Sep 2, 2009, 6:58 AM
In the world, when we look closely, we come across a sizeable number of people who overnight have risen to fame and glory from backgrounds that did not favour them or should not have projected them to the limelight in the first instance. When we examine their profiles more closely, we further observe that they had come a long way with a lot of determination, will and ambition to get to the top of the social ladder.
For most of these people however, there is a hidden agenda behind the move; they have either been driven by greed, bitterness, the spirit of revenge or by sheer lust for power. At various instances, these people simply burn out or fade out of the scene for having bitten much more than they can chew. They are catalogued for their evil deeds, and are remembered only for such. Those who rose to the occasion for the most part were playing their part in God’s plan; they take their exit honourably.
The Bible showcases a number of characters who have emerged from practically nowhere, against all odds, to hold key positions in the affairs of the state. A marked difference with those who have been described above is that this category of people surrender themselves as instruments in God’s hands – called to perform a special task. They carry out their specific roles in the unfolding of the history of God’s people - Israel. It was neither a hidden nor a personal agenda. The results were for the common good not to stamp their names in the annals of time. It was not about them but what God could do through them. They emptied themselves so that God could fill them. In response to God’s agenda, they gave their all. And, mark you, God backed them to the very end. This article will look at the lives of three biblical characters – namely Joseph, David and Esther - and how they impacted their world.
Joseph was a simpleton in his day. Born in a polygamous family, he became the envy of his brothers on two counts: first, he was clearly his father’s favourite and second, God gave him a dream of his future greatness which he shared, to the minute detail, with members of his family - and that constituted the beginning of his troubles. As a teenager, Joseph was sold by his brothers into slavery, yet because “the Lord was with Joseph … he prospered … when his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes … and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.” (Genesis 39:2-5)
This phase in his life landed him in prison. His master’s wife lusted after him; when he failed to compromise he was falsely accused of rape that landed him in prison. It was in prison where he interpreted the dreams of two inmates that one day he was invited to interpret Pharaoh’s dream that catapulted him to fame. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph replied to Pharaoh ‘I cannot do it but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” (Genesis 41:15-16) After interpreting the dream to Pharaoh’s satisfaction, Pharaoh himself asked. “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?” (Genesis 41: 38) That sealed it. From a nonentity Joseph rose to the position of prime minister in a foreign land. “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt … he had him ride in a chariot as second in command, and men shouted before him , ‘Make way!’ “ (Genesis 41:41,43) “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” (verse 44)
Joseph’s chequered life story is inspiring for those who wait for God’s timing. God has a plan for our lives that will mature according to his calendar. And so from an insignificant background, Joseph rose to the rank of prime minister. God had put him there for a purpose - to save his people from famine. Later his family came to Egypt in search of food. After disclosing his identity to them he remarked: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Genesis 45:5)
Joseph’s life is a string of miseries that would have caused him to despair but he held on because he knew in whom he believed. In the end his story changed, from zero to hero. Do not give in, hold fast; your miracle is on its way.
David, the man after God’s heart
David came on the scene as a shepherd boy who was summoned from the woods where he tended his father’s sheep to be crowned king of Israel. Was that of his doing? No! God chose him. He did not manipulate his way up. You see, God has a special way of handpicking his servants. He told prophet Samuel “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1) That son of Jesse – an unkempt, smelly, uncouth and ragged shepherd boy that had not a single characteristic of a king - was David. Actually, God is not influenced by appearance or stature; “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outside appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)
David grew up in the king’s entourage where he was groomed. He was brought in because of his ability as a musician. King Saul was possessed and each time he underwent an attack, David was invited in to play the harp to drive the spirits away. Furthermore David became popular when the women sang in his honour after he slew Goliath. “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7) That triggered David’s problems. He had to flee from the king’s presence to live as a vagabond though a king, because Saul had embarked on plans to kill him but never succeeded in doing so because God was with him. (… to be continued next week)