February 06, 2007

Table In the Presence

Psalm 23:5

On April 10th, 2003, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, faced with the task of seizing the presidential palace in downtown Baghdad, ran headlong into "the worst day of fighting for U.S. Marines." Hiding in buildings and mosques, wearing civilian clothes, and spread out for over a mile, Saddam Hussein's militants rained down bullets and rocket propelled grenades on the 1st Battalion. But when the smoke of the eight-hour battle cleared, only one Marine had lost his life. Some said the 1st Battalion was incredibly lucky. But in the hearts and minds of the Marines who were there, there was no question. God had brought them miraculously through that battle. This account is told by the 1st Battalion's chaplain, Lieutenant Carey Cash, who had the unique privilege of seeing first-hand how God miraculously delivered, and even transformed, the lives of the men of the 1st Battalion.

Lt. Carey talks about King David, a man who he says knew danger, and the title of the chaplain’s book refers directly to Psalm 23:5 – “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup over-flows.” Lt. Cash took every opportunity to encourage men who were facing battle, to assure them of God's love, God's presence and the prayers of Americans. Talk about full armor of God and encourage believers in their daily battles.There was a telling moment for Chaplain Cash. The order arrived to enter Iraq to protect the oil fields, so he was able to call his wife hours before their departure, to let her know that he would be out of touch for a while but that she should not worry. God was taking care of him. He also asked her to tell their five kids Daddy was safe and right where God wanted him to be. Knowing that the life of a Christian is the same: Being in the center of God’s will despite the knowledge that a battle is about to ensue.

As they headed toward Baghdad, they passed by many people who were happy or frightened. Near Saddam City Iraqi civilians approached vehicles, frantically waving their arms back and forth in the air, so Lt. Col. Padilla ordered his driver to slow down and see what they wanted. The civilians kept making hand signals that the Marines couldn't understand until finally someone heard, "pree-zun, pree-zun", then holding their hands at knee level until the Colonel began to think, "Not a prison of children?" But that's exactly what it turned out to be. A prison full of malnourished, filthy boys between seven and fourteen years of age. During a battle to take one of Saddam's presidential palaces, situated on the banks of the Tigris River, Marines were fired on from windows of previously darkened buildings and from mosques. After an hour of fighting the casualty list had grown to about 40 wounded. One Marine reported that his helmet had a bullet entry and exit, but he had sustained no injury. The chaplain stated that the perfect will of God may be the best place to be but it isn’t necessarily the safest. Following Him sometimes means that we are led into the shadow of death.

Interestingly, Cash strikes a sharp contrast between Islam and Christianity by pointing out:

“…[E]xtreme manifestations, such as the actions of suicide bombers and crazed gunmen, don’t arise out of thin air. They are part of a religious tradition that from its very birth has used the edge of the sword as a means to convert or conquer those with different religious convictions.”


“In Christianity, it is not the grandeur of our sacrifice that earns us heaven. It is not our ability to strictly follow a rigorous religious code. Jesus Christ has already accomplished the single greatest act of obedience and self-sacrifice that this world will ever know...His death, not our own, assures us of eternal life.”

I’m not going to ruin how God delivered the men of the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. Read the book! You’ll read for yourself that God’s righteous right hand is in everything that He deems His! Until we’re called home, the battle is ours to take the enemy. Day by day. Step by step. Breath by breath. All in faith, prayer and love. Come to Christ today!