There’s talk on the streets. Talks of war. Talks of peace. Talks of protests. Talks of support. There’s lots of talk going on in the cafes, country clubs, break rooms, boardrooms, and bedrooms of America and around the world.
People are gathering and everywhere they gather they are talking. Talking about Saddam Hussein. Talking about George Bush. Talking about bombs and bullets, oil and genocide, terrorism and truth. If you take the time to listen to the people talking then you can end up really confused about who is right. Let me give you a sampling of what I am talking about.
Just last weekend there were anti-war protests in 38 countries around the world according to the International Answer, an anti-war and anti-racism organization that is acting as the brainchild behind the protests. The Washington Post reported on some of those protests:
A look at anti-war demonstrations Saturday in U.S. cities and around the world:
-Washington: At least 30,000 marched, part of a far larger crowd that rallied outside the Capitol, in the day’s cornerstone protest. Signs branded America a “Rogue Nation,” and demanded, “Disarm Bush.”
-San Francisco: Tens of thousands packed downtown streets, holding signs that read “Peace for All Nations” and “Patriots for Peace,” in an action that, like Washington’s, drew people from far away.
-Florida: “Smart Bombs Dumb Move,” said at a sign at a St. Augustine protest that drew 200 people. “It’s great to see an army for peace instead of an army for death and war,” said activist David Thundershield Queen. About 400 people assembled in Venice. About 500 in Tampa rallied outside the gates of MacDill Air Force Base, home to U.S. Central Command, which would coordinate an Iraq war.
-France: In the third nationwide anti-war demonstration since October, 6,000 shouting protesters in Paris shouted in English “Stop Bush! Stop War!” and set off firecrackers.
-Turkey: Communists demonstrated outside a theater showing the latest James Bond movie to protest the U.S.-British alliance that they claimed was planning to make war on Iraq.
-Russia: Outside the U.S. Embassy, Russians chanted “U.S. hands off Iraq!” and “Yankee, go home!” A banner read: “Iraq isn’t your ranch, Mr. Bush.”
-Ireland: Protesters converged on Shannon Airport to protest its use as a refueling stop for U.S. military aircraft.
-Netherlands: Hundreds marched the streets of Rotterdam, Nijmegen and Leiden. In Uden, police detained 90 activists for trying to invade an air base where U.S. and Dutch forces are stationed. (Washington Post, The Associated Press Saturday, January 18, 2003)
Protests in thirty-eight countries around the world. Lots and lots of people crying out, “Smart Bombs, Dumb Move!” “Bomb Texas They Have Oil,” and “Grannies For Peace.” Now if that doesn’t convince you that what America is doing is wrong then I don’t know what will.
If you need a little more convincing then you need to know that at the Mall in Washington D.C. there were such notable speakers as Vietnam veteran, Ron Kovic, the subject of the movie, “Born On The Fourth of July,” actress Jessica Lange, the Reverend Al Sharpton, actress Tyne Daly, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and former congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney. All of these people were speaking in defense of peace, urging the President to stop his aggression on Iraq.
You haven’t heard the last from the activists for peace. There will be protests coming to a city near you in February. International Answer has organized world wide non-violent protests that will culminate on the anniversary of the assasination of Malcolm X, on February 21. The website of International Answer outlines the plan and gives instructions for our young people for the protests on February 21.
Take to the streets to fight war and racism on the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X. Coordinated Day of Resistance, including student anti-war walk-outs from hundreds of high schools and colleges, and other acts of non-compliance. Youth and students have marked this important anniversary with militant protests on a range of issues for the last thirty-five years. Malcolm X embodies the spirit of struggle against militarism and the racist establishment. Honor his life and legacy the right way: Resist! Youth and Student A.N.S.W.E.R. will be providing leaflets, posters, stickers and other resources for the February 21 actions.
For those of you who are now convinced: You have marked your calendar for resistance on February 21, you are looking for the next anti-war protest in our own city, and you now see the fallacy of all of this war talk — Let me share some additional information with you.
First, for every one of the protesters that you see on the evening news there is at least one other person who can passionately enunciate the reasons why action is better than inaction.
Second, for every anti-war organization there is another organization that supports our government’s action upon Saddam Hussein. For every International Answer there is an organization like Moveout.
Third, the President’s administration possesses information that we, as civilians, do not possess. How can we know all of the details of what is going on behind the scenes when our daily routine is revolved around showing up at the plant, shopping for groceries, and watching the evening news?
Last of all, history tells stories that are worth heeding. Let me give you an example. Martin Niemoeller was one of the most respected Protestant leaders in Germany in the early 1930’s. Niemoeller was a decorated U-Boat captain in the First World War and later became a Christian. In 1933, when he became the most high profile of Hitler’s Christian opponents, he was in charge of a prestigious suburban church in Berlin-Dahlem.
Niemoeller was a leader in the mobilization of the Pastors’ Emergency League, in the Synod that denounced the abuses of Adolf Hitler in the famous “Barmen Declaration,” and in other visible actions and sermons that finally led to his arrest on July 1, 1937. There were still a few honest judges functioning in Germany, and when the court let him go with a slap on the wrist Hitler personally ordered his incarceration. Niemoeller was in concentration camps, including long periods of solitary confinement, until the end of the war. (Frank H. Littell, First They Came for the Jews)
Martin Niemoeller, reflecting on the atrocities of Adolf Hitler, wrote the following words.
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Is it none of our business when Saddam Hussein “comes” for the weak in his own society? When he threatens and attacks surrounding nations? Is it none of our business that Saddam Hussein is underwriting terrorism’s attacks around the globe? The proponents of President Bush’s efforts say that inaction will reap consequences for America and others far worse than an all out effort.
Which side do you believe? Who do you trust? What do we do? I would encourage you this morning to refuse to be swayed by either side. I would encourage you to stop listening to the voices on the street calling, chiding, criticizing, and cajoling. I would encourage you to cry out to the Lord of history, the Sovereign King of all creation. The One whom the Bible says, 1 The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1 NIV) Again, in Proverbs 16:9, we read these words, 9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9 NIV) I came to announce to you this morning that God is in charge! He knows the plans that are being made, not just by President Bush and Saddam Hussein, but by every leader of every nation on the face of the earth. God is in control.
The real question that needs to be asked at a time like this in our nation’s history is not “to protest or not to protest?” but “will we as a nation cry out to God in these times of uncertainty?” Now, I know some of you are already thinking that I am a Pollyanna. You might say, “Mike, I know we need to trust in God, but you’ve got to do something. Don’t you know ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves?'” Oh really? First, I’ve never read that verse. Second, my understanding is that God only helps those who can’t help themselves. Third, I have a story to tell you to illustrate my point.
This morning I want to show you a story in God’s Word that points us in the right direction. I want to forewarn you that this study won’t lead you to the picket line or the Mall in Washington D.C. It won’t lead you to the VFW meeting hall either. It will lead you and me to fall on our knees and cry out to God on behalf of our nation, our leaders, and our adversaries. Take a look at 2 Chronicles 20 with me and understand that Jehoshaphat is the King of Judah as these events unfold.
1After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the LORD in the front of the new courtyard 6 and said: “O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’ 10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. 14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.'” 18 Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the LORD. 19 Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the LORD, the God of Israel, with very loud voice. (2 Chronicles 20:1-19 NIV)
The glory days of the united kingdom of Israel were over. The division had come about 960 B.C. and the once powerful united kingdom was now two weaker kingdoms: Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Jehoshaphat was the king of the southern kingdom of Judah for twenty-five years, from 873-848 B.C. King Jehoshaphat was a good king and Scripture tells us about his actions to try and turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. Turn to 2 Chronicles 19 and read along with me.
4Jehoshaphat lived in Jerusalem, and he went out again among the people from Beersheba to the hill country of Ephraim and turned them back to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 5He appointed judges in the land, in each of the fortified cities of Judah. 6He told them, “Consider carefully what you do, because you are not judging for man but for the LORD, who is with you whenever you give a verdict. 7Now let the fear of the LORD be upon you. Judge carefully, for with the LORD our God there is no injustice or partiality or bribery.” (2 Chronicles 19:4-7 NIV)
Jehoshaphat loved the Lord, he tried to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but he was flawed like all of us. He made one grave error during his reign that resulted in incredible destruction for his nation after he died. Jehoshaphat arranged the marriage of his son, Jehoram, to the daughter of Israel’s evil King Ahab, Athaliah. Athaliah’s influence would later be disastrous for the nation. Jehoshaphat thought that his maneuvering would strengthen his nation, but in actuality it weakened it tremendously. God had instructed His leaders not to trust in alliances made with other nations, but to trust in His mighty hand. You can read all about King Jehoshaphat’s reign in 2 Chronicles 17-20.
When we come to 2 Chronicles 20 we see that the nation of Judah is being threatened. The enemy is on the move and ready to pounce on the vulnerable nation. 2 Chronicles 20:1-2 tells us,
1After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).
The army of Judah’s enemies is coming and Jehoshaphat is alerted to the impending invasion so what does he do? What are the steps that Jehoshaphat took before he determined whether or not the nation of Judah was to go to war? Those are important questions for us to ask because I believe with all of my heart that America can learn volumes about how we are to respond to the attacks we have suffered from this powerful story.
What did Jehoshaphat do? Did he check his arsenal, take a census of his troops, and call his generals to devise a plan of attack? Did Jehoshaphat recognize that Judah couldn’t defend herself and send out a call of “surrender?” The King didn’t do any of these things. He did something that wouldn’t even appear on the radar screen for most of our world’s leaders coming under attack today. We can see Jehoshaphat’s first step in determining what to do in verse 3. Read along with me.
3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.
As I have been listening and watching to all that has taken place since September 11, 2001 when the planes flew into the World Trade Center and an aggressive posture was secured in the fight against terrorism I have noticed some things that have happened in our country.
First, if you will remember, shortly after the planes hit the buildings the people hit the churches. There was an outpouring of prayer and searching the Scriptures like I have never seen. People were getting together all over our nation for special times of prayer and seeking God’s help. Three months after the attacks the churches emptied and the malls were filled once again. Where are all of the people who once said that they were going to pray? Where all of the people who once said that they were going to start reading the Bible? Where are all of the people who told the anchors on the evening news, “America needs to return to God.”
The second thing that I have seen take place is that those who once said that life changed forever on September 11th are doing exactly what they were doing on September 10th of 2001. I don’t think life has changed at all in our country. How has your life changed? My life hasn’t changed one bit. I go where I want to go. I do what I want to do. I take my family to the movie theatre, to the mall, and to ballgames and it is just as it was before September 11. The only change I have seen has come when I go to the airport, but even then I still get on the plane and read a magazine or book as I head to my destination. We are mighty comfortable in America and as long as our comfort isn’t threatened then we can turn a deaf ear to the world.
Because of these things we are not inquiring of the Lord as to what our next move should be. We are inquiring of CNN, MSNBC, and the FOX news networks. We are inquiring of the President’s spokesmen and the spokesmen for the peace movement. We are not inquiring of the Lord as Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah did when they were under attack.
Notice once again what the people of Judah did when they were under attack. 4 “The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” Jehoshaphat wasn’t trying to reach a consensus. He wasn’t trying to get his constituents on his side. Jehoshaphat called the citizens of Judah together. He called Judges and military leaders, priests and plumbers, housewives and school children together to call upon the Lord.
Jehoshaphat called the people together at the House of God. When they had all gathered, Jehoshaphat stood up and led the people in a prayer. I want to have you look at verses 12-13 with me, just a portion of Jehoshaphat’s prayer. Read along with me.
12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.
“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Jehoshaphat didn’t have all of the answers, he knew that his counselors would have opinions, but they wouldn’t have all of the answers. Jehoshaphat wanted answers, he needed answers, so he called the people to the throne of the Answer.
What should America do in the situation we are in today? That’s a great question. Terrorism continues, Saddam has weapons; mustard gas, nerve gas, and much more. America is assembling for war. We have sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers whose lives are at stake. What should America do in regards to the war? Go to war to stop the insanity of Saddam? Mind our own business? I don’t have the answer to any of those questions, but I do know what America should do. Our leaders should call this nation to its knees.
I am not going to wait on our nation’s leaders to put out a nation-wide call to prayer. I am calling you to gather with me on Sunday, February 2, at 7:30 pm for an hour of prayer on behalf of our nation. If you are truly concerned about what is taking place and what will unfold in the weeks to come then I urge you to join me on February 2 and cry out to God in prayer.
When the people of Judah prayed the Lord answered. The people who had no direction suddenly knew what was going to take place. The King who was afraid and uncertain became confident that the Lord would act on Judah’s behalf. King Jehoshaphat knew what to do, but only after the Lord had spoken. Read along with me beginning in verse 14.
14 Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
America needs to hear from God. Won’t you join me in interceding for our leaders that the Lord might speak to their hearts in the same way that He spoke to the heart of King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah?
Let me say one more thing before we conclude this morning. I am no prophet but the uncertainty that we face today is not as great as the uncertainty that we will face in the future. The world is a chaotic place and fear has gripped the hearts of many. How do you face the uncertainty of the future with confidence and trust? There is only one way. You and I need to get right with God. We need to believe God. We need to allow the Lord Jesus Christ to come into our hearts, forsake our ways, and cling to the hope that only He can give. Won’t you confess your sins before Him this morning and receive Him into your heart as Lord and Savior?