Sunday, June 10, 2007

Listening to History on Flag Day 2007

06/10/2007 LANGHORNE, Penn. This morning as I listened to the pastor teach us about the meaning of prayer and what it means to pray in the will of God something very strong came to my heart and mind. It was the question, “What is God’s will for our country as it concerns the war in Iraq?” Then I remembered a phrase I often use, borrowed from someone many years ago, “History repeats itself. It has to. Nobody listens.” What history is repeating itself in Iraq that maybe God wants us to listen to that maybe we do not want to hear? Is it the history of the Vietnam War or is it a history much further back in time?

Go out and buy yourself a map of Iraq. They sell them in the bookstores. There is always at least one in stock. Then start looking at the towns and cities and especially the historical sites. Not too far from the Persian Gulf , about a third of the way up the road from Basrah to Baghdad is the city of An Nasiriyah. You have heard of this place in the news. If you have a map that shows historical sites, look just southwest of the city. You will find Ur. This is the same Ur of the Chaldees where Abraham from the Bible was called by God to go to the promised land that we know as Israel.

Now go further up the road, closer to Baghdad. You will find three towns. An Najaf is the southern most one of the three. Then there is Al Hillah, and west of that town is Karbala. Among coalition forces, the area between them has acquired the name, “Triangle of Death.” There have been many Iraqi deaths in this area, especially in Al Hillah. But also this area is where two American soldiers were kidnapped in May of 2006 and were later found dead and mutilated. Also, on May 12th of this year, a month ago, three American soldiers were taken captive. One was found dead and the other two are still missing.

Look at your map. Just north of Al Hillah is where the city of Babylon once stood. If you remember your Sunday school lessons, this is where Daniel was in the lions den. It is also where Shadrach, Mishack, and Abednego were put into the fiery furnace and came out without even the smell of smoke on their clothes.

Now go way up the road from Baghdad to the northern city of Mosul. This is one of the main cities for the Kurdish part of Iraq. Remember, there are three major people groups in Iraq. The Kurds are in the north. The Shia are in the southeast. The Sunni are in the southwest. Now look just north of Mosul on your map. You will find what is left of Ninevah. In the Bible, Jonah was told by God to go to Ninevah and tell the people to repent. Jonah went the opposite direction and ended up in the belly of a whale. Then when Jonah repented and God saved him from the whale, he went to Ninevah and did what God told him to do. The people repented.

In the context of these stories from the Bible, how important do you think the country of Iraq is to God? What does God want us to learn from this history and the history that is unfolding even now with our military in harms way? Are we to run like Jonah did, only to come back later and do what we were supposed to do in the first place? Also, what will be our whale if we go in the opposite direction. Who should we fear more, the God of Abraham Who sent us His Son Jesus Christ to die for us, or the terrorists who would like to see us all dead? Do we fear more the lions of our age or the God Who created them as well as the sheep of His pasture? Do we fear more the fiery furnace, the burning caldron of war, or do we listen to the God who promised never to leave us nor forsake us?

Does speaking about the war in this way mean that this writer is a war monger? General Douglas MacArthur once said of those who wear the uniform, “This does not mean that you are war mongers. On the contrary, the soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our minds ring the ominous words of Plato: ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’”

There are more difficult days ahead for our country, and especially those who wear the uniform which includes their families as well. But what are we to do? When peace came in World War II there were those in uniform who stayed in Europe and in the Far East to maintain that peace. After the armistice was signed in Korea there were those in uniform who stayed to maintain that peace. The military unit that my Uncle Lou served with in that war is still doing duty in South Korea and part of that unit is also serving in Iraq. It seems therefore that once the peace has been established leaving Americans there maintains that peace. But when we leave, as we did in Vietnam, disaster strikes for the people groups that are left to take care of themselves. Thus we had the Killing Fields of Cambodia where two million people were killed by those in power after the war. There were also many who were killed by Saddam Hussein after the first Iraq War. We tend to forget that.

Let me close by going back to the beginning of these few words written today. The words came because the pastor today was teaches us the importance of praying in the will of God. We need to pray about this war on a daily basis. We need to honestly seek the will of God. Even those who do not practice some kind of religion pray in certain circumstances. Should not we who do practice religion pray even more, especially about this situation? Please keep this in mind as you celebrate Flag Day this June 14th.

God Bless Ya'll real good,