Read an Excerpt
Fascinating Stories of Forgotten LivesRediscovering Some Old Testament Characters
By CHARLES R. SWINDOLL
W Publishing GroupCopyright © 2007 Charles R. Swindoll
All right reserved.
Chapter OneOften-Overlooked Lives of Significance
Let's start with a quiz. Ready? Don't worry; this won't go on your permanent record. See how well you can remember a few details related to some people of significance from the past.
1. Who taught Martin Luther his theology and inspired his translation of the Scriptures from Latin to German? 2. Who spoke to Dwight L. Moody in the shoe store that day-a conversation that ultimately led Moody to Christ, which in turn led to a magnificent life of evangelism. 3. Who served on Harry Ironside's pastoral staff during his meaningful years of ministry at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago? 4. Who was the elderly lady who prayed for Billy Graham every day of her adult life, especially as his ministry reached the zenith of worldwide significance? 5. Who succeeded Hudson Taylor at China Inland Mission, providing remarkable direction and vision for many years? 6. Who was the wife of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, England's "prince of the pulpit" and perhaps that country's most influential Christian voice in the last two hundred years? 7. Who gave Charles Wesley his start as a composer, leaving the church with more than five thousand hymns in its repertoire?
Well, how well did you do? Amazing, isn't it? Just think how much poorer the family of God would be without the richness these significant saints added, yet few today can recall the name of any of these seven people. (I'll admit to you I had to do a fair amount of digging myself.)
Let me turn this around for another perspective. Suppose you have faithfully taught third-grade Sunday school class at your church for a number of years. Or you work in the parking lot wearing a brightly colored vest helping people who are often less than courteous find a place to park. In season and out of season, hot or cold, wet or windy or blazing bright, you're there.
Let's say you're a part of a ministry's staff. The ministry has a few out-in-front people known to the public, but you work behind the scenes. You deal solely with the staff members or people who have complaints and concerns. You copy and distribute information. You greet callers on the phone; you welcome the public. Everybody knows the out-in-front people, but very few would even know your name.
Let's make you the receptionist. You would think everyone would know the receptionist's name! After all, the receptionist probably speaks to more people on a daily basis than anyone in the ministry, but people don't call to talk to you. In fact, they call to speak to someone else and hear your voice instead, which brings its share of mistreatment. Yet, despite how thankless the job, you're there.
Maybe you're responsible for putting together the music for the choir, or helping the children rehearse for their performance in big church. Or you're in charge of the sound system of a well-known singer or musical group-setting mikes, running and taping wires, testing speakers and amps-capturing a flawless recording of this famous individual.
Let me turn this once again for yet another perspective. What about the nurse who assists a famous cardiovascular surgeon while your chest is open and your heart rests in the doctor's hand? What's the name of the trained professional who has the sterile instruments ready at just the right moment? Do you know the person who does the lab work or the x-ray analysis? Don't you hope the blood work is right and the analysis is correct?
How about the airline mechanic who prepares the plane you're going to fly in two hours? Or the person in charge of scanning the luggage at Heathrow International Airport for your El Al flight to Tel Aviv? Don't you hope he's paying attention?
And how about the uniformed soldier who stands watch from midnight to 3:00 a.m. so that his comrades can sleep soundly near the hot zone? Don't you hope he stays awake?
It's amazing, isn't it? Many people would be tempted to call these people of astonishing significance "nobodies." We don't mean to think of them as insignificant, yet it's easy to stay more focused on what we're doing, where we're going, and what we need. And before long, we quite naturally take them and dozens of others like them for granted-we even look right past them as though they were a lamppost or, worse, a tool to be used.
I was reminded of this when I decided it was time to get a new suit and a sport coat. I went to a men's store that advertised a sale. I met a very kind and competent gentleman who greeted me and helped me find what I was looking for. He did a great job, and before long I had exactly what I needed. He asked, "Shall we tailor these?"
"Sure, let's do it," I said.
He disappeared behind a curtain and returned with the tailor-a very skilled man, probably in his fifties. The tailor's accent announced that he was obviously from another country. As he approached, I put out my hand, which he instinctively took. As we shook hands, I could tell he was surprised. I suppose people getting measured for a new suit don't often shake the tailor's hand. I guess it's like greeting the taxi driver and asking for his name. He probably thinks you want it in order to lodge a complaint. As I shook the tailor's hand, I said, "Hi, I'm Chuck. Glad to meet you. Thanks for your good work." He quickly finished measuring and marking, then he walked away. I turned to the salesman and said, "Man, he's terrific. How long has he been at the store?"
"Really," I said. "What's his name?"
The salesman shrugged. "I don't know."
Four years! The tailor alters every suit the store sells, and the salesman didn't even know his name!
I don't know if the following story about President Teddy Roosevelt is true, but it's fun to tell. As the story goes, he's standing in a presidential receiving line one evening, greeting people as they entered a particular function. He always had a man on his left who would whisper the name of each person ahead of time so he could greet each one by name. He looked down the line, turned to his aide, and asked, "Who's this fella?"
He said, "Oh, you know him, Mr. President, he made your pants."
As the man reached the front of the line, the president greeted him, "Oh, yes, Major Pants, we're so glad you're here today. Welcome to the White House."
People of Significance in the Bible
Without our realizing it, we were trained to think that the most significant people are star athletes, actors, and musicians-the ones we applaud, those whose autographs others seek. They aren't. Not really. Most often, the people worth noting are the individuals who turn a "nobody" into a "somebody" but never receive credit.
Let me illustrate this by introducing you to a few people in a section of Scripture that's often overlooked. I have a longtime friend who calls these passages in the Old Testament the "pots and pans" section of the Bible. When Hollywood wants to make an epic Bible drama, these are not the passages they go to, although these words reveal some very exciting and fascinating history. Because 1 Chronicles 11 and 2 Samuel 23 cover the same time period, we'll examine both to get a complete picture.
Look first at 2 Samuel 23:1-2:
Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, the man who was raised on high declares, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, "The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue."
King David first came to the forefront of history when he slew the giant, and the people of Israel celebrated the victory by singing, "Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands!" (1 Samuel 18:7). Though David's popularity soared due to his heroic bravery, Saul remained king for more than a decade after David killed Goliath. During those years, Saul's jealousy grew from mild irritation to rage to an insane obsession to see the young hero dead. He eventually declared David an enemy of the state, and Saul dedicated his time and his army to one relentless objective: to exterminate David. But God had other plans for David:
David became greater and greater, for the LORD of hosts was with him. Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom, together with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the Lord concerning Israel.
1 Chronicles 11:9-10
During these years, David lived in the wilderness, sleeping in caves and eating off the land, all the while attracting large numbers of fighting men-hundreds, in fact (see 1 Samuel 22:1-2). When Saul finally died, David took the throne of Israel at the age of thirty and reigned until he was seventy. Near the end of his life, Israel's historians gathered around David to record the most important facts and preserve the details of the many triumphs that marked his career. You'd think that the old king would want to tell war stories from his glory days or talk about how he turned a tiny, disjointed band of tribes into an empire. He was a brilliant commander, a courageous warrior, a wise statesman, and a master administrator. He could have bragged, and he had the facts to back it up. Instead, he recalled the names of the people he considered to be the true heroes in his rise to power and prominence.
At the beginning, David attracted a group of about four hundred men, and among them was an original "band of brothers" whom the Bible calls "the thirty." This was an elite group of extraordinary fighters, many of whom David commissioned to command the rest of his growing army. Above them all were three remarkable generals. The Bible records these facts about those otherwise-forgotten heroes:
These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Joshebbasshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was called Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain by him at one time; and after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle and the men of Israel had withdrawn. He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the LORD brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to strip the slain. Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory.
2 Samuel 23:8-12
If we're not careful, it might be easy to overlook the amazing heroism in these few verses. I can tell you from my own experience in the marines, this is Medal of Honor stuff. Killing eight hundred men in battle at one time would be difficult enough with a machine gun. The warrior Adino took out eight hundred armed, skilled, fighting men with a sword. Assuming he killed one man every minute, he would have engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, nonstop, for more than thirteen hours!
Notice the guts Eleazar displayed. While most of Israel's men shivered in their foxholes, Eleazar attacked the Philistines-a mean bunch of junkyard dogs armed with state-of-the-art, iron weapons. In fact, he stayed at it so long, his comrades had to pry his sword out of his grip. And Shammah is no wimp. In a fight against these same wicked warriors, his companions ran like scared cats, but he stood his ground-alone.
Three experienced fighting men-Adino, Eleazar, and Shammah-tough and tenacious warriors of uncommon valor and skill on the battlefield. And they were not only strong, they were fiercely loyal to David:
David had a craving and said, "Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem which is by the gate!" So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David. Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the LORD; and he said, "Be it far from me, O Lord, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went in jeopardy of their lives?" Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did. 2 Samuel 23:15-17
This suggests to me that these men didn't fight for David to gain fame, wealth, or even a prominent position in his government. They served him because they loved him. When he expressed an idle wish for a sip of water from his hometown, they risked their lives to get it for him. And David was so humbled by their selfless devotion that he couldn't enjoy the gift. These men shared a bond of loyalty and devotion that far exceeded glory seeking. They were devoted to one another in a God-ordained cause.
Behind these three generals were two commanders, Abishai and Benaiah. Abishai was the brother of Joab, the man who would later become David's secretary of war, as it were. Abishai became famous for killing three hundred enemy soldiers in one battle with a spear, which I'm told is even more difficult than using a sword.
But even meaner than Abishai was Benaiah. This is a guy you want on your side in a street fight:
Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man of Kabzeel, mighty in deeds, struck down the two sons of Ariel of Moab. He also went down and killed a lion inside a pit on a snowy day. He killed an Egyptian, a man of great stature five cubits tall. Now in the Egyptian's hand was a spear like a weaver's beam, but he went down to him with a club and snatched the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed him with his own spear. 1 Chronicles 11:22-23
How's that for guts? I don't know about you, but if a man standing seven feet, six inches tall threatens me with a megasized spear, I'm looking for an exit-fast. But not Benaiah. The word rendered "club" in most translations suggests that he was armed, but he very likely was not. This Hebrew term is more often rendered "staff," as in a shepherd's rod or a walking staff. So there he stood before the enormous man armed with only a spindly, wooden stick. Can you picture the Egyptian's face when Benaiah snatched the spear from him and ran him through?
Second Samuel 23 goes on to list thirty-seven men in all, but notice that one very prominent name is missing. Where is Joab, David's longstanding top general and secretary of war? His relatives are mentioned, but not Joab. In his song about the faithful heroes he credits for his success, David chose to focus on the lesser-known names. Joab has already gotten plenty of press throughout the telling of David's story. This is David's occasion to praise the "nobodies" who made the dynasty possible. God kept His covenant with David by providing these fighting men and rejecting anyone less worthy (2 Samuel 23:4-6).
People of Significance Make a Difference
This section of Scripture reminds me of the rows of white crosses along the wind-swept hills of Normandy. We're free today because, in June 1944, during the three-month battle of Normandy, nearly fifty-three thousand "nobodies" paid the ultimate price to defeat Nazi tyranny. No fewer than 9,387 grave markers overlook Omaha Beach, many of them bearing the names of men who died during the first hours of the invasion called D-day. Beneath every white marker lies a person of significance because each one had an impact on the rest of history; each one made a difference. It's a very moving place to be. Visitors to that patch of land near Colleville-sur Mer, France, frequently weep quietly because there the real heroes of the war are silently honored.
That's what David's doing here. He's honoring the forgotten heroes who made his kingdom possible. For sure, a kingdom must have a good, strong king if it's going to last any length of time. But David also appreciated the fact that good, strong kings cannot reign without capable, loyal people around him. He called attention to the individual exploits of his most capable, trusted men because he understood the impact that a "nobody" can have.
Excerpted from Fascinating Stories of Forgotten Lives by CHARLES R. SWINDOLL Copyright © 2007 by Charles R. Swindoll. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.