Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Rats of Tobruk 72nd Anniversay

Dorothy and I had the pleasure of dining with The Rats of Tobruk in Brisbane. The following was my contribution to the speeches:

Let us come before God to read His Word and to pray.
We find the following in Psalm 124,

 “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,” Let Israel now say—
2 “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, When men rose up against us,
3 Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their wrath was kindled against us;
4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, The stream would have gone over our soul;
5 Then the swollen waters Would have gone over our soul.”
6Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
7 Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
8 Our help is in the name of the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

 Let us pray: Almighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth and all therein, who gave His Son Jesus Christ to redeem all who would believe in Him, who gave us the Holy Spirit to enable us to believe, we thank You for Your grace and mercy towards us.

 On this the 72nd Anniversary of the Siege of Tobruk we thank You for all who served there in the cause of freedom and justice. We thank You for the gallant fight these men gave in the face of evil and insurmountable odds. For those who were wounded and maimed in their bodies, those who were afflicted in their mind and soul, we thank You that You in Your Word provided them with hope of a better, safer and peaceful future.

 For those loved ones who remained at home during these stressful times, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters – we also acknowledge the pain and suffering they went through and while praying for You to protect their loved ones as they sought to cut off the ugly head of evil that was raised in that foreign and sun-blistered land.

 Lord, war is Hell – Hell for those on the front lines and Hell for those who keep the home fires burning. Father, we long for that Great Day when You will cause all wars to cease!

 We pray for health and continued safety for all involved with the Rats of Tobruk. We pray for all the innocent who are suffering from the effects of wars. Ease their burden. Heal their wounds. Comfort the grieving. Be with the widows and orphans. And, today, be especially with those who are remembering fallen mates, family members, dearly loved ones. We come before You through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Let us pray together the words the Lord taught has us:

 Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the Kingdom,
the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

As you know, the Rats of Tobruk valiantly held the Libyan port of Tobruk against the Afrika Corps led by Rommel. The Siege of Tobruk began on 10 April 1941. Holding Tobruk was crucial to the Allied war effort. And this was the first time that the advance of the German Panzers, (i.e., Rommel’s tanks and other armoured vehicles), had been halted in their double tracks.

Because of their remoteness the Rats of Tobruk had little air support. Therefore, supplies had to come by sea. Ships had to arrive, unload and depart under the cover of darkness. Arrival or withdrawal of troops had to be done under the cover of darkness. During times of war moonless nights, the cover of darkness, may be your friend. One is reminded of the old song, “Hello darkness my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.”

As an Army Chaplain I have been involved in the occasional training exercise. I don’t know how many gum trees I’ve walked into in the dark. One time as I was trying to saw some logs in my sleeping bag our little platoon had to “stand to.” We were awakened by someone on piquet duty yelling, “Halt! Who goes there?” or words to that effect. So we all scrambled out of our scratchers and into our defensive positions only to be stood down. False alarm. The intruder turned out to be a curious big red kangaroo!

Darkness? I hate it! But again, sometimes darkness can be your best friend; especially in times of war. What is darkness anyway? What do you tell little Johnny when he asks, “What are shadows made of?” It’s not like we can put darkness in a bottle and uncork it and pour some into a glass! What is darkness? Can we fill potholes with darkness? Can we spread it like vegemite on a sandwich?

It’s a little easier when it comes to figuring out what light is made of. Isaac Newton advocated that light was made of particles. James Clerk Maxwell relied on a model of light as a wave. Albert Einstein called light particles “photons.” Nowadays quantum physicists believe that light is both particle and wave. But what is darkness made of? Is it some sort of sludge? Is it like bilge-water sloshing around in the bowels of a rusty old ship? Well, the Bible has a lot to say about darkness. Darkness gets a mention early on.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:1-5.

So we see that darkness was present when the earth was still shapeless and empty, back when God was forming the heavens and the earth. God introduced light and He called this light “good.” It would seem therefore that light has a big part to play in giving form to the formless and filling the void. Darkness therefore is the opposite of light. It is the absence of light.

Also, in the Bible darkness at times represents the forces of evil. Light is equated with the forces of good. Satan’s Kingdom of Darkness is at war with Christ’s Kingdom of Light. During WWII Germany under Adolph Hitler had been engulfed in darkness. And who would deny that Hitler was a puppet of Satan? The last we hear of Hitler is that he’s hiding in a bunker.

The Bible says that Jesus is the Light of the World. And Jesus says, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” John 3:19-21.

The idea then is that though at times we might have to work under the cover of darkness to accomplish something that is good, we don’t remain in the darkness. Rather we come to the light where our deeds can be plainly seen. Our deeds are wholesome not formless. Our deeds are of substance not void.

And so it is for the Rats of Tobruk. They bravely fought the forces of darkness so that we could retain our freedom. They were a light in a dark place in very a dark time. War is hell. Hell is the place of utter darkness. Thank God for the Rats of Tobruk and the part they played in retaining our freedom!

There’s a verse in the old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” which goes, “Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee, / Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see; / Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee, / Perfect in power, in love, and purity.” It was God who made the light in the beginning. May we enter into that light and remain in His light that we may see His glory! May we never use the cover of darkness to try to hide from God.

Let me conclude by reading Psalm 139:7-12,

7 “Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

 May the Lord be pleased to keep us in His light! Amen.

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