Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Volunteer State.....

"Many years ago Tennessee earned the sobriquet of 'Volunteer State,' growing out of the alacrity with which her sons have enlisted in the various wars in which the country has engaged. Scores of Tennesseans figure prominently in the Indian wars in the early history of the country.. In the Mexican war regiments were formed in many instances in advance of calls and waited impatiently for their turn. Tennessee's quota was always full, and scores of men enrolled their names whose services were never called for at all. And in the late war [the Civil War] Tennessee fully maintained her reputation as the 'Volunteer State.'"
 - Knoxville Journal,  November 12, 1885

 The Nashville flood in 2010 was one of the most intense experiences in my life. Never had I seen devastation like that  so up close and personal.  With the death toll at an estimated 31 across the state and over an estimated $1 billion in damages, it was heartbreaking blow to the people of Tennessee.  But in the midst of such a horrific event, something amazing happened. The people became a family. Everywhere.... neighbor helping helping church...people came together by the droves to help rebuild and restore. Men and women who were able cleared away debris and began to rebuild houses. Those who weren't gave money or sent canned good, clothes and shoes. Some even walked the streets with coolers passing out bottles of water and food to these good Samaritans. It was so beautiful to see folks truly rising up higher than those waters to help their fellow man. Tennessee truly lived up to its nickname as the "volunteer state".

In the dictionary, a volunteer is defined as  a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking or a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. In military terms, its  a person who enters the service voluntarily rather than through conscription or draft. In the law, its a person whose actions are not founded on any legal obligation so to act or  as a person who pays the debt of another where he or she is neither legally nor morally bound to do so and has no interest to protect in making the payment.In agricultural terms, its growing without being seeded, planted, or cultivated by a person; springing up spontaneously.

Yesterday  I began reading in the book of Judges. The Lord had promised the ancestors of the Israelites that if they obeyed Him and served Him alone, He would give them their promised land. And again and again He watched as the Israelites broke their promises. They married other tribes and began worshiping other gods. By the third chapter, God flat out refused to help them defeat their enemies anymore. He wanted them to learn to fight as their ancestors had. They were attacked over and over, but God had mercy on them and sent Caleb's nephew Othniel to lead them in a victorious war. They had peace again for forty years, but as soon as Othniel died, the Iraelites went right back to their old ways. Then they begged for help again, and He sent Ehud. Israel was at peace for eighty years this time...until Ehud died, of course. Enter Barak and Deborah, whom God used to lead an army to defeat the Canaanite army. The Israelites eventually killed their king, Jabin and overpowered his army by their growing strength.

After it was all over, Barak and Deborah sang a  song of victory and thanksgiving. Here is a specific selection from it:

"....When they let down their hair in Israel,
      they let it blow wild in the wind.
   The people volunteered with abandon,
      bless God!  

Lift your hearts high, O Israel,
      with abandon, volunteering yourselves with the people—bless God!
" ( the Message) 

In Psalm 110,  King David also speaks of the volunteer:

"The LORD said to my Lord,
         “Sit at My right hand,
         Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
  The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.
         Rule in the midst of Your enemies!
        Your people
shall be volunteers
         In the day of Your power;
         In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
         You have the dew of Your youth.
 The LORD has sworn
         And will not relent,
are a priest forever
         According to the order of Melchizedek.”  ( NKJV)

This made me stop and take a look at the term "volunteer" a bit more closely. Look at these two circumstances. In one, God's chosen people who have been marked by their repeated disobedience to Him. Yet in their time of trouble, God rose up to save them. In the case of King David, a shepard chosen by God himself to be king, who then became an adulterer and a murderer. God could have so very easily written them both off as lost causes but still, in his faithfulness, chose to save them. Something stirred in these people. I believe it was hope. People who volunteer themselves usually do so because they believe in the cause they're helping out. In the case of the Israelites, I believe hope stirred them to give their lives and swords to finally defeat their enemies. They began to finally understand that God had given them everything they needed to live victoriously, He gave them a promise to fight for. In King David's case,  I believe it was God's gift to David for finally beginning to live the life He was meant to. So He sent others to rally around him and defeat anyone who tried to stand in his way.

If strangers on the street know its right to serve others, to volunteer themselves in battle and in times of need, to forfeit their time and money to providing for someone else.....if people who have lived in disobedience and destruction all their lives can rise up in hope to fight for their inheritance...if God can stir their hearts to fight along side a leader who is far less than much more can he stir us today...the children of God...his beloved?

Its His love that makes you capable of doing anything. Its by His strength that makes things possible. It doesn't matter how many times you have tried and many times you think you have let Him down...He still has called you forth at such a time as this to rise up and fight for love your neighbor as give your lives to service. Let the volunteer rise within you. Lay down your life and desires to see the kingdom of God come and His will be done on earth. Be the hands and feet of Jesus. Make a meal for someone....clean their house...share the gospel...stand up for what you know is right....rally yourselves to an unyielding desire to see love breath stronger than hate in the world around you. You can do it. He will uphold you. You have nothing to fear. He will always fight for you. He loves you. You will succeed if you never give up on Him. 


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