Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Miracle of Dunkirk: 70 years on

The movie Dunkirk is being played in cinemas the world over now. Saw the trailer earlier, but must admit that I wasn't entirely stirred to catch it, in part because I was afraid of the gore of what is a war movie. Also, this sliver of history is admittedly foreign to this Asian.

But today, I felt the Lord stir my heart to look into Dunkirk - not the movie, but what it was all about, and his intervention in the situation. That was how I stumbled upon this article "The Miracle of Dunkirk: 70 years on" by the Rev David Gartner. Reading it brought tears to my eyes.

It was May 1940. Thousands of British troops were about to be entrapped by German forces, and the only way to escape certain death was an evacuation via the port of Dunkirk in France. But the possibilities that such a rescue effort would be successful were slim.

What transpired next was unexpected: the miraculous happened, primarily relating to the weather, so that the German air force was grounded and could not attack. At the same time, there was an unnatural calm about the English channel, such that not only large British sea vessels but small ones could sail across and back to bring the boys home.

Even though some squadrons did get through, there seemed to be some kind of "strange immunity" for the British soldiers.

According to the article: "When about 400 men were being machine-gunned and bombed, systematically, by about sixty enemy aircraft, one man who flung himself down with the rest reported that, after the strafing was over, he was amazed to find that there was not a single casualty. Another man, a chaplain, was likewise machine-gunned and bombed as he lay on the beach. After what seemed an eternity, he realised he had not been hit, and rose to his feet to find that the sand all around where he had been lying was pitted with bullet holes, and that his figure was outlined on the ground."

Why did God intervene to save these people?

This is the part that brought tears to my eyes.

"Britain had a godly Sovereign…His Majesty King George VI requested that Sunday, 26 May should be observed as a National Day of Prayer. In a stirring broadcast, he called the people of Britain and of the Empire to commit their cause to God."

King George VI had said, over national radio: 'In this fateful hour, we turn, as our fathers before us have turned, in all times of trial, to God Most High. Here in the old country, I have asked that Sunday be observed as a day of national prayer…Let us with one heart and soul, humbly but confidently commit our cause to God, and ask his aid…"

Together with members of the Cabinet, the King attended Westminster Abbey, whilst millions of his subjects in all parts of the Commonwealth and Empire flocked to the churches to join in prayer. Britain was given inspiring leadership in those days, and her people responded immediately when this kind of initiative was taken. The whole nation was at prayer on that Sunday.

The scene outside Westminster Abbey was remarkable -- photographs show long queues of people who could not even get in, and Abbey was so crowded! So much so, that the following morning the Daily Sketch exclaimed, "Nothing like it has ever happened before.'

In its hour of deep distress, a heart-cry from both monarch and people alike was going up to God in prayer. And that cry did not go unanswered."

Reading all this, I was reminded by what the prophet Joel said to do in the hour of crisis.

Consecrate a fast;
Call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
And all the inhabitants of the land
To the house of the Lord your God
And cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1:14)

The Lord is the same today as he was in Britain's hour of need in 1940. In the hour of crisis, he will hear our cry if we will call out to him. Only let us pray that our leaders, too, will turn their faces to the Lord in that hour, that the people of the land will be galvanised to seek the Lord as one. Then we will see him act on our behalf, and it will be a day of salvation.

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