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.
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
to offset the suffering and lost income
experienced by those incurring these effects of war.
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!
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.
It’s a disgrace
that those who served their country
have so often been treated poorly
by the country they served protected.
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.”
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.
“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.”