Crusader or Ambassador?
A crusader is one who carries on an enterprise against real or supposed evils with great zeal. An ambassador is one sent on a special mission. It may seem uncalled-for to force a distinction between a crusader and an ambassador, for, after all, is there any defensible difference between the two roles? If so, then what does it matter, and to what degree? Is it important for a person to know that she has been sent by God, or is it enough for her to be involved in self-initiated service simply because she feels it is the right thing to do?
This question reaches down into fundamentals. Do we stir up our own hearts about the needs around us and then act? Or is there a reference point, higher than our hearts and feelings, to which we should orient ourselves and from which we should take our marching orders?
The story of Moses provides apt illustrations of both sides of this particular coin. Forty years of disillusionment followed Moses’ initial attempt to serve his fellows. On the merely human level, the motivation that inspired Moses to be an activist for Israel was altogether commendable. Years of palace life had not erased from his mind that the oppressed Israelite slaves were his people. In spite of circumstances, his loyalty was still to his own kith and kin, and ties of race and family called for involvement on their behalf. The dimension of his commitment at this stage was wholly out of proportion to the ultimate result. Sheer heroism was the mark of the man. Yet utter failure was stamped on what he did. In spite of good intentions, his effort climaxed in ignominy and issued in an aftermath of sour disappointment and crushed hopes.
The demeanor of Moses, the man that God wanted to send on his errands, was quite different. Confronted by God at the bush forty years later and faced with the fact that God was commissioning him to deliver the Israelites from Pharoah, how did he react? Was he glad for the opportunity to redeem a failure that had rankled through the years in the wilderness? Not at all. Instead he retreated into a hastily constructed refuge of refusals. One after another, he drove in the stakes to fence himself off from God’s commission. Who am I? Who are you? They won’t believe me. I’m not qualified. No way! Send whom you want, but don’t send me! He was not about to tangle with the problem of delivering Israel again, resisting even to the point of angering God. Look at the public-spirited hero now. See how he has shrunk into a narrow-souled egoist. How the mighty are fallen!
The goal Moses had set for himself was to deliver Israel. The purpose God had in sending Moses was also to deliver Israel. The difference was not in the objective of the goal, but with Moses. He burned with zeal to go on his own terms, but he froze up when God wanted to send him. As a crusader, he had a cause. He was concerned for his people and what he planned to do for them, sure that God would be pleased with his contribution. He had no thought other than that the people would rally around him and then that Pharoah would quail before him.
Moses had to learn that inner steam generated by strong sympathies and worthy motives is ineffective in the accomplishing of God’s will, even though its eruptive forces may honestly seek to do God’s will. In fact, what he conceived to be God’s will was probably confirmed to him in the unlooked-for opportunity to deal a smashing blow for the cause by bumping off an officious Egyptian.
But the end of such self-initiated action is entirely predictable, B.C. or A.D. The natural man will not accept the fact that “every natural virtue is death branded” (Oswald Chambers). God doesn’t add his blessing to special efforts carried out by natural resources, but rather subtracts. He has to, or he wouldn’t be God. Nor will be allow us to lean on the arm of our natural or acquired qualifications, even though he himself engineered our life circumstances to give us these advantages. To ignore this fact will lead us to a satirical anti-climax – a grave in the sand and a disillusioned man heading off into the wilderness.
The later success of Moses, however, in carrying out the greatest administrative feat the word has seen has its secrets. These are laid bare as lessons for us:
The biological fact of a birth can have profound theological significance. Like Moses, we are born when God’s time is ripe. Like Esther, we come to royal position “for such a time as this”. Like Jeremiah, we are ordained and set apart for our ministry before birth.
God engineers life circumstances for his chosen one to insure that no necessary equipment is lacking for the task he has in mind. Only God could work the miracle of arranging free education to the highest possible level for a man born in slavery.
The training God gives has no intrinsic value for spiritual work apart from God’s direct control. (Unfortunately, the trained person is often the last one to believe this).
The crusaders attempting great things under their own steam come up with nothing. They lack the touch of authority. The same people, when yielded to God and as his ambassadors, accomplish the impossible.