Today we take time to remember those whose lives were offered fighting to preserve our freedoms. It seems odd for I live in a country that has not been involved in any major war in my lifetime, at least war that is vivid in my memory. I was very young when WWII ended. Those other smaller wars seemed so far away, partly because I didn’t know any soldiers. Even though I’m moved by the aged survivors and seeing those coming back from battles and peace-keeping missions, I admit wondering how to respond when war is hard to remember. Certainly I don’t want to take this freedom for granted.
David wrote some of his psalms during conflict. He was a warrior king for much of his life and was persecuted by Saul for a long time before he even took the throne. He was also a sinner and thankful to God for forgiveness. This psalm tells me that he didn’t take his freedom for granted either. He begins with . . .
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.”
I watch the old soldiers and those who are young. Their faces sometimes show the pain of their battles, but this is not the pain David speaks of. He knows he does not deserve the kindness of God. He asks for mercy as he asks for deliverance, feeling the horrors of being crushed by his enemy.
He also remembers, but not the battles. He says, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.”
How is this remembering compared to November 11 remembering? Certainly it is happier. David recalls the many times God delivered him, rescued him, sheltered and guided him. He remembers the creative power of God and the care He shows. This is the man who wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd . . .” so he remembers the still waters and the restoration of his soul. He knows the goodness of God and is thinking about it.
David is also in trouble, unnamed but he is deeply threatened. He cries out to God, remembering that God has delivered him before and He can do it again. He says, “I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah Answer me quickly, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord! I have fled to you for refuge.”
Then David says something that I find instructive for this Remembrance Day. He says to God, “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.” (Psalm 143:1–12)
I will honor the fallen and remember, but I am also asking God, as David did, to teach me His will. He is my God. I want Him to lead me and preserve me, to take care of all threats against my life and my soul, not for me, but for His name’s sake.
Wearing a poppy and remembering is a good thing. It is also good to ask God to deal with our enemies and take charge of our lives as we acknowledge His part in securing and preserving the freedom that we enjoy.