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Great Commissionings

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My father-in-law, who is mentioned in this devotion, went home to heaven on Friday, May 18, 2012.  He was buried a few days later with full military honors, a recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart, a member of the 101st Airborne who jumped into Normandy on D-Day.

“But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” — the words of the LORD to Moses in Deuteronomy 3:28

On the wall of my father-in-law’s office hangs a small piece of paper framed as an important document, yellowed with age. On this paper are these words:

“Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

You see, this framed document is an original, not a copy. Jim is one of the few surviving veterans of the 101st Airborne Division who jumped into Normandy on D-Day. My husband grew up hearing his Dad’s stories of Carentan and St. Mere Eglise. Now our son (active-duty Air Force) carries the memory of a 1987 visit with his “Pappa” and his Dad to the beaches where these three generations scoured that historic countryside for clues to where Jim might have been during his mission now sixty-plus years ago.

The commission from General Eisenhower, which was handed out on paper to Jim and to the forces who took part in Operation Overlord, reminds me of the commission which was given by General George Washington to his troops when out-numbered by British soldiers near Brooklyn in August, 1776. Jane Hampton Cook, author of Battlefields and Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Revolutionary War, writes “Even though victory seemed questionable at best, Washington tried to compensate by giving his troops a commissioning:

‘The enemy’s whole reinforcement is now arrived, so that an attack must, and will soon be made. . . . And when called to it (action), remember, that liberty, property, life and honour, are all at stake; that upon (your) courage and conduct rest the hopes of (our) bleeding and insulted country; that (your) wives, children, and parents, expect safety from (you) only; and that we have every reason to believe, that heaven will crown with success so just a cause. . . . The enemy will endeavour to intimidate by show and appearance; but remember, they have been repulsed on various occasions by a few brave Americans; their cause is bad; and if opposed with firmness and coolness on their first onset, with our advantage of works, and knowledge of the ground, the victory is most assuredly ours.’” — George Washington

The definition of a “commission” is: “an authoritative order, charge, or direction.” There are other versions of this definition, but they all include the matter of authority and a mission to be performed.  Notice the commission given in Deuteronomy 3, in the Scripture above, which contains those elements. And as a Christian I know that “The Great Commission,” given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20 is something like “marching orders” for us:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.” — Jesus Christ

The Great Commission of Matthew 28 still applies today—and would remind us that there is work to be done. By the authority of Jesus Christ we are to go and make disciples throughout the world. . . . . see them baptized. . . .and teach them. . . .ever mindful that we are never alone in this endeavor. To God be the Glory!

Work cited:

1. http://www.archives.gov/historical-docs/todays-doc/index.html?dod-date=606

2. Cook, Jane Hampton, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Revolutionary War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2007) p. 196-97.

Questions to Share:

1. How does historical perspective help you in facing the challenges you have in the battles of today?

2. How does the promise of God’s presence strengthen you for the battles of today?

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