When I was a boy and honestly up to this day, superhero movies from comic books have always been my favorite. From Batman to the Avengers I am hooked. For my father it was Star Trek and Star Wars and while I like both of those, it does not compare to my dad’s fandom. My grandfather was always a big Western Guy from John Wayne to Gene Autry. 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. While the heroes may look different from caped crusaders to space soldiers to cowboys, we all love those who inspire us.
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 – In Hebrews 11 it gives us a long list of heroes of the faith. 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.
You may be wondering why am I talking about heroes, first from movies and tv shows, now in the scriptures and the answer is simple because this week we celebrate Veterans Day. Now on Thursday, the post office will be closed but outside of that as a reminder, we often forget this special day we set aside in the church because we can easily dismiss it as a secular holiday- but I believe it is much more than that.
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 because they are the true heroes.
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 second.
However, first, I want you to dissect with me. 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 we be pacifists and never fight? To consider that, we need to remember some other things that David says in Psalm 144. In verses 2-7 see see David look to God as his refuge in times and war (Psalm 144:) and for deliverance (Psalm144:6-7) 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. David was a charismatic leader, and men loved to come be with him and join him. He had many valiant warriors. And God enshrines forever in His word the names and exploits of many of them. So why would God record this list of veterans in Samuel 23? For our encouragement! He wants us to learn from their example. This morning, I would like to offer 4 things to come away with when we think about Veteran’s Day. First,
- Remember the price of freedom – Valiant warriors do not fight for the sake of killing; they do not fight for rewards. In fact, if you remember the story of David & Goliath, Goliath has been out there for 40 days waiting to fight – Saul had offered anyone who would fight him great wealth, he would be able to marry into the royal family, his family got to skip paying their taxes for the rest of their lives! But NO ONE would fight. Men don’t fight only for money. But do you remember what David says – he hears Goliath blaspheming God and David knows he needs to do something. David said, Is there not a cause? The story goes on to record David saying to Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.
Man, doesn’t that make you want to DO something great for God. Why does he fight? There was a cause – he stands up for the name of the LORD Almighty – so the whole world would know that there is a God in Israel! Why do we fight today? We don’t fight for the sake of war – we fight for the sake of FREEDOM! And as we honor our Veterans today, we REMEMBER that they paid the price to preserve our freedom for us. Freedom is never free! James Greng wrote this poem title Freedom is never Free.
They tell me
‘Freedom is never free.’
I know that-
More than most realize.
Freedom cost us more
Than we should have to give.
Freedom cost us blood.
It cost us the lives
Of our fathers,
But while freedom is never free,
It has been bought at great price,
And so is a thing of great value.
We must defend it,
From those who would take it away.
The defense of our freedoms
Will cost us-
More than we wish to pay.
But we must pay, to defend,
For if we try to make freedom free,
True freedom is never free.
What do we learn? We learn to Remember the price of freedom.
Secondly, we learn to
- Honor those who fought for our freedom. If you look down in verse 18 it tells us of another veteran – Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.
Notice the response to these veterans – they receive honor. Today, as we think about veterans, don’t just be thankful as you remember their service. I would encourage you to consider the next step – think about how you can show them honor! The first and most basic way is to thank them. When you see a veteran, thank him or her. If you see a serviceman in uniform, even when it’s not veteran’s day, go up to them and let them know you appreciate their serving our country. It may be that God leads you to do something more. Some people send care packages to soldiers overseas. Some people send Christmas Cards to soldiers. Think about how you can HONOR our veterans.
Third, Remember, Honor, and
- Learn from their example. As we look at the Veterans here in 2 Samuel, we learn that we need to Take a Stand and Stand Our Ground. We don’t run to a fight, but we don’t run from a fight either. We see men here who take a stand
- – regardless of the opposition – in verse 8 we see Josheb-Basshebeth fights facing 800-to-1 odds.
- regardless of the allies – even when no one stands with you, we still stand our ground. In verse 11 we see Shammah, who draws a line in his pea patch and says “No Further!” Even though all his fellow soldiers ran, Shammah stood his ground. And we learn to stand
- -regardless of the duration – in verse 9 we see Eleazar – who fought so long that his hand froze to his sword. Frozen? No, but he had gripped his sword for so long and so hard he couldn’t open his hand.
- Mighty men and women have a policy of no retreat – no reserve – no regrets. They serve their king faithfully!
Then the last think we want to consider today – is soldiers do not fight their battle alone. Even though we stay at home, we can have part in the battle by
- Pray for those in harm’s way. We believe that God hears and answers prayer, and so we need to cry out to God for His help in protecting those who fight to protect us. I mentioned Psalm 144 earlier, the Psalm where David cries to God for help in war. In verse 5 of that Psalm is a beautiful reminder of the way we can pray for the brave men and women fighting for our country.
5 Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;
touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
6 Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
shoot your arrows and rout them.
7 Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
from the hands of foreigners
Is God moved to act when His people pray? Yes
Today, we thank God for our Veterans. We want to remember their service, honor them, learn to stand our ground for what is right, and we want to pray for those currently serving our country. In closing this morning, let us pray over our veterans here with us in body and those with us in spirit. Let us pray for those who are serving and fighting for our great freedom as we reminded of how Our Lord and savior fought for our freedom through his son.