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Oswald Chambers: In His Presence

Updated on April 9, 2018
Leland Johnson profile image

I love to study the lives of great men and women, then share the highlights with others. My hope is to inspire others to deeper study.

Born: Jul 24, 1874

Birthplace: Aberdeen, Scotland

Died: Nov 15, 1917

Death place: Cairo, Egypt

Spouse: Gertrude Hobbs

Children: Kathleen Chambers

Education: University of Edinburgh

Best known written work: My Utmost for His Highest

"The call of God is not just for a select few, but for everyone."

— Oswald Chambers

Oswald Chambers: In His Presence

I would like to write to you about this man in a way that is both factual and historical, yet also in the spirit of personal sentiment. I sense a spirit of kinship with Oswald, especially when reading from his best known work, "My Utmost for His Highest." Even now I notice that I refer to him, this man who had died 41 years before I was born, using his first name as if he were my close friend. I suppose in some sense he is. That feeling is not unique to me. When with my circle of friends we discuss a section of his writing it is not uncommon for someone to say, "Did you read Oswald today?" We all speak of him with admiration and appreciation for the depth of his spiritual insight.

It is the duty of every spiritual man and woman to direct others to God. Chambers would agree. In one amusing anecdote he wrote of himself and a friend who were walking in downtown Cincinnati. His friend shouted at the top of his voice, "I hate the devil!" Oswald responded, "So do I!" A passerby overheard their statements and "asked us the way of salvation. We pointed him to the Lord." I don't think Oswald Chambers would approve of me or anyone directing the tender souls of the lost and hurting to him, and yet the bible is filled with accounts of men and women whose lives serve as examples to the seeking, examples of those who sought and found God. We examine their lives not to exalt who they were, but rather Whom they found. Had Chambers lived during the epochs in which the bible were written I am confident his life would've been included for he is a man like Abraham, Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Josiah. He was our modern man of faith removing from humanity the excuse that spiritual men lived "back then." Every era has it's corruptions and it is for us to learn how to escape them and how to live as spiritual, faithful people despite them, and to shine even brighter in this dark world as a response to those very corruptions.

Please enjoy the video highlights of Oswald's life below

"…he taught them as one having authority…"

One of Oswald's most striking characteristics was the authority with which he discussed and expounded upon the Scriptures. I do not mean to say that he was authoritarian, but that he spoke with such certainty and persuasiveness that it compelled the listener or the reader to agree.

In "My Utmost for His Highest" each section begins with a verse or portion of a verse from which Oswald gives the most marvelous and insightful extrapolations. It is as if the Scripture itself is jutting upward as the tip of an iceberg, being seen in part but not in whole. Then, the words of Chambers take us below the surface and show us the full wonder of the structure. He was a revealer. This aspect of his character soared to dizzying intellectual heights while at the same time bowed him in humility. Like any great teacher, Chambers words are beyond the student, but not so far beyond that the student feels incapacitated. Rather, the reader is challenged and believes he can know what Oswald knows.

Oswald never flaunted this authority, if he knew he possessed it at all. It was to him as a child's enthusiasm is to the child. It makes him beloved yet he himself is unaware of its presence. It caused men to seek him out, indeed it still does, and when men find him they find more than a writer or preacher; they find a man who taught "as one having authority, not as the scribes." Mt 7:29

The scribes had a type of authority. It isn't that they were devoid of it, but it was not the same authority as that of Jesus. The authority of Jesus was that his words carried the potency of experience so powerful that those who had ears to hear knew they were hearing unadulterated truth, truth they (we) had been sorely lacking. When Jesus spoke it had nothing to do with a personal theory or possibility. He spoke of what he knew, not what he thought, and his knowing makes us believe that we can know too. This authority conveys a knowing that surpasses verbal explanation just as listening to a native Hawaiian tell of his home surpasses trying to understand that tropical paradise by looking at a picture postcard of it. So Jesus was to Heaven, so Oswald was to Jesus. This kind of authority is beautiful and knows nothing of trying to dominate another, but is aimed rather at the enlightenment of another, the spiritual elevation of the other person. Oswald had it too. We can have it as well. Oswald would say, "Get to it, get at it!" In his writing I so often sense him pushing me, but the push is always toward God and the person of Jesus Christ; not to service or creeds, but to the person of the Messiah.

He rarely, if ever, takes us back to the original language of the Bible yet if you were to look up his reasonings in Hebrew or Greek dictionaries you will find his verbiage stunningly accurate just the same. This is because he captured the essence. Jesus didn't constantly refer to ancient languages when he taught. There is no doubt that the original language of the Bible is extremely important and that it's study is crucial to understanding the Scriptures. However, it is also true that a man can be a linguistic scholar and speak ten languages and still not know God.

The Official Biography of Oswald Chambers

In His Presence

As I'm sure you can tell Oswald Chambers is one of my hero's. To attempt reiteration of his work here would be a disservice to him and to you. I can only urge you to begin reading some of his marvelous spiritual insights that were gained by a lifetime of prayer, devotion, and hard work.

He died while serving as a chaplain to British troops in Egypt during World War 1. He came down with acute appendicitis. He initially refused treatment believing he would be taking medical attention away from wounded troops. He was finally persuaded to undergo emergency surgery. The surgery was initially successful, however he began developing blood clots in his lungs and died less than two weeks later. Soldiers wept openly at the loss of their friend, mentor and constant spiritual example. His wife, Gertrude, sent a wire back to England to his parents. It read simply, "Oswald, In His Presence." He was 43 years old. His words are still alive, rolling around in the minds of millions, being read day by day. I hope you will look him up. Blessings.

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My Utmost For His Highest


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