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Making sense of war


Making sense of war
Posted on September 8, 2021  - By Tom Horvat

The history of mankind — since the Fall — has been one of strife, contention, murder, and war. This has been the case from the smallest unit of society — the family — to the great formations of nations and states. Hardly a day passes when we fail to hear of war — or its rumours — in the news. All the ideals of “peace and goodwill on earth” through men’s promises to one another are shattered before the sun sets upon the freshly signed documents.

Sovereign over wars too?

Scripture tells us that nation shall rise against nation; that the earth will violently heave like the wild waves of the sea. In chapters 13-14 of Isaiah, we read of the workings of providence among nations. Some believe that the devil is behind all war. But here, right in God’s word, we find that the LORD of hosts is the great mover of nations against one another.  

The breakout of war may be the expression of God’s wrath against the sin of mankind. It is described in Isaiah 28:21 as His strange work and strange act. 

In our meditations in Isaiah, we now come to a section from chapters 13-24 that describes the judgment carried out on all the nations that God used to chastise His people. This is strange work to us! God uses a nation for His purpose and then pours out judgement for its evil deeds.

God is God. We are but creatures of a moment. For now, as we read and meditate on these passages, let’s be quick to hear what the Spirit is saying to His churches.

God uses a nation for His purpose and then pours out judgement for its evil deeds

The ‘burden’ against Babylon

God responds to the pride of man by humbling him. Notice that the vision in chapter 13 is referred to as the “burden against Babylon” (NKJV) which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. God is not giving Isaiah a mere history lesson. Nor is He giving him something to rejoice for God’s people in exile.

Isaiah was told to carry a message of destruction to enemy lines. This was something that would’ve caused great sorrow to the heart of the prophet. The sanctified heart mourns the destruction of human life, even when it is the life of an enemy. The ravages of war are never pleasant nor ever to be desired.

Three topics are covered in Isaiah 13: 

  • The gathering of forces
  • The nature of the destroyers
  • The ruin of the works of pride

The gathering of forces

The gathering of the forces of war is described in verses 2-5. Notice that they are described as sanctified ones in verse 3. Sanctified is another word for set apart. God set apart the Persian Empire to be the vessels of His wrath against Babylon (13:17–19). The Persian army is described as His mighty ones — and in verse 5, as the weapons, or instruments, of His indignation.

God will use the pride of man to punish the pride of man. Babylon was the instrument used by God to punish the self-sufficiency and pride of Israel. And now, they will be punished in kind. If a nation rises to a position of power through pride and oppression, it can expect to be given over to the same, by the God of heaven and earth.

I strongly believe this has been the providential dealing by God to all nations since their inception. God raises and destroys nations based on the biblical principle that He will not countenance the pride of man.

The nature of the destroyers

Next up, the terrible nature of the destroyers is described. The destruction that comes from the Almighty will cause men to faint and to lose heart (v. 7). It comes so swiftly and violently that men cannot muster the courage to resist. The treatment of the conquerors is so cruel that it leaves none to escape (vv. 12, 15), takes no ransom or bribe (v. 17), and destroys people regardless of age or gender (vv. 15-16, 18).

Man’s cruelty to one another is a very deep, dark septic pool in history that cannot be looked upon for long. The earth is one huge graveyard containing countless torn corpses of men, women and children ravaged by the cruelty of war. It should cause us to pause and weep.

The sanctified heart mourns the destruction of human life, even when it is the life of an enemy

It is amazing to think that all of this destruction has been and is being fuelled by the lust for power, the greed for riches, and the pride of the myth of racial superiority. Only hearts that have been born again by the Spirit of God can be at peace. Without the effect of the gospel, we cannot expect war to end, strife to cease, and cruelty to stop.

The ruin of the works of pride

Finally, we consider the ruin of everything man takes pride in. We refer again to v. 7, where we find that strength in man fails in war. The glory of young men is their strength but human power has limitations. We are not omnipotent. The arrogance of the proud will be put to an end (v. 11).

The glory of the city of Babylon — described as the beauty of kingdoms — will be overthrown. We are reminded of the hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. All but the ruins of destruction surrounded by a trackless desert remain now. God’s promise that it will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation is evident to this very day. Babylon has become the bed of desert creatures and the roost of owls. Jackals now inhabit the once luxurious palaces.

Are we taking heed yet?

Are we so ignorant and proud of ourselves to think that this same “burden” is not relevant to any nation on earth existing today? Nations will not be excused from sure destruction if they walk in pride, luxury, and cruelty, regardless of how strong they stand economically and politically. Armies can fail overnight if God wills.

Trust in man is sure to fail. Where is our trust found?

Tom Horvat

About Tom Horvat

Tom Horvat completed his BA in education and theology at Washington Bible College. He pastored a house church for 15 years and served as a volunteer chaplain in a local prison for 20 years. He is now retired and pursuing interests in hiking, kayaking, nature study and wood crafting. He is passionate about ecology and published a book entitled New Creation Ecology that is available on Amazon. Tom has seven children and 13 grandchildren with his wife of over 40 years.



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