“Draftee” or “Volunteer?”
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
Isaiah 6:1-8; Jeremiah 1:4-8; Jonah 1-4; Acts 9:1-16
There is a tendency to think, “I will do this for you, Lord!” This is especially true among religious people who think they can earn God’s favor, but have never received His Grace. Unfortunately it is not uncommon among saved individuals, either, as it is a product of the flesh…self-will.
On the other hand, there are those who shrug, and say, “Well, if God wants something of me, He will tell me…” That is a confession that they have not read God’s Word, where He says that He does want something from us, and for us!
Is there a balance between these two ideas? Are we simply “Draftees?” Can we not volunteer? Is our whole life predestined to the extent that we have no choices? Is there no room for volunteerism as a form of worship and thanksgiving?
Who is in Charge, Here?
There is no question that the Lord is the supreme authority in all things. If there is any doubt about this matter, Psalm 24:1 should put it to rest. “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.”
I realize that some teachers claim that Satan somehow gained all authority when Adam sinned. Please remember that when Satan claimed (In Luke 4:6, 7) that “all this…is delivered unto me and to whomsoever I will, I give it!” He was lying! Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies! (John 8:44) Satan is a Liar! The earth was not given to Satan.
To be sure, the people born to Adam (the whole Human Race) are born sinners, with a bent toward slavery to Satan. But Jesus came to free us from that spiritual slavery. That does not make Satan the owner of the world. He is a pretender to the throne at best, and they that serve him claim more authority for him than he actually possesses, because they follow in his footsteps as his children (John 8:44, again.)
That is Why We Need to be Born Again
But God has never “abdicated the throne,” and He never will. We still belong to Him, body and soul! “The Earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein.” If we continue in our rebellion, as unbelievers, we will face the same judgment as Satan. But if we accept His Grace, offered through Jesus’s Blood at the Cross, we enjoy eternal life with Him. We are born again, into God’s Family…separated from Adam!
So, Having Received His Grace, through Faith, What do we do, Now?
There is an interesting passage in Isaiah 6:1-8, where we see what may be Isaiah’s conversion experience, or, at least his call to service. He saw the LORD, and the seraphim worshipping in the temple. He was dismayed at his own sin, and he was sure that he was in trouble, but God cleansed him with the result of the sacrifice—a coal from the altar, and then Isaiah heard what we see as his “call.” But notice, that the Lord framed it as a question, not as a command. He asked, “Whom shall I send, and Who will go for us?”
Isaiah’s instant response was “Here am I, Lord: send me!” That sounds an awful lot like God “calling for volunteers,” and Isaiah jumping to “volunteer” for whatever the mission was. (Notice that Isaiah did not ask what the job was: He jumped at the chance to be sent by God.)
So, Which is it? Are We Draftees, or Volunteers?
In a sense, we are both!
Isaiah heard the call and jumped to “volunteer.” Is it possible for God to call someone to His service and they really are not interested? Perhaps they even refuse? Certainly, it is possible!
In Jonah 1:1-3, God gave a very direct call—a command, and Jonah tried to run away from God! What amazing folly! If what we read in Psalm 24:1 is true, then to where could you hope to flee? In Psalm 139:7-13, we see the hopeless folly of attempting to flee from God. He is the Creator, and He is Omnipresent! Wherever we could travel, on the land, on the sea, under the land, under the sea, in the place of the dead, or even in outer space, God is there!
Yes, Jonah rebelled, and tried to run away. But God intervened with a supernatural storm. It got the attention of the professional sailors on the ship in which Jonah was a passenger. They cast lots to see which among them was the “cause” of the storm, because they could see this was a supernatural storm, and they had no idea what “god” had brought the storm.
The lot fell to Jonah, and they asked him what he had done. He confessed that he was a servant of “the LORD, the God of Heaven and Earth.” They already knew he was fleeing from his God, so now they were terribly frightened, and asked what they could do to appease that God: He simply said, “Throw me overboard!”
They couldn’t agree to do such a thing, so they rowed frantically, trying to get to land. But the wind fought against them, and they finally gave up, and prayed to Jonah’s God, asking that He not condemn them for throwing Jonah overboard.
They Obeyed by Faith
Ultimately, they complied with the word Jonah had given: They threw Jonah overboard, and the storm immediately ceased! Then they were overcome with respect and fear toward Jonah’s God, and they immediately made sacrifices to Him, and made vows to Him.
We don’t know what happened to those sailors, after that, but we do know what happened to Jonah: God had prepared a great Sea-Creature (KJV says “fish,” here ) to swallow him and give him a “Divine water-taxi ride” back to land. (He did not get to “travel first-class!”)
Some teachers believe Jonah died, there in the belly of the sea creature, and that he was revived to serve. But, read carefully: in Jonah 2:1 it does not say “Jonah prayed from Sheol;” (the place of the dead) but rather, “Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish.” If he had been dead, he would not have been “in the fish,” but rather, in the place of the dead.
And, in Matthew 12:39, 40, Jesus confirmed that Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale [great sea creature.]”
Languages and Translations
(Yes, the King James Version says “whale,” there in Matthew, but the original language simply means a “great sea-creature.” Possibly a whale; perhaps even probably so, but we need to realize that not all languages are precise in the same fields. In English, we make a sharp distinction between “whales,” which are air-breathing, warm-blooded mammals, and “fish,” which are cold-blooded, have gills, and obtain their oxygen through the water.
The ancient Hebrew and Greek languages are not as specific as English in some areas. We may find that frustrating, but we have to accept that some of the original words are not specific enough to be clearly translated one way or another into English. Choose to be at peace with that!)
A Famous Draftee and Deserter
The point is, Jonah was clearly being “drafted.” He was being called to serve, and he was not given the option to just “go do something else.” He ran away! Deserted! Had he persisted in his rebellion, he would have died right there, in the belly of the sea-creature, and that would have been the end of the story. He would have been saved, but dead.
But he repented, and the rest of the story tells how God used Jonah to reach the people of Nineveh. Did Jonah volunteer? Not exactly. He rejected the call, initially, but he repented under duress. He changed his mind. That is what “repent” means. Change your mind about something. Turn around, and go do what you were told to do! Was he “forced to do it?” Not exactly: it’s just that God made the alternative results very clear, and Jonah confessed his rebellion and chose to obey.
There are two results of his repentance, beyond the simple fact that Jonah survived the ordeal:
One result was that the people of Nineveh were spared destruction. (A full-scale revival resulted, in Nineveh, the capital of Assyria…the mortal enemies of Israel! That is why Jonah didn’t want to go, in the first place! He wanted God to destroy the people of Nineveh!)
But the other result is that, today, we have a specific prophecy regarding the resurrection of Jesus! You see, Jesus treated this as history, not a myth! You can either trust Jesus to know the truth about Jonah, or rebel against God and disbelieve. But Jesus said it was true! He said it was given as a picture of His own resurrection: that “As Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
What about People who do not “Feel Qualified” to Serve?
In Jeremiah 1:4-8, we see that the prophet Jeremiah was a reluctant witness. He protested that he was too young to do the job God called him to do.
But, to begin with, God pointed out that He, God., had foreknown Jeremiah, not only before he was born, but before God “formed him in his mother’s womb.” God sees every human as a direct creation, procreation notwithstanding. God told Jeremiah that He had chosen him for the job of being “a prophet to the nations” before he was conceived.
The Weeping Prophet
So, Jeremiah reluctantly accepted the assignment: it was never a case of outright rebellion as was Jonah’s case:Jeremiah simply did not “feel qualified” to serve. But God enabled him, and he proved a very reliable man of God, serving in an exceptionally difficult ministry. He acted as a spokesman for God to people who hated him and who rejected everything he said. They publicly mocked him, they beat him and threw him in a pit, and they planned to kill him.
He had a Very Difficult, unfulfilling ministry!
Ironically, he had been telling them of the imminent conquest of their nation under Nebuchadnezzar: when it finally happened, exactly as predicted, the enemy captain treated Jeremiah more courteously than did his own people. Further, the enemy captain plainly stated that the reason they had been sent to conquer Israel was that the people of Israel had abandoned their God!
The enemy soldiers understood the matter more clearly than did the “chosen people of God,” who were in rebellion against God. What a shameful state of affairs! (Sometimes we find that unbelievers today have a better idea of what Christians are supposed to do than the believers do.) And Israel still continued in their rebellion, despite their defeat under the Babylonians (also called the Chaldeans.)
What About Us?
I have frequently heard people say words to the effect of, “I don’t feel called!” I can understand their “feelings,” but feelings are not an accurate reflection of reality.
Romans 8:28 is a popular verse, and people usually quote the first clause, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” but they forget the rest of the verse: “…to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
Yes, you are called! If you still doubt it, read the next two verses there in Romans 8:
“ For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”
If You are a Believer, You are Called to His Service!
So…every believer has been “called” to God’s service. We all have received our “Draft Notice.” And the only question left is, “Will we respond with joy, eagerly volunteering for the mission, (whatever it is,) or will we hold back, trying to bargain with God for a job we like better?”
That is something that each of us has to decide personally. If we respond as did Isaiah, volunteering for the “mission,” saying “Here am I, Lord, send me!” Then He is free to have us serve wherever He wants.
If we “volunteer,” but with restrictions, and reservations, saying,“I’ll serve, but only if….” then we are no better than Jacob, who said, (Genesis 28:20-22) “If you bring me along safely, and if you provide for all my physical needs, and if you bring me safely home, again, then you can be my God, and this rock can be your house, and I will give you ten percent of whatever you give me!” (Such a deal! How could God fail to be impressed?)
The Privilege is to Serve!
Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work!” That work included evangelism, for Jesus, but it also included the Cross. We can look and see what God calls us to be, for Him (Ambassadors, in 2nd Corinthians 5:20; Lights, reflecting His light, in Matthew 5:15, 16 and Philippians 2:15… and others.)
We will either emulate Jesus and Isaiah, counting it a privilege to even be invited to serve with Jesus, or we can count it an unreasonable burden, and reject His offer.
Remember that the result of faithful service is eternal reward (don’t misunderstand: salvation is a gift, not a reward.) The things we do, as believers, are either of eternal value, and thus eternally relevant, or eternally a waste of time, and ultimately, without value. Working with Jesus (no matter how simple the task) is always an eternally good investment.
Working on our own, without His direction and blessing, regardless of how “famous” we become, how “impressive” we are, in the eyes of other humans, or how “great and important” our work looks to others, is still an eternal waste of time!
Do I Have to Know God’s “Whole Plan?”
James indicates (James 4:13-16) that we do not know the future, and that we are fools to make our plans as if we do know it. He says that our plans need to be subject to God’s approval.
Psalm 37:3-6 tells us that we need to allow God to direct our paths. Proverbs 3:5, 6 says something similar. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him. and He shall direct your path!”
God Doesn’t Make “Deals,” as a Rule
So the idea of trying to “make a deal with God,” as Jacob seemed to do, as opposed to simply accepting what He has given us as His will and looking to Him for further direction (as Joseph did, in Genesis chapters 39-50) would be really a bad decision. Joseph served faithfully in bad circumstances and was rewarded by the God he served. Jacob tried to “make deals” and he had a pretty rough life.
I do not know the future God has for me. Every day, I hope to choose to respond to His call, regardless of the “mission.” I want to respond as Isaiah did, not as Jonah did.
In the Church age, we could make consistently good decisions and still have a “rough life,” as Jeremiah did, but we also look for eternal reward, as he did. Philippians 1:29 says that “suffering for the sake of Jesus” is part of our calling.
Not all of life will be the way we “want things to be.” We truly need to remember “Who is In Charge.” (It is not us…) Yes, you have been “drafted,” but God asks that you respond as if you were eagerly “volunteering.”
That is how we find His richest blessings.