Sermon title:  WHEN VETERANS ARE TREATED UNFAIRLY, GOD CARES

2 Samuel 11:11-18

   

                            Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, November 11, 2018

 

 

 

 

In April 1945,

just days before the end of the Second World War,

the 200-foot USS Eagle 56

was sunk by a German submarine

off Cape Elizabeth near the coast of Portland, Maine.

 

13 members of the crew survived, but 49 were lost.

 

A naval court of inquiry ruled

that it was a boiler explosion that sank the ship—

not enemy action—

even though surviving crew members testified

that they saw the U-Boat that torpedoed them.

 

It’s not clear why the navy reached that false conclusion.

 

Some speculate that it was due to wartime secrecy.

 

Others felt it was to avoid the embarrassment

of admitting a German U-Boat

was able to operate so close to the U.S. mainland

so late in the war.

 

Because the navy court ruled

the sinking was due to a boiler explosion,

the men were ruled ineligible to receive Purple Hearts.

 

They had not been injured or killed in action,

according to the official ruling.

 

Years later the survivors forced the navy

to look into it again,

and the truth finally came out.

 

The men were awarded Purple Hearts in 2002,

most of them posthumously,

after a long fight to correct that injustice.

 

But some of the injustices toward servicemen and veterans

have never been corrected—

or the correction came too late to do any good.

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The has been a lot of debate about

service-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

 

In the past it was called “shell shock”

or “battle fatigue syndrome.”

 

And there has often been

inadequate compensation

to offset the suffering and lost income

experienced by those incurring these effects of war.

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There has also been a lot of discussion

about inadequate care

provided for veterans in general

through the Veterans Administration hospital system.

 

There have been reports of

scandalously long wait times

before receiving any care at all.

 

My own father was a World War 2 veteran

who fought in North Africa,

then fought his way north through the boot of Italy

and took part in the liberation

of one of the Nazi concentration camps.

 

As he got older and his health began to decline

he tried making use of the VA hospital system

but then stopped going to the Veterans Hospital

and instead paid out of his own pocket

to visit outside doctors.

He told me

the VA treated him so disrespectfully

that he felt insulted

every time he went there.

 

He refused to submit to the indignity

of such callous treatment.

 

It was so bad that he was willing to pay for private medical care

at his own expense.

 

What a shame

that men and women who sacrificed so much for their country

should be so unappreciated!

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Agent orange was widely used in the Vietnam War

to defoliate the jungle.

 

As of a report written in May of this year,

the VA now acknowledges that agent orange

is responsible for cancers such as Hodgkin’s disease,

multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma,

but it still denies a connection

to esophageal cancer and 34 other diseases.

 

As a result, veterans have been denied benefits,

and widows have been denied spousal benefits.

 

By April 1993, almost 20 years after the war ended,

the Dept. of Veterans Affairs

had compensated only 486 veterans

for the harm done to them by agent orange

although it had received disability claims

by that date

from 39,418 soldiers who had been exposed.

 

And Blue Water veterans have also been denied benefits,

although sailors patrolling off the coast of Vietnam

were exposed to drifting toxic clouds

and drank and bathed in desalinated water

contaminated by agent orange.

 

Just this year Congress finally began to consider a bill

to cover 90,000 ailing sea service veterans

for agent orange disability.

 

The House passed it,

but last I heard the Senate was still considering it in September.

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It’s a disgrace

that those who served their country

have so often been treated poorly

by the country they served  protected.

 

Government authorities

and the general public

have often seemed unaware or unconcerned.

 

But we have many assurances in the Bible

that our God is a lover of justice

and that he hears the complaining cries

of people who have been treated poorly.

 

In the past, we’ve looked at

the Parable of the Unrighteous Judge and the Poor Widow

in Luke chapter 18.

 

The main lesson of that parable

is for us to persist in prayer.

 

But the parable itself is

about an judge

who kept ignoring a poor widow’s plea for justice,

and then finally granted her petition

because she kept persisting

and finally wore him down.

 

That story reminds us

of how veterans and their widows

have had to campaign, sometimes for decades,

to get justice and fair treatment.

 

I believe our Lord Jesus told that parable the way he did

to show that God is on the side

of people who have been denied justice

by those in authority.

 

It shows that God is concerned and is indignant

when those in power

ignore the needs of those who cry out to them.

 

And the parable concludes by saying

that God will see to it that there is

“justice for his chosen ones,

who cry out to him day and night.”

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There are many other places, too,

where the Bible shows that God is concerned

for the victims of oppression and injustice.

 

And he promises eventually to make things right,

and to hold the oppressors accountable

either in this life, or in the next.

------------------------------------

 

So, Veterans Day seems an appropriate time

to look at the Bible’s account

of Uriah the Hittite.

 

It’s found in the Old Testament in 2nd Samuel.[  OPEN  ]

 

Uriah was a good and faithful soldier

who was treated terribly

by those in authority over him.

 

His death was a direct result

of their injustice.

 

And the way that the Bible tells the story of Uriah,

shows that God sympathizes

with the victims of such injustices—

not with the highly-placed authorities

who are responsible.

[  OPEN  ]

Uriah’s story is found in 2nd Samuel, Chapter 11.

 

It’s part of the account of David and Bathsheba.

 

And when this portion of Scripture is discussed,

the focus is usually on King David

and his fall into sin

by committing adultery with this woman.

 

But the real hero of the story

is Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah.

 

The account shows him to be

a good and loving husband.

 

The prophet Nathan later compares Uriah’s love for his wife

to a man who tenderly cares for a little lamb.

 

And the account portrays Uriah as

a faithful worshiper of God,

and a soldier loyal to his buddies in battle.

 

He did nothing wrong.

 

In fact, Uriah set a worthy example

as a soldier loyal to God and country,

and to the wife who had been waiting

for him to return from duty.

 

But he was treated terribly

by king David and by Joab, the commander of the army.

 

The account begins at 2nd Samuel 11:11.

 

11 In the spring,

at the time when kings go off to war,

David sent Joab out with the king's men

and the whole Israelite army.

They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.

But David remained in Jerusalem.

 

King David was shirking his duty.

 

It was the time of year “when kings go off to war,”

but King David remained home in Jerusalem,

and sent his high-ranking officer Joab off

to command the army.

 

The army under Joab defeated the enemy Ammonites

and was now laying siege

to the Ammonite capital, Rabbah,

a city protected by a high, fortified wall

like an ancient castle.

 

But King David was lounging around at home,

and his idleness in time of war got him into trouble.

 

2 One evening David got up from his bed

and walked around on the roof of the palace.

From the roof he saw a woman bathing.

 

The woman was very beautiful,

3 and David sent someone to find out about her.

 

The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba,

the daughter of Eliam

and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"

 

4 Then David sent messengers to get her.

She came to him, and he slept with her.

(She had purified herself from her uncleanness.)

Then she went back home.

 

Shame on David!  What an abuse of royal power!

 

This was someone’s daughter he defiled by adultery,

and someone’s wife he had corrupted.

 

In his lust and passion of the moment

he must have thought he could get away with it.

 

But then we read,

 

5 The woman conceived

and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."

 

Sin has consequences.

 

But the king devised a plan

to make it look like

Bathsheba was pregnant by her own husband.

 

6 So David sent this word to Joab:

"Send me Uriah the Hittite."

And Joab sent him to David.

 

7 When Uriah came to him,

David asked him how Joab was,

how the soldiers were and how the war was going.

 

How could David even face Uriah

after cheating with his wife

while Uriah was on the front lines?

 

But sin hardened David

into this pretense of wanting to know how the war was going.

 

Then he casually brought up the real reason

why he had sent for this soldier.

 

8 Then David said to Uriah,

"Go down to your house and wash your feet."

 

So Uriah left the palace,

and a gift from the king was sent after him.

 

9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace

with all his master's servants

and did not go down to his house.

 

It didn’t work.

 

Everyone in the palace knew that Uriah had slept there,

not at home.

 

10 When David was told, "Uriah did not go home,"

he asked him,

"Haven't you just come from a distance?

Why didn't you go home?"

 

And here we see the nobility of Uriah’s character—

why he is the real hero of this episode.

 

11 Uriah said to David,

"The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men

are camped in the open fields.

How could I go to my house to eat and drink

and lie with my wife?

As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!"

 

The first thing Uriah mentioned was “the ark”—

the Ark of the Covenant,

which represented God’s presence among the Israelites.

 

Then he named his commanding officer

and referred to his fellow soldiers.

 

They were all roughing it,

sleeping in tents in the open field of battle.

 

It was unthinkable for Uriah

to go home, eat and drink with his wife

and go to bed with her,

while his battle buddies

were out in the open field facing the enemy.

 

He was truly a loyal soldier.

 

But king David was becoming desperate to cover up his sin.

 

12 Then David said to him,

"Stay here one more day,

and tomorrow I will send you back."

 

So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.

 

13 At David's invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk.

 

But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master's servants;

he did not go home.

 

We all know what a shameful thing it is

to get someone drunk,

hoping to lower their inhibitions

and to get them to do something out of character

that they would never do when sober.

 

But Uriah was of such strong character,

that even this dastardly trick on David’s part

failed to break Uriah’s loyalty

to his comrades in arms.

 

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab

and sent it with Uriah.

 

15 In it he wrote,

"Put Uriah in the front line

where the fighting is fiercest.

Then withdraw from him

so he will be struck down and die."

 

David was so hardened by sin

that he stooped to having Uriah

deliver his own death warrant.

 

There were other occasions

when Joab objected to David’s orders

and sometimes even refused to obey.

 

But this time the field commander

does just what David said to do.

 

16 So while Joab had the city under siege,

he put Uriah at a place

where he knew the strongest defenders were.

 

17 When the men of the city came out

and fought against Joab,

some of the men in David's army fell;

moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

 

Then, further down, we read in Verse 26,

 

26 When Uriah's wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him.

 

27 After the time of mourning was over,

David had her brought to his house,

and she became his wife and bore him a son.

 

But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

 

If anything, that was an understatement

that “the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

 

The Lord was furious.

 

The Lord knew what a good and faithful man Uriah was

and how horribly David had treated him.

 

Uriah was the victim of adulterous cheating,

another man taking his wife,

and being killed by enemy action

in an evil and despicable set-up

that intentionally sacrificed Uriah and other men,

just to cover up the king’s sin.

 

God had all of this exposed and recorded in Scripture

to let us know that he cares

about soldiers who have been victimized

in this way and in other ways.

 

God punished king David severely.

 

At God’s command,

the child David had fathered with Bathsheba

became sick and died

despite David’s prayers for mercy.

 

2nd Samuel Chapter 12, Verse 9, tells us

God told David through Nathan the prophet,

 

9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord

by doing what is evil in his eyes?

 

You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword

and took his wife to be your own.

You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

 

10 Now, therefore,

the sword will never depart from your house,

because you despised me

and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite

to be your own.'

 

Notice, the Lord said

what David did to Uriah

was a sin against the Lord himself.

God said,

“you despised me

and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite

to be your own.”

 

11 "This is what the Lord says:

'Out of your own household

I am going to bring calamity upon you.

 

Before your very eyes I will take your wives

and give them to one who is close to you,

and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.

 

12 You did it in secret,

but I will do this thing in broad daylight

before all Israel.' "

 

And all of that punishment did come upon the king,

just as the Lord said it would.

 

Moreover, David’s mistreatment of Uriah

remained a blot against David’s character

that is always remembered against him.

 

1st Kings 15:5 sums up David’s life by saying,

 

“David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord

and had not failed to keep

any of the Lord 's commands

all the days of his life—-

except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

 

And, as for Uriah himself,

God saw to it that Uriah’s example

of faithfulness to his buddies in battle

was memorialized in the Bible for all to read.

 

Our God appreciated Uriah’s loyalty

to God and country, to his wife,

and to his comrades in arms.

 

And the inclusion in the Bible

of this episode of history with all its details,

is a reminder that God cares about all who suffer injustice.

 

And, when Christ returns,

he will see that justice is done,

including justice for veterans who have been treated poorly.

 

At Matthew 16:27 Jesus said,

“The Son of Man is going to come

in his Father's glory with his angels,

and then he will reward each person

according to what he has done.”

 

We are all called to be soldiers of Christ,

and, as such, we must endure hardship in this world—

hardship that sometimes includes

injustice and unfair treatment.

 

The Apostle Paul wrote at 2nd Timothy 2:3,

 “Endure hardship with us like

a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”