Thursday, December 01, 2011

My Perspective on A Veterans Day Sermon

A few weeks ago, a guest preacher preached a sermon at my church.  It was the Sunday before Veteran’s Day.  The preacher is an upstanding, godly member of my congregation who often preaches on special occasions, especially patriotic holidays.

The sermon was about the Gulf War and its similarities to a certain battle or war involving Israel and Syria and the consequences thereof.  In this story, Benhadad, king of Syria, invaded Samaria (the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel) as mentioned in 1 Kings 20:1.  The city had been surrounded by the Syrian army and the Syrians had begun to plunder the city.  But the tables were turned when Israel’s king, Ahab, sent out princes to fight against them in accordance with the word of the Lord given to him by a prophet.  Benhadad then asked for terms of surrender so that his life would be spared and King Ahab agreed to these terms (1 Kings 20:31-34).  God was displeased with Ahab for letting the guilty Benhadad go free (1 Kings 20:42).  Benhadad besieged Samaria again (2 Kings 6:24).

In the parallelism drawn by the preacher, Benhadad represents Saddam Hussein and Syria is represented by IraqIsrael is parallel to the United States and King Ahab is President George H.W. Bush.  In the preacher’s view of the events of the history of the Gulf War and its aftermath, Bush let Saddam Hussein get away, God was displeased with this, and as a result, we HAD to fight against Saddam and Iraq again. 

I don’t quite agree.  Yes, there are similarities between the stories.  Saddam Hussein and Benhadad were both wicked aggressors.  I agree that George H.W. Bush did not act in accordance with God’s word, but not quite in the manner that this preacher is intimating.  There are huge differences between the Gulf War and this episode between Benhadad and King Ahab.

Benhadad invaded Samaria, murdering thousands of Israelites.  This was apparently an unprovoked attack.  (The Northern Kingdom of Israel had been at war with Judah, who had made covenant with Benhadad against them [1 Kings 15:18-19].)  The battle was fought completely on Israelite land, not in Syria.  Saddam Hussein never invaded America nor even harmed an American citizen prior to the Gulf War.  The Gulf War was fought in Iraq, not the United States.  This was simply a case of the United States choosing sides (one Muslim nation against another) and was by no means an act of national defense.  I know of no place in Scripture where God ever commanded the nation of Israel to attack a nation outside of the land Canaan because of brutality inflicted only on people who were not Israelites.  It just doesn’t fit very well.

Secondly, there was specific revelation from God that Benhadad was to be removed from office and replaced with another king (1 Kings 19:15).  We had no such revelation from God concerning Saddam Hussein.  From a Biblical perspective, there was no more reason to remove him from office than Kim Jong Il or King Hussein of Saudi Arabia.  In fact, the Bible specifically warns us to stay away from Babylon (e.g. Revelation 18:4), which is modern day Iraq.

Thirdly, I am not so sure that George H.W. Bush had Saddam Hussein in custody or that any form of agreement was made that involved sparing Hussein’s life.  As king of Israel, Ahab had the authority to make such decisions for the entire nation.  But in the United States, we do not have a king, but a President who cannot, according the Constitution, make such an agreement without the approval of the Senate, not to mention that the war itself was unconstitutional because war was not formally declared.  (In fairness to the preacher, he did not actually mention the name of the President, but said “we” which would include the Congress.)  This being the case, the right thing to do, from a Constitutional point of view, at any point in time after the invasion, would be to immediately cease fire and withdrawal all forces from the region.  This would include even a point in time when Saddam Hussein was in captivity or capable of being killed.  A much better parallelism to Benhadad and Ahab would be Osama Bin Laden and Bill Clinton.  Clinton let Bin Laden get away.  Of course, the right thing to do in Ahab’s case would have been to kill Benhadad, but in Bush’s case, it was more of a dilemma.  Because of previous poor choices, there was no good choice for him. 

Fourthly, the parallelism between the subsequent wars has the same problem as the first.  When Benhadad invaded Israel, it was another unprovoked attack which violated a treaty he had made with Israel.  But again Saddam Hussein did not attack the United States or harm any American citizen.  For a second time, in the Iraq War, we invaded his land, taking the side of one of our enemies against another.  We certainly did not HAVE to violate the Constitution and have this second war for reasons which are still unknown to me.

Even though the nation of Iraq was led by a brutal dictator like Hussein, this does not give anyone the right to go in there set off bombs killing thousands of people, including children.  Intentionally killing innocent people is murder and it is always unacceptable to God.  No exceptions.

There is one similarity between the two historical events that the preacher did not mention.  Like the nation of Israel, America has turned its back on God.  In Israel, there were only 7000 people (likely out of millions) who had not bowed the knee to Baal (I Kings 19:18).  While we are not quite that bad off, we are certainly headed in that direction.  One of the consequences of this, in both cases, is that uncompassionate and foolish leaders have come to power and the people are suffering for it.  Will we turn back to God before it’s too late? 

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