How It Began

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, World War I officially ended. The day was originally memorialized as Armistice Day. In 1954, this was changed to Veterans’ Day to honor all who served in the various branches of the U.S. military.

Lest We Forget

The primary focus and impetus for our recent tour of Israel was to join in the remembrance of the famous charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba which occurred on October 31, 1917. This last cavalry charge of modern history began the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the liberation of Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people.

In 1914, just a few weeks after the outbreak of WWI, with Allied casualties already mounting, Laurence Binyon penned the words which he titled “For the Fallen,” later known as the “Ode of Remembrance,” which are recited at British and Australian/New Zealand (ANZAC) memorials to the war:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them. (lest we forget, lest we forget)

The last three words, “Lest we forget” were not part of the original. They were added from Rudyard Kipling’s, “Recessional,” written in 1897. Interestingly, Kipling later said of Binyon’s Ode that it contained “The most beautiful expression of sorrow in the English language.”

Kipling’s “Recessional” was an almost prophetic look at the waning of the British Empire, at a time when such a thing seemed impossible. A section of the poem shows that “Lest we forget” was aimed at the danger of the British forgetting the “God of our fathers.”

God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far-flung battle-line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!
The tumult and the shouting dies The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice, An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

Kipling took the “lest we forget” from Moses’ warning to Israel, found in Deu 6:12, “Beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The reference to “An humble [broken] and a contrite heart” came from Psa 51:17. How relevant these reminders are to us today, as we reflect on those who have sacrificed for our freedoms!

God and the Soldier

The hand of God guides the course of history. The soldier is often the instrument of that guidance. Politicians carelessly commit our soldiers to conflicts large and small. Often, these wars bring political and financial profit to those with “no skin in the game.” It is the soldier on the battlefield—whether rightly or wrongly committed—who must bleed and die, demonstrating valor, virtue, courage, and sacrifice, along with a love of his brotherhood, which those who have not served can scarcely comprehend. How true are the words penned by “Anonymous Americas.”

God and the soldier, all men adore
In times of trouble, but never before.
But when the wars are won, and wrongs are righted,
God is forgotten and the soldier is slighted.

The Debt We Owe

We cannot repay the debt we owe to those who have served, sacrificed, suffered, and often died on lonely battlefields around the world. The one thing we can do is remember them, honor them, and pray for the family members who have also sacrificed through their loss. It is because of those who willingly gave up all their tomorrows that we enjoy the gifts of liberty that we have today. A poem written by Charles Michael Province (U.S. Army) is a good reminder:

It is the Soldier, not the minister Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer Who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer Who has given us the right to a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, not the politician Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

The Lord Jesus stated the issue most simply and powerfully:

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Joh 15:13

On this Veterans’ Day, let us remember them and pray for those who continue to mourn the loss of loved ones, and for those who continue to deal with the wounds of war—physical and psychological and spiritual. To all our veterans, this is our prayer:

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion
of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”
2Co 13:14

In His service,

Gene


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