It has often troubled my traditional conception of peace that United Nations peace-keepers, of all people, should carry guns, ride about in armoured personnel, and fight deadly wars – to ‘keep’ the peace. The point is forcefully made by them that some peace might never be gained except through war, and that peace could be costly. Peace, in other words, is a treasure; an expensive treasure.
It is a puzzling paradox that the path to peace should be war; sometimes, even wars. It might seem more reasonable to suppose that refraining from wars is the maintenance of peace, or that peace is the absence of wars. Unfortunately, in the present light, peace is not necessarily the absence of wars. In fact, some ‘absence of war’ could be slavery – worse than wars. Silent chains are still chains. Truth sometimes comes in unfamiliar colours. Freedom of silence…
It says in Joshua 11:23 about the young nation of Israel, that “the land rested from war,” and in Joshua 23:1, that the Lord gave “rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about.” We read also in Joshua 21:44 that “the LORD gave them rest round about” from “all their enemies,” whom He “delivered into their hand” – by what means? The constant factor in the equation appears to be that ‘enemy’ is the opposite expression of ‘peace’; that the reign of enemies is the absence of peace, but the subjugation of ‘enemy’ is the gaining of ‘peace.’ However, no reigning enemy submits to subjugation by the hitherto oppressed without a fight.
From those scriptures, we may make the following deductions:
- that true rest comes from God (Joshua 21:44);
- that rest not only comes from God but is of God; in fact, rest it is part of His instituted weekly calendar for humans (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 31:17; Numbers 9:23);
- that no matter how ‘people of God’ one might be, enemies would arise, and sometimes they could be in the plural, as here: “enemies” (Luke 4:1-2);
- that sometimes the enemies might be significant not just in terms of their plural number (“enemies”) but also in terms of their position strategically “round about” their target. In that case, wherever one turns, there is an enemy; wherever one turns, it is thorns. That condition the Bible describes as “enemies on every side” (Judges 8:34; 1 Samuel 12:11; 14:47), resulting in fear and terror “on every side” (Psalm 31:13; Jeremiah 6:25; 20:10;49:29). However, that’s not all; the Bible also speaks of “rest on every side” 1 Kings 5:4; 1 Chronicles 22:18; 2 Chronicles 14:7), as well as peace, rejoicing, and comfort “on every side” (Psalm 65::12; 71:21);
- that nobody can have true rest who has enemies “round about” them; enemies so close that they hear and see them at every turn; enemies that be neighbours – in their space or territory;
- that whatever is opposed to one’s rest is an enemy, whether that be a person or a condition; whether it be human, health, finances, physical, spiritual, close, distant, in the classroom, in the prison, at work, in the church, in politics, in national affairs, etc.; whatever is opposed to peace is not a friend, it is an enemy;
- that an enemy does not seek your rest even though they might speak your language;
- that the proximity of an enemy – how close they are to you, sometimes “round about” – does not change their nature or their mission.
Back to my opening thesis: it seems very ironical that war should be the way to peace. Strangely, that was how General Joshua and his land finally got “rest on every side.”
Exodus 17:10 So Joshua did AS Moses had said to him [what did Bishop Moses say to him…?], and fought with Amalek…
Joshua 10:29 Then Joshua … fought against Libnah…
Joshua 10:31 And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, unto Lachish… and fought against it…
Joshua 10:34 And from Lachish Joshua passed unto Eglon… and fought against it…
Joshua 10:36 And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and THEY fought against it…
Joshua 10:38 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it…
Joshua 10:42 And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel.
So many wars after, we hear: “And the LORD gave them rest round about, …the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand” (Joshua 21:44). The rest they found at last originated from the Lord, but it was through the wars that they themselves fought. It was the Lord who delivered the enemies into their hands, yet that ‘delivery’ was not without the wars that they personally, practically fought. So, no war, no ‘delivery.’ One may not expect rest from a land not subdued, and God seldom ‘delivers’ to anyone a land for which they have fought no war – and any war could be costly.
Is not the LORD your God with you? and hath he not given you rest on every side? for he hath given the inhabitants of the land into mine hand; and the land is subdued before the LORD, and before his people (1 Chronicles 22:18). Amen.
From The Preacher’s diary,
November 7, 2017.