A little over 20 years ago, a friend of mine, with whom I taught a Bible
study at Coxsackie Correctional Facility, posed a question to us that I’ve
never forgotten. He asked: "What do you think the difference is between
freedom and peace?"
I believe that this question, that Mike posed, speaks to the heart of today's theme "Peace: Many Branches, but One Root," so I have added something additional to it.
There are many perceived ways to achieve peace; but when we look at these pathways, we find that many people, all over the world, in pursuing their desires for peace, limit themselves to freedom.
They consider that peace is freedom from war and oppression; but it is not.
And even worse, they all too often choose war as a means to achieve their freedom, or they use war to destroy the freedom of others.
True and lasting peace does not come from the branches, but from the root; and that root is the living example of God's love, seen in Jesus Christ, and in God’s creation and heavenly will, where there is no suffering and death.
And every major religion in the world desires this same peace, even if the people don’t live by it.
Without Jesus Christ and our heavenly Father’s will in our lives, we will never have real and lasting peace.
We are just winding down a war in Afghanistan that would bring freedom back to that country, but will it?
Twenty-one years earlier we did the same thing to bring freedom to Kuwait, and we speak of peace; but if we look carefully, we will not find the peace we speak of, except in the hearts of very few people.
And don’t forget to look at all the other hot spots in that part of the world, and listen to the continual sabre rattling.
As we go back and look at some of our Bible passages, keep in mind that the Babylon of old is Iraq, and that the spiritual message spoken about Israel, also speaks to the church of today.
Also, let's ponder in our minds the current world situation, and whether we are looking at fragile freedom or everlasting and permanent peace.
Israel and Judah had sinned against the Lord and had been led away into captivity.
And Jeremiah, who prophesied to those in Jerusalem to go into captivity, now speaks of their future coming out.
5. For neither Israel nor Judah has been forsaken
By his God, the Lord of hosts,
Although their land is full of guilt
Before the Holy One of Israel.
Haven’t each of us, and the Church in general, sinned against the Lord our
God by professing to be Christians and yet living in the sins of Satan?
And what about our land; is it not likewise full of guilt?
6. Flee from the midst of Babylon,
And each of you save his life!
Do not be destroyed in her punishment,
For this is the Lord's time of vengeance;
He is going to render recompense to her.
7. Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord,
Intoxicating all the earth.
The nations have drunk of her wine;
Therefore the nations are going mad.
Didn’t the call go out to all those who were in Iraq to flee before the
modern day hostilities started?
But why were all those foreign people there?
Wasn’t it to drink of her “wine,” the oil money she had?
And I propose to you, that the nations of the world did go mad because of this wine.
8. Suddenly Babylon has fallen and been broken;
Wail over her!
Bring balm for her pain;
Perhaps she may be healed.
9. We applied healing to Babylon, but she was not healed;
Forsake her and let us each go to his own country,
For her judgment has reached to heaven
And towers up to the very skies.
Just as the smoke of the fires of war are still going up.
We said we were against Saddam, as if he were Satan, and not against the Iraqi people, but have we really tried to heal them?
Even after another 9-10 years of a so-called war to bring peace, there is no peace and they are still killing each other.
Aren’t we each returning to our own land?
10. The Lord has brought about our vindication;
Come and let us recount in Zion
The work of the Lord our God!
Most assuredly it appeared that God did protect us, in our original effort,
in spite of our sins.
But then came 11 September 2001…did God withdraw His protection from us?
Did we, and are we still praising and thanking Him for grace, or are we praising the weapons of destruction and ourselves for kicking butt?
Where is peace in all of this?
And where is peace for the billions of animals that we systematically kill every year.
Aren’t we making war against them, too?
We had better remember that branches will dry up and fall off if nothing flows forth from the root.
Are we truly listening to Jesus Christ, or to an antichrist that seems to love death, destruction, and the shedding of blood?
Listen again to what we are told in Revelation 14:6-13.
6. And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to
preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and
tongue and people;
7. and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters."
Are we hearing the voice of God and heeding this message?
I pray so!
But outwardly, I fear I see more of our listening to the wrong voice.
8. And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality."
Do you know what the passion of symbolic Iraq's immorality was, and perhaps
still is, as is our own?
It's for weapons of war and destruction, and we have most definitely drunk of that wine in selling these arms in the first place.
9. And another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice,
"If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his
forehead or upon his hand,
10. he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11. "And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Could there perhaps be more than one kind of the mark of the beast?
Could that mark come upon our hands by continually reaching out to receive the blood money which comes through the sale of weapons and the slaughter of billions of animals and many of our fellow human beings every year and excusing it by thinking that our economy will be better?
I submit to you that we would have more if we used that money to help those in need in our own country who desperately need to have their dignity given back to them and to get to work.
Our eyes are blinded and our heads are marked by our greed.
And unless we repent and change, and allow the love and peace of Jesus Christ to course through our veins, we will shrivel up and be burned in the fire.
12. Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God
and their faith in Jesus.
13. And I heard a voice from heaven saying, "Write, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!' " "Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them."
Most of us, who call ourselves Christians, fail to realize that it is better to die in the peace and love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, than it is to kill any other living being. This is what we are told in Revelation 13:10.
10. If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.
And remember what happened, and what the Lord told Peter in Gethsemane, in Matthew 26:51-52.
51. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his
sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
52. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."
And just in case you have some strange idea that we who sold the weapons of war to Iraq and other countries are less guilty than they are for using them, let's go back to Revelation 18:1-5.
1. After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having
great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
2. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! And she has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.
3. "For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality."
The prophetic messages of God sometimes have more than one fulfillment: one
in the time of the prophecy and another in the future.
I believe that this end time’s prophecy also has a spiritual significance for us today.
I don't believe these are coincidences. When these things happen, I believe we are seeing part of God's plan, and we had best take notice of what is being seen and said.
Therefore, I don't believe that the location of this war in spiritual Babylon, or Iraq, as it is known today, is a coincidence, nor is the war in Afghanistan.
Think of the passage we just read.
What was the passion of Iraq's immorality?
Wasn’t it military power?
And didn’t the leaders of our world participate in the arming of Iraq and other countries that are still killing each other?
Didn’t the merchants of this world become rich through the sales of these weapons and in other support areas?
The world drank of the evil wine of these nations.
And we are drinking of the evil wine of the blood of the billions of slain animals that we definitely don’t need for food, and who are bankrupting us with the health problems the eating of them brings.
And from all estimates, it appears that it has cost the world much more to fight these wars than was spent on arming them.
In the process, many thousands of people lost their lives and most of those didn't want to die any more than we do; and they had loved ones just like us, and they grieve just as we do.
And they grieve, as the animals do.
Was it worth it to arm Iraq and other nations?
Was it worth it to take revenge on Afghanistan?
Was it worth it to lose even one more life, or maim many thousands of others?
I know Jesus would say, "No!"
I pray we are all saying, "No!"
Hear what we are told in verses 4-5.
4. And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, "Come out of her, my
people, that you may not participate in her sins and that you may not
receive of her plagues;
5. for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
If we don't want to suffer the plagues that befell spiritual and actual
Iraq, it's time we truly pick up our crosses and follow Jesus, and his
teachings of love and peace.
It's time we repent of our own sins.
It's time that we, who profess to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, set such an example in the world that others will likewise repent of their sins.
I don't want to see even one more of our young people die or be maimed as a result of these conflicts, or in any future conflict.
What really concerns me is that God may decide to withdraw even more of His protective grace from us, because of our unrepentant sins, and we too will suffer the fate of others.
We are far from being righteous enough to be God's policemen, even though we all too often see ourselves in that role.
We all want to be called sons and daughters of God.
We all want to be one of the branches of peace.
But if we speak of the glories of war, the thrill of killing, and the enjoyment of eating someone else’s body parts, there is no peace in us.
As Jesus told us in Matthew 5:9,
9. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
This means that we have to make peace with all of the animals and our fellow
Unless we repent of what we have been doing, and return to the Root, Jesus Christ, we can never be peacemakers; and thus, never truly be sons and daughters of God.
And don’t forget that we need to repent of what we have been doing to the animals, too.
Pray about these things, beloved, for the time is short.
Pray for and about our enemies, that we would learn to love them and see through their sins to the person that God wanted them to be, and that they would come to the light of Jesus and be saved.
Then we might begin to be peacemakers.