www.christdeaf.org/bible
Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland

Justice and Mercy


This Bible study was originally prepared for Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf, Silver Spring, Maryland, a month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  The original purpose of the study was to examine what the Bible had to say about the pending American war against Afghanistan.  However, the study now serves a broader purpose by its examination of the role of government in the application of principles of justice and mercy.   

Does the Bible say anything that applies to America’s response to the September 11 terrorist attack, and our nation’s current military action against Afghanistan? What does the Bible say about war?

Bible verses often quoted in defense of pacifism:

"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39) "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Matthew 5:43-44) "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37) Do these verses teach that war is wrong? Does the Bible permit us to apply these verses to the question of military action?

First, a little background...

 
It is important to understand the Bible’s principles of JUSTICE and MERCY as they apply to
        (A) Our individual relationship with God.
        (B) Individual relationships between people.
        (C) Civil law (criminal justice).
        (D) Relationships between nations.

We must also be aware of how the principles of Justice and Mercy are applied differently in each of these for areas.

Follow a review of the principles of Justice and Mercy, we will then look specifically at what the Bible says about war, and America's response to the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. (Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.)

Also see several Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) documents on Christian Citizenship and Church-State relations at http://lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=465

You may also download, edit, and print this document for your own study or for teaching.


JUSTICE and MERCY


Justice means we get what we deserve.

Mercy means we don’t get the punishment that we deserve.

Grace means we get blessings that we don’t deserve.


 

When an offense has been committed, justice demands
            (1) punishment and
            (2) restitution

According to the Bible, the responsibility for justice is in the hands of those who are in authority: God, parents, government, employers.


(A)
Justice and Mercy in our relationship to God

In our relationship to God, we are guilty of rebellion against God’s authority. Justice demands that God must punish us eternally, because we can never make restitution for the damage our sin has caused.

Before the 5th Commandment comes the 1st Commandment:

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me." (Ex. 20:3)

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," (Romans 3:23)

"All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6)

"The soul who sins is the one who will die." (Ezekiel 18:20)

"The wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23)


Mercy in God’s relationship with us is motivated by God’s great love for all people. The verb most used to demonstrate mercy is forgive.

God hates sin, but He loves the sinner.

God is just and holy. He must punish sin.

God is loving and merciful. He desires to forgive our sin.

How can He do both?

God’s justice and mercy are both satisfied in Jesus. It was God’s justice that nailed Jesus to the cross in our place. It was God’s mercy that motivated our Lord to take the guilt of our sin, and to take the punishment for our sin, upon Himself.

Now that God’s justice is fully satisfied, He declares us "Not Guilty!" We are forgiven. He gives us full rights and privileges as His own children.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God [JUSTICE], and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus [MERCY]. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. (Romans 3:22-25)

For the wages of sin is death [JUSTICE], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord [MERCY]. (Romans 6:23)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalm 51:1-2)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Christ died for all people (2 Corinthians 5:15). So now God offers His grace and mercy to all people. Those who will admit their need for forgiveness and welcome God’s gift with faith will receive the benefits of His grace and mercy. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:5-7) God’s forgiveness spares us from the eternal punishment our sin deserves. This, however, does not necessarily relieve us of the consequences of our sin.

Example: King David committed adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). God sent the prophet Nathan to rebuke David (2 Samuel 12). David confessed and repented (see Psalm 51).

Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (2 Samuel 12:13-14) Even though God forgave David, God would allow the death of the baby as a consequence of the sin, because David had damaged God’s reputation among the other nations. The God of Israel was known to be a God of justice, integrity, and virtue . The pagan nations were watching to see of Israel’s God would respond to David’s violation of His integrity and virtue with appropriate justice.

There were other far more serious consequences for David because of his sin. His three chief sins had been: lust, deception, and murder. Watch how those three sins came back against him for the rest of his life, precisely as Nathan predicted (2 Samuel 12:10-12).

One of David’s sons raped his half-sister, David’s daughter. David was failed to deal justly with his son, so the daughter’s full brother took revenge on his half-brother and killed him. Both boys used deception against their father David in order to commit their crimes. (2 Samuel 13)

David failed to deal justly with his second son, who finally deceived the whole nation. That son died in battle, leading national rebellion against his father David. (2 Samuel 15-18)

David had received forgiveness for his adultery and murder. But his moral failure damaged his own authority, preventing him from being able to act justly with the offenses of those who were under his authority. And his sin set into motion events that were a constant reminder of what he had done.

O Lord our God,... you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds. (Psalm 99:8)



(B)
Justice and Mercy
in our relationships with other people

As Justice and Mercy are balancing principles in God's relationship with us, so also we must reflect the character of God in our relationship with other people.

In our individual relationships with other people, justice demands that we respect and protect other people’s...

God-given authority ("Honor your father and mother" - 4th Commandment)

Life ("Thou shalt not kill [murder]" - 5th Commandment)

Sexual purity ("Thou shalt not commit adultery" - 6th Commandment)

Property ("Thou shalt not steal" - 7th Commandment)

Reputation ("Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor" - 8th Commandment)

Justice demands that we... Pay our debts on time (see Proverbs 3:27-28).

Pay employees their full wages on time (see Deuteronomy 25:15).

Act and speak honestly, especially in business (see Proverbs 11:1; 12:22).

Justice demands that when we have done something wrong, we confess our offenses and we make full restitution (see Matthew 5:23-25).

However, when someone has committed an offense against us, God permits us to seek justice only through appropriate authority. In criminal cases, we appeal to civil authority (police, courts, DA, etc.). We may execute justice only if we have been given the authority. Revenge is not allowed.

If you are the one in authority, and you must dispense justice for an offense for one who is under your authority, your choice of justice for the offense is guided by

(1) the limitations of your position and limits imposed on you by those who are in authority over you (John 18:31),

(2) the Biblical principle that the punishment must be appropriate to the offense (see Exodus 21:23-25)

(3) the offender be given the opportunity (or be required) to make restitution (see Exodus 22).
 

As Christians, God calls us not to be eager in seeking justice against other people, but rather we are to seek justice on behalf of others, especially for those who have suffered injustice. Our exercise of justice in our personal relationships is guided by principles of mercy. Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:12-13)

"...Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us...." (The Lord’s Prayer, Luke 11:4)

When someone has wronged us, we may choose to seek justice and restitution, not out of revenge, but for the sake of the restoration and instruction of the offender.

Practically applied, we can only legitimately give forgiveness to the repentant or the ignorant. Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful steward illustrates this principle (Matthew 18:23-35).

In our relationships with other people, forgiveness is emotionally releasing an offender to God, so that God is responsible for dealing justly (or mercifully, if the offender repents) with that person. We give up our desire for revenge.

Another form of individual mercy described in the Bible is an act or gift of charity to others in need... even if they "don’t deserve it."

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45)


(C)
Justice and Mercy in Civil Government

The affairs of government are more guided by principles of justice than of mercy. The Bible says that the purpose of Government is to execute civil justice:

"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." (Romans 13:1-5)

The Bible’s guiding principles for civil justice are

(1) conviction may be made based only on solid evidence:

 
(a) a thief has stolen property in his possession (Exodus 22), or

(b) there are two or more witnesses (Num. 25:30; Deut. 15:19; Mark 14:57-59)


(2) the punishment is appropriate for the offense,
    the punishment must be limited to the severity of the offense, and if possible
    the punishment includes restitution to the victim.

 
(a) This is the purpose of the often misquoted, "an eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth." (Exodus 21:23-25)

(b) For the offense of murder, the appropriate sentence is the death penalty (Numbers 35:29-30)

(c) If the crime involves theft or destruction of property, the punishment is either:

(d) The punishment for fraud and perjury is to "do to him as he intended to do to his brother" (Deut. 19:16-19). Mercy in criminal law is shown only when a pardon is issued to a convicted criminal when (1) it is later discovered that the convicted person was really not guilty, and the pardon merely corrects a prior injustice, or

(2) the convicted person has repented, is truly transformed, and has proven his repentance and transformation over a long period of time.

The Bible warns us to be very careful and consistent in the application of justice in criminal law. One of the purposes of justice is to instruct the society: The rest of the people will hear of this [crime and punishment] and be afraid, and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. (Deuteronomy 19:20) The word "forgiveness" is not in the government’s vocabulary.

Mercy can be shown in a government’s administrative business, when those in authority intervene for the financial protection of people in hardship situations outside their control (e.g. giving an extension to pay bills; bankruptcy protection). This kind of mercy does not remove justice. It only lessens it or delays it. (Luke 18:2-8)

Prolonged government sponsored welfare, as we have it today as an expression mercy, is not in the Bible. Rather, under Hebrew moral and civil law, individuals whom God had blessed with plenty were to look after the needs of the poor. And the poor were not exempt from work.

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. (Leviticus 19:9-10) The Old Testament story of Ruth is an illustration of this welfare law put into practice.

The Old Testament law also had a unique version of our modern day bankruptcy laws:

At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts. This is how it is to be done: Every creditor shall cancel the loan he has made to his fellow Israelite. He shall not require payment from his fellow Israelite or brother, because the Lord's time for canceling debts has been proclaimed... Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. If a fellow Hebrew, a man or a woman, sells himself to you and serves you six years, in the seventh year you must let him go free. And when you release him, do not send him away empty-handed. Supply him liberally from your flock, your threshing floor and your winepress. Give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. (Deuteronomy 15:1-15) The New Testament church struggled with the issue of welfare for widows in need (Acts 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:3-16). But they saw welfare first the responsibility of family members of those in need, and second as the responsibility of Christians in the fellowship of the church, and not the responsibility of government.
 

An important question regarding the Government's application of justice, whether it is in criminal law, or in war is about the Commandment: "Thou Shalt Not Kill" (Exodus 20:13)? Does this Commandment prohibit the State from killing people in executions and in war?

Literally the Hebrew text says: "No murder!" The word used here is never used to describe killing in battle. The Bible distinguishes between killing caused by...

homicide
accident
negligence
fighting between two people
personal revenge
capital punishment
war
The Bible also spells out precise consequences to people who cause death by homicide, negligence, fighting, and personal revenge. The consequences may (but not always) include capital punishment.
 



(D)
Justice and Mercy
in relations between nations

As with any affairs of government, relationships between nations are more guided by principles of justice rather than mercy. Because relations between nations is the responsibility of government, similar principles of justice apply in international relations as they do in Civil Law.

The Bible offers only limited counsel on international relations. However, the Bible gives many specific examples of how God guided the relationships between nations. The Bible also gives examples of offenses in international relations.

We must take great care in interpreting general principles from Old Testament battle stories. First, we must remember the difference between the mere descriptions of what people did, and the commandsof God which represent His timeless universal principles. Just because someone in the Bible did something, that does not mean what they did was right. We must look at the counsel of the entire Scriptures.

Second, we must remember that in God’s dealings with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, there was much more involved than general principles of international relations. There were important spiritual and moral issues involved, as we shall see further in this study.

The Bible does not have general principles for the application of mercy in international relations. However, there is one interesting story which illustrates undeserved mercy for the army of an aggressor nation and God’s invisible protection for a nation under attack (2 Kings 6:8-23). The whole long story is fascinating, but the point of mercy is this:

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, "Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?"

"Do not kill them," he answered. "Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master."

So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory. (2 Kings 6:21-23)

If we can glean a principle from this story which we can apply to the conduct of war, it is the humane treatment of prisoners of war.

In modern history, we found an opportunity to apply this principle in World War II, not only in our care for POWs, but we also applied it in our care for our former enemy nations (the Marshal Plan). Our mission in the WW2 was not to seek revenge against our enemies, Germany, Italy, and Japan, but to get them to stop their aggression, withdraw troops from conquered lands, surrender claims to those lands, and to make absolutely certain that the governments of those nations will not repeat their hostilities. Once the enemies had surrendered, those government and military leaders who were responsible for the atrocities of the war were brought to justice. But the nations themselves (Japan, Germany, Italy) became our allies.

But in this instance, as with all international relations, mercy is not appropriate without first clearly established justice.

In summary…

JUSTICE and MERCY

In individual personal relationships, mercy prevails.

In civic matters and international relations, justice prevails.

In our relationship with God, both Justice and Mercy are satisfied 
by Christ's sacrifice for us.


What does the Bible say about war?

Two general principles are obvious from the study of Scripture about the topic of war:
        (1) War between nations was a routine fact of life (2 Samuel 11:1).
        (2) Defeat in war was one of God’s ways of executing justice on a sinful nation.

However, many people, even many Christians, are upset by

  • the descriptions of war in the Bible,
  • the commands of God to Israel to go to war, and
  •  
  • the occasional commands of God to Israel to annihilate a city’s entire population.
  • These Scriptures seem to directly contradict God’s mercy.  On the surface, these stories also seem to contradict God’s justice, with the slaughter of all those innocent people.

    It is very important to check a little background on the social life, religion, and culture of the people living in Canaan when the people of Israel first arrived to take possession of the land that God had promised to their ancestors:

    The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the LORD your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.’" (Leviticus 18:1-3) God then proceeds to list the sins the Canaan commonly practiced:
                vs 6-18 Incest of every kind.
                v. 19 Lack of respect for women’s modesty and hygiene
                v. 20 Adultery
                v. 21 Child sacrifice
                v. 22 Homosexuality
                v. 23 Sex with animals
    "Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you." (Leviticus 18:24-28)

    "But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you. After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.’ No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." (Deuteronomy 9:3-5)

    As Deut. 9:5 suggests, God used Israel’s conquest of Canaan for two unrelated purposes: (1) executing justice for the prolonged corruption in the land, and (2) showing mercy to Israel by keeping His promise to their ancestors. These two purposes for God’s command to Israel to initiate war against the inhabitants apply only to the nation of Israel, at that time, and in that place. The Bible does not give us permission to "go and do likewise."

    The only chapter that gives general counsel for the way Israel ought to conduct its battles, as well as advise as to who may and may not serve in the military is outlined in Deuteronomy 20:

    (a) GOD IS YOUR PROTECTOR:

    1 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.
    2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army.
    3 He shall say: "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them.
    4 For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory."

    Whenever Israel was attacked by a larger army, God wanted Israel to call to Him for help, rather than to rely on foreign alliances to rescue them (Isaiah 30:2; Is. 31:1)
     

    (b) WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR MILITARY SERVICE:

    5 The officers shall say to the army: "Has anyone built a new house and not dedicated it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may dedicate it.
    6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it.
    7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her."
    8 Then the officers shall add, "Is any man afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his brothers will not become disheartened too."


    Who will left to fight the battle? God's original plan for Israel was not "the draft." His was an all volunteer army, who trusted not in their own abilities, but in God's power and protection. As we learn from the story of Gideon (Judges 6 and 7), God preferred small armies, so they would see it was He who won the victory.
     

    9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.
     

    (c) NEGOTIATING A TRUCE:

    10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace.
    11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you.
     

    (d) ENGAGING IN BATTLE:

    12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city.
    13 When the LORD your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it.
    14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the LORD your God gives you from your enemies.
    15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.
     

    (e) THE CANAANITE EXCEPTION (as explained in Deut. 9):

    16 However, in the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.
    17 Completely destroy them--the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites--as the LORD your God has commanded you.
    18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshipping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God.
     

    WAR AS NATIONAL DISCIPLINE

    A lesson that the nation of Israel had to learn again and again was that God used aggressive military action of other nations to alert the people of Israel that they must not flirt with sin and idol worship. One of the first of these lessons came as Israel, under the leadership of Joshua entered Canaan. After the victory at Jericho, they suffered an unexpected defeat at Ai. Joshua sought God's counsel and discerned that the reason for the defeat was that one of the Israeli soldiers had violated God's command at the battle of Jericho. The nation corrected that problem, as God directed, and then saw victory against Ai. (See Joshua 7 and 8)

    For the next 400 years, Israel went through a cycle in which each new generation disregarded the teaching of their parents and turned away from the Lord to worship idols. When that happened, God removed His protection from Israel, and neighboring nations attacked and conquered Israel. In their suffering under cruel foreign rule, the Israelis cried to God for forgiveness and help. God then restored His protection by raising up a leader who led the nation to military victory against their enemies. These leaders were called "Judges," and their story is in the Old Testament book of Judges. After leading Israel to freedom, many of these judges continued to lead the people in worship and obedience to the true God. But when that generation died, the next generation disregarded the teaching of their parents and turned away from the Lord to worship idols, starting the cycle all over again.
     

    FIGHT or SURRENDER?

    When David was King of Israel, and the nation was threatened by an enemy army, David did not automatically assume that he should fight the enemy. He understood that if God did not fight with him, he would lose. So he asked God's counsel before going into battle.

        Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you hand them over to me?"
        The LORD answered him, "Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you." So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them…
        Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, "Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." (2 Samuel 5:18-24)
    Very often, with only a few men, God gave David great victories in battle.

    Four hundred years later, however, when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon (Iraq) came against Jerusalem. Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God told the king of Israel:

    This is what the LORD God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be handed over to the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from their hands." (Jeremiah 38:17-18) The enemy king, Nebuchadnezzar, was a proud, wicked man. But he was the man God chose to use to discipline Israel. God even called Nebuchadnezzar, "My servant" (Jer. 27:6), even though Nebuchadnezzar mocked the God of Israel. For hundreds of years God's prophets had warned Israel to turn away from idol worship, occult sins, greed, and sensuality. Now it was time for Israel experience both God's justice and His mercy.     This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughter… Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper..."
        This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile." (Jeremiah 29:4-14)
    BATTLE SAGAS:
        (1) Moses' hands; the importance of prayer - Exodus 17:10-13
        (2) Joshua
                Jericho (Joshua 6:13-25)
                Ai – failure (Joshua 7), and success (Joshua 8:1-29)

        (3) The Book of Judges - an army of any size, with God, is a majority
                Deborah (Judges 4)
                Gideon (Judges 6-7)

        (4) The Gibeonites
                Treaty by deception (Joshua 9) - A Canaanite nation tricked Israel into a peace treaty.
                King Saul violated that 500-year old peace treaty. (2 Samuel 21:19)
                The result of this violation, Israel experiences a severe drought. (2 Sam. 21:1)
                The drought ends after the Gibeonites settle on terms of retribution. (2 Sam. 21:4-14)

        (5) The Philistines
                capture the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 4-6)
                against Saul and Jonathan (1 Samuel 13-14
                against David (1 Samuel 17-18; 2 Samuel 5:17-25)

        (6) Absalom vs. David (2 Samuel 15-18)

        (7) Joab vs. Sheba (2 Samuel 20)
                The leader of an armed rebellion sought refuge in a fortified city.
                The leaders of the city avoided war by arresting and beheading the rebel.

        (8) Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 19)

        (9) Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32)

        And many more.



    Now to the matter of America’s response to
    September 11

    "We should turn the other cheek." Turn the other cheek means, "I won't stop you from hitting me again." So our government should sacrifice another 3,000 of it's citizens to Bin Laden’s terrorists?

    "We should have waited longer." We waited after Bin Laden’s al-Qaida terrorists failed in their first attempt to bring down the World Trade Center with a truck bomb in 1993. We continued to wait while they bombed an American barracks in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia, in 1996. We waited while they bombed U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Africa, in 1998. We waited as al-Qaida suicide bombers attempted to sink the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. We were still waiting when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four US airlines, deliberately crashed one of them into the Pentagon, and two others into the World Trade Center, killing 3,000 people. "Wait longer"? For what?

    The story of Sheba’s rebellion against King David in 2 Samuel 20 has a remarkable similarity to our situation. Sheba and his supporters took refuge in a fortified Israeli city named Abel Beth Maacah. So the army, led by General Joab, came to the city and started "knocking on the door" with a battering ram.

        A wise woman called from the city, "Listen! Listen! Tell Joab to come here so I can speak to him."
        He went toward her, and she asked, "Are you Joab?"
        "I am," he answered...
        She continued, "...We are the peaceful and faithful in Israel. You are trying to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why do you want to swallow up the Lord's inheritance?"
        Far be it from me!" Joab replied, "Far be it from me to swallow up or destroy! That is not the case. A man named Sheba son of Bicri, from the hill country of Ephraim, has lifted up his hand against the king, against David. Hand over this one man, and I'll withdraw from the city."
        The woman said to Joab, "His head will be thrown to you from the wall."
        Then the woman went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and threw it to Joab. So he sounded the trumpet, and his men dispersed from the city, each returning to his home. And Joab went back to the king in Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 20:16-22)
    Just as Sheba sought refuge in Abel Beth Maacah, Osama Bin Laden sought refuge in Afghanistan. The government leaders of Afghanistan had the same choice to make as did the elders of Abel Beth Maacah. Should they give refuge to the terrorist? Abel Beth Maacah said "No." Afghanistan said, "Yes." They have chosen their course.
     

    "We should try to negotiate." How do you negotiate with someone who (1) is a chronic liar, and (2) has vowed to destroy you? The Bible has several illustrations of attempts of nations to negotiate in order to avoid war. In every example, negotiation only has one goal: surrender. And in every instance, surrender means subjugation of the weaker nation to the authority of the stronger. (See Deuteronomy 20:10-11 and 2 Chronicles 32:1-23). Jesus even used this principle as a parable:

    "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace." (Luke 14:31-32)


    "Rather than condemn the terrorists, we should examine our own faults as a nation, and try to understand why they hate us so much." This is like an abused wife saying, "My husband beats me because it is really my fault. If I were a better wife, he would be nice to me." One of the clear principles from Scripture is that people are responsible for their own actions.

    OBL and his supporters have already stated why they hate us. See a CBS News report from Sept. 24, 2001 available on the Internet at:  http://www.cbsnews.com/now/story/0,1597,312660-412,00.shtml   [This link is now inactive.]
     

    "First Century Christians were pacifists. Until the time of Emperor Constantine, Christians refused to serve in the military." Really? Then how to we account for the New Testament Christians who served as officers in the military (Acts 10; Philippians 4:22)? And how do we interpret John the Baptist's counsel to soldiers in Luke 3:14?
     

    "The attack of September 11 is God’s judgment against the United States for our sinfulness."   Out of respect for the people who died in the Sept. 11 attacks we must remember that Jesus teaches us not to interpret tragic accidents and acts of violence as judgments from God (see Luke 13:1-5).  But at the same time, Jesus warns each of us who would be quick to judge, to examine our own sin.

    In one day 3,000 innocent people were killed in a criminal act of violence. But on average 4,000 innocent people are killed every day in America by legal acts of violence in abortion clinics. Twenty four hours a day through electronic entertainment, sensuality is promoted and virtue is mocked. Based on what we see in Scripture, is there any reason why God should come to America's aid in our war against terrorism? If we pray only for the defense of our nation, are we praying as we should?


     
     

    Abraham Lincoln, in calling for a national day of prayer, made an appeal which no President today would have the courage to make. While falling short by failing to cite specific offenses against God (such as slavery), Lincoln shows a clear understanding of Scriptural principles of Justice and Mercy. What he stated in 1863 applies today.

        Whereas, the Senate of the United States devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for national prayer and humiliation:
        And whereas, it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history: that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord:
        And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
        We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
        But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.
        Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
        It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
        Now, therefore, in compliance with the request and fully concurring in the view of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer.
        And I do hereby request all the people to abstain on that day form their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
        All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that he united cry of the nation will be heard on high and answered with blessing no less than the pardon of our national sins and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
        In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

    By the President:

    Abraham Lincoln.
    March 30, 1863
    Pastor Ron Friedrich
    Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
    Silver Spring, Maryland