November 19, 2022

Subject: Honoring America’s Military this Veteran’s Day – How the Soldier’s Oath points to Jesus Christ

Ed Croteau

Numbers 30:2 “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself to some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”

The Old Testament book of Numbers is the fourth book written by Moses and dates around 1450-1410 BC. Numbers begins with Moses taking a census of all the tribes to see how many men are available for military service, as they begin their journey out of captivity as slaves in Egypt to settle as a free nation in the Promised Land. This is where our verse this week comes into play – a critical element for service and separation to the God of the Bible is taking an oath. Before they begin their journey into hostile enemy territory, each Israelite must prepare themselves by making a personal oath of commitment to the Lord.

Everyone who joins our military has one thing in common with the Israelites: they begin by repeating the Oath of Enlistment. Every service member must keep this oath for his/her entire military career. Discipline and accepting orders is sworn to. And it concludes with a simple statement: “So help me God.”

No other institution instills American trust and pride more than our military. Since 1973, Gallup has asked Americans to rank the most trusted institutions. The number 1 vote-getter year after year (Gallup has done this poll nearly 40 times) is our military. 78% of Americans today say they have a great deal of trust in our armed forces. Small business came in second at 64%, our police force at 54%, then the church at 48%. The awesome thing about our military is that this percentage has been growing as the years go by. What makes our military so trustworthy? They not only take a solemn oath – they actually live it out every day.

Here’s the Military Oath of Enlistment each swears to uphold.: “I, _, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth Keskel, Director of Manpower and Organization for Air Combat Command at Langley AFB in Virginia, explains the deep significance of the phrase ‘So Help Me God’: “This final phrase is the most important one in the oath. Officers must embrace the moral foundation symbolized in the phrase ‘So help me God’ since it is the heart and soul of the success of future generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.”

Examining the words in the Oath, Lt Col Keskel ties them to the Core Values in each of the branches of our military. And we can go a step further – we can tie them to the biblical core values we find in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is the reason why we end the oath with ‘So help me God’, an appeal to God as our witness and our source of strength. Let’s break it down and see the core values personified in our God.

Oath part 1: “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Core Values: Air Force = Service before Self; Navy/Marine = Courage; Army = Selfless Service, personal courage, loyalty. Biblical Core Value – Philippians 2:8 “Being found in appearance as a man, He (Jesus) humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”

Oath part 2: “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.” Core Values: Air Force = Integrity first; Navy/Marines = Honor; Army = Integrity. Biblical Core Value – Matthew 26:39 “He (Jesus) went a little farther and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Oath part 3: “I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter.” Core Value: Air Force = Excellence in all we do; Navy/Marines = Commitment; Army = Duty, Respect. Biblical Core Value – Old Testament picture of Jesus Christ = Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone each to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the sin of us all.” New Testament fulfillment in Jesus Christ = John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”

May God watch over and bless our military – our most trusted institution of honor, selflessness, strength, courage and unwavering commitment to others – the very embodiment of Jesus Christ.

Ed Croteau is a lay pastor and resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the LS Tribune, on Facebook and his website