Hearken Oh, Brothers!
Yesterday was the 160th anniversary of the Birkenhead shipwreck.
The date was February 26, 1852. The British H.M.S. “Birkenhead” was en route to South Africa. This troopship held over seven hundred, which included the crew of sailors and also the passengers -- men, women and children. They were soldiers and their families sent to reinforce the troops engaged in the Kaffir Wars.
The ship itself was typical of the glorious power and industry of her generation. She was one of the first iron-hulled vessels of war. The crew and passengers had no fear in regard to her seaworthiness. But at 2:00 a.m. on that fateful day, the ship struck aground off Cape Danger. Within 20 minutes, she had sunk.
In those moments before she submerged, the soldiers and sailors made a valiant decision: “Stand fast! Save the women and children!” They would give their lives for the women and children. So their wives and babes were loaded into the limited number of lifeboats and so escaped. The more than 400 soldiers willingly stood at attention on deck and allowed them to get to safety. Then when the ship went down, those who foundered in the water refused to swim for the boats, lest they should capsize the little vessels.
The remaining men struck out for shore, but there was another danger. Sharks! Many were ravaged by these frenzied man-eaters. Slightly more than 80 men reached the shore alive. Hundreds lost their lives, yet not one woman or child suffered injury.
The story of the “Birkenhead” drill was told for many years. It was that event which established the principle of “Women and children first.”
The famous writer Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem of the account:
“So they stood an’ was still to the Birkenhead Drill, soldier an’ sailor too!”
Sadly, it is now one of those great accounts that people have forgotten out of mind in recent years.
These men thought more of their families than their own lives. So they braved the sinking ship and terrible sharks, in order for the next generation to be protected.
In these uncertain days of rocky seas, stormy gales, and shipwrecks men NEED to shew themselves to be MEN.
While multitudes are: running about "seeking the ports" of their own desires, pushing and shoving to not "miss the boat", "casting off" all restraint, "weighing anchor" on their responsibilities, and putting their own interests and agendas before their families WE must follow a DIFFERENT course.
We need to see that the Captain of our salvation has given us orders! We need to read His ship's articles! While others are "bailing out" of their roles, let us stand fast.
When the wind of the gale rips across the deck, let us HOLD FAST! We need to see and do our duty. When you read the Captain's orders, do not choose your own way by demanding, "I! I!" Answer, "Aye, aye!"
We must take the responsibility to nurture and teach our wives and children, or else we will witness their shipwrecked lives and souls. Let us cry, "Oh, Lord my Captain! Let me not lead my family into shipwreck, let not my wife and children castaways (I Corinthians 9:27)! Teach me to truly be the husband and father my family needs!"
If we are not faithful in little things, how can we be expected to be faithful in the great things? Give your life daily for your wife and little ones! What should our response be when we must choose between our own agendas and the spiritual well-being of our households? The same as the men of the Birkenhead:
"Stand Fast! Save the Women and Children!"
Fellow husband, and fellow father, how are you living each day to bless, protect, and give your life for your wife and your children? To the man who is yet unmarried, how will you live today in order to be properly prepared for the time, Lord willing, when you are a husband and father? Your actions today are either hindering future rewards or laying down a proper foundation. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Ephesians 5:25). Seek ye out of the Book of the Lord and read, then live thereby.
There is still time to win a battle before the sun goes down.