Public Square & Theology 101

Who Protects Those Who Work to Protect Us?

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As we celebrate Memorial Day, I am proud to have served in the U.S. Army, especially now. Lately, I have been impressed by the actions of our military leaders at all levels on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. This post is where I work training and educating soldiers.

In my thirty-four years serving in and with the U.S. Army, I know that it is uniquely prepared to handle emergencies, counter threats, and carry out very difficult missions effectively. What are the results of these efforts? The “curve” is flattening and we are still in business.

This current situation has reminded me of an example in scripture of how God worked in and through the leaders He called and equipped to protect His people during an assault.

God Protects the Wall-Builders

The book of Nehemiah illustrates how the Israelites relied on God for protection as they rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem when they returned from exile. This is a great example of “Immanuel labor”—the biblical connection between God’s presence and human work. Yahweh provided protection directly and indirectly through the work of His people.

If you read the narrative, you will see that God put a burden on Nehemiah’s heart to lead the effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Nehemiah recalls that God’s gracious hand of protection was already upon him (Neh 2:8, 18). He relied on Yahweh to give him success (Neh 2:20). 

When they encountered opposition, they prayed for God’s protection and posted guards day and night (Neh 4:9). This is another illustration of how God’s presence is connected to human work.

After God supernaturally frustrated the plot of their enemies, the Israelites continued to work diligently. Half the men did the work while the others defended the team with weapons, shields, and armor (Neh 4:16). As each one did their part by working and protecting the force, they acknowledged that their God was fighting for them (Neh 4:20).

Victory Rest with the Lord

Elsewhere, in the book of Proverbs, we see this connection between God’s partnership with human coworkers in protecting His chosen people. King Solomon writes, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord” (Prov 21:31). The point is fairly obvious. Soldiers (and their horses) definitely needed to be trained and ready in order to win the battle. (Drill sergeants do this faithfully every single day at Fort Leonard Wood.) However, without the Lord’s blessing and protection, there would be no victory.

In our world today, experienced senior leaders listen to the advice of subject matter experts and rapidly adapt as conditions change. Engaged junior leaders are taking care of soldiers and their families. Professional and disciplined drill sergeants train new soldiers while enforcing social distancing standards. Teams of teams work together to find creative solutions to problems. More importantly, God is at work through every one of them.

Let me leave you with a final word of encouragement. I have clearly seen God’s protection, manifested in and through the dedicated work of leaders and those who turn civilians into soldiers. These men and women will go forth from here, assigned to units around the world, so that they will be ready to defend this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. I thank God for their work. I thank God for their work.

May we remember those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom this Memorial Day.

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