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Enter the name of the tune for hymn 362
The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed an agreement with the German Chancellor Adolf Hitler at the end of September 1938 and returned to England to explain that he had entered into an Anglo-German Naval Agreement which, he hoped, was symbolic “of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again”.
The First World War had ended in 1918, just 20 years before, and had been devastating. You can understand the Prime Minister’s fervent wish that no such hostilities would take place again. Later, outside 10 Downing Street, he made the now famous statement:
"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep."
The first British Prime Minister to use that phrase had been Benjamin Disraeli in 1878 but it is Mr Chamberlain’s speech that everyone now remembers, for he was seriously mistaken. Less than a year after the signing of that agreement Europe was again plunged into a world war. It was no time for peace. Sadly, it was a time for war.
Three thousand years before Mr. Chamberlain used that expression “peace for our time” a wise king had commented on the way that time controls our lives. He spoke about it as though life was like a patchwork quilt of different experiences. Just as different fabrics of varying designs and colours are sewn together to make a quilt, so various experiences in life come together to form and shape a person’s lifetime. This is how Solomon saw life in all its complexity and variety:
"To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh…"
In a carefully constructed and divinely inspired rehearsal of how things work out for different people Solomon concludes his analysis with these words:
"… A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace" (Ecclesiastes 3:1–8).
For forty years Solomon reigned as God’s appointed King, ruling from Jerusalem over “the throne of the LORD” (1 Chronicles 29:23). His kingdom was God’s kingdom on earth, a kingdom which will be reinstated when Jesus returns, as promised, to rule from Jerusalem: “the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35). Solomon had a remarkably peaceful reign, consolidating the territorial expansion of his father King David and ruling wisely by making shrewd alliances and entering into commercial arrangements with other countries which were profitable for all concerned. He thus amassed a huge personal fortune and enriched the nation mightily. But at his death everything fell apart.
Solomon’s successor was as foolish as Solomon was wise. Civil war raged and the nation was torn apart. A powerful neighbouring country seized the opportunity to attack and plunder and the weakened nation could not defend itself. From then on the ‘time of peace’ was replaced by ‘a time of war’ and the pattern in Israel has been repeated the world over, then and now.
Nobody knows when the next war will break out somewhere in the world. Nobody knows when the next terrorist attack will take place, or where that might be. We live in an increasingly violent and uncertain world where the capability to wreak devastation can so easily fall into the hands of extremists who are willing to die for what they believe.
This magazine would be called “Bad Tidings” if it contained just a review of the dangers and problems that confront us. We need to recognize them for what they are; otherwise we live in a fool’s paradise. But the Bible is full of good news from God and those who read it can be reassured that God both knows all that is happening and can control the outcome as part of His plan of salvation. For Solomon went on to say that God:
"… has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
It is one of the things that distinguish humans from other animals that we have a sense of eternity in our hearts – a sense that there is something else, other than this mortal existence, a sense of another world or another dimension that we want to be part of, and rightly so. God is in heaven and we are on earth (Ecclesiastes 5:2) but God means to establish His heavenly kingdom on earth, which is why the Lord taught his disciples to pray:
"Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt.6:10).
God knows when that Kingdom will be established, but we do not. The Scriptures tell us the reason and it is relevant to all, for God is waiting for us to accept His gracious invitation to be at peace with Him. Here’s the apostle Peter’s explanation:
"The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
This issue of “Glad Tidings” examines what the Bible says about peace with God. This includes having peace of mind, finding a right relationship with God through the saving work of Jesus and understanding what God is about to do to transform our war-weary world into a peaceful place where righteousness and right-thinking will prevail.