The call to remember our nation’s veterans, past and present, whose sacrifices have secured liberty and justice for all is as ancient at the Holy Scriptures we all treasure.
In the third and fourth chapters of the book of Joshua, we have a compelling story of God’s miraculous intervention on the behalf of His people and a requirement to memorialize that event.
God commanded the children of Israel to cross the flooded, turbulent Jordan River into the Promised Land.
The priests were commanded to go before the people with the Ark of the Covenant and to stand in the middle of the rushing water. There was an implicit promise in this command and an assurance from past experience that God would make a way through the rushing water. It was to be done, the Scripture tells us, so that “You will know that the Living God is among you.”
God honored His Word as the priests stepped into the Jordan River. The flooded river was cut off from upstream and the waters piled up as the people walked on day ground. They were able to look at the piled-up waters trusting God to keep the path dry until all of them were safely across the river into Canaan. The crossing over to Canaan was a new experience for all the Israelites with the exception of Caleb and Joshua--the only ones who had experiences the escape from Egypt through the Red Sea.
This vivid story about God's fulfilled promises to Israel, are equally important to us who are willing to follow the Lord in our daily lives and to follow courageous human leadership He gives to the church today. As I write this article I am reminded the words of William Williams in his great hymn, "Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah," that I love to sing:
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death, and hell's destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan's side;
Songs of praises, songs of praises
I will ever give to Thee,
I will ever give to Thee.
Joshua commanded that a member from each of the twelve tribes take a stone from the middle of the Jordan. They were directed to carry the large rock to the campsite at Gilgal where a memorial was to be constructed.
Joshua said to them, “When your children ask their fathers, in time to come, what mean these stones? You can tell them that the waters of Jordan were cut off before the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord . . . so that those stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”
These twelve stones were to stand as a reminder or a memorial to future generations that Israel crossed the Jordan not because of their own ability, strength, or cleverness, but because of Almighty God Who performed this miracle. It was to be an enduring sermon that would be directed to the eyes and spoken of to the ears by words of remembrance.
We humans need to be called to remember because we have a great tendency to forget:
• Those who have paved the way for us.
• Those who had the courage to step into the rushing water.
• Those who held high the sacred Ark of the Covenant of God’s working among us.
• Those who stopped to pick up a rock
• All those who made it possible to cross over.
God knows our forgetfulness:
• He chose a rock, Peter, to lead the disciples.
• He gave us a sacrament or ordinance of the Lord's Supper to proclaim the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, as well as His coming again.
•He wanted us to remember the greatest work of our blessed Lord, Jesus Christ--His death on the Cross of Calvary and His resurrection, and to enable us to proclaim His coming again as He has promised.
May I encourage pastors and laymen alike to form a committee to plan an appropriate celebration of Veteran’s Day in your church, either on Sunday November 13. Utilize the gifts and talents of your people to be creative in commemorating this national day of remembrance.
As you plan this event may I remind you to include all those who have taken the oath of military service. Let us pray that we as a nation will ever keep our promises to those who have willingly given everything to defend and protect the Constitution of our great nation.
It is in moments like these we especially remember all who grieve the loss of loved ones, all veterans who bear the scars of battle in their bodies, minds, and spirits. It is our prayer that God will give them a measure of His peace that passes all understanding. May they know that their sacrifices were not in vain and that a grateful nation takes time to stop the day from the hectic pace of life to honor them for who they are and for the great gift of freedom that have given to all of us.
By Chaplain, Lieutenant Colonel, Hugh H. Morgan, USAFR, Retired
Editor, Hugh's News & Commentary