Peace by Larry W Peebles February 9, 2018 18.04
Winston Churchill found himself in quite a dilemma his first day on the job. As the brand new Prime Minister of Britain in May of 1940, he saw the army of Nazi Germany (6.5 million including reserves, and 18.5 million including the navy and air force) had conquered most of mainland Europe. News came the invasion of France had begun. Before the month was over, French and allied troops were pushed north toward the English Channel at Dunkirk. The French army suffered 270,000 devastating casualties. The Nazis had pinned Britain’s remaining army of 300,000 with their backs to the sea. Sunken ships in the waters around Dunkirk severely restricted the British Navy’s ability to rescue the trapped soldiers in time. Their big ships had only limited access to the beaches. The fall of France was imminent. The King of England was considering evacuating the royal family to Canada. Many in Britain’s Parliament, and in the Department of War, clamored for a negotiated peace with Germany. They hoped to save the lives of their troops and avoid a prolonged war with an army of superior numbers and equipment. Churchill had only days to decide the course of action. His decision would affect the world.
Churchill was not only a statesman, having held many seats in Parliament and in the British government, he was also a soldier. He had been an officer in the British Army in India and in WW I. He knew the value of a soldier’s life, and he had seen the horrors of war. He was more than capable of negotiating a peace with Germany. However, he also knew peace with Germany was not the answer. He could not imagine life in a Nazi-occupied Britain, where there would be no freedom.
Powerful and ruthless in war, the Nazis were experimenting with human lives to create a “master race.” Races they indiscriminately determined to be “inferior”, such as the Jews, were being callously exterminated in gas chambers. Churches were being taken over by the state, and crosses on the altar were replaced with pictures of Hitler, the Supreme Commander of the Army. He answered to no one. European countries that had attempted to make peace or declare their neutrality were given false assurances until Hitler was ready, then they were suddenly invaded without warning and conquered. Blitzkrieg, or lightening warfare, was the term given to their attack methods. Combining armor, infantry and air strikes, and presenting an ever-moving front, they often encircled an enemy in order to annihilate. Hitler was an evil monster who could not be appeased. To negotiate with him was to make a deal with the devil himself. Churchill said “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.”
During Britain’s darkest hour, Churchill called for a daring crossing of the English Channel to rescue the soldiers at Dunkirk. Civilians in over 800 boats of all sizes answered the call. Many made more than one trip across the water and back with their boat full of soldiers, including the wounded. Over 330,000 British, Dutch and French soldiers were rescued. Realizing his actions could either rally or dispirit the people, the King decided to remain in the country, and agreed to back Churchill’s position on the war.
Churchill inspired Parliament and a nation with his famous speech which declared the country would not surrender. He challenged the people to fight the evil Nazis “on the seas and oceans…we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds…in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” When dealing with something so evil, so very contrary to whatever is right and just in humankind, there is no making peace with the enemy. Better to die than to submit to its captivity.
Hezekiah faced a similar situation long before Churchill did. In Isaiah Chapters 36 and 37, the Bible gives the story of King Hezekiah and Jerusalem threatened by Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, who had already taken all the fortified cities of Judah. Military historians label Assyria as the first superpower of the ancient world, and favorably compare their military tactics to the Germans of WWII. They employed a large well-trained, full-time paid army, fully equipped with metal weapons. Brutality and savagery were effectively used as psychological weapons to instill fear in the hearts of their enemy. Sturdy, four-horse chariots carrying four men struck like lightening and pierced holes in the front lines. They were virtually unstoppable. The infantry carried huge shields, and were even trained to cross water by breathing from air-filled leather bags. They had taken the practice of war to a new level.
Sennacherib’s representative, Rabshaken, had promised 2,000 horses to the men walled up in Jerusalem if they would surrender. Within the hearing of everyone in the city, he had belittled Hezekiah by challenging that they did not have the men to put on the 2,000 horses. Further, he said they had no hope that their God would help them, because their God had not stopped the Assyrians to this point. In Isaiah 36:16, he went on to say that the people should not listen to their own King Hezekiah; rather, they should surrender to him, and everyone would “eat from his own vine, and his own fig tree, and drink the waters of his own cistern.” It sounded so good. There was no need to fight. If everyone would just surrender, there could be peace.
Hezekiah did not fall for the sweet sound of the peace offered. He would not surrender. He knew of the Assyrians’ brutal treatment of its captives. Instead, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth (a sign of repentance), and went to the house of the Lord to seek a word from the Lord. That word came from the prophet Isaiah. He sent word to Hezekiah in 37:6-7- “Do not be afraid of the words which you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria [Rabshaken] have blasphemed me. Surely I will send a spirit upon him, and he shall hear a rumor and return to his own land; and I will cause him to fall by the sword in his own hand.” Hezekiah then prayed (verses 16-20), recounting to God the situation and the way the Assyrians had insulted God, ending with-“Now therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord, You alone.”
Isaiah recorded God’s answer to the prayer in verses 22-35. In verse 29, God said- “I will put my hook in your nose (Sennacherib) and my bridle in your lips, and I will turn you back by the way which you came.” The angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrians in their camp that night (v.36), and the next morning Sennacherib went away. He returned to Nineveh, where his two sons killed him with the sword.
Here are seven points to take away from the stories of Hezekiah and Churchill:
- Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and true peace comes from Him. Isaiah 9:6. As the “angel of the Lord”, He will fight for us.
- There is a difference between worldly peace, and spiritual or inner peace. Romans 8:6, Isaiah 26:3.
- The Word of God encourages us that we are to do our part so that if possible, we are to live peaceably with all men. Romans 12:18.
- The Word of God instructs us to resist the devil. We are to submit to God, but resist the devil (James 4:7). Resist means to withstand, strive against, or oppose in some manner. Peace does not mean the absence of war. There are certain times and certain evil enemies where battle is required before peace can come.
- The biggest army does not always win the peace. God cares about righteousness and justice.
- Prayer is effective for peace. Philippians 4:6-7- “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
- We are not to be afraid of the battle. In John 14:27, Jesus said- “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” This suggests we can call on Him to control our fears. Colossians 3:15 says we should “let the peace of God rule in your [our] hearts.” The story of King Jehoshaphat of Judah in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20 is full of encouragement on this point.
There is evil in the world today which must be defeated. There is no making peace with these forces. Wherever innocent lives are taken, human rights are taken, or corruption exists in government, we are to resist. These are the direct product of the work of the devil in the world, and we are to pray, withstand, strive against and oppose in some manner. The battle is the Lord’s. When the victory is ours, peace will come. 1 Peter 3:12 says- “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous. And His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” We are not assured of a world without evil, and to the extent there is evil in the world, we may not find world peace. We are assured we can resist evil, yet still have the peace that comes from God.