I have a particularly good friend who has been telling me how life used to be in the earlier days. He would narrate how, at one point, recruitment into the National Youth Service (NYS) was mandatory. The youth completing secondary school had to be drafted into the NYS and offer services to the nation and the people of Kenya. The nostalgic memories he paints of the entire practice are incredible.
This reminds me of the 2015 Garissa University College terror attack. The gruesome attack, perpetrated by depraved human beings resulted in deaths of 148 university students. This disaster jolted the then Cabinet Secretary for Devolution, Ann Waiguru, to open talks on the reintroduction of the mandatory training of high school leavers by the NYS. In this way, the youths would acquire paramilitary training besides technical and entrepreneurial skills needed for responding to disasters such as the terror attack. The young men and women batten down the hatches.
There are several countries in the world where military service is compulsory. They include Brazil, Egypt, North Korea, Russia, Ukraine, Greece, Turkey, and Israel, among others.
For example, in Israel, conscription is mandatory for both men and women. Men serve three years while women two years. Their laws provide for exemptions in cases of pregnant women and women with children, people who are not physically or psychologically unable, and religious men undertaking studies at Jewish law institutions. However, they still have to do community service or render voluntary services. Interestingly, the military officers blend and even eat with soldiers and saluting is not obligatory.
Compulsory military service is not a modern concept. In the Roman Empire, conscription was non-negotiable. All non-disabled men were required to serve in the military. This does not necessarily mean that cheats didn’t exist. In fact, there are those who tried to dodge and the consequences were severe. One of the ways to avoid compulsory service was to chop off your thumb. In this way, you were spared the agony of military life. With time, those who tried this trick would face devastating consequences. At one time, Emperor Augustus punished an aristocrat who removed the thumbs of his two sons to avoid the compulsory draft, by selling him into slavery and auctioning his property.
Military service comes with national glory, prestige, promotion in rank and fame. No one can be promoted to the next level until he or she has served well in the lower ranks. Many find their purpose by serving in these different military ranks. In Israel, the military engagement train young people to work with different people, build networks and solve problems. Economists agree that this kind of exposure drives innovation, and it could explain Israel’s economic and technological meteoric rise.
The keyword in these cases is service. These men and women in the military are in service.
In the Bible, we find that prominent men and women of God bumped, or instead chanced upon their destiny when in service. These men and women found out their mission while on the move. The most striking feature is that they were not lazing around or idle. Instead, they were active.
When God calls Abraham in Genesis 12, He instructs him to move. Abraham’s movement sets the divine plan in motion. He encounters God time from time as he serves – people and God – and worship. The promises come in plenty as he serves. The fulfilment of the same obligations starts as he moves.
Amazingly, the servant of Abraham finds Rebecca, who is to become Isaac’s wife, while in action. He is on the move. He is in service of his master Abraham. God answers the servant’s prayer while in service.
Moreover, Rebecca’s encounter with God happens while she is in service. Rebecca is on the move, with a jar on her shoulder. She is actively serving her family and community by bringing them water from the spring (Genesis 24). She is helping strangers too.
God met Jacob when he was on the move. He was on his way to Padan Aram when the Lord appeared to him in a dream (Genesis 28:11-17). The dream is transforming on the part of Jacob as it is confirmed that Abraham’s blessings and promises would flow through Jacob, and not Esau. We also find Jacob meeting the angels of God and indeed, God Himself in Genesis 32. In both cases, Jacob is on the move or instead is engaged in some form of intentional progress.
Joseph reaches the zenith of his destiny while serving God (Genesis 41:16), and serving Pharaoh. He tells Pharaoh that his God is the only one who can interpret dreams. And as God guides him, Joseph explains the meaning of the dreams to Pharaoh. He is at once promoted to be the second in command.
Moses (Exodus 3)
Moses had his day with God in the burning bush as he tended to the sheep of his father-in-law Jethro. He was serving Jethro. The meet entirely transforms the life of Moses from a shepherd to a great leader. The once customary life becomes adventurous as he takes on his new responsibilities and learns to appreciate his new office.
Gideon (Judges 6)
Gideon is having an eventful day when the angel of the Lord pops in. He is threshing wheat in a winepress. This angelic visitation marks the beginning of Gideon’s fabulous days. Gideon is up to something as the angel appears to him. He is a soldier in service, and as a matter of fact, the angel calls him ‘mighty warrior.’
The angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife for the first time in Judges 3:2-5. This first appearance leaves some threads hanging as Manoah seems to have developed curiosity about the promise given (Judges 3:8). He asks God to send the angel again. The angel appears for the second time to Manoah’s wife while she is busy in the field. She is active and in service.
Ruth (Ruth 2-3)
Ruth’s journey to becoming a part of Jesus’ lineage happens as she serves. Ruth is active and on the transit. She is a soldier in service. She finds her destiny while in the field of Boaz.
Samuel (1 Samuel 3)
Samuel’s call comes while ministering before the Lord under Eli. He is a young boy but an enthusiastic soldier in the Kingdom. He obediently serves under Eli. This dedication and active Kingdom life bring him to his assignment.
Saul (1 Samuel 9-10)
Even though Saul failed miserably, his calling remains unique. He was called into the office of Kingship when looking for his father’s missing donkeys. Saul was active, on the move, and in service. This is the very time he bumps into his blessing. The whole story of lost donkeys appears to be the providential work of God. As Saul responds to the providential move of God, so does his blessing begins to manifest. Unfortunately, his later disobedience would blow everything to smithereens.
David (1 Samuel 16 & 17)
Firstly, David is fished from the bush tending the sheep of his father, Jesse. He is brought forth for anointing. As it is with similar cases mentioned above, David is found of God while serving. He is a man on the move. He is a soldier in action.
Secondly, David learns of the giant Goliath when serving his brothers. He had travelled from the grazing land to battleground to bring them food. The encounter with Goliath changes his life forever.
Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21 & 2 Kings 2)
Elisha comes into the calling while in the field; ploughing with 12 yokes of oxen. His life takes a more glorious turn when he walks with Elijah, without giving up, to the end. Elisha is on the move. His consistency, obedience and persistence in service pave the way for a future of marvels.
King Josiah (2 Chronicles 34)
Josiah starts an ambitious project of temple renovation. In the process of executing this great project, the high priest, Hilkiah, stumbles upon a copy of the Book of the Law. The discovery results in a great revival and national repentance that takes the Kingdom of Judah by storm. The fact that Josiah started to rule at the age of 8 and did what was right in the sight of God mean children have enormous potential to live for God and to have a significant impact.
Nehemiah (Nehemiah 2)
Nehemiah’s dramatic turn knocks in as he serves his king Artaxerxes. His sullenness causes the king to inquire of his welfare. This opens up a golden opportunity for Nehemiah to make requests to the king. These are promptly granted, and the outcome is an enormous project of rebuilding the Jerusalem wall.
Esther (Esther 2)
Esther’s ascendancy to the high office happened when she took up a position in the harem. She was a soldier on the move. She joined other girls, and that is the time the favour of God upon her shone like the bright morning sun.
The list is endless. God’s plan for his men and women come to the fore as they get immersed in service – serving humanity and God. This is supposed to be done in humility, obedience and patience. It is a time to get active, move and serve. Wonderful things begin to unfold when we do this.
He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.'”
Luke 10:27 (NIV)