Anzacs and WWI: part 5, What Was God Doing?

I started my recent exploration of WWI because I wanted to find out why it happened. The political reason for WWII seemed clear: to put an end to Hitler’s ambitions and the atrocities he was committing in his pursuit of them. But the reason behind WWI doesn’t seem so clear cut.

WWI medal trio. 1914-15 Star; British War medal, Victory Medal.

WWI medal trio.
1914-15 Star; British War medal, Victory Medal.

While there were many possible contributing factors that led to the start of war in 1914, none of them alone seems to be significant enough to initiate and perpetuate the slaughter of the next 4 years.

While historians investigate the political and social triggers for war, as a Christian I think it’s important to look beyond those things and consider whether God merely sat idly aside as a passive observer while the people of the world gathered to blow each other apart and when the blood, mud and dust settled, redraw the boundaries of countless nations.

In other words, did God play any part in the war? If so, what part did He play?

Being neither a Calvinist nor a Moslem, I don’t believe that God pre-ordained all of the death and destruction. Mankind wasn’t driven along an unavoidable predestined path to war. War came about through choices, freely made by sinful mankind. The extent of man’s sin was displayed in the horrific acts committed and the resulting conditions arising from those acts; some of which I’ve described quite graphically in an earlier post.

God did not cause or ordain those acts, but He was more than able to USE those acts to further His purposes. He is more than willing to give mankind over to the consequences of our own choices, and will even give us a helping hand in achieving or obtaining what we’ve chosen in place of Him. (refer Romans 1:24-32 and 2 Thess 2:11-12)

What mankind meant for evil, God could turn around for His good, to move a few steps towards the fulfilment of His eternal plans.

From my reading of WWI – most of the emphasis seems to be on the Western Front. Anything else seems to be treated as peripheral to the “real war”. The Anzacs are a bit of a thorn in the side of that view of history because Australia and New Zealand insist on highlighting those “peripheral” campaigns, such as Gallipoli and Palestine, in which they played a part.

Australian Light Horse memorial, depicting Battle at Beersheba

Australian Light Horse memorial, depicting Battle at Beersheba

I’m beginning to think that those “peripheral” campaigns were really the main event – leading to the downfall of the Ottoman Empire and the freeing of the Holy Land from centuries of Muslim control and setting up the political foundations for the establishment of present day Israel only three decades later.
The Western Front remained as a stalemate for almost the whole period of the war, and yet when the Middle East was freed from Ottoman rule, the armistice came (about a month after the fall of Damascus and the end of Turkish rule).

In seeing the Middle East as the main event in God’s purposes, I need to consider how the Western Front fits into everything and two possibilities have come to mind. Firstly, it helped set up the conditions for WWII and the holocaust (which played another part in the establishment of Israel) . Secondly, Britain’s involvement alongside France, defending French territory, also eased the path for Britain to remain in control in Palestine from the time General Allenby entered Jerusalem up until Israel became a sovereign state in 1948. Under other circumstances the French would most likely have objected to Britain’s control in that region and the resulting tensions could have complicated the later move to give Jews a homeland in their Promised Land.

While western Christians today are often focused on the state of their own nations and seem to think God’s attention is similarly fixed on them (particularly in America), the reality revealed through scripture is different. Throughout biblical prophecy, the only nation on earth that has a promise to be a part of God’s Kingdom is Israel. During the 20th Century both World Wars led to political changes that made the return of Israel to the world map possible, taking us another step or two closer to Jesus’ return to rule over the nations as Israel’s King.

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And all nations shall flow to it.

Many people shall come and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
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 anymore.

One thought on “Anzacs and WWI: part 5, What Was God Doing?

  1. As to the human “reasons” for the war, thought these two comments from the summarizing chapter of Gordon Martel’s “The Month That Changed the World” were relevant:

    “[Germany’s] mistakes consisted of an amalgam of wishful thinking and willful blindness…” (p. 427)

    “The tragic era that followed can be explained only by [all the leaders of 1914’s] hubris, combined
    with chance and circumstance.” (last sentence, p. 431)

    As to God’s reasons:

    “I’m beginning to think that those ‘peripheral’ campaigns were really the main event…”

    Absolute Amen !!

    blessing, Steve

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