President Harry Truman was once asked to speak at a fund-raising project to help the children of a White House guard who was slain in the line of duty. With great emotion he said, “You can’t imagine just how a man feels when someone else dies for him.”
David must have had similar emotions in response to his three mighty warriors who risked their lives for him. When he expressed a longing for a drink from the well of Bethlehem, Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah volunteered, risking their lives to penetrate into the enemy Philistine camp at Bethlehem to get it for him. They were so devoted to their leader that they were willing to die to fulfill David’s wishes. Their courage so moved David that he would not wet his tongue with one drop of that precious liquid. Instead, he poured it out as an offering to the Lord, saying, “Be it far from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?” (II Sam. 23:17). Their act was as noble as if they had died for him.
During the course of this country’s history, brave men and women have stepped forward from time to time, answering the country’s call to fight against would-be tyrants, dictators and despots and to defend the individual freedom that is our birthright. More than a million of these brave men and women have paid the ultimate price, laying down their lives for their country.
Memorial Day, originally called “Decoration Day,” is a day of remembrance for those who have sacrificed their lives to keep this great nation free. It originated following the Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict of U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. By the end of the late 1860’s, Americans began holding springtime tributes to these thousands of fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reading prayers. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War Veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance to decorate graves of fallen comrades with flowers. He called it “Decoration Day.” On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. The South refused to acknowledge Decoration Day and honored their dead on separate days until after World War I. In 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” establishing Memorial Day as the last Monday in May (to ensure a three-day weekend). The change went into effect in 1971, although several Southern states have an additional day for honoring the Confederate war dead.
Today we honor the men and women who wove the fabric of this nation into the flag that represents all our people, a flag that reflects our love of freedom and our dedication to the dignity of all mankind. There are millions of our citizens who voluntarily stand and have stood tall in the face of adversity against the enemies of freedom and those who would subjugate the masses for the benefit of a few. Many of those citizens have sacrificed their comforts, their health, and even their very lives so that the rest of us can enjoy the protection our forefathers envisioned when this nation was first settled 400 years ago.They deserve to be honored and respected. Many of them were also Christians, and they loved their country, especially because of its unique Christian heritage and its freedom to practice and propagate their faith.
As we “remember” and give thanks for all who have given their lives to protect our freedoms, especially our freedom to openly serve and worship, we surely must remember, with even greater love and appreciation, the One who made the greatest sacrifice of all, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Lord, keep us mindful of the cost, the price of liberty as brave men and women have given their lives to conquer tyranny. Help us to reinforce our liberties with personal righteousness and prayer for our leaders (I Tim. 2:1-4). But most of all, we thank you, Lord, for the sacrifice You made to set us free from the bondage of sin and self and Satan. Amen!!
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I Jn. 3:16).