Lately I’ve been reading The Lion’s Gate, a history on the 6 Day War, that infamous conflict which Israel had with almost all of her surrounding neighbors in 1967. I find war history fascinating reading, and this one is quite good.
The story goes that as the surrounding nations vowed “Death to Israel!” in this time period, the Jewish people knew that it was kill or be killed. And so they killed, starting the war with an all-out air assault aimed to knock out the airplane runways of Egypt, Jordan, et.al. The attack was hugely successful, and they won the air war immediately; in fact, some seem to believe that because of this, it was more like a one-hour war than six days.
Now when I read about a war, I naturally put myself in the shoes of the combatants, and Lion’s Gate makes this easy, being largely based on interviews with surviving soldiers and pilots. Consider being a pilot on the morning of June 5th, 1967. How terrifying – the mission was to drop the bombs on enemy runways, and since Israel didn’t have that many planes, the air force, contrary to the fighting doctrine of other nations, required their pilots to make not one attack at the airfields, but multiple attacks before returning to base. It vastly increased the odds of being shot out of the sky.
But they had to do what they had to do, and so these pilots, more than most, knew that death could come at any moment.
What would it be like to wake up one morning in war, knowing, really knowing that, at least relative to the rest of humanity, the odds were good that today…you might very well die?
We don’t think that way, and who can blame us? It sure doesn’t look like we’re going to die, not today, at least. I’m 51 years old. My dad lived into his 80’s. My maternal grandfather lived until he was ~85. I think my paternal grandpa made it to 90. And so I think, like most of us, I’ve probably got a few years left.
I think so, anyway…but then there’s this…
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16 (ESV)
Life is short – this much we know – and it might end anytime. And the call of Scripture, Old Testament and New, is to keep this in mind. Moses agreed with James…
The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:10-12 (ESV)
Herein is wisdom – living as if we are that Israeli pilot about to take off into the enemy’s sights. One moment we are here. The next we might be in eternity.
For we are a mist that appears for a little time…and then vanishes away.