Summary: Veteran's Day sermon
Veteran’s Day 2012 - 2 Samuel 23
Take your bibles this morning and turn with me to the book of 2 Samuel, chapter 23. As a boy, I loved watching war movies -- whether it was John Wayne or Battle of the Bulge or the Dirty Dozen or one of my favorites, The Great Escape. A generation before me, it was Roy Rogers or Gene Autry or John Wayne also - in cowboy and indian movies. Why is there such a fascination with these movies? Because we LOVE heroes! They inspire us. We love to recount their great events. We love to revel in victory over insurmountable odds.
Today much of that sense of victory in war is transferred to sports - and for many today their heroes are heroes on the sporting battlefield. But the Bible gives us many examples of heroes - a couple weeks ago we talked about the “Heroes of the Faith” in Hebrews 11 - but when we read their stories, they weren’t just passive heroes who had great faith - many of them were engaged in active battle in life. Hebrews 11:32 records this about them: And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
Today is Veteran’s Day - and the post office will be closed tomorrow to celebrate the holiday - but it is a day that we often neglect in the church. We can easily dismiss it as a secular holiday - in 1938 the 11th of November of each year became a legal holiday - - a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be hereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, celebrating the time the agreement to end WW1 was signed. But in 1954, the wording was changed to be Veteran’s Day and November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. And we are more than happy to honor all our armed service veterans. They deserve both recognition and honor.
And as a nation we honor our Veterans today. But as a church we often fail to think about veterans. After all, if God thought honoring veterans was important, why isn’t there anything about it in the Bible? And the answer to that is simple: There IS - there are several places in the bible that speak about honoring warriors who fight in battle. And our passage here in 2 Samuel 23 is one of them! We’ll get to the passage in a few minutes.
When we turn to the scriptures we often read it through our “sanitized” safe culture, and we downplay things that aren’t part of our lives today. But as we read through the Bible, both old and New Testament, it is hard to ignore all the fighting and war and bloodshed. The easy thing for us to say today is “God is Love” and we need to love everyone. That is true! But sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone is to fight against them! While God is Love, our God is also a God of WAR! And that is something that can be hard for many Christians to accept.
Consider this passage - Psalm 144 - Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. When we read this Psalm of David, we get conflicted inside, to think that our loving God gives us skill in fighting in war. After all, is war okay? Or should be be pacifists and never fight? To consider that, we need to remember some other things that David says in Psalm 144. In verse 2 he says, He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge. David looks to God as his refuge in times of war. Verse 6-7 David looks to God for deliverance - Send forth lightning and scatter the enemies; shoot your arrows and rout them. Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me from the mighty waters, from the hands of foreigners. But I believe the key to consider is in verses 12-14 where we see the REASON for war: Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. David sees war as the means of protecting the safety of his family and his people. To keep from having the city overrun and families being taken prison and distress and turmoil, David fought in wars.