Peace in Our Time
In September 1938, Hitler was preparing his war machine to invade Czechoslovakia while Britain and France were committed to protecting Czech sovereignty. War seemed inevitable, but Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister, flew to Berlin for peace negotiations. The fear of coming war caused Chamberlain to cave in, and on September 21, 1938, the ambassadors of France and Great Britain informed the Czech premier that their countries would not be honoring their treaty obligations. The very next week, the Munich Pact was signed that granted Hitler the northern part of Czechoslovakia. Chamberlain returned to London a hero, declaring "peace in our time." One man was not fooled. Winston Churchill rose in the House of Commons to speak profound and prophetic words:
Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war...And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless, by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigor, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden times.
Churchill recognized what most of his countryman did not-- you simply cannot compromise with evil. Such compromise is defeat and will lead down the path to decline and decay. History proved Churchill to be right.
In Judges 9, Israel is plunged into chaos and conflict, this time from within. Abimelech, a son of Gideon, murdered the seventy sons other sons of Gideon, to remove any other claim to a throne that did not exist. He plunged the country into a civil war to consolidate his power. Thousands died in that conflict, and many more would have died had not Abimelech been killed by the old "throw-a-millstone-out-a-tower-window-and-hit-him-in-the-head" trick. Judges is a book that chronicles many dark times in Israel's past, and the reign of Abimelech was one of the darkest.
This conflict that nearly destroyed Israel began when his father Gideon made a Chamberlain "peace in our time" move. In Judges 8, Gideon receives payments in gold for his past service to Israel. He fashioned the gold into a golden ephod, a breastplate that symbolized authority. But the ephod quickly it became an object of veneration and later even worship. Gideon, the judge who began his career by destroying images of Baal in effect himself sets up an idol for Israel to worship. Shortly after his death, Israel completed the apostasy by setting up images of Baal. By making peace with idolatry, Gideon set the stage for the conflict that would destroy his sons and the peace in Israel he fought so hard to maintain.
We are today in a spiritual battle that has eternal consequences. When we make subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) compromises with the values and standards of the world around us, then we set the stage for same kind of spiritual compromise and failure precipitated by Gideon. When we blindly accept the ideas and ideals of the culture around us, we make peace with the world. We set up idols without intending to do so. There can only be one God. There is no peace in our time with the gods of this world. We must relentless seek the peace that passes understanding that comes from a life that is hidden with Christ. May God give us the courage to stand for Him in an age that stands for everything else... and thus falls for anything.