Beyond the Battle – Man as Instructor

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you; cities of ruthless nations will fear you. For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down. On this mountain, the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever[.] Isaiah 25:3-8 ESV

Pearl Harbor. Just the mention of those two words stirs up some strong memories. On that fateful Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers dropped out of the peaceful Hawaiian skies, raining death and destruction on the American fleet docked in the harbor as well as the airfields. In that attack, America lost several battleships and destroyers as well as other support ships and use of the major airfields. Almost all the planes were destroyed, and worst of all, some 2,400 sailors and soldiers died, not counting the many wounded, burned, and maimed for life.

For the men in the middle of it, imminent death weighed heavy on many minds. Jim Downing, a nine-year veteran with the U.S. Navy, raced to defend his ship, the USS West Virginia, but it had already taken multiple hits and was in flames. He managed to get aboard by jumping from the neighboring USS Tennessee, then desperately tried to keep the fire from reaching the lockers where live ammunition was kept. Jim relates his brush with death:

I watched, fascinated and fearful, as the Japanese planes swarmed like bees toward the [USS] Neosho. I was only about four hundred yards away. One of those bullets is going to hit pretty soon, I thought. “God, I’ll be with you in a minute.” The minute passed. My fire hose kept spraying. The Neosho kept inching farther into the harbor. The Japanese planes kept diving and firing. “God,” I thought, “I’ll be with you in another minute.”[…] For the next half hour, until the Neosho docked at Merry Point, I expected to die in the next minute. I was sure I would be ushered into God’s presence[.]
Yet Isaiah tells us that the Lord is a “stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (v. 3). Reflecting further, Dowling quoted Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” and declared, “I truly understood this for the first time at Pearl Harbor.” By the grace of God, Jim Downing lived to tell about it.

The December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor was the deadliest ever executed at that point in our history. The date that would “live in infamy,” as President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously framed it, is a reminder of the sacrifices that have been made for America. As an Instructor, every man should know this story well and share it around the dinner table to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to be proud to be an American.

It is important to go beyond the battle and tell the rest of the story. For out of that dark and devastating defeat and incredible loss of life came a resolve and determination that reached from the beaches of Normandy to snowy Bastogne and the city limits of Berlin itself. It reached from the shores of Guadalcanal to the volcanic heights of Iwo Jima and the Japanese mainland cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. America and her allies won the war. Out of the smoking ruins of Pearl Harbor, with the help of Almighty God, came victory, deliverance, and peace to the entire world. 

In Israel’s darkest hour also came this message of hope about future victory (v. 8): “He will swallow up death forever.” Their captivity would not last because hope would shine forth to a day of promise and peace. This message, however, wasn’t just for the Jewish people in captivity. It spanned the centuries, reaching its apex when God sent His Son to be born of a virgin, live a sinless life, then die on a Roman cross. Yet, out of what seemed like a tragic and devastating loss, God raised Him from the tomb, defeating death and making possible deliverance and peace for each one of us! God brought victory and “swallowed up death forever”! Share this knowledge with the next generation as the patriarch of the family.

  • How are you communicating biblical truth to those you lead? 
  • What lessons from our history can you relate to Scripture? How can you be more intentional about being an Instructor? (Remember, we have resources at
  • Ask God to help you in your role as the Instructor in your home.