The Battle of Antietam was the bloodiest single day in the history of the United States. On September 17, 1862, 23,110 casualties littered the ground fought between Confederate and Union Armies. Antietam is a small river in the state of Maryland close to West Virginia and Pennsylvania. As I walked the battleground today, I could not help but think of all of the lives lost and the folly of a leader who could have ended the Civil War but instead prolonged it.
Private Barton Mitchell put down his gear, rolled over on the grass to relax and spotted a piece of paper wrapped around three cigars. He had discovered a copy of General Robert E. Lee’s battle plan for the Confederate campaign into Maryland. Amazingly, the document revealed the positions of the Rebel army. This incredible find reached General George McClellan, then in charge of the Union forces. McClellan suddenly possessed all the information he needed to crush Lee’s army and thereby end the war, instead, true to his nature, he acted cautiously.* He failed to attack immediately at the perfect opportunity. When he attacked he did not press his advantage decisively. Antietam ended in a draw and the Confederate Army escaped back into Virginia.
Proverbs 24:10--If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited.
Proverbs 26:12--Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
General McClellan was a proud and cautious man. He was sure that he could defeat his enemies by careful maneuvering. He was convinced of his own greatness and repeatedly refused to listen to the advice of President Abraham Lincoln who implored him to take the initiative and attack. We can learn many lessons from this leader with enormous potential who failed to bring victory to a nation weary of war.
In Proverbs we read of the folly of acting in haste (21:5). We should be careful before we speak and act. It is wise to be wary provided our trust is in God and not in ourselves. But we must also ensure that our caution is not indecisiveness. If we are proud of slowly making decisions and consistently avoid taking action our focus may not be on obeying God but rather on protecting our own reputation. Immediately, we are in danger of missing opportunities in which God wants us to act. We lose the victory of what He has for us today by living for tomorrow. If we fear making mistakes or suffering criticism when God wants to stretch our faith, whose kingdom are we truly serving? Jesus said that in order to follow Him we must deny ourselves. Perhaps that denial means letting go of our unwillingness to act.
Bill Keane, creator of the Family Circus cartoon strip tells of a time when he was penciling one of his cartoons and his son Jeffy said, “Daddy, how do you know what to draw?” I said, “God tells me.” Jeffy said, “Then why do you keep erasing parts of it?”
©2004 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)