Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Last Words of a Great General

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, April 9, 2013:  Deuteronomy 33:1-29

26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds.  27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’  28 Then Israel shall dwell in safety, the fountain of Jacob alone, in a land of grain and new wine; His heavens shall also drop dew.  29 Happy are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, the shield of your help and the sword of your majesty!  Your enemies shall submit to you, and you shall tread down their high places.” Deuteronomy 33:26-29 (NKJV)

On May 12, 1962, General Douglas MacArthur, now 82 years of age, addressed the cadets at West Point Military Academy.  It is a moving call to the young cadets to become the generation of soldiers that would carry America into her future.  Three words were MacArthur's clarion call:  DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.  He declared:

Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn. ... They build your basic character. They mold you for your future roles as the custodians of the nation's defense. They make you strong enough to know when you are weak, and brave enough to face yourself when you are afraid.

MacArthur was one of the greatest generals and leaders in the history of warfare.  He stands in the heritage of the champions in the battle for a justice and freedom.  He spoke to the cadets that day of the unending war against the tyranny that would enslave mankind. 
It was MacArthur's final speech.  We read today from Scripture, the farewell message of a leader even greater than MacArthur.  His name was Moses.  MacArthur spoke from the perspective of two world wars.  He said, "In twenty campaigns, on a hundred battlefields, around a thousand campfires, I have witnessed that enduring fortitude, that patriotic self-abnegation, and that invincible determination which have carved the statue of the American soldier in the hearts of his people."  Moses spoke of not just twenty campaigns but FORTY YEARS of endurance and obedience.  Moses spoke from the perspective of one who has gladly believed the promise of God despite set-back after set-back, delay and discouragement, remaining faithful in bitter battles all along the way -- leading a nation to destiny.
Within two years of his speech at West Point, MacArthur would be dead.  Within days of Deuteronomy 33, Moses would climb Mt. Nebo, peer across Jordan at Canaan, and there die and be buried.
MacArthur spoke words of inspiration to young soldiers about the human qualities of DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.  These words certainly inspire us as well.  Moses, however, did not refer to the qualities of the people of God.  Instead, he pointed to the QUALITIES OF GOD HIMSELF!
"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun."  Jeshurun is a poetic name of endearment that God uses for Israel.  God speaks of Israel in words of affection and intimacy.  Despite years of difficulty and even of judgment, God's countenance toward His people is that of a loving Father.
This farewell message speaks of how GOD SURROUNDS HIS PEOPLE.  He is above them riding across the heavens in majestic splendor (vs. 26).  He is beneath them holding them up with everlasting, untiring arms of strength and mercy (vs. 27).  He goes before them to drive out the enemies that would block their path (vs. 27).  He surrounds them like a protecting shield (vs. 29).  No wonder, Moses can say with his last breath, "Happy are you, O Israel! ... a people saved by the Lord."  (vs. 29)
MacArthur closed his final address by saying, "The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished - tone and tints."  He recalled the "wondrous beauty, watered by tears" of the "melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll."  He said he would always hear the echoe and re-echoe of the words DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY.  His last thoughts would be of the Corps, the Corps, the Corps.
Moses ended his life here on earth calling us to higher level of duty, honor, and country.  We are a part of the greatest, the grandest, the most magnificent liberation movement of history.  While we must continually wage the wars of human freedom, we are called to a higher allegiance to the Captain of the Lords hosts.  Moses ended his days on earth well.  He finished his course.  But, he did not just "fade away".  He speaks to us today to become the generation of soldiers that will carry God's purposes into the future.  It is our time.


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