“Mom, why do we have war?” My son likes to pick random times to ask heavy questions. This particular selection was in the car on the way to somewhere and I had just finished pacifying his two-year old sister with a snack that may have been left in the car from the day before. “Because people are selfish,” was the only answer I could come up with.
“Does that mean you were selfish when you were a soldier?”
Sigh. I answered yes as the short version and resolved to think more on this later. I hoped Zechariah would offer some better alternatives.
“The word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus says the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: ‘Lo, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples round about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it.” (Zechariah 12:1-3)
“On that day,’ says the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God. On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the people round about, while Jerusalem shall still be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 12:4-6)
Look out, people. Jerusalem is about to kick some serious butt. As I was reading this chapter, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between Jerusalem and America. We are arguably the strongest military nation in the world. Anybody who comes up against us is asking for trouble. Here we are…a “blazing pot in the midst of wood”…taking out people to the left and right of us. My dad was a volunteer firefighter when I was a kid and he knew better than anyone how unpredictable fire can be. Sort of like the time after 9/11 when we went to war with Afghanistan and took out an Iraqi dictator instead. As a veteran, I remember when this happened. I remember saying to a military friend, “What does Iraq have to do with it? I thought we were going to find Osama Bin Laden.” We both just shrugged and went about our day because in the end, we were going to have to follow orders no matter what. The success of our nation rests upon the ability of soldiers to do their jobs and follow orders. Soldiers submit to the commanders over them and the commanders submit to the people over them and so forth. Many Christians believe we are blessed by God and this is why we are so successful. The idea is staggering in its arrogance. What a far cry from the message of the Gospel—which is to love our neighbor and to submit to them. But for many contemporary Christians, the thought of submission is equated with weakness. I would argue it takes far more strength to submit than it does to fight back. Christ is the perfect example.
“And the Lord will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. On that day the Lord will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, at their head. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” (Zechariah 12:7-9)
The Lord will give victory to Jerusalem and Judah. Even the weakest person will be made king. Jerusalem can rest easy in its security because the Lord will take care of them.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrim’mon in the plain of Megid’do. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shim’e-ites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.” (Zechariah 12: 10-14)
Victory has been given to Jerusalem. They have conquered the nations. But now, by pouring out his Spirit, the Lord has opened their heart to his teaching. In doing so, he opened their eyes to the evil they committed in the name of victory and security. As they look upon “him whom they have pierced, they…mourn for him”. The totality and the reality hits them hard. And they weep for their actions. God made them victorious in order to put them to shame!
What a contrast to our modern day society! The Spirit has not opened our eyes! Instead of weeping for our actions, collectively we feel absolutely justified anytime we go to war with someone else. The irony is that we are often the reason that other nations come against us but we don’t understand this because we are ignorant of the world outside of our own bubble. Many of the soldiers I worked with or have met later understand. They are the ones who are grieving for their actions because they have seen the reality of what we have done firsthand. This is why so many veterans come back with post traumatic stress disorder. The reality of war and its price is too much to bear. But they are the ones bearing the costs—not the politicians and the corporations who send them there. The soldiers who follow the orders and do their jobs are the ones suffering and so are their families. They are the ones weeping…but we as a collective are too busy fist bumping our nationalism to pay attention or to even care. We the people have never been forced to suffer and so we don’t get it. We think that victory is our due as a God-blessed country. It bears repeating—the arrogance is staggering.
I recently saw a meme about Christians. It said something about how being a Christian meant defending freedom. There was a time when I would have agreed with it. But now I understand the difference between the example Christ set and nationalism. Nationalism is what put Christ on the cross. People wanted a conquering hero—not someone who preached love and mercy to the outsiders. It is the same with modern day Christianity—we want to believe that Christ is behind our “patriotism” when the reality of the Gospel is that Christ preached submission. It’s not a very successful or popular defense strategy. But there you have it.