“When your people go to war against their enemies, wherever you send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city you have chosen and the temple I have built for your Name, then hear from heaven their prayer and their plea, and uphold their cause.
- 1 Kings 8:44-45
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
- Isaiah 6:8
Children go where I send thee,
How shall I send thee?
I’m gonna send thee ten by ten
Ten for the Ten Commandments
Nine for the nine that dressed so fine
Eight for the eight that stood at the gate
Seven for the seven who never got to heav’n
Six for the six that never got fixed
Five for the five that stayed alive
Four for the four that stood at the door
Three for the Hebrew children
Two for Paul and Silas
One for the itty bitty baby
Who was born, born, born in Bethlehem.
He was born, born, born in Bethlehem.
- Daryl David Hall / Gregory Allen Bieck / Thomas T-Bone Wolk, Children Go Where I Send Thee (Last verse of the Peter, Paul, and Mary version)
I saw the first Scripture in Solomon’s prayer to dedicate the temple. When you hear the first word of the song, “Children” and apply to the people in the Scripture it becomes a haunting reality. War is a young man’s game. Think about it. Most of the recruits are under 25 years old. The grizzled old Colonel in charge of more than a thousand men may barely be in his 40s. You cannot call them children anymore, but they have so much of their lives ahead of them, if they survive the war. In this intercession, Solomon is asking a special blessing on his soldiers.
Over the weekend, I watched my favorite “Homecoming” hour and saw a documentary of Tennessee Ernie Ford, and his insistence on singing a Gospel song at the end of each episode. He faced stern resistance from the network. They really wanted Ford to host “The Ford Show”, sponsored by Ford (first episode in 1956). Not just the Ford connection, but Tennessee Ernie was the hottest singer at the time. Tennessee Ernie finally convinced them to let him do one Gospel song per show by explaining that Gospel music was a means of telling God how much we love Him. These were really ‘love songs.’ With that, they let him do it, but they kept the leash held tightly. That is, until the phones rang off the wall wanting more Gospel songs. As the documentary went through this tale, and the background story of how he moved the family to San Francisco to get away from the corruptive influence of Los Angeles, they replayed Gospel songs from the four-years of episodes.
One of the songs must have been for their Christmas special, with children gathered around Tennessee Ernie and his choir sitting around them. In typical Tennessee Ernie fashion, he sings just a few verses of the song, part very slow and part fast. The words grabbed me. “Children Go Where I Send Thee.” The show shortened it by leaving out a few of the early verses and the odd numbers near the end, probably for timing.
And bless your little pea-pickin’ hearts for watching the video.
I usually don’t like these songs that build upon themselves. The Twelve Days of Christmas is so, so long. I love the Allan Sherman version of the modern Twelve Days. After a few verses, Sherman would mention the new item, then sing “and all that other stuff,” and then end with the item that started the whole thing, “And a Japanese Transistor Radio.” At least you didn’t hear the laundry list. And as for the “This Old Man?” Please, quit writing new verses. Counting to ten is painful enough, but there must be a hundred verses of that song by now. I think my ears are still bleeding…
Somehow, this one does not get old. Eight verses are fine, but once I heard the Home Free version with guest Kenny Rogers, I really liked the upbeat, a Capella version a lot better. Note: Their version has a different verse for 5.
Why did this song ‘grab me?’ Jesus is calling each believer to go out and serve Him in some kind of way. I have often marveled at Isaiah’s bold response, the second Scripture. “Here I am. Send me.” But a few verses before, he is lamenting that he is before almighty God and he is ruined, having unclean lips. That’s when the angel puts the hot coal on his tongue – rather drastic, but it gets your attention.
Getting back to the song, in a way, the song answers the question of the second line of each verse. How shall I send thee? It does not say “Do like Paul and Silas.” It just mentions them.
How shall I send thee? Well, there are eight at the gate. What are you waiting for?
How shall I send thee? There are seven that can’t get to heaven. Can any of us get to heaven on our own steam? Nope. We need Jesus to wash our sins away. (Isaiah 1:18)
How shall I send thee? There are six that can’t get fixed. We are all broken. We all need fixing. There are not enough tools, mechanics, doctors, etc. in the world to fix one of us. We need a personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus healed the sick, drove out demons, and fed bunches of people. He can fix in us what is necessary for us to be whole.
How shall I send thee? Hmmm. I hear a door knocking. Jesus said in Revelation 3:20 that He will enter and dine with us if we only open the door. According to the verse in the song, He brought some friends along. Maybe the four want something to eat as well.
And maybe, just maybe, God could be calling for us to be like Paul and Silas, tirelessly spreading the Word of God.
I have a little problem with the song in one aspect. It does not start with a little bitty baby, born of the virgin Mary, born, born, born in Bethlehem. Before Abraham was… Jesus said, “I Am.” (John 8:58). That makes that transition to a little bitty baby that much more humbling and that much more miraculous.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.