When the Headlines Mention Crematoriums and Mass Graves

You consider yourself a fairly positive person.

You don’t load every text with smiley faces or wish everyone a nice day, but you’ve made it a habit to live by faith, to open your eyes to the good that God may be working through trials, to praise God in the storm.

But, when the evening news rolls footage of those who stagger, displaced, along the Syrian border,

when the headlines contain words like “crematoriums” and “mass graves,”

when weeping mothers appear on screen and you don’t need to hear the translation to understand their agony,

positive fades in the rear-view mirror of your soul.

These are Psalm 120 times. Times of distress, of lying lips and deceiving tongues, when even pew-sitters sense the urge to call upon the Lord.

Warrior used to be a word you heard in history class, a term for ancient times.

Now, it’s a present-day term for young boys who should be playing ball in the back yard and aging saints who might be spending their prayer hours in gratitude and praise, but instead still wage warfare on the front lines of a battle that grows more intense every day.

“Woe to me, that I sojourn in Meshech, that I dwell among the tents of Kedar! Too long have I had my dwelling among those who hate peace. I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war!” Psalm 120:5-7

These are times when we will be pulling the word “woe” out mothballs.

The Psalmist dwelled in a land of warring tribes devoted to their battles. Tribes with an appetite for war. The writer longed for peace.

You long for peace.

Your faith in Jesus Christ established peace between you and God.

Your faith in Jesus Christ secures your peace now in troubled times and into eternity.

Your faith in Jesus Christ instructs you to be at peace with everyone, as much as it is up to you.

Your faith in Jesus Christ directs you to work at peace within the church and with those still to enter the kingdom of God.

But, when you speak, they are for war.

People declare you their enemy without ever laying eyes on you. You are associated with Jesus. It’s an association you treasure, one in which you’re invested, and which you live to deepen.

It’s an association that’s placed you on the frontlines of an epic battle – meek sheep that you are, even clothed in armor, the sight of you is little enough threat, but when you open your mouth and words of peace emerge, you become a bulls-eye for every flaming arrow in their extensive arsenal.

What are you to do, you drafted ewe, you armored ram?

Keep reading, loved one. The Psalmist didn’t stop writing at woe.

These are the days of Psalm 120, but they are also the days of Psalm 121. We will be a generation that sees great woe, but we will be privileged, too, to see God at work both in us, through us, and for us, of this you may be sure.

Psalm 121 “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day,  nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep     your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

When we gather around that great eternal campfire to tell stories of days past, people will ask us – “how did we endure the days of woe?”

We will exchange glances with one another, remembering how hard was our task, but then we all will smile and tell the truth.

“Our eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,” we will say together. “And what a sight He was to behold. We are the privileged, the honored, those blessed to see Him at work against the enemy of His truth. And here we are, safe forever.”

The tale you will tell will be no tale of woe, but of wonder forevermore.

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