SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/Remember, but Delight Not
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 1:00 AM
"Summon your might, O God. Display your power, O God, as you have in the past. The kings of the earth are bringing tribute to your Temple in Jerusalem. Rebuke these enemy nations - these wild animals lurking in the reeds, this herd of bulls among the weaker calves. Humble those who demand tribute from us. Scatter the nations that delight in war." (Psalm 68:28-30)
Before he sent the Overmountain Men on their way to do battle with the English forces under the leadership of Col. Ferguson, the Rev. Samuel Doak addressed the men and led them in prayer. As they stood there at Sycamore Shoals, in western Tennessee, Doak reminded them of how God had helped them carve out homes in the wilderness and that now a new enemy was intent on marching there to destroy their homes. It was not, therefore, for the love of battle that these men (roughly 1,400 of the hardest, sharp-shooting-est men this land has ever known) marched forth to war. No, but rather it was their love of freedom and their willingness to defend their liberties even with their lives, if need be. In the months that followed, as the backwoodsmen stalked and pursued the forces of Ferguson, they faced severe deprivations and lack of supplies. In numerous skirmishes there were men who found themselves suddenly without any weapon at all. These would simply follow along in the background until a weapon became available to them from a slain enemy or a fallen comrade. But still they fought on and ultimately won an early decisive battle of the American Revolution at King's Mountain.
We remember these men and countless others who have fought to secure the freedoms of our Nation. As a people, we've even set aside a special day - Memorial Day - to help remind ourselves of the cost of liberty and the terrible price of freedom. It is important, however, that we make sure that ours is a gracious and thankful remembrance only, and that we are not also guilty of taking delight in war. It was General Sherman who said that "War is hell." He was right, and so many others have agreed fully with him in their own assessment of war. Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, once said, "Take my word for it, if you had seen but one day of war, you would pray to Almighty God, that you might never see such a think again."
And yet wars remain with us. I'm told that someone even did a study in which he computerized every war that had ever been fought in all the years of recorded history. His study showed that of the nearly 5,560 years of history, there had been 14,531 wars and that relatively few were the generations that lived in a time when they knew only peace. 14,531 wars - now, that's a lot of fighting. That's a lot of death. And even now we live among tyrants and maniacal dictators who seem to thirst for more violence, more conquest and destruction. What then should be our response, as followers of Christ? Well, perhaps we're given some guidance here by today's text where David prays for God "to scatter the nations (peoples) that delight in war."
With David, you and I realize that there can be no lasting peace on earth but what God establishes. With our fall into sin, the twisted, distorted nature of man has led us to innumerable acts of cruelty upon our neighbor and the thirst for additional plunder as also the quest for ultimate power and control. David understood, being a man of war himself, that there did not rest in man the ability, nor even the desire, to see this destructive cycle broken unless God were to intervene. If real peace were to be enjoyed by all, and especially the people of God, then the God of Peace would have to come down and impose it. So David prays for God to do just that - to show Himself to be strong, to descend and "break the bow and cut the spear in two and burn the chariots with fire" (Ps 46:9). He pleads with God to save mankind from the senseless savagery we seem (at times) to take such pleasure in imposing one on each other.
Robert E. Lee voiced his opinion on war with the following: "it is well that war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it." Have we grown fond of war? -- or do we perceive it as the awful thing that it is, praying as did Abraham Lincoln, "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war will speedily pass away."?
For certain, there are times when wars, not sought for, are pressed upon us. In those terrible days, the people of God and all citizens of a blessed nation such as ours, while loathing the necessity of war, will go forth and engage the enemy with all severity so that peace might be restored and that evil might be conquered. In battle, we will maintain our utter dependency upon a God of Providence who guides and protects us in the defense of the very blessings He has granted, while looking ever unto Him to bring swift victory to those forces that stand on the side of right and truth and goodness. Until the Day of Christ's return, when all wrongs will be corrected and all evil defeated, it will remain the duty of all grateful and freedom-loving citizens of this great land to fight the good fight and to honor the memory of those who fall within our ranks, and, above all, to pray that God will hasten the day when war shall be no more - even as He humbles and scatters those who have taken delight in it. A blessed Memorial Day to you all and may God grant us peace!
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.