“But If Not…..”
God’s Hand In History As His People Seek Him
I am no different than many people in our country as we look for a “red wave” to save us and turn this country around on November 8th. As with most Americans, we realize that we are at a tipping point in our country. The Constitution, traditions, history and respect for law and civility seem to be lost to demonic forces that are intent upon a totalitarian rule.
Last week also began one of the seven “feasts” or days of remembrance that God laid down in Leviticus. It begins with Rosh Hashanah or the “feast of trumpets” and ten days later is Yom Kippur. The time between these two high holy days are called the “Days of Awe” and is a time of repentance. These ten days are believed by Jewish scholars to be the last chance to repent before God’s judgment is finalized for the coming year. These feasts are a fascinating study for Christians and became a wake up call for me as we looked at a seemingly hopeless situation in our country.
Hasn’t God entered history and done miraculous wonders as he has saved his people? We have so many accounts of that. Does repentance and acknowledging God as our only hope and turning to Him a part of that salvation? There are so many examples in our country’s history that we could use but for some reason the Lord brought to mind Great Britain in 1940 and a seemingly hopeless situation.
The British empire had over 900,000 killed just a few decades before in WWI. Now WWII had broken out in 1939 and the fighting had started in 1940 with disastrous results for the allies. Britain had over 400,000 troops fighting in France and now 100,000 are trapped by the Germans on the coast at Dunkirk. Once they are gone the way is open for the Germans to take Britain.
King George in desperation fires Neville Chamberlain and replaces him with Winston Churchill as Prime Minister and there was no election. With nowhere to turn, the King and Churchill called for a National Day of Prayer on Sunday, May 26th, 1940. In a national broadcast, he instructed the people to turn back to God in a spirit of repentance and plead for Divine intervention. Millions of people across the British Isles flocked into churches, praying for deliverance, and forming lines just to get into a church building. (This is the part that was not in the movie or most history books.) If you search photos, you can see the lines of people formed outside Westminster Abbey, waiting for their turn to pray. It was said at any time of day or night there were people praying there and all across the country, many prostrate on the floor, crying out to God. Then the miracles started to happen.
Herman Goering, the head of the German Luftwaffe (air force) convinced Hitler to have the Panzers to stand down. His airplanes would finish off Britain. However, he didn’t count on a fog that created a low ceiling, making it very difficult to carry this out. The English channel turned into a calm lake. Churchill called for private boats to ferry the troops to the ships at the port of Dunkirk, the smallest of these boats were only 14 foot fishing boats. The British high command’s optimistic projection was that perhaps they could rescue 10,000 evacuees. Within a week, over 330,000 troops were evacuated to England, many on those little boats. Should we consider this a miracle at Dunkirk? Or could this have been just the fog of war? That might explain one part but could all three of these conditions be merely a lucky break? Or was this Divine intervention?
The British people have always referred to what happened as “the miracle of Dunkirk.” Sunday June 9th was officially appointed as a Day of National Thanksgiving for the entire United Kingdom.
What do you think? Were these miracles at Dunkirk? As events were unfolding and the allied army was surrounded at Dunkirk, a message was sent to a British officer asking about his situation, which was obviously dire. His response was in three words, “But if Not.”
The people of England instantly recognized this phrase as scripture. The English were accustomed to hearing the scriptures read in church. They knew the story told in the book of Daniel when three young Hebrews were being thrown into a blazing furnace. Those brave Jews defiantly said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, let it be known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up (Dan. 3:17-18).
The British people immediately recognized the Biblical reference. Also, they realized it reflected their soldiers’ resolve to stand to the end and not surrender. News of this spread and galvanized the people of England and they knew they had to do something.
Pastor Gary Hamrick says there are three kinds of churches (and Christians.) “Some will be complicit, participating in the culture without standing against it; some will be complacent, disagreeing with the culture but not actively opposing it; then there are those that will be courageous, saying what needs to be said and doing what needs to be done, and accepting the consequences without self-pity or anger.” Adding humility and repentance to our plea, But if Not!
Don Bradway contributed to this publication