In the classic film “Hold Back the Dawn”, Georges Iscovescu (Charles Boyer) is a Romanian man who is trying to get into the United States from Mexico. In order to get a visa, he marries Emmy Brown (Olivia de Havilland), a school teacher who knows nothing of his plot.
Iscovescu’s plan begins to unravel, however, when Inspector Hammock, a US immigration agent looking for cons like him, suspects that the Romanian is not on the up and up. To escape the agent, Iscovescu takes his new wife on an excursion to a small Mexican village, where he unexpectedly begins to fall for her.
The strategy to cross the border into the US with Emmy falls apart completely when it is exposed by another woman who is in love with Iscovescu. Even though Emmy does not turn her husband over to Hammock, she returns to America without him.
On the way to California, the upset Emmy wrecks her car and is seriously injured. When Georges learns of this, he crashes a car through the border crossing and heads to Los Angeles, where Emmy lays dying in a hospital.
Georges enters her hospital room and in a moving scene, tells Emmy he is there. His presence and words of encouragement draw Emmy out of her coma.
Iscovescu can’t stay, however. He has to flee the police. He heads back to Mexico.
Eventually Georges is allowed back into the United States legally. Hammock has understood what the former con man has done for Emmy and arranged a visa.
Hammock meets Georges at the border and tells him of his good fortune. Not only that, but Emmy is also standing on the other side, healthy and waiting to welcome him.
While insincere when he said it, Georges was right when he told Emmy at the time of her meeting that they were like two trains at a station. He said, “We can’t change our course anymore than we can hold back the dawn.”
The Bible tells a similar story of men staging a dangerous border crossing to aid a person risk.
In this narrative, David has to flee Israel’s King Saul. He dwells in the wilderness as an outlaw.
However, he has warriors, whom the Bible calls “mighty men”, who come to join him in the fight against Saul. They swim across the Jordan River at flood stage in order to be with David.
David is suspicious. Like David, they were once loyal servants to King Saul. They could just as easily be spies than supporters.
J. Vernon McGee in his account of the incident suggests the men are wet and out of breath as David confronts them.
David tells them:
“If you have come to me in peace to help me, I am ready for you to join me. But if you have come to betray me to my enemies when my hands are free from violence, may the God of our ancestors see it and judge you.”
The mighty men respond to their reluctant general:
“We are yours, David!
We are with you, son of Jesse!
Success, success to you,
and success to those who help you,
for your God will help you.”
These men have good reason to commit themselves to David. They know that David is God’s choice to be the king of Israel in place of Saul. He was anointed by the prophet Samuel as a boy when God decided that he had had enough of the rebellious Saul.
The warriors risked it all to cross a risky boundary to fight with an even riskier leader. If Saul defeated them, they would probably be killed.
Sometimes we have to leap over legal and natural obstacles to do what God wants us to do. The Mighty Men knew this. The once wicked but now repentant Georges Iscovescu knew this.
Despite opposition, possible arrest and even death, they were willing to cross over the Jordan River to follow their king.
What motivated Georges Iscovescu and David’s Mighty Men was love. They were willing to endure much to serve the people they cared for.
In some recent reflections on areas of my life, I determined that I have been weak in serving both God and man. I ascertained that I have gained a clear view of self and an understanding of what my skills are. However, my usefulness to God and my benefit to others have not been what they could be.
There are reasons for this. For instance, I have been juggling quite a few changes in my life and just trying to keep my own head above water. When this is happening, it is easy to become depleted and not be too focused on the needs and agendas of others.
I have seen through the above stories that the most important ingredient has been lacking in my ability to serve God and other people. I am talking about love for them.
McGee says, “The secret to service is love.” If I don’t love God, I won’t serve Him. If I don’t love other people, I won’t serve them.
However, I have seen recently that if I love someone I will do plenty. I have been more willing to travel over hill and dale to be with certain people because I love them.
I have also learned that the reason I am willing to do things that I would otherwise find boring, mundane and even distasteful for people is because I love them.
McGee poses a good question when he asks, “Do you really love Jesus?” I have pondered the answer to that question for years.
I think I do love Him, but sometimes I’m not so sure. I fear that past service to God has been motivated by selfish ambition, and my lack of active work for Him these days makes me unclear as to how much I DO love Jesus.
The answer to that question is the key to unlocking my service for Him. If I love Jesus, I will cross my own Jordan and offer my services to Him.
One question I have answered is whether or not I belong to Jesus. This I can answer in the affirmative. This is what makes me believe that I DO love Him.
Like Georges and Emmy, our courses are tightly bound to each other. I am His and He is mine.
This, says McGee, is more important than service to Him. If I can assure myself of this on a daily basis, the service to Jesus will come.