policy!
In the period of the Judges, members of the tribe of Benjamin offended a Levite who appealed to the rest of the children of Israel for redress, and they went to war collectively against their brother tribe. This reduced the tribe of Benjamin to 600 men and the children of Israel were filled with remorse at having almost annihilated one of their brother tribes. They contrived to provide the men with wives and the tribe was reconstituted. So, this may be the first example of brother going against brother. Darda, grandson of Judah, founded Troy, and the Greeks, the tribe of Dan or the Danoi, destroyed the city of Troy, another example of brother against brother.
The Bible story moves on. King Solomon, who led the nation in a period of unparalleled prosperity, died and the kingdom was passed to Rehoboam. We all know how the kingdom was split because of the taxation policy of the new king. In 2nd Chron 11:2-4, we read, “But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin saying, Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren: return every man to his house: for this thing is done of Me. And they obeyed the words of the Lord and returned from going against Jeroboam.” But they soon ignored the words of the Lord because chapter 12:15 reports, “Now the acts of Rehoboam, first and last, are they not written in the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the seer concerning genealogies? and there were wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. “
So the principle laid-down by our Lord was, “Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren.” Now here is the REAL TRAGEDY of our history. We have violated this principle continually through the ages. You may argue that the Lord blinded our fathers in part so that they knew not who they were. I think this is a weak argument since things like the heraldry have been preserved through the ages; with which they were certainly familiar and which subsequently was a means used to trace our ancestors. And as they resisted tormentors, especially during their stay in Asia, they combined forces and assisted each other.
When we stir our memories, and think of the wars between England and France, between the nations of the United Kingdom, the British and the Dutch of South Africa, Britain and the United States in the war of Independence, the United States and Canada in the war of 1812, and the civil wars in Britain and in the United States, we can easily be overwhelmed at our persistent foolishness. And this list is NOT comprehensive but rather obvious; I want us to think about warring against our brethren. As the children of Israel took up the cross and became Christians, God putting His name on His people, we can see in the modern wars of the twentieth century Christians going against Christians. Out of these wars came stories, like the Germans and British meeting in ‘no man’s land’ to sing carols and exchange small gifts on Christmas day. More recently, Canadian and German veterans achieved a reconciliation at Ortona, the site of viscious fighting.
Is there any hope that we can avoid further destructive wars? Except for that great day of God Almighty, there is reason to hope. First, we should follow God’s rules of war and NOT be aggressors. Second, if forced to fight a defensive battle, we must offer peace. Deut 20:10, “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it.” So, there is the option of a peaceful, negotiated settlement. Third, we must not rely on our might, but rely on the Lord of Hosts to deliver the enemy into our hands. The whole history of Israel proclaims this principle and perhaps the best example, although there are many, is Gideon and his three hundred men with their horns and lamps in clay vessels. Fourth, we must remember, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper.”
Also, I believe that the Lord, even now, is dividing the nations into the sheep and goat nations. So as the sheep nations, (Christian nations?) are gathered together, it would be difficult for them to war with each other. The Anglo-Saxon nations are drawing close together and the NATO alliance is bringing other Christian nations into the fold. The exception is Turkey, an Islamic country, but a member of NATO nevertheless. It remains to be seen what will ultimately happen in that case.
So, as we bow our heads in remembrance, let us hang our heads in shame at the extent of human tragedy caused by men’s designs for power; to achieve their dubious goals, they have ignored the words of the Lord, “Ye shall not go up nor fight against your brethren.”