We know so little about him. We don’t know his name, what he looked like, where he came from.
We do not know if his disappearance was grieved by some wife or sweetheart.
Had she hugged him until the last possible moment at the train station?
Had she waited for days, weeks, even months, for something to replace that vague classification, ‘missing in action’?
Was there a toddler who learned to point at his picture and say ‘Daddy’?
Or was his picture in the place of honor on his mother’s mantelpiece?
Then again, maybe there was no one to miss him; no one who longed to claim his lifeless body; no one to shed a tear of grief.
We know so little about him.
He was a patriot who, like hundreds of thousands of others, left the known for the unknown, dropped his tools, and took up arms, abandoning comfort for combat.
In whatever contest that claimed him, the enemy had succeeded in taking this one life amid the confusion of battle. His body was found, unrecognizable and unmarked. Now he is with comrades like-fated, even though this is the body; which lies in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And though we know next to nothing about him, we honor him at this place because, in the absence of life and identity, we are left with his message. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier tells us that freedom is more than a sentiment; that in that hour deciding for a cause meant dying for it as well.
The Unknown Soldier hides his identity, but in his death he sounds the deathless strain of liberty.
We find such a man tucked away in the book of Judges. Like the Unknown Soldier, we cannot know whence he comes, whither the goes, or what his name is. The fact that he is clouded in obscurity is particularly strange because the author of the Book of Judges is careful to record even the names of minor players in the drama he is describing. But not this man. We are told simply that: ‘The Lord sent a prophet unto the children of Israel . . .’ (Judges 6:8, AV).
So we do know something.
He is a prophet, commissioned and called by God, clothed with authority, so that he could say, ‘Thus saith the Lord . . .’ Our friend is one of God’s anonymous ones.
Perhaps his life was remarkable; he was a man often ignored by an idolatrous people who were bent on doing ‘that which was right in their own eyes/’ His had been a life of faith and preparation of seeking and serving; a fit vessel but largely unnoticed until this hour.
Like so many faithful through the ages who not only slipped unseen beneath the waves of history but who in their own lifetime were but ripples in the current. And yet . . . . And yet when it was time for battle God called on them to sound the call.
In the name of God and The Salvation Army, unacclaimed legions attacked Satan’s citadels, only to have their names misplaced and their deeds unrecorded.
Who were they – these nameless, faceless ones, who stood out on street corners and peddled the "War Cry"?
Like you they wondered how they might solve this or that baffling problem.
Like you they pondered both the hardness of their people’s hearts and the mystery of God’s grace.
Like you they formed a link in the chain of faithfulness.
But they were the bearers of the message. They stood in their poverty and their poorly-concealed ignorance and cried out: ‘Thus saith the Lord . . .’.
Surely they despaired and wept over the finances and the responsibilities of parenthood and the inner conflicts over their own inadequacy. But there was the message and they had seen what that message could do when married to the might of God.
Had the unknown prophet been able to view what the eternal Scriptures say of him he would note the nothingness of knowledge about him but find the message there. He would know that someone had listened – that someone had heeded that his words were not lost in Israel’s breezes. He would find that though he was forgotten the message endured.
Do we not have the message that is greater than we are? Can we not stand before the people and say: ‘Thus saith the Lord . . .’? And can we not expect that the message has not lost one ounce of its power?
As long as the blood of Christ can cleanse from all sin and the Holy Spirit still makes it his business to use the likes of us, we can know that the message will thunder in the hearts of people and transform their lives.
So what is more important? That we know the name of the Unknown Soldier or what he stood for? What counts? That the prophet has left his name or the message?
What is of greater significance? Our name on letterhead – or his name on hearts? History or His story? – me or the message?
Perhaps it was this idea that gave our song book lines that convey a message without telling us who wrote the words:
Make me a blazing fire
Where’er I go,
That to a dying world,
Thee I may show:
How Thou hast bled and died
That none may be denied,
But in Thy bleeding side
A refuge find.