On this Veteran’s Day 2014, it is fitting and proper to remember all those men and women who have served this country regardless of the war or conflict that we were involved in at the time. Personally, I missed the military by a very narrow margin. I was in the last year of the draft lottery, the year that I turned eighteen – and my birthday, February 19, was selected as number 50. I was positive that I was going to Vietnam. But, whether it was divine intervention or a stroke of luck, depending on your frame of reference, the draft board only called the first 48 numbers and I never served in the military.
My Dad made sure that I knew if I tried anything like fleeing to Canada that I would be banished from the family – in fact, I think he said that I would be disowned. So that was never a consideration in my mind, but I sure knew a number of young men who were opening talking about living with our neighbors to the north. And Vietnam was a little different from the other “wars” where the US was in the conflict to win – not just with a measured response. Not to say that I wasn’t a little afraid of being called to fight in a war halfway around the world – I was – and I mean more than a little afraid. It is probably as a result of that experience with the lottery that I have an even greater appreciation for those men and women who have taken my place and served with such honor and devotion to keep this country safe.
I have to say that as I get older I am more opposed to war that I used to be. Maybe it is my seminary training or the fact that I think God’s fondest desire is for all of us to get along. But I am also painfully aware that there are numerous places in Scripture where God not only authorized, but commanded, His people to go to war. And in most of those cases, the people of God were instructed to obliterate their enemies. Every once in a while, they failed to complete the mission that they had been instructed to take on and it never ended well for the people of God when they fell short of a successful mission in the eyes of God.
So knowing that I am fundamentally against war, I am sure that it seems odd that one of my favorite Bible passages has to do with a war that will occur in heaven. It is a war that John mentions in recounting the dream that he had when he glimpsed into the future in the book of Revelation. It is at this time that Michael and his angels fight Satan and his legions of angels – and Satan’s angels are vanquished, expelled from heaven and cast to earth. It’s really quite a great story. What most people don’t realize is that up until this war Satan had direct access to heaven and the presence of God. In fact, if you don’t believe me, you can go read the opening chapters of the book of Job and you will see that Satan converses with God in heaven!
Well, apparently, by the time we get to Revelation, God has had enough, presumably sends Michael and his angels to fight Satan and his angels. The good guys win and Satan is cast down. The sets the stage for the endtimes and marching toward the time when Christ will rule eternally.
The verse for this evening is from Rev. 12:7-9, “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.” I even had to write a rather lengthy paper in Theology class on this event. I thought I got the best assignment in the entire class…
My encouragement this evening is that even if you didn’t fight for our country in the military, there are many who did and they deserve our deepest gratitude. And there are still ways that you can serve in a non-military way if you feel compelled to do so. My prayer is that you will also thank God for the sacrifice that Jesus made serving His own Father and making it possible to have victory over death. Because that is the most important defeat that we could ever hand to Satan and his dark angels. Thank you to all who have served – as they say, all gave some, and some gave all for this great country. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…