Today is the 79th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The surprise attack killed more than 2,400 Americans at Pearl Harbor Navy base in Hawaii. Of that number there were 2,008 Navy personnel, 109 Marines, 218 Army service members and 68 civilians. 1,177 of the dead were from the USS Arizona. At least 1,100 more were injured. This signaled the entry of this country into WWII. It was a Sunday morning, just before 8a.m. when Japanese planes made the surprise raid. The attack didn’t last long but, in the process, nearly 20 American naval vessels, including 8 battle ships were damaged or destroyed. President Franklin D. Roosevelt named the day as one that would live in Infamy.
Standing on the memorial that is built over the USS Arizona is a sobering experience. Looking down into the water, the remains of the ship are clearly visible, a hallowed burial sight for so many US service men. The gospel of John records these words of Jesus in 15:13. “Greater love has no one but this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Over the years countless men and women have given their life in service to this country, some during war and others serving in peace times., Each life given, each war fought, every battle endured has given those of us who have not fought the freedom we enjoy today. This country is not perfect by any means. We have had and will continue to have our fair share of challenges. But we live in a country that is free because of the sacrifices so many have been willing to make.
Many of our family members served in WWII, parents, or grandparents. My Father served in the air force in England, loading bombs onto countless warplanes the day before D-Day. Barb’s father served in the Coast Guard and one of my uncles served in the Navy at Guadalcanal. Our family was lucky. Everyone came home alive. Many families were not nearly so lucky. “Greater love has no one but this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Or his country. Men and women are still giving their lives for our freedom. We live in the West Valley and sometimes at night, if the conditions are right, we can hear the jets getting ready to take off at Luke Air Force Base. It is a mighty sound, one that reminds me there are always people keeping watch.
There is another who keeps watch. Psalm 121:4 reminds us, “He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The Lord is always on watch. He neither slumbers nor sleeps. In that same Psalm we read. “The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is the shade on your right hand. The sun will not strike you by day nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” He will watch over us…always.
We also know that there is One who has paid the price for our freedom. Each and every one of us sins. We were born in sin and we live in it every day. We read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” By all rights we are slaves to sin. And because of that we should stand and face the wrath of God. But no one would be able to survive that. Out of His great love for us, God sent His one and only Son, to pay the price for our sins. Jesus endured the punishment. He took the full brunt of God’s wrath over our sin. Jesus hung on a Roman instrument of torture for you and for me. He was wearing all our sins…past, present, and future. Not because we deserve it, not because we have earned it. But because we cannot pay for our sins ourselves. And…God wants to spend eternity with us. Jesus told the disciples, and us, in John 14:2, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” We have a place in heaven for all of eternity…with the Lord. Jesus death on the cross and His victory over sin, death, and evil has set us free. We are no longer held hostage in our sin. Yes, we continue to sin, and we will until Jesus returns again in power and might. But we are free. So, while the American soldiers pay the price for our physical freedom, Jesus has paid the price for our spiritual freedom. He has set us truly free.
We may observe December 7 as Pearl Harbor Day but everyday is a celebration of our freedom from sin.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W