The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:12 that “God has chosen what in the world is low born and insignificant and branded and treated with contempt, even the things that are nothing, that He might bring to nothing the things that are”. The other day, I was reflecting on a few people and situations in the Bible. I started off with David, then Gideon, then Joseph. I noticed that these three men were seen as “nobodys” by people around them. There was nothing about them on the outside that would cause you to marvel. Nonetheless God used them mightily and blessed them. There are others like these. It is amazing to note that throughout the Bible, God uses people and situations that seem insignificant in the world’s eyes. God also uses small quantities / numbers of things too – to work mighty miracles. He does this to show Himself strong and get the glory. To get a clearer picture of this, I will give some examples of how God works through the small, the weak and the insignificant.
Joseph (Genesis 37, 38-50)
The account of Joseph is one of my favourites, and one of the most remarkable in the Bible. At the age of 17, he was sold as a slave by his own brothers because of the dream God had given him. He ended up in Egypt. He was tempted by his master’s (Potiphah) wife. When he refused her sexual advances, she lied about him – causing him to be thrown into prison. He spent many years there. However because of his faithfulness to God, at the age of 30, through an interesting turn of events, Joseph eventually became Prime Minister of Egypt.
Rahab (Joshua 2, 6:22-25)
Rahab was a prostitute, not someone that most people would have any respect for or associate with. However she had great faith in God. This motivated her to hide the men Joshua sent into Jericho to spy. She risked her life. She played a significant role in enabling Joshua and the people of Israel to conquer Jericho. Rahab’s faith was noted in Hebrews 11:31, among many other heroes of faith in the Bible. Did you know also that Rahab went on to become the great-grandmother of David (see Matthew 1:5), and was thus in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. This just goes to show that God doesn’t look at outward appearance but at the heart!
Gideon (Judges 6-9)
The Israelites turned from the Lord, and so He allowed the Midianites to oppress them. However as in the past, they cried out to Him in repentance. God answered their prayers. Who would He use to bring about deliverance? Would it be an experienced warrior or mighty army? No – it would be an inexperienced, somewhat timid young man called Gideon. When the Lord presented Himself to Gideon for the first time, He said “Go in this might of yours, for you shall save Israel from the hand of Midian” At hearing this, Gideon replied that he was from the poorest clan and that he was the youngest in his family. Do you see the contrast? God saw greatness in Gideon, but Gideon saw himself as poor, inexperienced and unqualified. However, God would turn Gideon into a brave warrior, and accomplish His purpose through him. Note also in Judges 7 how God reduced the army of Israel from 32,000 to 300! Verse 2 explains “The Lord said to Gideon ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel boast about themselves saying ‘My own hand has delivered me””. We must learn from this. God often uses small numbers / quantities, or weakness so that when His will is done, He and only He will get the glory. Had Gideon won the battle with 32,000 men, no one would give God the credit for it. The fact that He used only 300 men demonstrates His strength and miraculous power.
David (1 Samuel 16,17)
David became one of the greatest kings in Israel’s history, a man known to be “after God’s own heart”. He was an exemplary leader and warrior, yet could express his profound love for God through poetry and songs – found in the Psalms. Looking at David’s life as a boy, you would have never known he would become such a stalwart of the Christian faith. He was the youngest of 8 brothers, and was often tasked with the work of caring for his father’s sheep. It would seem as if David was in the shadow of his brothers. This was demonstrated by the fact that when Samuel the prophet came to the family home, David was overlooked for the blessing. His father had all his brothers brought before Samuel, but David was forgotten. God never forgot David though. David was chosen by God to be king of Israel. Again in 1 Samuel 17, who did God use to defeat Goliath? David! The youngster, only came to the battle to give food to to his brothers. Yet, God used him and one stone to kill a giant who made the whole army of Israel tremble in fear!
Ravens feed Elijah at Brook Cherith (1 Kings 17)
The prophet Elijah was on a mission for God. Having confronted King Ahab, he was then commanded by God to go to Brook Cherith. While he was there, God commanded ravens to feed him. They brought him bread and meat – morning and evening. Imagine that! Ravens with their black plumage and croaking call are not known as graceful birds of beauty and strength like an eagle. Yet God is perfect in His ways, and used even these “ugly scavengers” to provide for His servant.
A Donkey saves Balaam’s life (Numbers 22)
If there was ever an example of God using anyone or anything – this is it! God caused a donkey to speak to the prophet Balaam (v28-30). In fact the donkey saw the Angel of God 3 times, before Balaam recognized Him. The donkey saved Balaam’s life (v33)!!!
Naaman’s Servants (2 Kings 5)
In reading the account of Naaman’s miraculous healing from leprosy, it is possible to overlook how God used this Syrian commander’s servants in the process. It was a young Israelite girl, who was taken captive by Naaman’s army, who told Naaman’s wife that a prophet in her native land could heal him (v2). Think about it. She could have easily kept this to herself. After all, she was forcefully taken from her home and family, into the house of strangers. Despite her circumstances, her heart was such that the Lord could use her. Her position as a servant and her young age could have caused her words to be ignored. If they had been, Naaman would have remained a leper. So, Naaman went to the prophet Elisha who told him to wash in the River Jordan (v10). Naaman, objecting to this, preferring to dip in a “clean” river got into a rage and refused to obey (v11-12). Who talked common sense into him? It was his servants! It’s a good thing that like his wife, he listened.
The Four Lepers (2 Kings 7)
I love this story! The land of Samaria was hit by a great famine. It was so severe, that donkey’s heads and dove’s dung were bought and sold as food (2 Kings 6:25). God miraculously used 4 lepers to bring restoration and provision to the country. Note – they were lepers. In biblical times, lepers were seen as cursed. They were rejected, scorned and isolated from the rest of society. Yet, through them, the same nation that would have scorned them were delivered through them. What I love about these men is that when they discovered the bounty, they considered the plight of their country, and informed the king’s household (v9).
Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21)
In Matthew 14, we see how Jesus used a young boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish to feed thousands of people. This biblical account is usually referred to as “the feeding of the five thousand”. However note in v21 it says the number was 5000 men, not including woman and children. With the women and children included, the number could have been nearer to 10,000 or more. Furthermore, after everyone was fed and satisfied, Jesus disciples collected 12 baskets of fragments left over (v20). Only Jesus could transform so little into so much. This account demonstrates God’s ability to provide abundantly out of meagre resources. He is awesome!
The Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well (John 4)
Jesus went out of His way to meet this woman. On a social level, the Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They didn’t associate at all. On an individual level, this woman had a stigma amongst her own people. As you read the account, you will see that she had intimate relationships with an number of men in the past, and was currently living with someone outside marriage. No wonder she went to the well in the middle of the day, when no-one else would be around. Despite all this, Jesus reached out to her at the well. He didn’t condemn nor belittle her for her mistakes. He revealed Himself to her, and as a result her life would never be the same. She went on to evangelize her entire community (v39-42). There is a lesson in this for us. Let us not look down on others based on where they live, their past, their social cast or economic background. This Samaritan woman was a diamond that only the love of Jesus could unearth that day.
The 12 Disciples of Jesus
Jesus chose 12 men to be His disciples. Over the course of 3 years, He would patiently teach and mold them. They were not men of any great stature or education or intellectual ability. However at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would fill and empower their lives. The elite of society could only marvel – “aren’t these men Galileans” (Acts 2:7). They couldn’t believe that these “simpletons from Galilee” could be expressing the glory of God in different languages (Acts 2:4). However it was not them. It was the Holy Spirit working in and through them. Again in Acts 4:13, the Jews were still baffled – “Now they when the saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled, and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” These men were the founding fathers of the Christian faith. They allowed God to use them mightily – to take the gospel to the entire world. They had no formal education to boast of, no distinguished background. They were humble uneducated men. God will use anyone who humbly avails themselves to Him.
Jesus is the perfect example of someone who made Himself small, weak and insignificant, and He did it for us. He is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity – full of glory, honour, dominion, majesty and power. Colossians 1:16 says “For in Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and in earth, visible and invisible…all things were created by Him and for Him.” Yet in the divine plan of salvation, Jesus came to earth, was born in a smelly manger and grew up in humble circumstances. He did not walk the earth like a prince, but like a servant. Philippians 2:7,8 states “(Jesus) stripped Himself of all privileges and rightful dignity to assume the guise of a servant in that he beame like a human being. He humbled Himself and was obedient to the extreme of death, even death on the cross. Isaiah 53:2 states “He has no form or comliness (royal, kingly pomp) that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men…we did not appreciate His worth or have any esteem for Him” These scriptures, along with many others, show the depth of sacrifice Jesus made to redeem mankind from sin. What great love He had, that He came as He came, and did what He did!