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God’s Word for You

Mark 13:7-8 Wars and uproars

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, August 15, 2023

7 When you hear of wars and uproars, do not be frightened. These things must happen, but the end will not come right away. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. From place to place there will be earthquakes and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.

Wars and news about them (“rumors of war” or “uproars” as I have translated) are sadly common to every generation. News of a war, of course, is what people hear about when the war is far away. Some younger readers can’t imagine a world where instantaneous news isn’t available, but there were many wars fought in the past in which people had no news at all until the fighting was over. But some wars drag on, and loved ones worry about the men fighting—that kind of worry is worse than almost anything else; a wife or children (or a husband) not knowing whether their soldier, sailor, or flyer is safe or will return to them.

Jesus isn’t talking about that kind of worry. He means the rest of us who worry in general about the end of all things. “Do not be frightened,” he says to us. It isn’t the end yet. Kingdoms and tyrants will always want what they do not have. Land, resources, access to water or seaports, or some other thing will always tempt people to take whatever they want.

In a real sense, the secular history of the world is the history of wars; both wars that happened and wars that very nearly happened. But they do not bring on the end. In fact, human wars will not be what brings about the end, since the end also involves the destruction of the sun, moon, and stars. Man is just about capable of destroying the earth, and possibly (if we cared to) the moon. But how would we and why would we destroy our sun? And we are not capable of reaching let alone harming the other stars and star systems that are even very close by.

Another sign that is a reminder that the end will come is the natural destruction of earthquakes and famines. Famines come for many different reasons, war not least among them, but for other causes. And earthquakes are more than a little frightening for those who experience them. The single earthquake I have felt personally and its aftershocks are not something I would care to repeat.

Jesus doesn’t want us to ignore these things. He calls them the beginning of birth pains. He means that these things are real troubles, but that things will get worse, just as it is with a woman’s birth pains. Jesus wants us to pay attention, keep watch, and notice these things for these reasons:

1, To stir up in us a sincere fear of God.

God is almighty, all-powerful. He is the one truly to be feared and respected. We put our loving faith in him on account of our salvation, yet we must never forget that he is the one who brings nations down to dust whenever it pleases him. “Should you not fear me? declares the Lord. Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross” (Jeremiah 5:22). Surely the one who could, with a word, cause the sea to overflow every beach and barrier and overwhelm every land, is the same one who can and one day shall destroy every world, star, and speck of dust.

2, To stir up in us a love for heavenly things.

The invisible and unknowable rewards of heaven are waiting for us in the many rooms and many mansions prepared for us by our loving Savior. Here we are “aliens and strangers” (Psalm 39:12), migrants and itinerant workers in this temporary place. “Here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). As Gerhard says, “Let us abandon the world before it abandons us.” And since we cannot escape the world with our bodies except in death, we must depart from it in our hearts and minds, keeping our eyes fixed always on Jesus and the life of the world to come.

3, To stir up in us a zeal for doing good.

It is God’s will that we will use what we have to ease the suffering of others as best we can. Sometimes we will be taken advantage of. But if I can be taken advantage of and still proclaim the gospel and witness to Christ, that is not in any way to my detriment. What does God say about the wealthy who do not use their wealth as he wants them to? “Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days!” (James 5:3). If I can use my time, my resources, what there is of my treasure, whatever wisdom or insight I might have, and even (will it praise God?) my sense of humor, and use these things to benefit my neighbor, then I give glory to God. May he be glorified always.

4, To stir up in us an enthusiasm (ardor) for a blessed departure.

Since the end is near for the world, it is truly near for my own life. Just as buildings do not last forever and will be torn down, so also our fallen, sinful bodies will not last as they are into eternity. They need to be renewed, and only God can accomplish that through the resurrection. Therefore the signs of the end times make us also yearn for the glorified, raised body we will have when Christ comes again. This is the body that is raised imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power, raised a spiritual body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

Pay attention to uproars and wars, and to the signs in nature. Let these things remind you to treat the world as a temporary place, nothing more than a hotel on a longer trip. You and I have a place with Jesus, forever, in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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