A Prophet Among You

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Men God Used

Among the workers for God there is a place for every kind of person who is willing to let himself be used. Race, nationality, or environment forms no barrier. Since our attention at present is focused on the Bible, naturally most of the men considered will be Hebrews; but God is not limited except as men disqualify themselves for His service. APAY 34.1

The prophets did not differ greatly from other men. Even Elijah, one of the two of whom it is recorded that he was taken to heaven without seeing death, is spoken of by another prophet as “a man subject to like passions as we are.” James 5:17. Paul and Barnabas placed themselves in that same classification after the Lycaonians declared, “The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men.” Acts 14:11. See verse 15. Not only were prophets subject to like passions as we are, but, like Moses at Kadesh and David in his dealings with Uriah the Hittite, at times they were overcome by temptation and sinned against God. Elijah became discouraged and wished that he might die; Jonah was despondent when his prediction was not fulfilled. Abraham twice misrepresented his true relationship with Sarah because he was afraid. The list might be extended, not to excuse similar sins in ourselves, but to show that God does not create a special kind of man as a prophet. These were men among men whom the Lord used as best He could. APAY 34.2

One of the most notable characteristics of the Bible is that it fits the needs of every individual in every generation. No one can justifiably say that because of the point of view from which it was written it does not touch his case or problems. The true Author planned it thus. Each book bears the marks of the background, education, personality, and experience of its writer. Each portion of the record yields a richer harvest of spiritual truth when we learn of the life of the man behind it. Without any attempt at the moment to compare or contrast these lives, we will note something of the background, lifework, and personality of some of these Bible prophets, so we may see the variety of men God used to accomplish His purposes. APAY 34.3

Abraham. Although Abraham wrote no book of the Bible, he holds a prominent place in both Old and New Testament thinking. When the Lord spoke to Abimelech, king of Gerar, in a dream He called Abraham a prophet. Genesis 20:7. His name is used repeatedly in connection with the promises of inheritance in the land of Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:8), the perpetuation of the worship of the true God (Exodus 3:15), and the final inheritance of the whole world by the righteous (Romans 4:13). Much of what was revealed to Abraham through the prophetic gift seems to have been related to these three thoughts. APAY 35.1

Recent archaeological excavations have shown that Abraham’s home city, Ur of the Chaldees, was a wealthy city with a high degree of cultural development. Abraham himself was probably well educated, and the Bible record seems to indicate that the family was prosperous. Unfortunately some of the members of the family fell into the idolatrous ways of the city, and even Terah, Abraham’s father, served other gods in Ur. Joshua 24:2. At an advanced age Abraham was called to leave the culture and comparative ease of Ur and go into a land of which he knew nothing. He was unaware of his goal, but he was ready to follow God’s leading. APAY 35.2

Subsequent events reveal much of the character and personality of this man who became “the Friend of God.” James 2:23. He led his household in spiritual activities. His unselfishness is demonstrated in his dealings with Lot. The firmness of his faith is commended in Hebrews 11, despite the failures recorded in Genesis. God used him and his son to give one of the clearest pictures of what the sacrifice of the Son of God meant to both the Father and the Son. Abraham was widely and favorably known among the surrounding tribes in Canaan. He was a man of stature and influence. APAY 35.3

Moses. Born into the home of slaves at a time when all male children of the Israelites were condemned to die, Moses’ life was protected by the favor of the daughter of the pharaoh of Egypt. The child’s early years were spent in his own home, but his parents were constantly aware that soon he would leave that home for the royal palace. Every effort was made to prepare him to stand true in the time when he would be exposed to pagan customs, society, and religion. Then came the years in the court of Egypt with their broad civil and military training. Every enticement was offered the young adopted prince, but he made his choice on the basis of eternal values rather than on the fleeting “pleasures of sin.” APAY 36.1

Principles of truth had become so firmly implanted in the life of the young Moses that later influences could not turn him from them. Despite Egypt’s offers, Moses adhered to his faith in God. He was willing to risk everything to accomplish what he thought God wanted him to do for the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage. His remarkable adaptability is revealed in Exodus 2:21, describing Moses’ attitude toward his life in the wilderness after his escape from Egypt: “And Moses was content to dwell with the man.” The change from the constant activity of the royal court and the army headquarters to the quiet solitude of a desert dwelling would not have brought contentment to many a man with the energy and capability of Moses. Few princes of a powerful royal house would have been content to spend their days as shepherds. Instead of attendants gratifying his every wish, he now cared for the needs of a flock of sheep. His home was a tent instead of a palace. In these circumstances Moses spent forty years under the tutorship of God to prepare him to serve as leader of his people. All this background contributed to the formation of an unusual type of character and personality. Moses came out of his training period a kind, considerate, compassionate man with rare abilities as an organizer, administrator, lawmaker, and judge. His dependence was on God, and faith was a reality in his life. APAY 36.2

Samuel. In his youth Samuel left his parents and home as did Moses, but instead of being taken to the royal court of a pagan king this boy went to live with the high priest at the sanctuary of God. Although the environment would ordinarily be thought to be the best possible, it must be remembered that Eli had utterly failed in the rearing of his own sons. The Lord accused Eli of not restraining his sons and of honoring them above God. But while he was still a child, Samuel grew in favor with both the Lord and men. As the years passed, “all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established to be a prophet of the Lord.” 1 Samuel 3:20. Surrounded by the obvious corruption existing in the lives of many of the priests, Samuel maintained strict integrity and purity of character. Although he lacked the firm, guiding hand of an earthly father, he developed into the strong man who could in old age demand of the people: “Witness against me before the Lord, and before His anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken aught of any man’s hand.” 1 Samuel 12:3, 4. APAY 37.1

As priest, prophet, and judge, Samuel had led the people fairly, sympathetically, and honestly. Yet he had to listen to their demand for a king to be appointed over them, and at God’s direction he anointed the king. Instead of resenting the loss of authority, the prophet became the friend and counselor of the new king; and he loved Saul like a son. Samuel ranks high among the great men whose lives are pictured in the Scriptures. APAY 37.2

David.Were there no other characterization of David than the words of Samuel, one might well visualize the kind of man he was. “The Lord hath sought Him a man after His own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over His people.” 1 Samuel 13:14. As a young man, David enters the Bible story when God directs Samuel to anoint him to be king over Israel. The tales of his bravery in combat with wild animals and with men are well known. His rise from shepherd to the throne was a perilous time, and it gave abundant opportunity for him to develop strong traits of character and an abiding confidence in God. Though filled with youthful enthusiasm and eager to press forward, David was willing to wait for God to designate the time when he should occupy the throne. He refused to take things into his own hands and kill Saul. His later sin reveals the constant danger confronting even the most earnest Christian. His recovery is a demonstration of the long-suffering of God and the power of His grace. APAY 38.1

Few men have shown a wider range of capabilities than David. As musician, poet, singer, military man in both subordinate and commanding positions, lawmaker, counselor, king, architect, organizer, and executive, he revealed large native abilities well developed through education and experience. His psalms indicate deep insight into the working of the human mind, a practical knowledge of spiritual realities, and a personal acquaintance with God. APAY 38.2

Amos. Under inspiration of the Spirit of God, a rugged herdsman of Tekoa became a heroic messenger for the Lord. Amos must have led his sheep over some of the same hills where David had spent his youth and where he had been a fugitive. He was an outdoor man who had lacked the opportunity for education in the schools of the prophets; but he was sturdy and fearless. Amos is a striking example of the way God can take a man who is technically untrained and make him an effective worker. Little is said of the man himself, but his words help us to penetrate his thinking. APAY 38.3

When Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, tried to send Amos home to Judah to do his prophesying, the herdsman-prophet made no defense other than that God had called him from the flock and had said, “Go, prophesy unto My people Israel.” The prophet clearly implied that he was not in Israel from personal choice, and that he would stay until his work was done, for God had sent him. See Amos 7:10-17. His knowledge of outdoor life echoes in figures of speech through the book, and the type of illustrations reveal the mind of the man. The tempest and whirlwind (1:14), the height of the cedar, the strength of the oak (2:9), the cart full of sheaves (2:13), the lion roaring in the forest (3:4), the bird in the snare (3:5), the remains of a sheep snatched from a lion (3:12), the kine of Bashan (4:1), the palmerworm and the drought (4:7-10), proclaim the individualistic thinking, the powers of observation, and the spiritual insight of the prophet. Much of this grew out of his early training and environment. The response of the man to the call of God, and the brilliant way in which he discharged his responsibility place him high in the ranks of a notable company of men of God. APAY 39.1

Daniel. “And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” Daniel 1:3, 4. Little needs to be added to this Spirit-prompted characterization to gain a picture of the kind of person Daniel was. Handsome of feature, sturdy of body, brilliant of mind, he received the best education available to a Hebrew lad of the royal line. His mind was stored with the Scriptures, and his character developed in harmony with its principles. APAY 39.2

In Babylon, Daniel rose from the status of prisoner of war to prime minister, and he held that position under the kings of two rival empires. His firmness to principle has become proverbial; his wisdom and tact command respect. From our point of view it is almost inconceivable that a man who, on the night of the collapse of the Babylonian kingdom was its “third ruler” (Daniel 5:29), should soon afterward be made chief aide to its conqueror. “It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first.... Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.” Daniel 6:1-3. Because of their association with Daniel, mighty rulers were led to acknowledge the power of Daniel’s God. “The king [Nebuchadnezzar] answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets.” Daniel 2:47. “Then King Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages.... I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for He is the living God, and steadfast forever, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall be even unto the end.” Daniel 6:25, 26. APAY 40.1

Through this man, whose confidence in God remained unwavering whether he faced monarchs or lions or enemies in high places, the Lord chose to reveal long-term prophecies that reach from Daniel’s time to the day when “the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High.” Daniel 7:27. His character ranks him among the noblest of the royal line of the kingdom of God. His revelations classify him as unsurpassed in importance among the prophets. His unchanging constancy in the things of God, his control of his mental and physical powers, his dignity and courtesy, set him before us as an exemplar among men and prophets. APAY 40.2

Paul. A “Hebrew of the Hebrews,” “a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee,” was the way Paul described his ancestry and religion. Paul knew no method of working other than to throw every energy into doing the task at hand. Study in the school of Gamaliel, persecution of the hated Christians, as the apostle to the Gentiles, preaching Christ—each, in turn, received the same fervent devotion. His brilliant mind, superior education, pure Hebrew ancestry, Roman citizenship, thorough conversion, and unflagging zeal made Paul the kind of man God could use for one of the most difficult tasks ever to face any man—introducing Christianity to the Gentile world. APAY 41.1

Of all Christian preachers, other than the Saviour Himself, Paul has commanded the greatest respect. His clear grasp of the principles of righteousness by faith in contrast with attempts to be saved as a reward for good works grew out of the two phases of his own life experience, as a Pharisee and as a servant of Jesus Christ. His ability as preacher, teacher, and apologist sets him apart from the preacher multitude, and declares him to be in a classification where he has few companions. His fearlessness and conclusiveness in dealing with heresies left both legalists and antinomians with little argument to support them. Paul might well have added to his description of himself that he was “a preacher of preachers,” and the “teacher of teachers.” APAY 41.2

These few incomplete biographical notes are intended to start the thinking of the student upon the men God chose to serve Him as prophets. Nothing in a man’s background, education, or occupation in itself excluded him from being called to the sacred office. In fact, it appears that it was part of God’s plan to choose men from as wide a range of heritages and as diverse characteristics as possible in order to make an appeal with the gospel message to every kind of mind. The man’s nature and personality in no wise altered the import of his message or the fact of its inspiration. APAY 41.3