Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. — 1 John 4:1
From 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the year, on a hill overlooking Washington, D.C., a lone soldier walks 21 steps in a laser-straight line to a white granite military tomb, then clicks his heels, turns and pauses exactly 21 seconds, before turning once again and walking 21 steps back to his original position. The solider is a sentinel—or guard—in front of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
This tribute corresponds with America’s highest military honor, the 21-gun salute. The solemn and famous changing of the guard at the Tomb is conducted every hour on the hour and is one of the military’s most moving ceremonies. As the clock strikes the hour, a soldier comes out and escorts a new sentinel in, inspects his weapon and accompanies the old sentinel out. The changing of the guard in its entirely takes seven minutes.
The sentinels who guard the Tomb are part of the Old Guard, about 1,200 men and women in the Army’s 3rd Infantry based at Fort Myer, VA. The Tomb is never left unguarded, not even for a moment, regardless of the time or the weather. It’s not easy becoming a Tomb guard. Applicants have to memorize seven pages of history on the cemetery and learn where 300 famous veterans are buried. And they can’t be shorter than 5 feet 10 inches or taller than 6 feet four inches. The soldiers wear sharply pressed blue pants, black coats and white gloves. All are steam pressed before each guard change and their shoes are polished so brightly that the sun glares off their toes.
The Tomb of the Unknowns, once known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is the final resting place for three American soldiers killed in battle: one from World War I; one from World War II; and one from the Korean War. No one knows who they are. The inscription on the Tomb reads, “Here Rests in Honored Glory an American Soldier Known But to God.”
The night time hours between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. are known as the “hours of challenge.” Only then is the cemetery restricted to all personnel. No one comes in—no one goes out. Every sentinel is determined that nothing will happen to dishonor the Tomb on their watch. The slightest noise or disturbance, or a moving shadow among the trees can be met with a pointed bayoneted rifle and these stern, abrupt and fearful words, “Halt! Who Goes There?”
Like guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns, God has called His people to be sentinels against the spirits and forces of darkness that would attempt to destroy our faith through false teachings. Our attention should always be drawn to our need to practice due diligence as guardians of our souls, hearts and minds. Our “hours of challenge” extend far beyond just the hours of darkness—they never end. The apostle John warns us to be on guard every hour of every day against the false spirits that are in the world. They all have the same demonic origin and manifest themselves through false teachers. So let’s stay alert, saints and remember Whose on our side. Maranatha!
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better