The Battle of the Bulge (December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945) was one of the fiercest battles in World War II. Sixth months after the Allies landed in Normandy, they had pushed across most of France and were knocking on Germany’s front door. But the Germans had one final major offensive left in them, which they executed along the Belgian-French border where there was a weaker spot in the Allied line.
The Germans threw hundreds of thousands of soldiers, large amounts of armor, and more into that one spot and overran the Allied line. The result was a “bulge” in the line on the map; thus the name of the battle. But the German bulge was not complete—there was at least one pocket of Allied defenses within that bulge in the Belgian town of Bastogne.
The German counter-offensive had caught the Allied forces off guard resulting in roughly 23,000 U.S. troops, mostly from the famous 101st Airborne Division, in Bastogne being surrounded by more than 54,000 German soldiers. Bastogne was an important city to hold because it sat at the intersection of several key roads the Germans needed to continue their advance. Because of this, the U.S. forces were ordered to hold Bastogne no matter what—even though they were outnumbered, low on ammunition and supplies, and many of the troops were ill-equipped for the severe winter weather having been rushed into place when the German advance began.
Three days into the battle, the situation looked bleak for the U.S. forces. German General von Lüttwitz sent the following demand for the U.S. forces to surrender:
To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne.
The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have crossed the river Our near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.
There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A. troops from total annihilation: that is the honourable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.
If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A. Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours term.
All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well-known American humanity.
The German Commander.
And this is how the commander of the U.S. forces, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe, replied:
To the German Commander.
The American Commander
McAuliffe’s response boosted U.S. moral and the troops held Bastogne and eventually even mounted an advance on the German forces. The Battle of the Bulge was a costly battle, but it was a victory for the Allies and they continued the advance into Germany shortly after.
This week’s session, Hezekiah, Judah’s Faithful King (Unit 13, Session 6), could be viewed as the first Battle of the Bulge. The Assyrians had invaded Israel and surrounded Jerusalem. The situation looked bleak for King Hezekiah and God’s people. An Assyrian officer even came to the city walls and taunted Hezekiah and the Jews. Where was their hope? Surely they couldn’t turn to Egypt to help them! Especially not Hezekiah! In 2 Kings 18:29-30, the officer told the people in Jerusalem this:
Don’t let Hezekiah deceive you; he can’t deliver you from my hands. Don’t let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord by saying: “Certainly the Lord will deliver us! This city will not be handed over to the king of Assyria.”
Sounds quite a bit like The Battle of the Bulge. Only Hezekiah didn’t respond “Nuts!” to the Assyrians. He turned to God and prayed on behalf of his people. And God heard that prayer of intercession and protected them.
Hezekiah reminds us of Jesus, as we read in this week’s Christ connection: Hezekiah prayed that God would save His people from their enemies so that everyone would know that He is the one true God. God answered Hezekiah’s prayer. Jesus also prayed for His people to be saved. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus brought glory to God by rescuing people from sin and death.
But there is a vital difference between Hezekiah and Jesus and it is found in the Assyrian officer’s taunt! The officer was absolutely correct about Hezekiah—Hezekiah could not save his people. They were not to put their hope in him, but in God. And that is the difference between Hezekiah and Jesus. Hezekiah was an intercessor who could not save; Jesus is the intercessor who does save! Hezekiah prayed on his people’s behalf and then stepped out of the way. Jesus prayed on His people’s behalf and then stepped directly into the way by dying on the cross and raising on the third day to rescue them from sin. Show your kids how Jesus is the much greater Hezekiah this week!
What are some ways that you follow in Jesus’ footsteps and intercede for your kids? Leave a comment below.
Here is more help for leaders preparing for the October 9, 2016 session (Unit 13, Session 6) of The Gospel Project for Kids.
Brian Dembowczyk is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. He served in local church ministry for over 16 years before coming to LifeWay. Brian earned an M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a D.Min. from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Brian, his wife, Tara, and their three children—Joshua, Hannah, and Caleb—live in Murfreesboro, TN, where Brian enjoys drinking coffee and teaching 4-5 graders at City Church.