Our dear brother in Christ, David Lee, of Southern California, has been writing to us recently about the Cameo series, and we have shared some good fellowship together. One of the interesting things he mentioned concerned the origin of the words pioneer and pawn. He found from Webster’s Dictionary that they had both derived from an Old French word for a foot soldier, one who plods along at the command of his commanding officer into regions unknown. What better way of expressing the work of the humble pawn in the cosmic chess game, the one that reached the “other side” and enabled the Queen to return. What David didn’t know was that we intended to finalise this series by introducing the pioneering concept.
It was just after Christmas in 1975, whilst I was in Government service as a teacher in Hong Kong, that the Lord began to speak to me about pioneers. I wrote down what He was saying. Here it is.
One trusts in Scripture, another in Creed; one stands for Dogma, another for freedom; some go to This Church, some go to That; all tread their Known Path with Security and Poise.
Where then, says the Lord, are the Pioneers? Where is that Noble Band which fears not the Unknown when I call?
Consider Abraham, the chosen Father of Nations. I asked him to leave his Town, leave his Family and Friends. Many even now speak of the Adventures of Abraham. But who can accept that Abraham was my example of a Pioneer?
Where is the man who is willing, at my word of command, to pull up his roots and march into the unknown? Where is the one who is ready to quit his own Church, to the utter amazement of all, should I ask it of him? Where is the one who is prepared to walk an individual path of obedience to me, when all the rest work together?
Where are the Pioneers who are man enough for these things? Those who are ready to embrace misunderstandings from those they love most dearly; those who can hardly state with clarity the reasons for their change, save the Whisper that will not let them rest until they are up and away.
To stand apart from this world is a straightforward thing indeed for a child of mine, but to desert that which has been the source of spiritual uplift, teaching, inspiration and fellowship, can never be easy.
Consider Moses my friend, the one to whom I spoke at the burning bush. He was willing to relinquish his place in Midian after 40 years of quiet learning and go back into dreaded Egypt at my word of command. He was my man, prepared for the hour of my work.
And who will dare to trust me in like manner today? To know that I will uphold him in the place he dreads the most? To go back, to face the fears that haunt the mind from past experience? Where are you? Come and kneel before me, for I have need of you. I will look upon this as obedience to my word, obedience to a vision as yet unrevealed. My forty days of testing will more than suffice for what I have in store.
Consider Job my trusty servant, my stalwart man of faith, upon whom I unleashed calamity upon calamity, like a rising tide of trouble, without a word of explanation to carry him through his hour of pain. His best and trusted friends then turned against him and goaded him, as heedless children worrying the caged animal.
Where is the man who is ready for this? Where is the man whom I can trust even if I bring him near to death;whom I can trust in poverty, perplexity, persecution and pain, yea, even to the point of despair? And yet he will not fail me! And so I will not fail him! Indeed I will lift him up and honour him in the day of realisation, in the presence of all those who caused him pain.
Consider my Son. Do not seek to elevate His divine nature to the detriment of His true humanity. Like Abraham, Moses, and Job, He was my Pioneering Example. His early years were spent with family, neighboursand friends. His work was the discipline of the commonplace, His daily routine quite normal. But He heard my voice, and learned Who He was, and why He was here, and what He was to do. At thirty years of age He went forth to act in faith and obedience to the revelation received.
Who is ready for such things? Who is ready to walk by faith and to follow my Son’s example? To know the fellowship of His sufferings and reject his own? To taste conformity with His death, and be released from his own?
To him will I grant the prize of the high calling, that he may share the nature of His resurrection, to live on the higher plane where man can walk with God.
Is this impossible? Yes, were it not for my invitation, for my revelation, for my examples, for my great Pioneers. Therefore consider, says the Lord, for I have need of such as these in this my day.
The word speaks for itself without any further embellishment. However, I should like to complete this number by presenting a wonderful poem by Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936) which so clearly displays the life and the problems of a pioneer. He entitled it “The Explorer.” (1898)
“There’s no sense in going further – it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it – broke my land and sowed my crop –
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated – so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges –
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”
So I went, worn out of patience; never told my nearest neighbours –
Stole away with pack and ponies – left ’em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains didn’t seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges, whipping up and leading down.
March by march I puzzled through ’em, turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water, headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line – drifted snow and naked boulders –
Felt free air to windward – knew I’d stumbled on the Pass.
‘Thought to name it for the finder; but that night the Norther found me –
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies; so I called the camp Despair
(It’s the Railway Gap today, though). Then my Whisper waked to hound me:-
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Over yonder! Go you there!”
Then I knew, the while I doubted – knew His hand was certain o’er me.
Still – it might be self-delusion – scores of better men had died –
I could reach the township living, but . . . He knows what terror tore me . . .
But I didn’t . . . but I didn’t. I went down the other side,
Till the snow ran out in flowers, and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub, and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on desert – blasted earth, and blasting sky . . .
I remember lighting fires; I remember sitting by ’em;
I remember seeing faces, hearing voices, through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy – for I threw a stone to try ’em.
“Something lost behind the Ranges” was the only word they spoke.
I remember going crazy. I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing to the funny folk I saw.
‘Very full of dreams that desert, but my two legs took me through it . . .
And I used to watch ’em moving with the toes all black and raw.
But at last the country altered – White Man’s country past disputing –
Rolling grass and open timber, with a hint of hills behind –
There I found me food and water, and I lay a week recruiting.
Got my strength and lost my nightmares. Then I entered on my find.
Thence I ran my first rough survey – chose my trees and blazed and ringed ’em –
Week by week I pried and sampled – week by week my findings grew.
Saul he went to look for donkeys, and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper, I had struck the worth of two!
Up along the hostile mountains, where the hair-poised snow-slide shivers –
Down and through the big fat marshes that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mile-wide mutterings of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber saw illimitable plains!
‘Plotted sites of future cities, traced the easy grades between ’em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water-frontage through the axe-ripe woods that screen ’em –
Saw the plant to feed a people – up and waiting for the power!
Well I know who’ll take the credit – all the clever chaps that followed –
Came, a dozen men together – never knew my desert fears;
Tracked me by the camps I’d quitted, used the water holes I’d hollowed.
They’ll go back and do the talking. They’ll be called the Pioneers!
They will find my sites of townships – not the cities that I set there.
They will re-discover rivers – not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded they will guide my feet aright.
Have I named one single river? Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget – (barring samples)? No, not I!
Because my price was paid me ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn’t understand it. You go up and occupy.
Ores you’ll find there; wood and cattle; water-transit sure and steady
(That should keep the railway rates down), coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His whisper, and I’ve found it, and it’s yours!
Yes, your “Never-never country” – yes, your “edge of cultivation”
And “no sense in going further” – till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No I didn’t. It’s God’s present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it, but – His whisper came to Me!
One final thought – and probably the most important of all – this story highlights the necessity for pioneers to be servants.
The Explorer didn’t start out under his own steam. He went as a result of a Voice.
Having ended his travels he gives the gift to the nation.
The only really valuable thing he keeps is something intangible,
The Voice, that “interminable whisper”, that nobody could take from him.
Yes, God gave him a job to do, but it was on behalf of others.
And so we believe it was with Abraham, Moses, and Job,
And above all, it was with Jesus, the Great Pioneer for all mankind.