But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” — 1 Samuel 16:7
The Bible is full of personal accounts of ordinary people who were used mightily by God. The verse I quoted above referencing 1 Samuel illustrates this point clearly as it shows how God chose David, the youngest of shepherd Jesse’s boys, to rule over His people.
The way God goes about doing things is often in stark contrast to the way that we live or expect life to play out. Here in America, we put a tremendous emphasis on the way a person looks, talks, acts, and their level of education. Not to be left out is money — the more that you have the less the first points matter! A good example of this is Bill Gates whose looks are quite plain and whose education level didn’t go beyond high school (by choice, I might add). However, money he has in abundance as he is one of the richest people in the world.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” — Isaiah 55:8,9
The reason God chooses the ordinary to do extraordinary feats is that they are the people who will not try to steal God’s glory when He does a work through them (Isaiah 42:8). People of means — self made men — oftentimes do not know how to get out of God’s way, taking credit for events they think were orchestrated by themselves. Humble people, used by God can be useful to God as they understand that He works through them and that any talents they have come from Him.
Four Simple Folks Used By God
For the sake of brevity, I’ve identified four people of simple means who were used by God in the Bible — two of them were men, two of them were women. Not included were a slew of other simple folks including Mary, mother of Jesus; the apostles; Moses and Aaron; and so many more.
Esther — A Jewish handmaiden marrying the king of Persia, the most powerful man on earth, is a story that never ceases to amaze me. Here, we have a young woman who was in the right place at the right time, a reluctant Christ figure used by God to save her Jewish people. Through the guidance of her older cousin Mordecai, who understood the law and the times in which he lived, Esther was God’s chosen vessel to save His people:
For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this? — Esther 4:14
As the story goes, Haaman conspired to have all of the Jews killed, but was unaware that Queen Esther (married to King Xerxes) was a Jew, something Mordecai told her to keep under wraps for a time. The threat of Jewish mass extermination was very real and only one person could intercede to stop Haaman and that was Esther herself.
Esther’s reluctance was understandable given her position and the times in which she lived — if she approached her husband at the wrong time, she could have lost her head! Xerxes received Esther who relayed the account of the conspiracy to her husband and the rest of that story is history.
It was Esther’s obedience which saved the Jews!
David — Likely still a teenager when he was chosen by God to lead His people, David served as a lowly shepherd, hailing from a large family where he was the youngest boy. Back then and even to this day, if you were one of the youngest children in the family, you were assigned all of the menial tasks. Given that there were six brothers older than David, he probably shouldered the brunt of the dirty work when tasked with keeping the flock.
It was from this position of humility that God chose David, plucking him from obscurity and shaping him to take over from Saul. It wasn’t until the second chapter of the second book of Samuel that we see David crowned king, many years after his anointing. This account makes for a wonderful illustration on how God’s calling can take place years before the person called actually begins to do the work.
Deborah — One of the most curious accounts of a woman being used of God was Deborah, wife of Lapidoth (Judges 4:4). We don’t know why or how Deborah became a judge, but given that the Lord had her in this position, she was used mightily by God as she helped to vanquish Israel’s enemies through her role as the commander of the Israeli army. She was also a prophetess.
Today, it isn’t completely uncommon to have a woman in a position of power or authority, but in Old Testament times it was most certainly an odd occurrence. No woman before or after Deborah in Bible times reached the political prominence of Esther. In modern times I think of Golda Meir who served as Israel’s prime minister from 1969-1974.
Gideon — After Deborah died, the people of Israel once again turned to apostasy. God raised up the Midianites to chastise Israel, oppressing the Israelites for seven years, before His people cried out to God asking for relief. God answered Israel by reminding them how He brought them out of Egypt but also explaining to them that they had disobeyed Him.
Gideon was a young, timid man who was found threshing wheat in the wine press in order to escape the attention of the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord visited Gideon declaring him to be a mighty man of valor. Merriam-Webster describes valor as someone “with strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness.” Certainly, if you read Judges 6-8 you would understand that Gideon started out being anything but that, yet our God sees our hearts and nothing else — our full potential, not just our current shortcomings.
You Can Be Used Of God
The Biblical accounts of ordinary people being used to accomplish extraordinary feats is wonderful, but God doesn’t want to stop there. To this very day God is using people across the globe to carry His message of salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Christians are finding themselves being called from obscure places to take on powerful positions, not so that they can boast, rather to bring glory to God and to fulfill His purposes. Not everyone is called to be a Billy Graham — a great evangelist to the nations, but we are each called to serve in whatever capacity He places us.
This Could Be Sarah Palin’s Moment
I’m of fan of politics, keeping a keen eye on international events as well as domestic issues. It hasn’t escaped my attention that a 44 year old mother of five from Alaska was recently tapped as the vice presidential running mate for Republican presidential nominee, John McCain.
Palin’s background is very interesting having served on city council, as a mayor of a small town, and most recently serving in the capacity of Alaska’s governor. A reformer, she butted heads with the political establishment even vanquishing her Republican foe. Governor Palin also canceled the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere Project” and enacted enough reforms in the 49th state to properly wear the reformer mantle, the same title bestowed to her running mate.
Aside from the political aspirations of Governor Palin there is one thing most telling about her: she is a Christian. Yes, this woman walks with the Lord and puts her faith into practice: a staunch supporter of the unborn, her last child was born in May with Down’s Syndrome choosing to bring this baby to life. When word leaked out that her oldest daughter was unmarried and pregnant, her foes immediately seized upon this “family problem” but weren’t able to dismiss Palin family’s support for their daughter.
Like so many families across America, including Christian families, the Palins have the usual problems to contend with. The family’s spirited response in the face of strident opposition has galvanized supporters, sending a ground swell of support her way. Of course, the enemy of our souls has been fast at work, using the ungodly to spread lies and false accusations.
I am not saying that the McCain-Palin ticket is God’s answer to the many problems plaguing our nation, above all the spiritual morass that America is now in. What I am saying is that like Deborah, Gideon, Esther, and David, this could be Sarah’s moment, a chance to step into history and allow God to work through her.
I, for one, will be praying for Sarah Palin and am excited to see her stepping up to embrace what will be a challenging position. Her enemies will rail against her, but if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)
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