A Man to Stand in the Gap
By: Jim O'Brien
On December 25th, 1776, George Washington engaged his army in one of the most courageous and risky battles of history. Had he lost the battle the quest for freedom would have been crushed. The Declaration of Independence would have been nothing more than a piece of parchment to be burned. The signers would have faced the gallows and the war would have been lost. Worse—America would not have been free! The surprise attack on Hessian mercenary forces was the first major victory by General George Washington’s forces.
Up until this time America was losing the war. In addition, the loyalties of the citizens were divided. There were those loyal to the Crown of England and others who wanted a free country. After all, America was 13 colonies connected to each other by geography but tied to England by politics. People may have lived on this side of the Atlantic, but their citizenship was in England.
In 1776 Americans considered resistance to King George immoral. The prevailing thought was that the king received his power from God. To resist this divine right to rule was rebellion against God. It was "as the sin of witchcraft."
It all sounds very religious, doesn’t it? Those Americans thought of rebellion against the Crown the same way many Catholics might feel about rebellion against Papal authority.
Recruiting an army to fight for freedom was a difficult task for Gen. George Washington. It didn’t become easier after the war began. After several months of facing superior British forces and doing nothing but retreating, most of the army had deserted and returned home.
Not only that, the army training at Valley Forge was short of food and clothing. The Army Quartermaster was contemptuous of Washington and often denied his requests or neglected them. Many of the soldiers did not have shoes, so they wrapped their feet in burlap during the winter. Surgeons frequently had to amputate toes as a result of frostbite.
The small tents were crammed with fourteen soldiers each. Over 2,000 soldiers did not even have a blanket to sleep under. Disease broke out and 30 percent of the soldiers fell ill. At one point Washington himself became the victim of dysentery and a report circulated that he had died.
The Continental dollar was nearly worthless. When Washington sent a caravan of wagons to buy food once, he saw them return empty several hours later. Washington angrily inquired, "Why are the wagons empty?" The soldiers replied that none of the farmers would take their money.
The British army recruited many American soldiers to their army by offering them the British Pound Sterling. Other American soldiers were bought to become spies.
This is the army that Washington called upon to cross the Delaware on that freezing winter night in 1776 to face the Hessians. With no previous victories as a foundation, they set out at night in a snowstorm to attack a superior military force. It was the battle that changed the war and became the key to American freedom. A trail of blood in the snow followed the army left by soldiers marching without shoes. Two soldiers died—not from the battle—from freezing to death.
The question is, "Why?" Why would soldiers suffer so much to follow George Washington into such an uncertain battle?
The simple answer is trust! The soldiers that placed their lives in the hands of George Washington believed in his integrity. That’s not a commodity that can be bought. Washington was humble. He took responsibility for what happened to his troops and he was a wall of protection for them. He was a man of courage who faced death on the battlefield. During one conflict he had two horses shot out from under him. He dug four bullets out of his clothing. Yet he never quit.
But more than anything else, they trusted his character. He told the truth. He was non-political. He maintained the course even when the course was difficult. His decisions were based on justice, not party loyalty. He believed in God and was steadfast in his values.
In every season of crisis there is a need for a man of honor. The Prophet Ezekiel wrote about a time when Israel had become thoroughly corrupt and honest men could not be found. God declared through Ezekiel, "I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one." (Ezekiel 22:30).
America needs another George Washington—a leader we can trust. We need a leader with character that inspires such trust that men would be willing to walk barefoot in the snow to face a powerful enemy. Maybe God is looking for such a man, too. A man to stand in the gap to save a nation.
Until next time,
Pastor, Church of God Cincinnati
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