The situation in Europe and the world to-day makes us sorely need divine light on war; and the first thing we observe is a sword in the hand of every nation, God-given. "The powers that be" - that is, all the Governments of the world - "are ordained of God; for there is no power but of God": and "the ruler beareth not the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God" (Rom. 13: 1, 4).  In other words every State - which is simply the nation organized for purposes of government - has a direct relationship to God.  It is ‘the minister [or servant] of God’; and therefore is responsible directly to God how it uses the sword, in which its power lies: whether as a magistrate enforcing the law on all citizens, or as a nation going to war against another nation.  God is the sole power from which the State draws its power, and therefore the sole Person in the universe to whom the State is responsible, and to be consulted and obeyed in peace or war.




Now one, inevitable factor in the life of every nation is, sooner or later, war; and in the case of Judah's King, Asa, we get a studied and wonderful summary of the bearing of God on war: for Asa’s history reveals the drastic distinction between war with God invoked and war with God ignored; and Asa’s own character - "the heart of Asa was perfect all his days" (2 Chron. 15: 17) - makes the point extraordinarily clear.  His life was full of purging: he purged the land of idols; he purged the Temple; he purged the worship; he even purged his own family.  Asa’s early life is as magnificent a conquering life as any recorded in the Word of God.  Only when he ignored God, he fell.




The opening fact is extremely significant.  The background of a decade of perfect peace reveals that peace is a gift of God.  "The land was quiet, and he had no war in those years; because the Lord had given him rest" (2 Chron. 14: 6).  The moral purging of the nation was reinforced, on the political side, by its consolidation in strength and power, in a way that Jehovah approved: "Asa did that which was good and right in the sight of the Lord his God" (ver. 2).  And Asa fully realizes whence came these ten years of peace.  "We have sought the Lord our God, and he hath given us rest on every side" (ver. 7).  In wars between nations, and much more in peace, the nation that lays all its weight on God is almost certainly not the wicked one; for it would know with Whom it is dealing, and both conscience and self-interest would prompt to right conduct.




Now the crisis arises.  Ethiopia sweeps down on Judah with the largest army - except one - ever recorded in ancient history; one million men, with three hundred chariots - or, in modern warfare, tanks.  Now we learn on a gigantic scale that prayer is the most potent of all war weapons, and Asa’s immediate cry to God is the model State prayer in war.  "Lord, there is none beside thee to help, between the mighty and him that hath no strength" - none other that can equalize the forces; none other that controls victory whether for the big battalions or the small: "help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on thee, and in thy name" - trusting to Thy help - "are we come against this multitude".  Complete rout of the all-but-mightiest army of ancient history * instantly follows.  "They were destroyed before the Lord, and before his host".  As lately as in the Great War at least one Field Marshal acknowledged the truth.  Marshal Foch said during the war:- "I know something about preparation for war, and formation and concentration, and I can follow up an advantage; but victory does not depend on me."  Then, drawing from his tunic a little crucifix hanging from a twist of twine, the Marshal continued: - "There nailed to the cross, is the Giver of victory.  Triumph must come if we trust in Him."


[* The largest army recorded in ancient history was that of Xerxes, numbering nearly two and a half millions.]




The moments of supreme victory can be among the most dangerous moments in life: so the Spirit of God, falling on Azariah the prophet, warns Asa.  The warning is this:- "The Lord is with you, while ye be with him but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you."  Asa responded admirably, and a vast covenant with Jehovah was made by all Israel.  After the Battle of Agincourt was won, Henry V ordered the chaplain to read a Psalm of David, and when he came to the words, "Not unto us, 0 Lord, but unto thy name be the praise", the king dismounted, and all the great host of officers and men threw themselves on their faces.  So in modern days we have the model words of Abraham Lincoln:- "It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proved by all history, that those nations only are blest whose God is the Lord."




A most extraordinary prophecy was wrapt up in Azariah’s warning, exactly forecasting the modern situation of apostate Israel, and the growing distress of the equally Godless nations.  "For long seasons Israel hath been without the true God, and without a teaching priest, and without law: and in those times there was no peace, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the lands; and they were broken in pieces, nation against nation, and city against city, for God did vex them with all adversity." * With nations as with men, if we have God, we need have no one else; and if we have not God, we are bankrupt even though we have the whole world with us.  Napoleon learned in Moscow the falsehood of his own assertion that God is always on the side of the big battalions, and died a prisoner on a lonely island.


[* It seems obvious that this is a prophetic past. "The Septuagint and Vulgate, Luther, and most moderns refer these words to the future: it is the whole future of the people of God, of which the prophet asserts the law - ‘If ye turn away from God, he will turn away from you’ " (Lange).]




Some twenty to thirty years now elapse, and again - as the peril which Azariah foresaw is now at the doors - God sends a warning prophet.  Baasha, king of Israel, threatens Judah; and Asa, without a word to God, forms an alliance with Syria, and actually bribes the Syrian King with the treasures with which he himself had enriched the Temple (15: 18).  Asa never even names God.  Perhaps the gravest fact at this moment is that God is now never named officially, or in international documents, by any of the Great Powers of Europe.  Ever since the Disarmament Conference, the greatest effort yet made for peace, when, for the first time, even King George V omitted the word ‘God’ from his opening address - presumably because Soviet Russia had just joined - no official document of any of the Great Powers of Europe contains the name of God, much less is any great European appeal made officially and directly to God.*  And Asa’s plundering of the Temple is repeated.  Sacrifices hitherto devoted to God - honour, the sanctity of the pledged word and the signed pact, defence of the weak and helpless, liberty of conscience, the worship of God and His Christ - the Temple is robbed, of the civilized nations’ former gifts to God in order to preserve a Godless peace at all costs.  So the prophet, Hanani, drives home Jehovah’s final remonstrance.  "Thou hast relied on the King of Syria, and hast not relied on the Lord thy God: herein hast thou done foolishly."  So at last, when men are saying, "Peace" - by godless appeasement - "and safety" - collective security by godless alliance - "then sudden destruction cometh" (1 Thess. 5: 3).


[* A deeply happy apparent exception lies in British Royalty, but the bankrupting fact is that Royalty neither creates nor controls the policy of the nation.  Such were King George’s words in Canada (Times, May 25,1939) :- "The key to all true progress lies in faith, hope and love.  May God give you their support, and may God help them to prevail."]




The reproof contains as lovely a revelation as can be imagined, and is an utterance exceedingly important, for it lifts the whole revelation out of the Holy Land and makes it universal for all nations.  "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth" - so covering all sovereign powers, and not Israel only - "to show himself strong on behalf of them whose heart is perfect before him" - who are sound at the core.  It is a wonderful revelation.  God is searching all the time for men at whose disposal He can put the resources of Deity.  "His eyes" - that miss nothing; "run" - like lightning; "throughout the whole earth" - no man or nation excepted; "to and fro" - in ceaseless search.




So now the judgment falls.  "From henceforth THOU SHALT HAVE WARS."  So exactly our Lord foretold:- "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Luke 21: 10).  In the words of Dr. F. W. Norwood:- "What are you going to do eventually with a world which knows that what is morally right is seldom politically advisable?"  Recent words of Bishop Watkin Williams (Times, May 4, 1939) bring home the judgment:- "War is the severest, sorest judgment with which God manifests His wrath on rebellious nations, worse than famine, worse than pestilence, and no other way is shown by which we may avert it than penitence and amendment of life."  And what happened then, happens now - persecution.  The Prophet, and all who sympathized with him in the nation - protesting (exactly like ourselves) against the godlessness of the nation’s policy, though with no political or military opposition - suffer: "for Asa was in a rage, and oppressed" - crushed - "some of the people".  Asa imprisons the Prophet because he cannot imprison the truth: "he put him in the house of stocks" - the stock being an instrument of torture, by which the body was forced into an unnatural, twisted position, and the hands and feet fastened together (Keil).  So the doom of God falls.  "All the kingdoms of the world, which are upon the face of the earth, shall drink: and if they refuse to drink" - by every pact of godless peace - "thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Ye shall surely drink: because of the sword which I will send among you" (Jer. 25: 26, 27).




Each of the five Great Powers now handles an army larger than any nation ever mustered before, to which the hordes of Xerxes were but a reconnaissance.  When the Russo-Japanese War broke out, the Tsar, who had inaugurated the first Peace Conference, burst into tears.  It is said that the Kaiser, when signing the declaration of war on Russia, exclaimed:- "Gentlemen, you have compelled me to sign, but you will live to rue it."  Pope Pius X., again and again rousing himself on his deathbed, cried:- "I am impotent, and forced to see my children armed against each other, and ready to take each other’s lives."  For all must drink. "For the Lord hath indignation against all the nations" – “the strongest possible expression is used in the Hebrew for all nations” (Dr. Alexander) - "and fury against all their host: he hath delivered them to the slaughter" (Isa. 34: 2).