Much has changed in the last three weeks. The recent build-up of Russian arms and military posturing has turned into a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Battalions from the north, east and south have crossed borders and begun pressing into the centre of the country. Major towns and cities are gradually becoming isolated and cut off.
Whatever aims Vladimir Putin has for Ukraine the position today is grim however one looks at it. Many Russian soldiers seem to be caught in a war they do not understand, puzzled by orders to fight close neighbours, and surprised by the stiff resistance they are meeting, which does not tally with the story of being welcomed as liberators. Ukrainian civilians caught in the bombardments are losing homes, their freedom and in some cases their lives. Families are being torn apart as women and children flood west to escape and men stay to fight. Ordinary civilians in Russia are now facing economic hardship as sanctions take effect and the rest of the world looks on, uncertain how to act in the face of such aggression and worried about the effects on their own economies.
Those privileged to view these developments from the pages of scripture are not surprised by what Russia has done. Since the time when Ezekiel and the prophets warned Israel that a warring host
“from the uttermost parts of the north with all his hordes” (Ezekiel 38:6, ESV)
would move south, it has long been anticipated that Russia would become an aggressor nation in the last days. So the prophecies are coming to pass, which is comforting, but we are saddened by the heartache, distress and suffering that is being incurred as a consequence. Christ warned that
“wars and rumours of wars”
would be a sign of his coming, and reassures believers by telling them, “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Luke 21:28, ESV).
Let Isaiah’s familiar words be our encouragement:
“He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:4, ESV)
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