Mission Fury

Last night my sons and I went to see Fury along with a few other guys. It was more intense, dark, and gritty than I anticipated. Yet, it was also more insightful, devout, and graceful than I expected.

This is not a review of the film, just a reflection on one scene that stirred my heart and uncovered a buried memory. So, no plot spoilers here.

In the scene that struck me most the tank crew are sitting in the belly of the tank, just drinking and talking when the conversation takes an unexpected turn.

Boyd: Here’s a Bible verse I think about sometimes. Many times. It goes: “And I heard the voice of Lord saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? And I said: Here am I, send me!”

Norman: [Mumbling] Send me.

Wardaddy: Book of Isaiah. Chapter six.

As soon as I saw and heard it I thought, “Wow, that’s beautiful and moving.”

And then I thought, “Ugh! Now every missionary school and agency under heaven will misuse this scene like they misuse that scripture to juice guys up for mission work.”Brad Pitt;Logan Lerman

I am not against mission work at all. But this scene reminded me of something I had buried and almost forgotten.

Many years ago I attended a school that tended to elevate mission and evangelism above everything else. Every year the school hosted an evangelism forum that focused on mission, missionaries, and mission work. Between keynote sessions men and women who felt called to a mission field were invited to walk onto the stage, speak into the mic, tell who they were, and where they wanted to go, and declare, “Here am I. Send me!” (I recall saying something like, “My name is Marq Toombs. I feel called to go to the spiritually hungry in Mexico. I believe there is enough bread in this Word to feed all the hungry souls in the world. Here am I. Send me!”)

If memory serves, we never failed to sing the old missionary anthem Lord, Send Me! 

Now, there was some good in all that, and I am grateful for many things that I learned and experienced in those days. However, it seemed to me — even then — that the story of God’s calling of Isaiah was being misapplied in order to muster troops and perhaps even to manipulate supporters.

I wondered things like: How can we know if the Lord is really calling us? And if he is sending us, why are we asking people to send us?!

Anyways, it struck me that that text might not mean what we all thought it meant. True, the words “go” and “send” appear in the text, but that does not make it a missionary text.

The context shows that Isaiah was not sent on an evangelistic mission to soften hearts, sharpen minds, open eyes, or unstop ears. Rather, he was sent on a prophetic mission to harden hearts, dull minds, blind eyes, and plug up ears “lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” (Isa 6:9-11)

The shocking reality of this mission made him realize that he had volunteered too soon. That prompted him to ask, “How long, O Lord?!” And the Lord God Almighty answered, “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste” (Isa 6:11). God sent Isaiah to preach his word until judgment came upon his people.

Clearly, Isaiah was sent on a prophetic mission to the Bible Belt his day. He was not sent to seek and save the lost outsiders of the culture, but to stupefy and shatter the lost insiders of the church, God’s covenant people. He was sent to seal the fate of his kinsmen, not stir up the faith of his people. That is why he asked, “How long, O Lord?”

According to Jewish Tradition he was sawn in half after taking refuge in a tree. He was sent like a sheep to slaughter; like a shepherd to sinner-saints.

Despite the prospect of doom and gloom, Isaiah was faithful, not fatalistic.

And his mission was fruitful, not futile.

As the Scriptures testify, the aftershocks of Isaiah’s ministry were felt long after his death, especially in the days of Jesus and Paul and beyond. (See Matthew 13:14-15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:39-41; Acts 28:26-27; Romans 11:8). His mission was fulfilled, not with the salvation of his people, but with their condemnation. Many were called, few were chosen. Some were saved, many were not.

What does all this have to do with Fury?

The conversation about Isaiah’s call takes place in the tank before a battle. The tank crew identified themselves with Isaiah, and they related his mission with their mission. They felt that their mission would not be complete until they saw buildings laid waste, houses vacated, and the land desolated.

My point here is not to justify their application of the text, but their interpretation of it.

The tank crew understood that God sends men on all kinds of missions for all kinds of reasons.

Some men are sent to foreigners and strangers; some to kinsmen.

Some missions are constructive; some are destructive.

Some messengers are sent to cut and burn trees; some are sent to cultivate them.

What some evangelism forums and mission networks get wrong, the film-makers got right. The script-writers heard and understood what weary seminarians often miss; and they saw and perceived what sermon-writers overlook. Not only the text and context of the sacred writings, but also the dangerous call of duty.

Here am I, send me to hard, dark, lonely places.

Here am I, send me to broken, messy, filthy people.

Here am I send me for better or worse, til death do us part.

Whatever the case may be, God is sovereign over all things. He calls forth and he sends out, and his word never returns empty and void. It always accomplishes the purpose for which he sends it — whether to save or to damn, to create or destroy, to raise up or tear down.

The good news is that no matter what happens with the messenger and his mission, the Holy Seed abides with the stump. The Redeemer dwells among the remnant. The Christ remains at the core of the covenant community (6:13).

As I watched Fury, I wondered what in the world would compel a group of men to serve a temporal cause and fight against the odds the way that tank crew did.

Then I thought of Isaiah and wondered what in the world would compel him — a man, a husband, and a father — to go on a mission destined for adversity and calamity. What would compel him to go so willingly, submissively, and obediently.

Power? Fame? Pride? Fury?

The answer is as surprising as it is compelling: Isaiah saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

First, he saw the glory of the Lord and worshiped him with fear and trembling. Then he went on mission with the Lord and spent the rest of his life telling his people about him (Isa 6:1ff; John 12:41).

He followed Jesus down into tree of death and up into tree of life. Not with a sense of reckless abandon, but with a deep sense of reverence and awe.

Worship leads to to mission, and mission leads back to worship. 

Many were called by Isaiah’s preaching, but few were chosen by grace. He sowed much seed, yet reaped little harvest.

Nevertheless, if you asked Isaiah how he felt about his calling and mission–with all its adversity and calamity–he might have said, “Best job I ever had.”

The simple truth is that we do not have the right to call or send ourselves on mission. God alone has the right to do that, for “Mission is not ours; mission is God’s.”

It is not so much that God has a mission for his church in the world; rather, God has a church for his mission in the world. Mission was not made for the church; the church was made for mission—God’s mission.” (Reformed Means Missional)

The Lord calls whom he will call, and sends whom he will send, both to deliver and to destroy, according to his purpose and pleasure.


For more about Fury see

Fury’s Director Explains the Film’s Theology

Joe Carter’s insightful review of Fury here.

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