Posted by: Santos Garcia | Thursday, October 15, 2009

Courage That Changed History (Part II)

Knight 5

NOTE:  Link to Part I at the very bottom of this Post

The sober reality of all that we see daily played out in the compromised news media, is accelerating what the Lord Jesus Christ Himself said in what is now called the Olivet Discourse:

Matthew 24:3-14… Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the age?”  And Jesus answered and said to them:  “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars.  See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.  And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

All these are the beginning of sorrows.  Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.  And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Our Lord continues for another 82 verses through the rest of chapters 24 and 25 describing the Last Days scenario that is confirmed in the mouths of many prophets including Daniel, Zechariah, Joel, Isaiah, the Apostle John and others.  This current generation is seeing more fulfilled prophecies than the church has seen in the past five hundred years.

Rick Joyner has detailed in this powerful essay how a small number of dedicated people of God can stem the tide of demonic activity in the attack of overwhelming numbers.  The Knights of the Order of St. Johnaccomplished just that.  Part II continues the saga.

Christ's Lighthouse

The Inspired Art of Danny Hahlbohm

Islam in Check

That such a small force could decimate the great army of the seemingly unconquerable Sultan, Mehmet II, was viewed as a military miracle of Biblical proportions.  The Order that had been viewed by Europe as “an archaic relic of the past,” was elevated to a new prominence, and now viewed as the saviors of the continent.  But the knights wasted little time celebrating; they immediately began to rebuild their fortifications for what they fully expected to be an even greater assault.

Because of this defeat Islam was in check.  They could not advance into Europe with the knights holding Rhodes and threatening their lines of supply.  The knights knew that they were now more odious than ever to the Sultan, and that they were now too weakened to endure another assault.  After amassing another army, on his way south through Asian Minor to attack the Order, the Sultan became sick and died.  The knights considered this as great a miracle as their recent victory.  Even though they were committed to giving their best in standing against Islam, they knew they had no chance in any conflict without divine intervention.  The Lord always seemed to come through for them after they had given all they could.  Because of Mehmet’s second expedition against Rhodes was canceled by his death, the knights would be given a little more time to heal their wounds and repair the walls before the next onslaught.  Fittingly, even D’Abusson survived his wounds.

D’Abusson began preparations for the next battle with his characteristic resolve.  It was as if he knew that the world’s destiny had been cast upon his shoulders.  Now money and munitions poured into the tiny island from Europe and almost all of it was devoted to the reconstruction of the walls and towers.  The army of the Crescent would not return to Rhodes for forty years, but it would take that long for the knights to prepare for what was coming.  D’Abusson died in 1503, but his vision and leadership insured that the knights’ fortress would grow even stronger than it had been before the first siege.  These efforts were not wasted– an even greater test was coming.

In 1520, Suleiman “The Magnificent” ascended to the throne of the Ottoman Empire.  He was, like Mehmet II, a man of culture and learning as well as a brilliant general.  Under his leadership the empire would rise to its greatest heights.  One year later, Philippe Villiers de L’Isle Adam became the Grand Master of the knights.  L’Isle Adam was likewise an educated aristocrat, as well as an experienced seaman and a devout Christian.  He would also prove to be a great leader.  The main players for another one of history’s most strategic conflicts were now in place.

In 1521, the Sultan sent the newly elected Grand Master “A Letter of Victory” in which he boasted of his recent victories and asked that the Grand Master “rejoice with me over my triumphs.”  L’Isle Adam was more direct than diplomatic and he replied that he fully understood the meaning of the letter–that Suleiman intended to make Rhodes his next conquest.  In his next letter the Sultan demanded that Rhodes be surrendered to him at once.  The Sultan’s timing was typically brilliant.  Henry VIII of England was in the process of seizing the knight’s rich properties in Britain.  France and Spain were at war and Italy was already devastated.  Again, the knights could expect no help or reinforcements.  A few hundred gallant knights would again have to stand alone against the most powerful army on earth.

The Second Battle of Rhodes

By June 1522, Suleiman was ready for his assault on Rhodes.  Historians estimate that the Sultan assembled up to 700 ships 200,000 men for the assault.  Even allowing for natural exaggeration, this was an overwhelming force to come against 500 knights and an estimated 1,500 militia.  On July 28, the Sultan himself landed on Rhodes with a grand salute and the battle began.

The Turks brought up their huge siege guns, capable of of hurling balls nine feet in circumference, along with a multitude of other cannon and mortars to begin a devastating bombardment.  Throughout the month of August they poured thousands of cannon balls into the city and its fortified positions each day.  The knights answered with their own artillery, much smaller but devastatingly accurate on the relatively unprotected Turks.

By the end of August, a number of breeches began to appear in the fortress walls.  In early September the first infantry assault came.  Typically, the knights contested every point, but the overwhelming numbers pushed back the defenders until the Turks were able to plant their standards on the wall itself.  The knights counter-attacked with the Grand Master himself entering the fray.  After a terrible struggle the Turks yielded and began to fall back.  Immediately the Sultan sent a second wave, personally led by Mustapha Pasha, one of the greatest Ottoman generals.  For two hours the battle raged on the walls, but the knights held.  When the Turks finally withdrew the ground was almost completely covered by their dead and wounded.  Miraculously the knights had lost only three dead along with an unspecified number of militia.

The disconcerted Sultan then unleashed a continuous bombardment for three straight weeks.  On September 24 another great assault was hurled against the crumbling fortress walls.  The bastion of Aragon, one of the city’ main fortifications, fell to a massive assault by the now fanatically brave Janissaries, having born the humiliation from their previous defeats for over forty years.  Like Xerxes, Suleiman had a conqueror’s throne set on a raised platform so that he could witness his day of triumph.  The tide of battle roared all along the walls of the city as wave after wave of Turks poured out of their trenches.

All day long the battle raged.  The knights, gleaming in their armor, always seemed to appear wherever the fighting was the thickest.  L’Isle Adam himself could usually be found with his standard bearer behind him at the most desperate points of conflict.  He was the man the Turks most wanted dead and his standard bearer seemed to mark him as the special target.  Yet, it was witnessed by those present that there was a special protection around the Grand Master that the Turks simply could not penetrate.  After one of the bloodiest battle days the great Turkish army would ever experience, the seemingly invincible attack began to waver, then melt into wholesale retreat.

The disbelieving Suleiman came down from his elevated throne humiliated and outraged.  He immediately condemned his two most able generals, but later recanted after being persuaded that it would only serve the side of the Christians.  The losses for the knights had been great, with two hundred killed and an equal number wounded, but the losses for the Turks were staggering–their bodies now laid in heaps all around the city.  Again, the great siege guns were brought up and would not fall silent again for two entire months.

The gallant knights had stood their ground against the most powerful and determined army on earth for nearly five months, without receiving reinforcements or provisions.  They were now few and weary, and it was obvious to all that the Turkish army was still so huge that it would eventually prevail.  Still the Order held its positions.

The Sultan’s Benevolence

As the siege wore on, the Sultan’s disposition toward the Order gradually began to change.  He respected honor and courage and had never witnessed valor such as the knights had displayed.  On Christmas Eve Suleiman made an extraordinary offer of peace with honor to the remaining knights.  He paid tribute to their courage and endurance.  He gave them provisions and his own ships to carry them to the destination of their choice.  After meeting with L’Isle Adam, Suleiman is reported to have said to his Grand Vizier, “It saddens me to be compelled to force this brave old man to leave his home.”

Two thousand men had taken their stand against as many as two hundred thousand and had held their ground for over six months.  They endured possibly the greatest bombardment and infantry assaults that the world had seen until that time.  When hearing news of the final fall of Rhodes, Charles V of France stated that, “Nothing in the world was ever so well lost as Rhodes.”  The knights who had already gained the respect of the entire world, were esteemed even more.  For a time every nation on earth would salute the standard of the knights, being the only standard in history to gain such universal respect.  Even so, some of the greatest exploits of the Order were ahead of them.

The Knights are Given Malta

For over two hundred years the knights had lived on Rhodes and now they had no home.  They were offered a small, relatively inhospitable island in the middle of the Mediterranean name Malta, which they accepted.  Years before, while harbored on a ship at Malta, lightning had struck the sword of L’Isle Adam, turning it to ashes.  This was to be considered a providential sign.  The knights were destined to fight yet another one of history’s most strategic battles on the little island.

With Rhodes in his possession, the Sultan now seemed free to sweep up the rest of Europe.  It must have seemed most improbable that the battered knights would again bar his path.  Though the Order of St. John was severely reduced in both numbers and wealth after their departure from Rhodes,  possibly their most valuable possession– resolve– was as great as ever.

Christian Europe continued in disarray with its internal struggles.  The Reformation had fractured Roman domination of Europe.  Centuries of resentment toward Rome boiled over into conflict as Christians took up arms against each other.  Almost every nation in Europe was at war to at least some degree with at least one neighbor.  The Order of St. John itself was composed of knights from every Christian nation, but they were able to maintain a remarkable unity and stay focused on what they considered to be the real enemy and the greatest threat of all to the faith– the hoards of Islam.

As soon as the knights occupied Malta, they began building fortifications and ships from which they could immediately resume raiding Moslem shipping.  The famous Moslem pirate Barbarossa, had been appointed High Admiral of the Turkish fleet and he raised its quality and strength to new heights.  Great sea battles raged from one end of the Mediterranean to the other.  Though most of these battles were indecisive, they kept the world on the edge of its seat.  In 1546 Barbarossa died and Dragut assumed command of the increasingly powerful Turkish navy.  In 1550 the knights were major participants in the defeat of his fleet at Mahdia.  For revenge, Dragut attacked and began to lay waste to Malta.  Still relatively unfortified the few defenders put up such a stiff resistance that Dragut abandoned the attack.  Both sides knew that the Turks would soon return.

In 1557 L’Isle Adam died and Jean Parisot De La Valette became Grand Master of the Order.  Also educated and aristocratic, La Valette was once captured by the Turks and made a galley slave for four years.  he was sixty-three when he became Grand Master.  He would prove to be as great a leader as both L’Isle Adam and D’Abusson had been before him.  Suleiman had now stretched his empire to its greatest limits and was massing for what appeared to be a final assault on Europe.  But again the knights had to be dealt with because they were creating havoc with his supply lines, even though they were fewer in numbers and farther away.

The Battle of Malta

The whole Moslem world was also demanding the destruction of the knights.  The Sultan was ambivalent.  At times he was enraged at the knights and at times he feared them, knowing that they could not be defeated without a great cost.  Public opinion soon forced his hand and on May 18, 1565, the Turkish fleet was sighted by the watchman in Fort St. Elmo on the edge of Malta.

The Moslem fleet was so large that witnesses said that it appeared as if an entire forest of spars were moving across the sea.  Not until the great Spanish Armada sailed against England would the world see a more powerful fleet assembled.  Ten of thousands of the Sultan’s finest Janissaries, regulars, and over 4,00 Iayalars, religious fanatics who sought death over life disembarked for the assault.  They came to attack 540 knights, 1,000 foot soldiers, and a little over 3,000 Maltese militia.

Once again the Order faced impossible odds.  Never had the Moslems been more determined.  Once again the knights did not have enough men to hold the invaders at their beachhead.  But unlike Rhodes, at which there was only one fortified city, at Malta the knights were spread out over several forts and fortified cities.  This forced the Turks to diversify their forces.  La Valette quickly proved to be a genius at taking the maximum advantage of every favorable condition.  The Order’s cavalry was able to attack and harass the Turkish foraging parties to the point of distraction, further disrupting the unity of Moslem forces.

The Turkish High Command was again led by the brilliant Mustapha Pasha, but he made a strategic mistake of concentrating his main attack on the Post of Castile, possibly the strongest of the knights’ defenses.  This mistake was due to the bravery of a single knight, a Frenchman named Adrien de la Riviere, who had been captured early in the assault.  Under torture, de la Riviere had asserted that the Post of Castile was lightly fortified with a small garrison of men and could be easily taken.  After a number of assaults were repulsed and mauled by the Post of Castile’s defenders, Pasha realized that he had been lied to by the captured knight.  He had the Frenchman beaten to death but he had already lost hundreds of his fighters and even more importantly, his troops began to lose confidence.

For deeper insight into how GOD the Father sees His children; to better understand the elementary principles of Christ (Hebrews 6:1-3); the ‘mysteries’ of Christ’s Kingdom; and our individual and corporate calling, commission, and empowerment- please review my first published book and the Table of Contents on the Amazon website linked here via Book Title:  “Thy Kingdom Come- Here and Now!”

Sallman Stand at Door


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