By Lieut.-General Sir William Dobbie, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. D.S.O.
As Acting Governor and gallant defender of Malta during the Second World War, Sir William Dobbie was described by one newspaper as “The Modern Gordon—Like the hero of Khartum, he combines courage, energy and deep religious conviction” (Evening Standard). He has kindly consented to our reprinting his own tribute to the Bible.
I don’t know whether you do what Field-Marshal Montgomery does; he reads his Bible every day. I do, and I fancy a lot of you do, too. I want to tell you what a tremendous help to me God’s Word has been, especially during those two years that I was in the island (of Malta, 1940-42). In that wonderful Book, I have read things that He has put there for our learning, and so that we might take courage. I have proved that the Bible is not, as some say, “out-of-date”; and it is not a useless book; it meets our needs in a most wonderful way in this 20th century “Fear Not.” There are many stories which I used to read over and over again during my time in Malta. There was one I read: To Dothan, a little village in the lower part of Palestine, one’ day came Elisha the man of God with his servant, and the servant got up early in the morning and to his consternation saw that they were surrounded by the enemy. He got the wind up properly and said, “Master, what shall we do?” Elisha said to him, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw; and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.1 And I realized that it was true in my case, and in the case of Malta, and in hundreds of other instances. I knew and I had confidence that God would see us through; and He did.
I read other stories—I read about a king, called Asa. One day, he was attacked by an enormous force of the enemy, and this is what he said, “Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee.” So the Lord smote his foes.2 I find that in God’s Word, and it was put there by Him for my learning and for your learning, and for us to take encouragement against the very strong forces of the enemy. Another king said, ” We have no might, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee,” and God said, “Be not afraid, the battle is not yours, but God’s.”3 I believe that God put that there about two or three thousand years ago for our help in Malta in 1940-41-42.
“Therefore.” One of the Psalms that I was frequently quoting to myself was Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore we will not fear.” “Therefore!” I always like that “therefore.” God is our refuge and strength, therefore will we not fear. Many, many times during those_two wonderful years I have gone to sleep, so to speak, with my head on that pillow; and I could not fear. There was that absolute assurance that He was going to help us and see us through. How? That didn’t matter! He has seen us through! Malta was brought very low… but God brought us through. We had confidence, even when things were bad, because we looked to Him; and He answered our prayer; and He does still answer prayer when it is offered in the name of Jesus Christ.
God’s Part and Ours. I want you to realize that we have our part to do, which is not just to pray to God and then to sit back and take our ease. We have to do our part to the limit; then, having done so, we ask God to do His part—and He does. It is a very true thing, that saying of Cromwell’s, “Trust in God and keep your powder dry.” It is a wonderful combination and one that is hard to beat. I remember, in this wonderful old Book, that Nehemiah, who was building a wall said, “We made our prayer unto God and set a watch.”4 The two things together! I thought of that when I was in Malta. We did what we could, and then relief on God to do what we couldn’t.