by Greg Hobelman
On this day, November 11th, we honor veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. This tradition stems from the older celebration of Armistice Day when the major hostilities of World War I formally ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. This honoring is the endeavor of a grateful nation to give a fitting tribute to those noble souls, still living, who were willing to give of themselves in service to their country. It is fitting and proper that we do this because it takes a special person to endure the rigors of military training and face the realities of a sacrifice that’s played out in so many facets. Not everyone is willing to volunteer.
You may have seen pictures of old Uncle Sam with his long, spindly finger pointing straight ahead and the caption, “I want you.” America’s military, with a few draft exceptions in times of crisis, has always been a volunteer force. Because they are always trying to find new recruits, the branches have developed different catchy slogans over the years. As much as it pains me as an Army man to admit it, the Marine Corps came up with the best one: “All we need is a few good men."
The problem has always been finding those individuals who “buy in” to the concept of service to their country. Several years back, in researching statistics in preparation for a sermon, it was found that in our patriotic, freedom loving America, only 9 people out of every thousand volunteer their service to their country. That equates to 9/10ths of 1%. No wonder Uncle Sam is still pointing his finger, wanting you.
God Is Looking for a Man
Yet when considering Ezekiel 22:30, it strikes us as ironic that God isn’t looking to enlist thousands of soldiers; in fact, He’s not even looking for a “few good men." He is looking for a man. This is the universal sense of the word man that includes woman also, and if He can find just one person who will embrace His concept of service, He can change the course of history for an entire nation. This is the kind of Captain under which we should want to serve. Yet as we take a close look at this verse we will find, while it is always God’s cause and calling, the choice to enlist is always our own.
By starting to read the text, we are arrested by the second word, “And I….” There it is, a Divine “I”! God Himself is at work here, for it is His cause. We find more details about the cause later in the verse, like standing in the gap and making up the hedge for a wicked nation. But undeniably it is God who is looking, it is God who is working, and it is God before whom this man shall stand. There might be those who say with relief, “good, it’s God’s cause, let Him worry about it”, and there are times when we do need to take our hands off and let God work out the details.
But the reality is God is looking for a man after His own heart who will do something. I Samuel 17 gives us the story of David’s encounter with Goliath. When David comes on the scene, he is completely amazed to find this heathen openly defying the armies of the living God. When he begins to enquire, he gets a sharp lecture from his older brother Eliab. Stung by his brother’s rebuke, he responds with his famous quote in verse 29, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” David knew all along Goliath was bigger than he was, but he also knew the cause wasn’t his, but God’s. He wasn’t defending his own honor; he was indignant at this insult to God. He knew if he would just be faithful to act, God would give the victory, for the battle was the Lord’s!
Where Are the Elijahs of God?
The next phrase says that God “sought for a man.” In the story of Elijah, God took him to heaven in a chariot of fire. After receiving the mantle as it fell, Elisha took it up and made his way back to the river Jordan. He took the mantle and smote the water crying “where is the Lord God of Elijah?” Leonard Ravenhill said, “He is right where He has always been. But where are the Elijahs of God?” God sought for a man, and Elijah answered the call. James 5:17 says, “Elijah was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.”
God had a special mission, and he looked for a man. In this case He found Elijah. It wasn’t that Elijah was super special. He was just an ordinary man, who served an extraordinary God. The truth is God is searching and calling someone ordinary into His service--someone He wants to use for His cause. 2 Timothy 1:9 says, “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace…”.
This text is so clear that God is on a mission. We can’t begin to imagine God on a mission ending in failure, so we are almost jarred with the closing phrase, “….but I found none.” God’s cause is thwarted because He is a gentleman, and He will not override our will. We have the prerogative to choose what we will do.
Answer the Call, Pay the Price
In 1836, the Alamo was the setting for the first major military conflict in the battle for Texas independence. Mexicans and Americans alike had settled the Texas territory with the security of a Mexican constitution and the promise of land to call their own. But everything changed with the rise of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna as President of Mexico. He transformed the Presidency into a dictatorship, abolished the constitution of 1824, and reneged on the land deals offered by the former Mexican government.
Involved in the fight were legendary Davy Crocket and Colonel Jim Bowie, inventor of the famous Bowie knife. However, it was William Travis, the unknown 26-year-old cavalry Colonel from South Carolina, who ended up in charge of the Alamo. He stood to face an army of 4,000 soldiers with a meager 187 volunteers.
By the twelfth day of the siege, Travis knew that time was running out. That Saturday evening, as the sun began to set, he stood before the tired group of Texans who had gathered in the courtyard of the Alamo chapel. Travis drew his sword from his sheath, drew a line in the sand with its tip and offered his men a final choice. He offered them the chance to escape the fortress before it was too late, then said, "Those of you prepared to give their lives in freedom's cause, come over to me."
Every man but one crossed the line that day, including the ailing Jim Bowie who asked his cot be carried across. Every last man would lie dead somewhere in the compound by the dawn of the next day, but that night they took their rightful place as some of the most courageous freedom fighters in the course of human history. The bloody battle that ensued would last for little more than an hour, but those 187 volunteers took over 600 Mexican soldiers with them that morning, making it a costly victory for Santa Anna, indeed. In addition to the loss of his men, in his blind determination to take the Alamo, Santa Anna lost Texas by giving the legislature time to organize the Army that defeated him weeks later.
When the line was drawn they made a deliberate choice, answered the call, embraced a great cause, and paid a great price.
Those men rank right up there with all the soldier heroes we honor and pay tribute to at times like Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, but what was it that made these ordinary men great? It was the fact that when the line was drawn they made a deliberate choice, answered the call and embraced a great cause, although in doing so they paid a great price. Our mission today, should we choose to accept, is to become the kind of soldier for God whom He can place in a gap and know we’ll stand true. He’s looking for the kind of soldier who’ll make up the hedge, and stand in defense of truth and righteousness, even when it’s not popular. Today there’s still a fight going on, and God is sifting hearts, looking for a man.
Ravenhill, Leonard. "Where Are the Elijahs of God?" OnePlace.com. Retrieved at https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/leonard-ravenhill/read/articles/where-are-the-elijahs-of-god-16550.html