Oswald Chambers’ Death: 100 Years Later

Oswald Chambers’ death 100 years ago, has been the source of sadness and questions. (You can read all about it in my book, Mrs. Oswald Chambers).

The most read blog post on this website is Why Did God Allow Oswald Chambers to Die So Young?

The question is still a good one and worth pondering on November 15, 2017–one hundred years to the day after Oswald Chambers’ death.

WWIOswald Chambers' death, why did God let Oswald Chambers die so young? WWI, YMCA, God's will, Mrs. Oswald Chambers 100th anniversary of Chambers death military situation prior to Oswald Chambers’ death.

The “what happened?” facts are simple.

After two years working for the YMCA in Egypt during World War I, Oswald Chambers was tired.

In fall 1917, the Egyptian Expeditionary Forces (EEF) under the direction of General Edmund Allenby prepared to “go up the line” toward Jerusalem.

The Australian Light Horse Brigade and other Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) troops pushed up the coast from Egypt toward Jerusalem.

The EEF command feared a bloody battle to take Jerusalem. They requested the YMCA send two YMCA chaplains for each casualty station.

The command knew the men would need all possible spiritual encouragement.

Chambers looked forward to the ministry opportunities; he loved the soldiers.

In anticipation of being called up, he prepared the Zeitoun YMCA camp hear Cairo for his absence.

His wife Biddy would lead study groups. Reserve chaplains would fill in, along with others trained for ministry.

The illness leading up to Oswald Chambers’ death

But before the call came for Chambers to head out, he developed gastrointestinal issues.

Such ailments were common in 1917 Egypt. With flies constantly present, disease spread easily.

Assuming it was “mummy tummy,” Chambers rested. He handed over his duties to Biddy and others.

Oswald Chambers' death, why did God let Oswald Chambers die so young? WWI, YMCA, God's will, Mrs. Oswald Chambers 100th anniversary of Chambers death

See how tired Oswald Chambers looked in fall 2017?

But, he did not improve.

As his condition worsened his wife and friends urged him to visit the Red Cross Hospital at Giza.

Chambers resisted their pleas. He ministered at military hospitals all the time and did not want to take a bed from a soldier who needed it.

This went on for ten days.

When the pain finally became unbearable, Chambers agreed to go to the hospital. Upon arrival, a military physician conducted an emergency appendectomy.

Oswald Chambers’ death

Chambers recovered from the surgery and appeared to be doing well.

But clots formed, his health failed. Biddy remained by his side.

A week into recovery, his four year-old daughter Kathleen visited.

The meeting didn’t last long. Chambers had no strength.

While the medical personnel told Biddy her husband couldn’t recover, she maintained a confident vigil.

Biddy believed God gave her a word, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.” She clung to that word.

Oswald Chambers died early in the morning on November 15, 1917.

One soldier’s reaction

J. Stuart Gardiner, one of Chambers’ soldier friends, wrote about “O.C. had been called Home to join the great army of God’s elect.”

“It seemed hard to understand why God had allowed the work of such an inspired teacher to cease just at the time when its influence was so powerful and uplifting a force in so many lives . . .

“As he wondered, the writer remembers gazing across the plains towards the purple slopes of the Judean Hills, and he thought of the Great Teacher Who had passed that way, and of the welcome that His loving heart would give to the O.C. as He came to greet and bless him . . .

“As they [other soldiers] prayed, their hearts thanked God for the O.C.–for his great gift of understanding–and the inspired way in which he had made the message of the Scriptures a living, vitalizing force in their lives.”

How could the sickness not be unto death if Oswald Chambers died?

How did Biddy explain the difference between the word from God she believed and what happened?

Oswald Chambers' death, why did God let Oswald Chambers die so young? WWI, YMCA, God's will, Mrs. Oswald Chambers 100th anniversary of Chambers death

Biddy and Oswald’s final photo together.

Writing 15 years later (in Oswald Chambers: His Life and Work), Biddy provided an interesting observation.

“Through all the days of the illness and its crises, the word which held me was ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God,’ and there were times when it seemed that the promise was to have a literal fulfilment.

“But again God had a fuller meaning; and yet the sickness was not unto death, but for the glory of God, we believe.

“The readings in Daily Light and the Psalms for those days brought a gracious sense of the supernatural intimacy of God with all our ways.”

In 1933 when Biddy put together her husband’s biography, she already knew My Utmost for His Highest was a success.

What Biddy did not know is how important that devotional, published 10 years after her husband’s death, would become for generations of readers.

Comments from a WWI soldier 49 years after Oswald Chambers’ Death

Stephen “Tim” Pulford first met his God in Egypt and later learned about him through Oswald Chambers’ books.

He became a Church of England minister and wrote Biddy Chambers’ obituary.

Pulford made the final observation about Oswald Chambers’ death.

“It was during the Palestine campaign I learnt of Mr. Chambers’ death. And although from the human point of view his passing seemed an irreparable loss, it marked the beginning of a ministry which he might never have achieved had he lived to pursue it. And this is where the slow-moving miracle (as we count time) begins.”

If Oswald Chambers had not died in 1917 Egypt, Biddy would not have compiled all her notes into 30 books with Oswald Chambers listed as author.

We would not have My Utmost for His Highest, if Oswald Chambers had not given his utmost for God’s highest glory–with his life.

The argument against Oswald Chambers’ death

A writer on that aforementioned blog post, Why Did God Allow Oswald Chambers to Die So Young? argued Oswald’s death was preventable.

Why did he refuse to go to the hospital?

We’ll ask him in heaven.

I think a man so attuned to the leading of the Holy Spirit could be trusted with his decision at the time.

Did Oswald Chambers want to die?

He was tired, yes, and the work had aged him.

But Chambers adored his wife and child. He loved the soldiers and those who worked with him.

Oswald Chambers did not have a death wish.

If you read My Utmost for His Highest, you know Oswald Chambers focused on God’s glory, not his own, no matter the personal cost.

It’s an excellent point for all Christians to ponder.


Thoughts on Oswald Chambers’ death 100 years later. Click to Tweet

Comments on Oswald Chambers’ death, November 15, 1917. Click to Tweet

What caused Oswald Chambers to die during WWI? Click to Tweet

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Every month in 2017, I’m telling the stories about God’s leading and my blessed–and astonished–reactions while writing Mrs. Oswald Chambers

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  1. It is amazing to look back over my own life to see the Hand of God. We have the privilege of looking back 100 years to see God’s Hand in this. I often remind myself that I may not understand now, but one day I will.

  2. Michelle Ule

     /  November 15, 2017


  1. Mrs. Oswald Chambers by Michelle Ule – Some Days There's Pie…

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