The most meaningful military memorial to me is one I first saw at North Georgia College in Dahlonega. It reads: “All gave some, some gave all.” Memorial day is to honor the sacrifice of those soldiers who gave all for the cause of freedom. It is easy to forget that when we enjoy our worship every Sunday, vote freely at every election, drive from state to state in this country without passports or checkpoints, watch television programs that fully engage the free speech clause, and enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers on Memorial Day. It’s so easy to forget. Maybe that’s why our forefathers erected monuments to remind the citizens of a sacrifice that was made. Most small towns have monuments that are obvious to those who pass by. In Gainesville they have “Old Joe” on the downtown square, a memorial to those who fought in the Civil War. In Washington D.C there is a memorial to the Vietnam veterans called the Wall. It is a haunting place. If you ever go there…and touch it….you will never be the same. The Statler Brothers have a song about The Wall….but today it could be about any veteran who gave their lives so we could be here…in this building today. New York City has constructed the Freedom Tower to remind us our pursuit of freedom despite the terrorist attack of 9/11 on the World Trade Center and all the innocent victims of that tragedy. The sad thing….is it’s so easy to forget. That’s why we need Memorial Days – opportunities to remind us of the price that was paid for our freedom. God knows how forgetful we are.God cautioned the people of Moses’ day: “If you ever forget the Lord your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 8:19) Unfortunately they did forget the blessings of God and constructed a golden calf to worship rather than honor the miracle working God who delivered them from Egypt. They suffered the consequences.
1 Samuel 12:9 - says in recalling this time: “But they forgot the Lord their God…” Since God knows how forgetful his people are, he wanted to remind the high priest, and the people, of His covenant with his people Israel… so he commanded that the priest wear a special breastplate of linen cloth and gold rings and precious jewels one for each of the sons of Israel – 12 in all.And yet, a few hundred years later, an entire generation of God’s people forgot the Lord. Judges 2:10-13 says: “…another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” God knows how easy it is to forget…yet there is always a price when we forget. We repeat the same mistakes. We turn to the wrong places for answers. We seek solutions in places and programs and people rather than God. We become comfortable and selfish. We become greedy and demanding. We become hateful and not loving.
Why did God give those precious stones to the high priest to wear – one for each of the 12 tribes of Israel? Simply as a memorial to remind his chosen people that each person, though different in every way, is still precious to Him and HE will NEVER forget us. He will never forget us! Isaiah 44:21 - says: “I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you.” Hebrews 6:10 – “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” God knows how forgetful we are, but he will never forget us. Those precious jewels that the Old Testament priest wore were to cover his heart, reminding him and the people that God always has his people on his heart. That he loved them and deeply cared for them. As Isaiah 43:4 says: “…you are precious and honored in my sight.”
We no longer have the breast piece today. It has been replaced by the Lord’s Supper. Jesus began this memorial when he said: “Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:24) The loaf and the cup remind us of the sacrifice that was paid for our spiritual freedom. We were bound and imprisoned by sin, but the blood of Jesus has set us free! Because God knows how easy it is for us to forget, he gave us the Lord’s Supper as a tangible memorial to remind us that Jesus gave – not some – but all – to purchase our freedom – to redeem us – and set us free.God has never forgotten his children. He reminds us how precious we are to Him every week through the Lord’s Supper. It is a continual memorial, just like Aaron’s breastplate of the Old Testament. But instead of precious stones, we have the precious blood of Jesus as our reminder. As we receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper each week we remind ourselves of the sacrifice that was made for our sins.
Here in the South, there are memorials in most towns to the bloodiest war fought on our soil – the Civil War. Over 600,000 died in that conflict. What is often not known is that both the North and the South allowed “substitute soldiers.” A man drafted for military service could literally buy another man to go to war in his place. This lasted until 1863 in the South, when there were no more available men, and began about that same time in the North where immigrants were often paid to fight in someone’s place. The term “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” became popular in the South.Imagine paying someone to fight in your place – most to die in your place. How humbling that must have been. Yet, today, all of us gather for worship on this memorial day weekend… humbled… knowing that not only did soldiers die for our freedom as a nation, but that we have a substitute that died in our place, for our eternal freedom. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10 He died for me. May we never forget and may we always live for Him!