March Sermon Illustrations

March 02, 2010

Miracle of Preservation

The streets of the Dutch city of Leyden were deserted, except for small groups of men, walking fearfully to the tower in the centre of the city. The leaves had been stripped from the trees and eaten by the residents. From the quaint little houses came the anguished cries of babies pleading for food.

Outside the city walls a Spanish army lay in formidable entrenchments while the Spaniards waited for the public officials of Leyden to announce surrender. But no surrender came. Leyden refused to bow to the Spanish king, who sought to stamp out the Protestant faith.

For days which ran into months, the starving Dutch held out. Conditions grew worse, until even dogs, cats and rodents had to be eaten. Surrounded on all sides of their rectangular city, the people of Leyden had only one masterful weapon—prayer.

One day in August, in the year 1574, carrier pigeons flew into besieged Leyden with a message from William of Orange, the Dutch leader. 'The dikes which hold back the ocean have been cut and soon the sea water will drown out your besiegers,' William wrote.

The destitute people of Leyden rejoiced, firing a cannon to acknowledge receipt of the message. In the Spanish camp there was some fear, but the inexperienced officers finally convinced themselves that this was only a futile gesture of the Dutch ruler. 'He thinks he can rule the ocean as he does his subjects,' they scoffed. After all, they said, the ocean was twenty-two miles from Leyden!

A vigilance from the city's highest tower began, and each day the news was discouraging. 'I cannot see the water coming,' one watcher after another reported. Only prayer kept hope alive in the hearts of the people of Leyden.

Finally, at the end of the fateful month, pigeons were sent back to William. 'Soon we shall perish,' a note read, 'surely we have been forgotten.' An answer came immediately. William of Orange wrote, 'Rather will we as a whole land perish and all our possess­ions perish in the waves than forsake thee, O Leyden.'

Again, there was rejoicing, but the more skeptical wanted action, not words. Then a few days later, they saw the Dutch ships sailing toward the city. The ocean cascading through the dikes, had furnished water on which the fleet could float. But, within five miles of Leyden, the water became too shallow. The fleet was stalled.

The Spaniards laughed derisively. 'How can William bring the sea to the walls of Leyden?' they jeered. 'Look, he is helpless, a fleet inland!'

Suddenly, from out of the north-west blew a wind which quickly developed into a gale blowing southwest. In its path the waters of the North Sea were lashed furiously into the land. The Dutch fleet was able to move again. Panicky and overwhelmed by this miracle of the dikes, the Spanish army fled.

At the wharves, the people caught bread and other food thrown by valiant sailors aboard the ships. The celebrations in the town lasted for many days.—The Young Soldier

Subjects: Miracles, Providence

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