He-ro: a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. I love heroes… Biblical heroes, national heroes, war heroes… the list goes on and on. I want us to journey back to a true-life account in our nation’s history. Back to New York City on September the 11th where we find that New York is under attack. Now it’s not the 9/11 you are thinking of in 2001 but to 9/11, 1776. The context is only a few months after our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor and committing our nation to fight the greatest military power on the planet. In September Washington is able to free Boston without firing a shot; now all eyes are now on New York City. The British won the battle of Staten Island and Long Island and they pushed Washington back to Manhattan. He doesn’t want to lose all of New York and realizes that he needs some intelligence… he needs a spy. When I say the word spy you immediately think of some suave clandestine operative who is calm and cool in the face of danger. A perfect shot, perfect physical specimen that can handle any situation possible. They can walk down the side of a mile-high building, and kill with a toothpick! All the while with that perfect suit hair and sophisticated look. In 1776 however, being a spy was not COOL AT ALL! They were the lowest of low, the dredges of society who would sell you out as quickly as they would help you. Nobody trusted them or liked them in the least.

Now back to September 1776… Washington doesn’t want one of these dredges of society so he asks Col. Tom Nolten for assistance, who gathers a host of officers inside his tent and asks for volunteers to spy. These were the first army rangers… I mean they were Chuck Norris, John Wayne and The Rock all rolled up in one … with a powdered pony tail! The problem was that dying as a spy was not viewed as noble. Dying in battle, yes, but as a spy you would ruin not only your life but the reputation of your family as well. So Nolten makes the appeal but there are no takers! Nolten almost gives up but before he leaves his tent a young man, 24 years old steps forward and says “I will go! I will undertake the mission.” His name was Nathan Hale.

Nathan Hale graduated from Yale at 18 and was going to study to be a minister. He decided to be a teacher in Connecticut and was there when the war breaks out in Lexington and Concord in April of 1775. At 19, he joins the service. After he volunteers, his friend William Hull walks outside with him and tries to talk him out of this. “You will be a terrible spy, you can’t lie. You’ll ruin your life and for that matter your future is done!” “Duty demands that I go. Our general needs me, the cause needs me. Duty demands it and I will answer the call of duty. There is honor in that.” He dresses up as a teacher grabs his Yale diploma and goes across enemy lines supposedly looking for work. He scouts out the information needed and writes it down, puts it in his boot and tries to go back across enemy lines. He is quickly captured and sentenced to hang for treason the next day. That night he comes to terms with his failure as a spy. He asks for a Bible and is denied. He asks for a clergymen and is denied. He asks for paper to write letters back home. As he writes, he purposes in his heart to do the one thing left that he can do. The next morning, they march him out into the crowd for his hanging. Nathan Hale, at the age of 21, gives an impassioned speech about the cause of freedom and liberty in the face of his enemies and many who are heckling him. The most memorable part being when he said, “I only regret that I have but one live to give for my country.”

This hero’s life spurned by duty and surrendered totally reminds me of an Old Testament leader by the name of Joshua. Listen to what God said to him as he began to lead Israel… “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” From Joshua we learn… “To trust God’s Promises” For Joshua’s part, if God says it, I’ll trust it! Joshua teaches us… “Do what God says!” Listen on: “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you;” Lastly Joshua teaches us to “Trust in God’s word!” God says to him… This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night,” Missionary Jim Elliot once asked, “Is what you’re living for worth dying for?” For Nathan Hale and Joshua, the answer was yes… What’s our answer?

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By Tim Throckmorton

Tim Throckmorton is the former Executive Pastor of the Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace Ohio and the Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.