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The Top 100 Men of the Bible
Who They Are and What They Mean to You Today
By Drew Josephs
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2008 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Then the Lord's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you."
You could almost envy someone with a right-hand man like Aaron: a brother who would stand by you, no matter what. Called by God, Aaron became high priest to his younger brother Moses' greater role of prophet, and together they led Israel out of slavery in Egypt and toward the Promised Land.
From the time God called them, Aaron and Moses usually appear together through the biblical story. If Moses had been a different kind of guy, he might have sought the limelight for himself alone, but he feared speaking out for God. So Aaron joined him in ministry, and together they fostered Israel's exodus.
But brotherly love has its limitations. At times, Aaron must have deeply felt his role as second fiddle. His few failures took place when he was not in close contact with Moses. The first one happened following the Exodus, while Moses lingered on Mount Sinai, receiving God's Law. The Israelites became dissatisfied. Where did Moses go? they wondered. Maybe he has deserted us. The crowds clamored noisily for a new god. Perhaps Aaron feared the people, or maybe his own doubts influenced him. But he became a goldsmith, made a bright, shiny calf, and declared it to be their new god.
Seeing the idolatry, God sent Moses back to confront His faithless nation. Momentarily cowed (pardon the pun), Aaron blamed the people. But he must have repented of his sin, because shortly afterward, God reconsecrated His failed priest along with His new tabernacle.
We're told of only one other time when Aaron failed—and failed hugely. He and his sister, Miriam, became angry when Moses married a Cushite woman. Jealously, they tried to increase their own importance. God responded rapidly by inflicting Miriam with leprosy. But mercifully, He did not make the high priest unclean, and Aaron got the point.
Despite Aaron's two outstanding flops, his many years of faithful service to God and Moses far outweigh his failures. If he were our employee, we might be inclined to sideline him, but God called Aaron for a purpose and did not give up. Instead, He turned the priest again to faith and used him to establish Israel's priestly line.
Have we failed? It's no time to despair. As long as we're breathing, God has a purpose for us—to glorify Him forever.CHAPTER 2
Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.
You might be tempted to think, from the story of Abel and his brother, Cain, that "nice guys finish last." But if that's what you think, then you've been misled.
Abel, second son of Adam and Eve, was the family "good boy." He may have consistently done what his parents asked. Certainly he loved God deeply, for when it came time to make an offering, he brought his heavenly Father the best he had. And God smiled on him.
Cain, the elder son, may have thought, Mom has always loved you best—and Dad does, too. Now even God is taking your side. Quickly, brotherly competition overcame brotherly love. Feeling unloved and unaccepted because God knew that his sacrifice wasn't from the heart, Cain took out his aggression on his brother. Soon, he committed the first murder in history, and he was condemned to wander the earth for the rest of his days.
Abel didn't have a long life, but judging from the joy that accompanied his sacrifice to God, it was a successful one. Jesus commended Abel as a righteous man (see Matthew 23:35). Though Cain lived on for many more barren years after killing his brother, who will say those days and months of life were better?
If finishing last means joy in eternity, maybe being last is the first thing we should aim for.CHAPTER 3
The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing."
Abram was a man with an immense promise: If he followed God out into the unknown, he and his descendants would be blessed. With that promise, God began to turn the childless Abram, whose name means "exalted father," into Abraham, "father of a multitude of nations."
So Abram headed for Canaan with his family. The Canaanites would have been shocked to know that God had promised their real estate to this newcomer. But Abram didn't stay long enough to put down tent pegs. He soon traveled on to Egypt to avoid a famine. There, to protect himself, Abram conveniently didn't tell Pharaoh that his lovely "sister," Sarai, was really his wife. Pharaoh brought her into his household with romantic purposes in mind. But when God confronted him with his near sin, Egypt's ruler tossed Abram out of the land.
Over time, no heir was born. So when God appeared to Abram saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward" (Genesis 15:1), Abram admitted his doubts. In polite language, he asked why he had no son. God made a covenant with Abram that he would receive both an heir (in fact, heirs too numerous to count) and a land for their possession.
But when the new covenant still didn't provide a baby, Sarai decided to help God out. As was the custom of the day, she gave Abram her servant, Hagar, as a concubine, hoping that Hagar would conceive and bear a child whom Sarai could call her own. Abram unwisely went along with the plan. But instead of improving the situation, Sarai's plan created tension within the family life and planted the seeds of enmity between the Jews (the descendants of Abraham through Isaac) and the Arab nations that would come from Hagar's son, Ishmael.
When Abram reached ninety-nine years old, God renewed His promise and changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name to Sarah, meaning "princess." As a sign of their covenant, God instituted the rite of circumcision. But despite the many good things that God gave to Abraham and Sarah, the blessing of a child still evaded them.
Abraham moved to the Negev Desert and took up residence in the territory controlled by a king named Abimelech. Again Abraham introduced his wife as his sister. And again God intervened when King Abimelech, like Pharaoh before him, took Sarah into his house. Unlike
Pharaoh, Abimelech gave Abraham money and offered him and Sarah a place to live. Eventually, Sarah bore Abraham a son, Isaac. But the camp still was not peaceful as Hagar and Sarah contended for their sons' positions. Finally, Sarah tossed Hagar and Ishmael out, and God told Abraham to allow it.
You can imagine Abraham's surprise when God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, the son of promise. Quickly, and seemingly without argument, Abraham set out for the region of Moriah with Isaac and a bundle of wood for burning the sacrifice. Not until Abraham had laid Isaac on the altar did an angel stay his hand. God provided a ram instead, and with great relief Abraham must have removed his son from atop the wood.
When Sarah died, Abraham married again. But the children of that marriage did not change God's promise for Isaac and his descendants. Abraham arranged for Isaac's marriage to Rebekah, and then he died at the age of 175. Though scripture clearly reports Abraham's imperfections, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3). Through the patriarch's long life, we see an increasing love for God and a willingness to obey Him.
God promised much to Abraham. Some of it was a long time coming, but it came. Every promise was fulfilled. Are we willing to wait for God's blessings, growing in faith along the way? Or are we like Sarah, in such a rush that we will risk our own future? Let's walk like faithful Abraham, trusting God.CHAPTER 4
So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
Imagine being the first man ever. No one had ever done this manly thing before. One day, Adam felt God's breath in his nostrils and sort of woke up, alive for his first day. Adam lived in a God-planted garden, with animals he got to name—from springboks to hoopoes to butterflies. And God didn't even complain about any name Adam chose! But living in the Garden of Eden was still lonely. Unlike the animals, Adam didn't have a mate. So God put the first man to sleep and created a woman from his rib. Wow (or words to that effect), Adam must have thought. Look what God made just for me! He evidently recognized the connection between this new creature, this woman, and God's surgery on him, because he responded, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man" (Genesis 2:23).
Adam and Eve lived in perfect peace with each other. Not a marital disagreement disjointed their days. They were, as you might say, joined at the rib. They were living in paradise. What could go wrong?
Adam should have put his (bare) foot down when Eve offered him some fruit that looked suspiciously as if it hadcome from the one tree in the garden from which God had forbidden them. If he'd known about sin, Adam might have pointed out that God's thinking was perfect, not Eve's, and they'd better follow it. But innocent Adam knew nothing about marital discord, so he took a bite.
Suddenly, the only two humans on the planet realized they were naked. Someone (like God) might see them! So they made up clothes of fig leaves (ouch!) to cover their sin. When God came walking in the garden that evening, the couple hid from Him. For the first time, they feared their Creator. Though Adam told God he was afraid because he was naked, his sin condition, not his skin condition, was the problem.
Eve immediately came forward to blame the serpent who had tempted her to eat the fruit, so God justly cursed the snake. But Adam and Eve didn't escape punishment. Eve received pain in childbirth and a desire for her husband. He got the pain of sweating to till an earth filled with weeds. Life became drastically different from the ease and comfort they'd known in the garden.
God drove the couple out of the garden so they would not eat from the Tree of Life. An angel with a fiery sword guarded the entrance.
In their new land, the couple had two children, Cain and Abel. But like their parents, the boys sinned, and Cain became the first murderer when he became jealous of his brother and took his life. Not only did Adam and Eve lose Abel, but God also punished Cain by making him wander the earth. Eventually, he married, but Adam and Eve probably never knew their grandchildren through Cain.
Perhaps at least in part to comfort them, God gave Adam and Eve another child, Seth. Through Seth, God began the covenant line that would lead to Noah and beyond. Adam lived for 930 years, enough time to see many of these successive generations come to adulthood.
Unlike Adam, we don't have to blaze new territory. All of us have had some man we can look up to—a father, grandfather, or friend who has shown us the way. And we know the dangers of sin, perhaps because we've fallen into its trap more than once. Adam's failure in the garden left us with a sin-filled nature that entraps us all too often.
But Adam's fall was not the final word. "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22 Kjv). What we in our weakness could not do for ourselves, Jesus did at the cross. In Him, we have new life—life for eternity.CHAPTER 5
Ahab ... did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.
1 Kings 16:33
This report of scripture on Ahab's life says a lot. Because it's not as if the kings of Israel before Ahab had been a chorus of choirboys. They'd irritated God plenty. Ahab was just extraordinarily good at being bad.
Scripture doesn't detail many of Ahab's sins. But Ahab married a wicked Sidonian princess named Jezebel, who drew him and his country deeply into Baal worship. That's where the evil seems to have started.
During a drought, God commanded Elijah to appear before Ahab. Here's how the king greeted God's prophet: "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" (1 Kings 18:17). Their relationship wasn't about to get better, for Elijah instigated a showdown between Baal and the Lord—and Jezebel's god didn't win. Elijah finished off the priests of Baal, and the drought ended along with the showdown. But by that time, both the king and queen deeply hated Elijah.
Then Ben-hadad, king of Syria, gathered thirty-two other kings and sent an imperious message to Ahab, claiming his household. Though Ahab sent back a conciliatory message, it wasn't enough for Syria's ruler: He wanted it all. But Israel's elders encouraged their weak-willed king to stand firm.
God used the wicked king to defend His people. He promised to give Ben-hadad's huge army into Ahab's hand, then provided Israel with specific war strategies. When Israel's attack began, Ben-hadad was drunk, and the other kings did not effectively defend themselves. Syria's king barely escaped with his life.
The following spring, Ben-hadad returned. He claimed that the Israelites had won the first round because their God was a God of the hills. So God was about to show that He ruled the plains, too. Ben-hadad chose his spot, and God proved His point. In a single day, Israel killed 100,000 Syrian warriors, and the 27,000 who escaped to the city of Aphek died when the wall fell on them. But Ben-hadad was still alive, and he sued for peace. The price Syria offered seemed good to Ahab, so Ben-hadad went free. But a prophet came to Ahab and told him that his life would replace the life of Ben-hadad, whom God had desired to destroy.
When the sullen Ahab traveled to Samaria, his eyes fell on a nice vineyard that he wanted to own. But its owner, Naboth, aware that the vineyard was his patrimony, given by God, would not sell or trade. While Israel's king sulked in his room, Jezebel plotted to get the land. By paying off some men to give false testimony about the righteous Naboth, she had him killed for blasphemy.
As Israel's ruler rejoiced in his new acquisition, Elijah arrived to report that the Lord knew the truth and that dogs would lick Ahab's blood in the place where Naboth had died. The wicked king repented, for a time. But three years later, when the king of Judah enticed him into battle against Syria, Ahab listened to false prophets, who advised him to go to war. Cowardly Ahab disguised himself, but during the fight he was hit by an archer and died after hours of suffering. His body was carried to Samaria, and the blood that had gathered in his chariot was licked up by dogs, just as God had promised.
People may think that being wicked is exciting or powerful. Ahab shows us otherwise. He was a coward who was ruled by his wife. Though he won a few battles, it was not because of his own strength.
Want real strength? Serve God alone.CHAPTER 6
ANANIAS, HUSBAND OF SAPPHIRA
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
Had he been a wiser man, Ananias could have been known as generous, too. If he'd simply given whatever he and Sapphira chose and not claimed it was the full price of the property, his brethren might have praised him. But one seemingly small lie, which sought to make him seem less self-serving than he really was, turned the name Ananias into a Christian byword for greed.
When the apostle Peter confronted him with his wrongdoing against God, Ananias died. It probably wasn't just the shock of being found out—his was a godly judgment that kept other early Christians honest. When Sapphira died in the same manner, the people had no doubts about God's opinion of the couple's deeds.
Unlike Ananias and his wife, we may not die when we do wrong. But our deceptions hurt us nevertheless. God may not respond as quickly as He did with Ananias, but He does not ignore our sin. Will it take a lightning bolt from heaven to command our obedience, or just a word to our hearts from our Savior?
Excerpted from The Top 100 Men of the Bible by Drew Josephs. Copyright © 2008 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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