How the Mighty Have Fallen!    Sermon by David A. Reed at Immanuel Baptist Church – May 28, 2017

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That responsive reading from 2nd Samuel

was a mournful song

memorializing King Saul and his son Jonathan,

who had just died in battle defending Israel.

Jonathan had been a close friend of David.

He loved him like a brother.

But King Saul had been David's enemy.

Saul knew that God had anointed David

to someday replace Saul as king.

And, although David proved on multiple occasions

that he would never lift a finger against Saul,

Saul viewed David as a threat,

and treated him as a political enemy.

Saul had tried on several occasions to have David killed.

And so, right up until Saul was killed in battle,

David had been forced to live in hiding

to avoid being killed by Saul.

But David rose above that political rivalry.

And when Saul died leading Israel's armies

in battle against the Philistines,

David honored Saul with this memorial song.

 

On Memorial Day we, too, remember those we have lost-

especially those who died defending freedom.

At John 15:13, our Lord Jesus said,

"Greater love has no one than this,

than to lay down one's life for his friends."

He said this about Himself dying for our sins. 

But those who died for our freedom showed similar love.

And, like King David,

we don't allow politics

to get in the way

of honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

 

 

The death of King Saul and his son Jonathan

was especially painful to the nation of Israel,

because 1 Samuel chapter 31 tells us

they died in defeat,

not in victory.

 

1 Samuel 31 verses 6 and 7 says:

6 So Saul, his three sons, his armorbearer, and all his men died together that same day.

7 And when the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley, and those who were on the other side of the Jordan, saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.

Why would God allow Israel to be defeated like that before its enemies?

We don't have to wonder why,

because it happened many times

throughout the Old Testament,

that God allowed Israel to be defeated before its enemies.

In fact,

sometimes God even sent hostile nations

to defeat, occupy and oppress Israel.

And when He did,

God always told why.

 

Back in the days of Moses,

God told Israel ahead of time

that he would do that.

At Deuteronomy 30:15-18  God said,

"I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways . . . and the Lord your God will bless you in the land . . . But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear . . . you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land"

 

And God warned them again,

over and over again,

each time He stopped defending the nation.

 

For example,

I'm going to read from the book of Judges,

Judges 2:11-15

where God explained on one occasion

why He punished the nation of Israel

by allowing Israel's enemies

 to harass them and to defeat them.

[  READ Judges 2:11-15  ]

 

So, God abandoned Israel to their enemies,

because Israel had abandoned worshiping God.

And that happened

over and over again.

 

Finally, after many centuries,

with Jewish kings descended from King David

ruling in Jerusalem

for hundreds of years.

and being disciplined by God like that,

God announced through His prophets

that all of that was coming to an end.

God told the prophets

that he was sending the armies of Babylon

against the Holy City.

Jerusalem was going to suffer terribly in war.

The city would then be emptied of its people.

They would be carried off as prisoners of war.

Why was God going to do that to ancient Jerusalem?

The book of Ezekiel explains why.

 

The last verse in Ezekiel chapter 4  says

 it was "because of their sin."

 

And Ezekiel chapter 22 gives more detail

as to why God was abandoning His people

to their enemies.

In Ezekiel chapter 22, God lists off

the sins of the nation,

that would result in their being defeated in war.

 

[ READ Ezekiel 22:1-5   and then   22:25-29. ]

 

So, God announced that He

was going to let Israel's enemies conquer them,

on account of those and other sins

listed in that chapter.

 

Can we learn anything from that?          Yes, we can.

 

President Dwight Eisenhower was a man who knew the Bible.

And President Eisenhower told us,

"America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

America will cease to be great." 

Yes, America's greatness derives from its Christian heritage-

which we must struggle to preserve.

 

President Eisenhower was actually commenting on a quote

from a French visitor,

about how the Frenchman was looking for the secret

of America's greatness,

and where he found it.

This is how the President quoted him.  He said: 

"I sought for the greatness and genius of America

in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers-and it was not there

…in her fertile fields and boundless forests-and it was not there

…in her rich mines and her vast world commerce-and it was not there

…in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution-and it was not there.

Not until I went into the churches of America

and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness

did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good,

and if America ever ceases to be good,

America will cease to be great."

 

That observation was true.

When that Frenchman visited America back in the 1800's,

America was full of churches

preaching the Bible  and the Gospel of Christ.

And America's churches were full of people.

But today,

many churches across the country are empty.

And many churches that draw crowds of people

are providing entertainment rather than the Bible,

and a watered-down version of the Gospel.

America's heroes today

are immoral TV personalities,

immoral rock stars,

and immoral movie stars.

Proverbs 14:34 says,

"Righteousness exalts a nation,

But sin is a reproach to any people."

Yes, America has been great,

because America has been good.

And we do well to remember that, this Memorial Day.

We can continue to do our part

as individuals and as a church

to keep America good.

==========================================

Memorial Day is also a time when people visit cemeteries,

visiting the graves of loved ones

and placing flowers on those graves.

We pause there to remember father or mother,

son or daughter,

soldier or sailor

and to recall the times we shared together in life-

the good times and the bad times

the ups and downs of life,

and all the shared experiences

that make another person dear to us.

For much of the world,

their lost loved ones live on only in the minds of the living-

only in those memories that are called to mind

on Memorial Day

and on other occasions

when something triggers the mind

to bring back thoughts of that lost loved one.

But, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ,

we have more than just memories:  We also have hope.

We have hope because Christ died for us,

and rose from the grave

that we, too, may live again. 

One of my favorite Bible passages

is in the Gospel of John, chapter 11.

I'm going to read part of the chapter,

beginning at verse 1, and ending with my favorite verse,

where Jesus visited a cemetery

[   READ John chapter 11:1-35.  ]

"Jesus wept."

It's the shortest verse in the whole Bible.

But, to me, it's one of the most powerful.

Jesus is the Son of God.

Before He visited the cemetery where Lazarus was buried,

He had walked on water.

He had calmed the stormy sea.

He had healed the blind and the lame.

Jesus had already raised the dead

on more than one occasion.

And Jesus knew that He was going to the cemetery

to raise Lazarus back to life.

Yet, even knowing all that,

and even though He Himself was God the Son,

Jesus wept.

Jesus wept.

And it wasn't just a few tears,

like when you peel onions.

Verse 33 said when Jesus saw Mary crying for her dead brother, "Jesus was deeply moved in spirit

and troubled."

His feeling for Lazarus's grieving relatives

was a gut-wrenching emotion for Jesus.

He was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled."

I picture Jesus choked up with emotion,

 sobbing,

with His chest heaving

as he cried and sobbed.

"Jesus wept."

Our God is not detached

and above it all,

like a serene Buddha,

untouched by human emotion.

No, our God feels our pain,

and shares with us in our sorrows.     "Jesus wept."

And He weeps with us today,

even though He knows

that He will someday put an end to death

and will wipe away every tear.

Revelation 21:4 says,

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away."

But, in the meantime,

Jesus knows our mourning and crying and pain,

and He cries with us.       "Jesus wept."

 

After weeping with the family that had lost Lazarus,

Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead.

He called him to come out of the grave,

and presented him alive to his family.

 

And  Jesus went on to die for us,

and to rise again, so that we, too, may live.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:19-20,

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ,

we are of all men the most pitiable.

But now Christ is risen from the dead,

and has become the firstfruits

of those who have fallen asleep."

 

And he wrote at  I Thessalonians 4:13-14,                 

"But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."

 

Those who hope in God

have had this hope even in Old Testament times,

looking forward to the coming of Christ.

 

The book of Job was written well over 1000 years before Christ,

but in chapter 19 of Job

we see that he knew there would be a resurrection

of believers.

We find it in Job, chapter 19.

Notice what Job says in verses 25 through 27.

[  READ Job 19:25-27  ]

 

So, around 3500 years ago, Job had that faith in his Redeemer-

at least 1,500 years before Christ.

How much more should we have this hope,

now that Christ has come and has died for us

and has risen from the dead.