Unknown Warriors

Unknown Warriors

Today the church is enjoying its finest hour. These are the days of revival, days of phenomenal growth in the church. Hitherto unconquerable conquests are being conquered. And it is the Unknown Warriors of Christ, the nameless heroes, the rank and file of the people, who with courage and conviction and faith carrying aloft the banner on which Is inscribed the words “who is like unto thee among the mighty ones, O Lord,” who are braving and enduring and winning the battle.

Numbers 13:1 “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Send thou men, that they may search the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel: of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, every one a ruler among them. (KJV)

Joshua 2:1 “And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, go view the land, even Jericho. … (KJV)

The first scripture we have chosen tells the story of the twelve spies whom Moses sent forth to spy out the land of Israel when they stood at the border of the promised land.

The second scripture is from the book of Joshua and it deals with a similar mission by Joshua, when, thirty-eight years later, after the death of Moses, they again stood at the banks of the Jordan.

But a consideration of, and a comparison of, the two incidents impress us, not so much by their similarity, but by their contrast. A contrast both in the physical makeup of the mission, and the difficulty and hardships which came upon them, and their immediate consequences.

The selection of the men for the mission by Moses was made on the basis of prestige. Each tribe had to be represented, and each one of the representatives was “every one a ruler among them.” All of those men were “heads of tribes” of the children of Israel, every one a “prince” among them.

Their names are given, and they are sent forth with every circumstance of pomp and ceremony. A solemn adjuration was addressed to them, and the name of Hosea was changed to Joshua as a sign of God’s favor.   With blessings, with metaphorical speaking, a fanfare of trumpets and farewell banquets, speeches and toasts, they set forth.

As far as the scriptural narrative bears witness their exploration was completely uneventful. There is no mention of their having been mistreated, or hindered, in any manner.   They appear to have traveled the whole country from south to north without an incident, and the very fact that they were able to bear back in triumph that huge cluster of grapes is eloquent testimony to the lack of any besetting danger.

And yet, despite all these facts, the report which they brought back was couched in the gloomiest and most pessimistic of tones and the consequences of their lack of faith was disastrous on the extreme.

It was a direct result of it that the children of Israel were doomed to spend forty years in the wilderness until that faithless generation died out, and a new and a hearty generation, a generation born and bred in the desert, grew up. (Numbers 14:20-35)

It was to this generation that the two spies that Joshua sent belonged, which are mentioned in our second scripture reading. What a striking contrast is provided by their mission when compared with that of their ancestors!

“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, …”   That’s all we are told, no pomp and ceremony attended their departure, no questions of “royalty” was involved in their selection. History does not even record their names and there is no niche for them in the hall of fame.

Secretly and quietly they slipped out, unknown warriors of Jehovah and unnoticed they crossed the Jordan.   Immediately they were involved in exciting and dangerous adventures. Betrayed to the king of Jericho, they had to entrust their lives to a woman of low reputation. They had to be concealed in the flax spread out on the roof to dry, to escape down a rope over the city walls, hide in the mountains for three days while the hunt was on, and then make their dangerous way back.

The perils and hardships which they had to undergo find no parallel in the case of their prototypes. Yet when they came back they proclaimed optimistically and joyously: “Truly the Lord hath delivered into our hands all the land; for even all the inhabitants of the country do faint because of us.” “It is easy!” (Joshua 2:24)

These prominent facts at the very dawn of history have found their oft-repeated and almost monotonous parallels throughout the whole course of the age-old history of God’s people. It is not always the “rulers,” the “heads of the families of Israel,” the “princes,” who, at moments of emergency, or crisis, manifest the necessary courage, the requisite stout-ness of heart, the faith and cheerful acceptance of odds.

Distinguished decent and prestige are not always the necessary prerequisites, when the tests come, for the faithful discharge of duties. A great name does not always lead to great actions, and it is not always that vision, and the highest qualities of soul go with them.

On the contrary, it happens too often that the very eminence of a man induces in his soul a hidebound conservatism, fickleness, a refusal to encounter dangers or accept the hazards upon which success depends.

WHERE IS FAITH FOUND

It is among the nameless heroes, among the unknown warriors of God, among the humble musket-bearers, upon whom the limelight of publicity and fame never shines, for whom no niche is carved out in the hall of fame, that these qualities of courage and endurance of vision and cheerful optimism are found.   It was not in the “all of them were heads of the children of Israel,” but in the two “unknown men.”Today the church is enjoying its finest hour. These are the days of revival, days of phenomenal growth in the church. Hitherto unconquerable conquests are being conquered. And it is the unknown warriors of Christ, the nameless heroes, the rank and file of the people, who with courage and conviction and faith carrying aloft the banner on which Is inscribed the words “who is like unto thee among the mighty ones, O Lord,” who are braving and enduring and winning the battle.

And where were the men of faith found, men of courage and vision and conviction? In the narrow and squalid streets of the ghettos, in the factories, on the farms, in the mines, men, and women from all walks of life, children and young people in whose life Christ is king, these are among the unknown warriors, and nameless heroes of Jesus Christ.

They are those who brave all dangers and cheerfully overcome all hardship, who dry the swamps and till the soil in the face of unimaginable difficulties saying, “the Lord has given us into our hand the whole land.”

People who captain busses, young people who knock on doors on Saturday afternoon, people who will not become discouraged when their invitations are not accepted, men and women who charge through jungles with the message of Jesus Christ, cross the burning sands, the iron curtain, the bamboo curtain, cross the barriers of prejudice and race, unflinchingly giving of themselves, “Unknown Warriors.”

And that is why I am so anxious to impress with all the persuasion at my disposal that it is not sufficient to have learned teachers, preachers, distinguished leaders, men in positions of eminence, and God knows we must have these, but it is not enough.

The church depends ultimately for its survival upon the rank and file, its “Unknown Warriors.”   In them is ever found the spirit of faith and courage and though them we shall find the fulfillment of the age-old hope, “For the Lord, our God hath given into our hands all the land.”

Our Prayer. Lord, I thank thee for the one and two talent people you have called into your service. It is upon these you are depending to carry the good news of your love, devotion, and the offer of salvation to the world. I ask your blessings upon each of them right now. Encourage them and strengthen them for the cause set before them, Amen.
James L. Thornton

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About the author

James Thornton

I am a retired pastor currently living in the Nashville, TN area. We attend First Church, Bro. Ron Becton pastor. We've been putting our sermons and Bible studies online for more than five years in an effort to continue our ministry.