Conflicts have raged between nations down through the centuries. In spite of efforts to bring about world peace, men continue to fight old battles and new ones begin. Somewhere, conflict rages in the world every moment. People continue to die when nearly everyone wants to have peace.
Why are there wars?
Fighting starts when one group of people wants something so badly that it is willing to kill to get it. There may be dozens or hundreds of causes for war. Even in the same country the people have differing aims and hopes. There may be no other reason for a war than the desire for conquest. All it takes is one group of people wanting to prove itself superior to another. Armies take up arms over racial and religious issues or a desire for more land, wealth, power, or security. Our great European nations fought wars throughout the world to increase their power.
When we analyse all the reasons, there is one fundamental underlying cause. In James 4:1-2 we read: ‘From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not…’
People are slaves of their sinful nature. All fighting begins in the depraved heart of sinners, not in the war room. Simple pleasures fanned by the flames of uncontrolled passion lead many to give up their lives for something as insignificant as a piece of bread.
To lust for something is to set one’s heart on it and seek to have it at all costs. Where the grace of God is absent, sinners will fight one another. This hunger for power shows itself in children fighting each other in the school playground. As children grow up, these conflicts become more serious and deadly.
Whose side is God on?
In any combat people, politicians and soldiers on both sides claim God as their ally. However, it is wrong to assume that God is for one nation of people over another. All the nations of the earth are the Lord’s to do with as he so pleases (Psalm 24: 1).
Some people quote Psalm 33:12: ‘Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.’ However, it is clear from 1 Peter 2:9 that the nation referred to there is the church of Christ that he has redeemed out of every nation of the earth. God told Abraham, ‘In thy seed [Christ] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.’
It is true that the Lord blesses a nation who owns him as Lord God. However, there has never been a nation on earth where all the inhabitants have known God and believed him. For one or two of his elect, God may bless a whole nation for a time. This was certainly the case with Joseph and Egypt in Genesis 39:5. God uses wars to accomplish his purpose. The Scriptures refer to God as ‘a man of war’ (Exodus 15:3). In Psalm 24:8 we read: ‘Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.’ God raises up kingdoms and sets them down according to his eternal counsel. Anyone reading the book of Daniel with understanding will come to this conclusion.
God is not the author of sin but he is its master. He does not infuse lust in the hearts of men, but he does leave them to their lusts for various reasons, but so directs their actions as to bring them all to the end that he, the sovereign ruler, orders. The worst crime ever committed, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, is a good example of this. Those that crucified the Lord of Glory did it out of rage and anger against him. Yet, in this, they did not do any more or less than what God had ordained (Acts 2:23; 4:28).
How does God use war for his glory?
There are many answers we may never have. It is difficult to console those who have lost loved ones in conflict. Some now are refugees and living in very desperate situations trying to scrape up enough food and water to make it through another day. The days are dark and the future hopeless for many. Yet, God will see to it that he gets the glory in every case. It is in seeing him as sovereign and bowing to him that one finds hope and strength.
1. God may use war to judge one nation over another.
Sin is certainly punishable by death. When people deny God and live for themselves without any thirst for the true and living God, it is just and right that God deal with that nation in justice. The Lord told Habakkuk that he would raise up the Chaldeans to punish Israel and then in turn punish the Chaldeans for their wickedness (Habakkuk 1:5-11). Habakkuk’s conclusion in verse 12 is ‘Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One?…O Lord, thou has ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.’
2. God uses war to remind all sinners of their ultimate end.
As we observe the horrors of death, let it remind us of our end. The preacher wrote in Ecclesiastes 3: ‘To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die…a time to kill, and a time to heal…a time to weep, and a time to laugh…’ God has determined the length of our days on this earth (Acts 17:26). War and disease are all God’s instruments to execute his will. Death claims believers and unbelievers alike. This is proof enough that we are all sinners. It is only because of the grace of God in Jesus Christ that death is merely a passing from this world to God’s presence for the believer. The unbelieving however go to their rightful judgement. The psalmist prayed, ‘Lord, teach us to number our days’ (Psalm 90:12).
3. God uses war to displace people and bring elect sinners to hear the gospel.
How did Naaman the Syrian come to know the God of Israel? 2 Kings 5:1 shows that the Lord delivered Israel unto Syria in battle. It was by this means that God brought the little slave girl into his home. Through this and Naaman’s leprosy, this Syrian captain met Elisha and came to know the true God. Would God displace and unsettle whole nations just to save a few sinners? Absolutely! Noone is more precious in his sight than those that Christ has redeemed. God told Israel of old, ‘For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.’
4. God uses war to bring sinners to know that he is God.
In times of prosperity and peace, people develop a false sense of security. They put confidence in their homes, jobs and insurance policies. They may honour God with their lips but he is far from their hearts. Tragedy has a way of bringing people to seek God. The problem with most is that like any refuge sought in a storm, they leave it when it is over. However, God is God and he will not give his glory to another. When he shakes up peoples and nations, he does it that all might know that he is God and this world belongs to him (Isaiah 40).
We ought to humble ourselves under God’s almighty hand rather than raise our fist in the face of God. He has the power and authority to save or destroy. God gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength (Isaiah 40:29). To any who are experiencing the ill-effects of war or who may yet go through deep waters in the future, learn this. Our only hope in life or death is in the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:8-9). He is the resurrection and the life. Of all that the Father has given him, he will lose not one, but will raise them again at the last day (John 6:39).
We must all die at one time or another and by one means or another. God already has all the instruments laid out on the table. He kills and makes alive (1 Samuel 6). Salvation and eternal life are in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. True faith looks to him. True hope rests upon his life and death as the sinner’s Substitute for salvation. True love clings only to him and takes no pleasure in the things of this world, except that they be used for his glory.