“He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”
At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the guns went silent on the Western Front, bringing to an end the First World War. And now we annually remember the thousands of Canadians who died in both world wars, and other wars since.
One year after the end of World War I, U.S. President Wilson came to a peace conference in Paris bearing his peace plan for the world which included military disarmament. This conference resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, which helped give rise to dictators like Mussolini and Hitler. Even though British Prime Minister Chamberlain returned from meeting Hitler saying “There is peace for our time,” another world war began within less than a year. After World War II, plans for world peace were made again, this time under the auspices of the United Nations. But again the peace of this world has been seriously punctured and shredded by other conflicts.
Jesus Christ did say that nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. But just when will the end to war come and lasting world peace arrive? Will there be a time when we will no longer remember those fallen in war?
The time is coming! So God said through Zechariah: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken” (9:10). He spoke these words about peace in a world also torn by war. The Babylonian empire had been defeated by the empire of the Medes and Persians and God’s people had returned home after seventy years of exile. Like all the empires before it, this empire would also face conquest. As Zechariah indicates at the beginning of chapter 9, God’s judgment is coming on the nations surrounding Israel, such as Syria and Philistia.
As God’s instrument of judgment, Alexander the Great conquered these nations with bloodshed. Was Jerusalem, the place where God lived among his people, conquered too? The Lord God said: “I will defend my house against marauding forces. Never again will an oppressor overrun my people, for now I am keeping watch” (v. 8).
Our Canadian military forces have been instruments in the service of the Lord God of heaven and earth. They helped in the defeat of great forces of evil and tyranny such as Nazism and Communism. We as church have greatly benefited from the sacrifices of many Canadian soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Because of their contributions in war and battle, we may live in peace in a free country. Each Sunday we are able to hear the message of lasting peace. But who is the King who makes this possible, who protects his church in the midst of war and conflict?
Zechariah points to a far greater King who will bring real and lasting peace. This King of peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, rode into Jerusalem not on a war horse, but a donkey! This already shows his peace-loving intentions. With this King there is complete disarmament. As the Lord said, “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim, and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken.” These weapons of war will be removed completely.
This does not mean that Jesus Christ condemns war. God’s Word says there is a place for a just war, for the government does not bear the sword in vain. They must defend the peace and freedom of our country. But the Lord speaks of removing all weapons of war, to show that the kingdom he rules is not of this world. As Jesus would say later to Pilate: “If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews.” Rather, this kingdom comes by the preaching of God’s Word. Jesus Christ proclaims peace to the nations, for he made peace through his blood, shed on the cross. May the peace of Christ rule in our hearts!
Indeed, the rule of Jesus Christ in our everyday lives will not be brought about by guns, bombs, and mines but by the Spirit of peace. And “his rule will extend from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” His rule is not just over Canada, but over all nations. This rule of peace is expanding, even as there are wars and rumours of war. When Christ returns there will be no more wars. Then all the chariots, war horses, and bows will be taken away forever!
On November 11, let us observe a minute of silence and remember those Canadians who have died in the wars of the past century. More importantly, let us always remember the Prince of peace, Jesus Christ. Believe in his proclamation of peace and live under his reign of peace! Look forward to when his kingdom of peace will come in all its fullness and glory.
Rev. J.D. Louwerse, currently (2016) Minister of the Hamilton Canadian Reformed Church at Hamilton, Ontario
Published in Clarion, THE CANADIAN REFORMED MAGAZINE Volume 60, No. 23, pg. 549, November 4, 2011