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WEEKLY REFLECTIONS

Images of War and Prayer


Save me, O God, by your name; vindicate me by your might. Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth. Strangers are attacking me; ruthless men seek my life men without regard for God.1  Confuse the wicked, O LORD, confound their speech, for I see violence and strife in the city. Day and night they prowl about on its walls; malice and abuse are within it. Destructive forces are at work in the city; threats and lies never leave its streets.2  Too long have I lived among those who hate peace. I am a man of peace; but when I speak, they are for war.3

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.4

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more".5

A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"6

All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me. You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.7  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."8

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "I don't know," he replied. "Am I my brother's keeper?"9

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, "Let me take the speck out of your eye," when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?"10

Let my eyes overflow with tears night and day without ceasing; for my virgin daughter my people has suffered a grievous wound, a crushing blow. If I go into the country, I see those slain by the sword; if I go into the city, I see the ravages of famine. Both prophet and priest have gone to a land they know not.11

They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, O LORD; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. They say, "The LORD does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed."...The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.12

From their callous hearts comes iniquity; the evil conceits of their minds know no limits. They scoff and speak with malice; in their arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.13

I said, "You are gods"; you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.14

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever do not abandon the works of your hands.15

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you O Absalom, my son, my son!" Joab was told, "The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom. And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, "The king is grieving for his son." The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, "O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!"16

Stop bringing meaningless offerings!...They have become a burden to me; I am weary of  bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. You hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."17

Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sward against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.18

We pray that God blesses America, and every single nation on earth. We are all equally in dire need of His blessing and guidance. God is not a Republican or Democrat or Independent or any fan of our American sports teams for which some pray for His favor. No country can nationalize the agenda of the Kingdom of God and claim it as their own! The Christ proclaimed, "My kingdom is not of this world."

Those who suffer persecution and sacrifice are true witnesses to the coming Kingdom of God. We in "blessed" nations really do not understand their zeal and motive. Many of us care more about the "American Dream" and neglect Christ's proclamation that we who follow Him in His poverty, self-denial and humility will not be inheritors of material wealth as our personal reward, but rather that of spiritual poverty, persecution and hatred. Thus we will have nothing to lose or protect, for we will have stored in the heavenly realm "treasures that cannot decay or be stolen."

We love Him for that, for we servants are not greater than the Master. To participate in His passion and resurrection is the greatest blessing of all. War is hell, and in hell there is "wailing and gnashing of teeth." Christ's passion is heavenly and redemptive, "for where I go you will follow." Let us pray for the wisdom to recognize the many false prophets of today and to come, and to never follow where they go, however dire the consequences, however intense the persecution, however unpopular with the world we may become.
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 1.  Psalm 54: 1-3
 2. Psalm 55: 9-11
 3. Psalm 120:6-7
 4. Matthew 24: 6-13
 5. Matthew 2:16-18
 6. Luke 23:27-31
 7. Psalm 88:17-18
 8. Matthew 23:37-39
 9. Genesis 4:8-9
 10. Matthew 7:3-4
 11.Jeremiah 14:17-18
 12.Psalm 94:4-7, 11
 13. Psalm 73:7-10
 14. Psalm 82:6-7
 15. Psalm 138:7-8
 16. 2 Samuel 18:33; 19:1-4
 17. Isaiah 1:13a - 17
 18. Isaiah 2:3-5
 

John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
~ Education, Research and Advocacy
   in the Christian Faith ~
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