There is no more timely topic to discuss than what is occurring in the Kosovo region of the Balkans. The overwhelming refugee crisis of men, women and children escaping from the raw brutality of the Milosevic Regime has pulled at our heartstrings.
It is probably safe to say that for the people of the 21st Century the term “Kosovo” will not simply define a location on the map, but a state of mind. For the moment though, let’s apply a biblical focus to the subject of refugees. What does your Bible say about this subject?
Will the United Nations and NATO solve the scourge of forces that creates refugees, or, is there a time in the future in which there will be an even greater catastrophe producing even greater numbers of displaced persons? You need to know and you need to be preparing, now!
The Dilemma of “The Fifth Horseman”
The prophetic outline of human history, i.e., humanity left to its own devices apart from God, is discovered in what is known as the Olivet Prophecy of Matthew 24. Christ said in Matthew 24:4-8 Matthew 24:4-8 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars, See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” This powerful panorama of human history is further defined in Revelation 6 with the forceful imagery of the first four seals, which have come to be known as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They ride into human history in the order of religious deception, war, famine and pestilence. Behind these four thundering realities of history is the straggling, unmentioned horseman, which turns people into refugees.
This past century has shattered the illusion of “Social Darwinism” that mankind is climbing out of the jungle and basically is on an upward climb of social progression. Our century has witnessed and endured two world wars and numerous conflicts that have killed millions of people of every race, language and religion. Headlines like “Flashflood of Humanity,” “Exodus,” “Hopeless March,” “Ruined Lives-Wasted Talent,” “Will the Door be Shut?” and “Welcome Mat Appears to be Wearing Thin” tend to repeat themselves. There are many reasons behind this daunting scenario.
The question always comes up, Who is responsible? Is it the military, civilians, or relief agencies? Is it the role of an alliance or a superpower? Everyone gets caught in the crunch of the numbers game. In recent days, we have witnessed on a daily basis numbers like 3,000, then 10,000, then 30,000 all fleeing at once! Reading on, we discover 5,000 are sent to this country, 10,000 to this country, and 20,000 here and there. Refugees are so often used as pawns for political aspirations and present advantages. The numbers are based upon what is politically expedient and tolerable back home. Unfortunately, humanity at its best can only offer bandaids to a globe that is hemorrhaging with the victims of this straggling Fifth Horseman. It can seem too much for any of us to fathom.
Remember the Stranger
Long ago, a people were rescued from a land where they had worn out their welcome. Before that rescue came, the host country practiced the most heinous acts of what we now call “ethnic cleansing.” Notice what the Egyptian pharaoh decreed be the lot of his subjects in Goshen. Exodus 2:16 Exodus 2:16Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters: and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock.
American King James Version×vividly describes his goal by stating, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool if it is a son, you shall kill him.” It is an interesting parallel to the slaughters of ethnic Albanians and Bosnian Muslim men who have been led to the woods never to be seen again. The people of Israel were rescued from this environment by a much greater force than any human alliance could forge. They were rescued and offered nationhood.
It is so very human to remember where we have been and to forget that at one time we didn’t have a house, or town, or a national flag to call our own. God saw that Israel was no exception. He instructed them in Leviticus 19:33 Leviticus 19:33And if a stranger sojourn with you in your land, you shall not vex him.
American King James Version×: “And if a stranger dwells in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” In the following verses 34-36, God defines love by stating, “You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” God always returns to Egypt to remind them there was a time when they were in the same situation! Abuse of strangers was not allowed or tolerated.
Oppressed and Afflicted
It is an amazing realization to understand the bond of experience that Christ has with Kosovars, Samaritans, Hutus, Bosnians, Tutsis, and all of the refugees of our time and all times. Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah sounds exactly like a refugee. Breaking into the thought of Isaiah 53:2-3 Isaiah 53:2-3 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
American King James Version×, we gain sense of a tragic scenario—”There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Verse nine continues the thought by stating, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers silent.” Christ would know exactly what it would be like to be despised and depreciated over a lifetime. From the time of His birth when His roaming parents would find “no room at the inn” to the questioning insult of John 1:46 John 1:46And Nathanael said to him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, Come and see.
American King James Version×;”Can any good thing come out of Galilee?” David, a prophet as well as a king, stated these occurrences would come in the life of Jesus, stating in Psalms 118:22 Psalms 118:22The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
American King James Version×, “The stone which the builders have rejected, has become the chief cornerstone.”
Shakespeare long ago said, “He jests at scars, who never felt the wounds.” Plainly stated-you don’t know until you have been there! Jesus Christ is the spirit of experience in regards to abandonment and lack of aid.
Proclaim Liberty to the Captives
It is stunning to read the words of Christ’s first recorded sermon found in Luke 4:18-19 Luke 4:18-19 18 The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
American King James Version×. He plainly states the role of His ministry to this earth, then and now, by alluding to Isaiah 61:1-2 Isaiah 61:1-2 1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me; because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
American King James Version×. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” It is clear that Christ understood that all of humanity has been displaced from God’s purpose. There has been an agent of terror who through all ages has had one goal—the extermination of humanity, thus thwarting God’s desire to make man in His image.
Satan is steadily motivating humanity towards extinction. Christ alludes to this potential when He says in Matthew 24:8 Matthew 24:8All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×that “all these are the beginning of sorrows” in a world which will not yield to God’s ways. Christ was building upon the foundation of Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×which declares: “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time.” Jesus stated the extent of this “trouble” at the end of the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
American King James Version×: “Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved.”
When we think of Kosovo in one portion of the earth and then contemplate these warnings it is incredibly sobering. Yes, Satan like all dictators, is working with a plan. They know exactly what their goals are and how to achieve them! But, there is good and exciting news beyond the accounts of Daniel and Matthew. God also works with a plan and knows exactly what He is doing. After all, He is not simply the Creator of time, but the Author of perfect timing.
Deliverance From On High
Just at the moment when this human tragedy is about to occur, God moves forcefully to triumph. In a sense He seizes the execution date from Satan, and makes it the inauguration of His kingdom on Earth. God all along has said what He is going to do. In the parlance of today, God is going to introduce His spiritual ground troops to halt violence and to secure a future for a world of refugees. Jude 14-15 states, “Now Enoch the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also saying, ‘Behold, the Lord Comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all.’” Zechariah 14:2-3 Zechariah 14:2-3 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
American King James Version×gives a clear location of the point of entry for human liberation. “Then the Lord will go forth, and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.”
“I Will Seek What Was Lost”
God is going to restore all of humanity to a condition of peace. The context of Ezekiel 34:11-16 Ezekiel 34:11-16 11 For thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
13 And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them on the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
14 I will feed them in a good pasture, and on the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed on the mountains of Israel.
15 I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, said the Lord GOD.
16 I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.
American King James Version×is about Israel in its future return to God, but it is a forerunner of what God intends for all peoples. “For thus says the Lord God; ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land…. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God. ‘I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick.’”
God never changes His mission, plans or goals. He is not driven by history, feelings or polls-but only what is truly good for all of His children. Christ, the Lord of the Refugees, hears the cry of Israel on behalf of humanity so woefully echoed in Ezekiel 37:11 Ezekiel 37:11Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts.
American King James Version×: “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off.” Christ hears in full and will answer in full.
God Shows No Partiality
Long ago, Peter came to an amazing understanding through his multi-cultural experience with the Roman centurion known as Cornelius. A man of a conquered people shared time with a man of the conquering tribe. Almost like a Kosovar sitting down with a Serb. Almost, no, just like you sitting down with someone you are at odds with right now because of historical injustices or cultural conditioning. In Acts 10:34 Acts 10:34Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
American King James Version×, he opened his mouth (can I also imply, his heart) and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” God has no room in His kingdom for hate, bigotry, envy, or subtle putdown through name-calling or humor which diminishes the worth and integrity of any of His children. We may not all exactly look alike, talk alike, or walk alike, but we all have a common Father, a common goal, and many common life’s experiences.
Perhaps Shakespeare put it best nearly 400 years ago, when through Shylock’s tortured and questioning plea in the “Merchant of Venice” he addressed the age old persecution of Jews. “He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”
Ultimately, answers to Shylock’s question are going to be taught to a world that has been displaced from the truth of God regarding its ultimate destiny and held captive by a spiritual enemy.
Long ago in a moment of anguish, Christ cried out “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” It is the universal lament of all refugees. Who better to say, “this is the way, walk you in it,” than “the Lord of the Refugees” who will show the way of return. WNP