YOUR WARFARE is ENDED
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
OCTOBER 9, 2011
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1-2)
Isaiah is my favorite Old Testament Prophet because he never left God’s people in panic mode or fear that God had deserted them. He railed against their sins, their lack of trust in God, and their faithlessness, but over against that, he comforted Israel by assuring them that He who knows the end from the beginning has it all under control; He knows what He is doing, and His word WILL be fulfilled: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” (Isa. 55:11)
Isaiah is still speaking that word to us today, when God opens our ears to hear it and our eyes to see it. I had said to a friend recently that I’m exhausted; I’ve “shot my wad.” When she asked what that means, I told her it refers, I think, to the wadding which was placed into either cannons or old fashioned firearms. Or maybe it refers to the cannon balls themselves. Either way, when you’ve shot your last wad, you’re out of ammo and might as well fly the white flag because you’re done! This morning, we were listening to the beautiful aria from Handel’s “Messiah”: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” When I heard, “Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,” I knew by the Spirit that God was speaking to me personally. He was telling me to lay down my arms and rest in Him.
I had been feeling for some time that death is stalking the farm. My beloved mother is old and full of days. She has exhausted herself in “fighting the good fight,” until her mind and body can barely continue on. I am not ready for her to cross Jordan, and because of my particular (or peculiar) personality, I want to take up the sword and fight “the last enemy,” telling it “Begone! You shall not have her. She rests under the protection of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
There is a time to fight, of course, else Paul would not have advised us to put on the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit (Eph. 6:16-17). When my daddy lay dying in the hospital decades ago, we took turns sitting up with him. I well remember the same dynamic as I sat on the edge of his hospital bed, reading aloud the glorious scriptures of the faith, the promises of Victory in Jesus, the healing power of the Spirit, that by His stripes we would be healed. I was much younger then and pursued my agenda with more zeal than knowledge. With age comes wisdom and trust in God’s sovereignty.
Our dear friends John and Jan Gavazzoni passed through Joplin, MO, on their way back to California and we had lunch with them last week. It is always wonderful to fellowship with those who share our vision and with whom we’ve walked a long way together.
Sunday morning, when I realized God was telling me my warfare is ended, I thought about one of John’s most quotable quotes: “Thinking it his finest hour, the devil crucified the Son of Glory, and in so doing, he brought salvation to the whole world.” Paul calls death, “the last enemy,” and yet, though we want to fight and scream and drag our loved one away from the thief who robs us of their company, we realize at last, that to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord, and when it is our time to take that step, it really is more glorious than sad. This is especially true when the friend is suffering physical agonies which medical science cannot reverse, and God has said, “Enough, faithful Saint. Come unto me all ye who are weary and heavy laden, for I will give you rest.”
I have been talking to two men via e-mail who think God hates them and they are bound for hell. My relentless push has been for them to lay down their own self efforts, their struggles, and give up counting on their own works to save them. God’s works were finished from the foundation of the world. The gospel of Christ is the shining result of His efforts. It IS the power of salvation both for the Jew (the believer) and the Greek (the unbeliever). Man has been trying to imitate God’s works from the beginning, starting with Eve and Adam who discounted His word wherein they were protected, and had all needs met. Instead, they opted to follow a mirage: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
That tree, when you stop and think of it, is symbolic of all religious practices. It offers the tantalizing fruit called the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil. The myth is that once you know good from evil, the difference between right and wrong, you can please God. That worked not at all for Adam and Eve, who brought death into the world for themselves and for all of us as well. It is only by the Tree of Life, Christ Himself that we live. “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (I Cor. 15:21-22) Adam chose to live by religion, i.e., knowing good from evil and trying to do what’s right, while avoiding what’s wrong. That choice plunged us all into sin and death.
We’re older and wiser now, having watched our Father at work throughout our lives and throughout history as well. Being the Master of our fate and the Captain of our soul was a myth when Adam practiced it and it is still the height of delusion.
Paul wrote at length in Romans, chapter seven, about the folly of depending upon ourselves to do what is right, moaning, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (Vs. 21) He refers to his internal struggle as WARFARE: “but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Vs. 23-24) We remember that after sinking into the pit of despair brought on by self-effort, Paul bursts forth gloriously in chapter eight: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom. 8:1-2)
Paul wrote, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:26) Jesus has already conquered spiritual death. He raided the charnel house of Sheol after His death on the cross and preached the gospel to the disobedient souls of Noah’s day. Peter begins that glorious thought by saying “For Christ also died for sins once for ALL, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.” (I Pet. 3:18) Paul affirmed that “The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” (Rom. 6:10)
Physical death still stakes a claim on our bodies, but the time is coming when that shall cease, a time when Christ will have defeated every enemy. “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death….When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him (God) who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.” (I Cor. 15:24-26, 28) What a time of rejoicing that will be when God is EVERYTHING to EVERY ONE!
Father, as we struggle through the valleys, pursued by the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, not even death, for Your rod and Your staff protect and comfort us. You make us to lie down in green pastures beside the still waters. You anoint our heads with oil. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen and amen.