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Finding refuge in a world at war by Rick Duncan
War tempts us to worry.
On Wednesday evening, President Bush told our nation, “Now that conflict has come, the only way to limit its duration is to apply decisive force.” The president promised “a broad and concerted campaign” but warned that it “could be longer and more difficult than some predict.”
We worry about people we love who are serving in the military. We have a list of members and attenders of CVCC and sons and daughters and relatives of CVCCers on our prayer request sheet each week. Proud of them? Yes! But truly concerned. Yesterday, some of our troops were intentionally hit with grenades by one of own soldiers. In this new world, the enemy is not only out there, but he’s here. Will our loved ones return home alive and well and soon?
War tempts us to worry.
We worry because we read reports that with our attack on Iraq Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations have intensified their efforts to recruit young Muslim men. They are tapping into their rising anger about this war with Iraq. Could it be that a new generation of terrorists committed to attacks in our nation are now being identified and groomed? We worry about the kind of world we and our children will be living in. Will we be victims of a terrorist attack? Will our young children have to fight in a war to defend our nation?
War tempts us to worry. But every Christ-follower can find a place of safety, a place of rest, a place of protection, a place of shelter… even in the thick of the battle.
Finding refuge in a world at war
Text: Psalm 2, p. 393
This is one of the Psalms that describes Jesus way before He was even born. It’s prophecy. Verses in Acts 4 and Hebrews 1 explicitly state that this psalm refers to Christ. But that’s not all. This chapter describes how a person can have peace when the world is at war. Let’s read how the psalm begins.
1 Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?
Clearly, this is a psalm that can describe a world at war.
Now, let’s consider how the psalm ends.
12b How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
In the thick of a world at war, God is saying that our souls can be at rest. Let’s see how by breaking down this psalm verse by verse.
To find refuge in a world at war, I must …
I. … know the truth.
We have to learn to read the paper and watch the news from a biblical perspective. The lens through which we look at the world can’t be CNN’s lens or the Plain Dealer’s lens. We must not look at the world through the eyes of Rush Limbaugh or Oprah or Peter Jennings. We interpret the events of the world from a biblical perspective. We are Bible people.
Three truths to see:
a rebellious world. vv. 1-3
The first picture we see is this: From the very beginning of time, people and nations have: rebelled against God and His plan.
1 Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?
“The nations in an uproar…” Surely this describes where we find ourselves. France and Germany stand in opposition to this invasion. The radical Muslims are furious. And on the other side of the world, North Korea is a threat to peace. “The nations in an uproar…”
Even our own nation is in an uproar. Participants in anti-war rallies wave signs that say, “Win without war” and “Bush and Blair – what a pair.” People that support were yesterday screaming at the anti-war protesters, “Idiots, idiots, idiots!” You can join the Center of Conscience and War, an anti-war group, or Patriots for the Defense of America.
The nations are in an uproar. Why? Verse 2 gives the answer.
2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,
This verse is referring to Jesus as the Anointed One. The nations are in an uproar because they refuse to submit to Jesus. They have their own agenda. It’s not God’s agenda. They stand against Him. They rebel against Jesus Christ. They did it when this Psalm was written. They do it today. And that includes Iraq… and even the USA. Just look at the materialism and worldliness and selfishness of our nation. Our country is not deeply spiritual. We have our own agenda. A generation ago, Francis Schaffer said that our agenda is personal peace and affluence. That’s still true.
We shouldn’t be surprised that nations don’t submit to Christ. Jesus said, “Now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well” (John 15:24). How do the nations show opposition to Christ? Look at verse 3.
3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!”
The nations oppose the LORD because they don’t want the restraints and obligations that come when they enter into a real relationship with Jesus. We don’t want to be bound with God’s rules and regulations. We want to do what we want to do!
It is a malicious rebellion. They roar.
It is a strategic rebellion. They devise.
It is stubborn rebellion. They take their stand.
It is a joint rebellion. They take counsel together.
They have conspired together with one mind; against You do they make a covenant.
But look again at verse 1. The rebellion is a vain thing. When the nations have done their worst, Christ will still have His church in the world. And the church will be triumphant. Why? It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it!
Truth #1 to see: a rebellious world.
a sovereign LORD. vv. 4-5
This truth is harder to see. This one requires faith. Look at verse 4…
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, the LORD scoffs at them.
God is sitting and scoffing! God is on the throne. This is not the first war He’s seen! It’s not the first time that nations have rebelled against Him. “You have plans to stop My purposes? You take your stand against Me? That’s funny!”
He sits there, at rest, out of the reach of all the impotent agendas of the nations. There He sits as Judge over all the world. He’s perfectly aware that all His own purposes and plans, in spite of all opposition, will be accomplished. Psalm 29:10 says, “He sits as King forever.” All the uproar in the nations doesn’t threaten His plan.
Behold, they[the nations] belch forth with their mouth; swords are in their lips, for they say, “Who hears?” But You, O LORD, laugh at them; You scoff at all the nations.
Psalm 59:7, 8
God sits! With all earth in rebellion, God remains seated. He has set in process a plan that cannot fail. While there is wildness on the earth, there is wonderful calm in heaven. The contrast in the psalm is startling. And it can give us great assurance. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
But even though God sits and laughs, He is not a distant, silent, unconcerned spectator. How does He act? He speaks.
5 Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury, saying,
You see Him responding with rebuke and anger. He judges nations. How? Biblical history teaches that He judges nations through other nations. He judged the wickedness of the Canaanites by sending the Israelites to take the Promised Land. Later, He judged the wickedness of the Israelites by sending Babylon to carry them to captivity. God judges nations through nations.
Question: Is the US right to seek to defeat the regime of Saddam Hussein? Personally, I think so! If even a fraction of what we read about Saddam is true, he is a murderer who should have been brought to justice long ago. And the oppressed Iraqi people should have been liberated long ago. It seems to me that the US government is fulfilling the function that God gives to government in Romans 13:13, 14.
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.
Romans 13:13, 14
But ultimately, our first loyalty is to the kingdom of God. Don’t confuse your loyalty to the US with your loyalty to the Kingdom of God. He may be speaking in His anger to Iraq through this war. Iraq needs to repent. But let’s not forget that most godly leaders would say that God is speaking to America, too, through the terrorism we face and have faced. America, too, needs to repent.
God sets up kings and then brings them down. He is in control. This is why He can laugh at the maneuvering of kings and presidents and prime ministers and dictators and nations.
Truth #2 to see: a sovereign LORD.
a victorious King. vv. 6-9
What is the sovereign LORD seeking to accomplish? Let’s keep reading.
6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.”
God the Father calls Jesus, God the Son, his King because Jesus was installed by Him. And in verse 7, we hear from this anointed King, from Christ Himself.
7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD; He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.
The kingdom of Christ is founded upon a decree, an eternal decree, of God the Father. What’s the sovereign decree? What’s God’s plan for His Son? Keep reading. Verse 8 is the heart of the passage. God the Son is quoting God the Father. He’s telling us what the Father has asked Him to pray.
8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession.
In verse 8, we see the plan to have Jesus’ Name spread to the ends of the earth. His government is to be universal. Those in the uttermost parts of the earth will be His possession and He will have multitudes of willing loyal subjects. But what about those who will not follow Christ and become His possession? Look at verse 9.
9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.’ ”
Those that will not bow will break. Bow or break! We must take comfort from verse 8 and take warning from verse 9. We must ask God to make the kingdom of Christ grow. I love the triumphant verse in Revelation 11.
The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, Rev. 11:15.
Truth #3 to see: a victorious King.
This is the lens through which to look at the events taking place in the world. There is a rebellious world. But God is sovereign even in the midst of the rebellion. He is working out His plan, a plan that will ultimately result in Jesus taking possession over men and women and boys and girls. And one day, there will be a rule and reign of Christ. And there will be no war! His truth is marching on!
To find refuge in a world at war, I must know the truth.
We come now to the answer to the “So what?” question. OK. I see a rebellious world, a sovereign LORD, and a victorious king. So what?
II. … serve the LORD. vv. 10-11
10 Now, therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth.
11 Worship the Lord with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.
The word “worship” here could be translated “serve.” We are commanded to serve the Lord. And why should we serve? It’s because God is worthy of our reverence and respect.
Many Christ-followers today have lost the attitude of a healthy fear and deep respect for the Lord.
Henry Blackaby in his book “The Man God Uses,” writes:
The presence of God in His people put fear in the nations surrounding them. The nations were not afraid of the Israelites. They were afraid of the God of the Israelites.
How many people tremble before the God that churches serve in their communities? The fear of God will not come upon the people outside the church before it comes upon the people inside the church. Every time anyone in the Bible of any significance met God, great fear, awe, and trembling came upon them.
In Jeremiah 5:22 God says, “Should you not fear me? Declares the Lord. Should you not tremble in my presence?” Obviously, the person who doesn’t know Christ has much to fear because of his destination. But as Christ-followers, we need to approach God with trembling and with awe and respect. We need to repent of the casualness with which we approach God.
When we reverence Him, we will serve Him.
To find refuge in a world at war, I must serve the LORD.
III. … kiss the Son. v. 12a
12a Do homage to the Son…
Do homage to the Son. Some versions say, “Kiss the Son.” God is looking for people who will show affection to Jesus – who have warm thoughts about Christ.
The Scripture says to “Kiss the Son”. The idea of kissing the Son carries the idea of submission. When we kiss the Son, we submit to Him. When people meet royalty, sometimes they will bow or curtsy. In some societies, they will even kiss their feet or kiss the ground in front of them. This kind of kiss signified an attitude of surrender to a higher authority.
As we kiss the Son in a sense of surrender. He kisses us with a kiss: of salvation, of healing, of forgiveness and acceptance.
Why should I have such an affection for the Son? I look at the cross and I see how much He loves me. And my heart melts.
Now, look at what happens if we don’t kiss the Son.
12b … that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled.
If I have no affection for Christ, He’s angry and I perish. There’s a sense of urgency about this. His wrath may soon be kindled? How can we have cold, hard hearts toward Jesus once we see how much He loves us? If the end comes soon and I have a cold, heard heart – no affection for Christ – then I’ll experience His wrath.
Kiss the son!
This is what we must have as our goal as a people. Not peace and affluence. But that men and women and boys and girls of all nations will kiss the Son!
To find refuge in a world at war, I must kiss the Son.
IV. … claim my blessing. v. 12b
12b How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
To be blessed. I want that! You do, too! What’s it take to get that blessing? We must take refuge in the Lord.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear…
Psalm 46:1, 2a
He’s a hiding place. When I start to worry – when I am afraid – I talk to God. I take my fears to Him. I trust His plan for me.
What if the worst happens? What if someone I love dies in the war? What is terrorism strikes close to home and someone I know dies? What if I die? None of that changes the truth at the end of this Psalm. “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”
I was reading the New York Times on Thursday. An article talked about messages given in churches in 1776, the first year our forefathers fought for our freedom in the Revolutionary War. John Rogers, a Presbyterian pastor in Manhattan, said to his listeners who could one day lost their lives in the conflict, “In death, you will be translated to the world where there never will be the scourge of war, not the sad spectacle of garments soaked in blood.”
We now have an office in our nation called The Office of Homeland Security. I like the work they are doing. I want my family and friends to live securely – in safety. Homeland security. We need it.
But think with me. For people who serve the Lord and kiss the Son, this world really isn’t our home. Our home is in heaven. And it’s already secure. Blesses are all who take refuge in Him.
To find refuge in a world at war, I must claim my blessing.
Now, once I find refuge, what happens? I can do more than just look out for number 1. I can care for others. I can love because I’m not worried about me, myself, and mine. How should we respond to others during war? What’s the Christ-follower’s response? Pastor Rick Warren suggests four things. I want to pass them along to you.
1. Pray. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, "First of all pray for kings and all others who are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceful life." Pray for our leaders. They make the decisions. Pray for the president, pray for the generals, pray for the congress. Pray for leaders. And notice the benefit of praying for your leaders: You’ll end up living quiet and peaceful lives. We’re to pray for leaders.
We ought to pray for our soldiers, the men and women who are over there. The Bible says we also ought to pray for our enemies. In Matthew 5:44, we read, “Pray for those who hurt you and despitefully use you and persecute you." We ought to pray that they will have a change of heart.
2. Trust. Trust God in all situations. The Bible says "The Lord is my light and salvation. Whom shall I fear? Though an army besiege me and war break out against me, even then I will be confident." While we pray for our soldiers, we also accept the fact in reality when war happens, there are casualties. There will be people who lose their lives. So we’re to pray and trust God realizing that God can be counted on, that God is in control, that God knows what He’s doing, and that God will carry you through whatever situation you face.
We have many families in our church whose husbands, fathers, brothers, sons are in conflict right now. We have 35 names on our weekly prayer list – name of members and attenders and sons and daughters and relatives of CVCCers. I want to say to those of you who have relatives there, God is with you. He will help you face whatever the future brings. So we pray and we trust God.
3. Seek peace. What does it mean to seek peace? "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it." Seek peace means do whatever you can to bring about peace. That’s the mark of a Christian. "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the sons of God."
Whether you feel that our leaders have waited long enough or not before they started into war I think we’d all agree that during the last few months, there have been a lot of attempts to make peace and they saw war only as the last resort.
William Temple once said: "We Christians in war are called to the hardest task of all -- to fight without hatred, to resist without bitterness and in the end if God so grants it, triumph without vindictiveness." We seek peace.
4. Support. The Bible says "Carry each other’s burdens and fulfill the law of Christ." In a crisis, this is when the church really shows itself as a family. We are to be a family, an extended family, an extended network of support for those lives that are influenced and affected by this war. We need to support the soldiers.
We need to support the families of our soldiers and have prayer meetings and be an encouragement to them. If you’re not in a small group, I encourage you -- get in a small group. You need one especially in a time of international crisis like this. I ask all of our groups this week to pray specifically for peace in Iraq and that God’s will be done.
Our church supports the work of the International Mission Board. Working in cooperation with the Baptist Society of Jordan, our missionaries on March 19 distributed 30,000 diapers, formula for 1,000 babies and blankets in camps set up along the Iraq/Jordan border to help the Iraqis whop are fleeing the country. The workers also plan to address hunger, nutritional and medical needs as the situation continues to unfold, the worker said.
Supporting the needs of Iraq’s people reflects God’s love for them. God loves the people of Iraq -- like He loves all peoples -- with all His heart, and we must share that love. Our hearts are with the people of Iraq, the Arab majority as well as minorities like the Kurds. They have suffered for many years and the future will not be easy. We pray that God will use the uncertainty of a time like this to help them understand the certainty of His love for them.
And so, I’m calling on all of you to join in prayer for the peoples of Iraq, that this time of turmoil and uncertainty might cause them to seek God. We will be asking you to give generously to relief efforts that will help Iraqis rebuild their lives and country. And maybe you can give yourself for work in the region -- as living examples of God’s love for the Iraqi people -- when the opportunity arises.
Send you gift to Iraq Response, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230-0767. Make checks payable to International Mission Board and designate "Iraq Response - General Relief." Every dollar given will go 100 percent to relief ministries.
Pray. Trust. Seek peace. Support. This is what we can do when we find refuge in a world at war. Finding refuge really comes when we find a person – or, rather, when we are found by Him. Refuge comes from a relationship with Jesus. How blessed are those who take refuge in Him.