“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
A Charge from D-Day
For many years, a small piece of paper framed as an important document, yellowed with age, hung on the wall of my father-in-law’s office. On this paper were 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 Germany 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, a veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, 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 the historic countryside for clues to where Jim might have been during his mission now seventy-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.
A Similar Charge
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 endeavor 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 both 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 perform. Notice the commission given in Deuteronomy 3, in the Scripture above, which contains those elements.
A Christian Charge
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 reminds 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. We are commissioned by God. To Him be the Glory!
2. Cook, Jane Hampton, Battlefields & Blessings: Stories of Faith and Courage from The Revolutionary War (Chattanooga: Living Ink Books, 2007) p. 196-97.