Ordinary Men, Extraordinary God
Ordinary Men, Extraordinary God
God has a long history of working with regular people. People who at first glance wouldn't appear to be special, powerful, or influential in any other way. He sees the heart... He sees something that He can work with and develop, and calls, sanctifies, glorifies, and justifies according to His purposes. He sees what each of us can become, if we yield ourselves to Him, and allow Him to work in our lives. Moses, Gideon, David, and so many others throughout history experienced this in their lives. Humble, ordinary beginnings to an extraordinary work done through them by God. How does this history impact us? How can we recognize this tendency to realize our full potential?
[Mr. Ben Light] You know, as a child I grew up on a steady diet of Bible stories. And it should be noted for those of you that are younger in the audience—those of you that are older too—you recognize back when we were younger (back when you were younger) we didn't have Bob the Tomato, you know, teaching us various scriptural things. We didn't have Larry the Cucumber helping to narrate things, singing these little catchy songs that get stuck in your head. We didn't have Super Book. I know some parents today love the Super Book. You know, it's a nice little show that you can have the kids watch. It kind of explains biblical concepts. We didn't even have Jelly. You know, we had Big Beak. Some of you might remember Big Beak—kind of a Big Bird knockoff a little bit I guess, for a lack of a better term—that kind of danced around in the background of the Ambassador Coral videos.
So, we had Big Beak. And what I had was I had Little Golden Book Bible stories. And some of you might remember those. They were a little cardboard book basically about this big, and there'd be little stories about various things. And of course, I had what all of us had, which was the six-volume Basil Wolverton Bible story series which simultaneously inspired and at the same time scared me to death. Because many of you remember Basil Wolverton being very evocative and very good at capturing sorrow in images. So, you could feel what the people were feeling as the brimstone rained down on them at Sodom. Those were the stories that I grew up with. Those were the things that many of us experienced as well.
And as a young man, I remember being drawn primarily to the stories of the Old Testament. Being drawn to people like, you know, David, and Daniel, and Abraham, and Noah, and Moses, and all these individuals that God did these just incredible miracles through, just these amazing things! And admittedly, at that age, I wasn't as drawn to the stories of the New Testament. You take a look at the New Testament—washing feet, getting beat up by the Sanhedrin, the Romans—just didn't really have the same kind of pizzazz as parting the Red Sea. You know, a sleepover with a bunch of lions or slaying giants. But the reality is, I think thankfully as we get older and as we have the opportunity to grow, our tastes become a bit more refined. We begin to appreciate some of the things that we maybe didn't appreciate at that point in time quite as much.
I remember looking at these stories of these men and just being in awe. I mean, just being in awe. These were men of legend. They were real-life superheroes. You know, in many ways real-life superheroes. Men of great strength, men of influence, men of leadership. They were larger than life! You go back and read some of those stories, they were larger than life. They seemed beyond real in many ways. These were men that weren't afraid of anything! They weren't afraid of anything, at least as a young person when you read those things, you know, it seems that way. And I think as a young person I realized in some ways, they weren't anything like me. I was afraid of all kinds of stuff. I wasn't really a leader. I wasn't particularly strong. I wasn't fast or athletic. I wasn't somebody who could stand out there and part the Red Sea. I couldn't kill a lion with my bare hands, that's for sure. I could barely kill a fly with a flyswatter, right? I was definitely no David. I was definitely no Noah, Abraham, Moses, or Daniel.
Have you ever had thoughts like that? Have you ever looked at the examples that we see in Scripture and considered what God has provided for us and has recorded for us and sat and wondered, or maybe even prayed to God sometimes and asked God, "Why me? Really? I mean, me? Out of all the possible people, the billions of people on this Earth that You could've called, You looked down from Your throne and You said ‘That one right there. That one is the one that I want. That's the one that I'm going to call into my family, who I'm going to give the opportunity for eternal life in the Kingdom. That Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God, of the resurrection, of the forgiveness of our sins, of the transformation to spirit beings, to being a part of the God family. That's the person that I'm going to work with and the person that I'm going to start and complete a work to become more like my son, Jesus Christ.’"
You know, we sit and we look at that possible eventuality. We look at what God has called us to and we think, "Really? Me? There wasn't somebody better or somebody that, you know, ultimately could've been better suited in some way for what you had in mind?" And I think what's interesting is as you dig into the lives of these individuals that I mentioned earlier—if you look at Moses, and Noah, and David, Daniel, Abraham. Or if I were a young woman, Hannah, and Ruth, and Deborah, you know? There are so many stories that are available. You dig into their lives and you recognize circumstances in Scripture for what they are, I think, as you get a little bit older.
And you begin to see some of the… For all the larger-than-life episodes, for all the amazing legendary exploits that they accomplished, at the end of the day, these folks are human just like you and I. They're just regular folks. They experience some of the same fears, some of the same doubts, some of the same concerns that you and I experience in our lives and perhaps maybe have expressed. At times, these individuals struggled with their faith. They got overwhelmed. They were uncertain about the path forward. They made mistakes. And they experienced the consequences of their sin. In that sense, they were no different than any of us. No different than any of us. They were ordinary men and they were ordinary men who were in the hands of an extraordinary God.
That's the title of the split sermon today: ordinary men, extraordinary God.
You take a look at Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible is full of examples of ordinary individuals that God has used to do extraordinary things. And we're going to take a little bit of time here today—as we build the background for where we're going to examine a few of these examples—to kind of really look at the humble beginnings that started with each of these individuals. And as God used them and as God developed them and as God strengthened them, as He proved that He was with them, how these people began to blossom and how they became these heroes of the Bible that we see in the pages of the Book that's in our laps.
Let's begin today by turning over to Exodus 3. We're going to start with the story of Moses. Exodus 3, and we're going to pick up his story there. We're going to provide a little bit of backdrop here, though. We're going to give you just a little bit of the lead-up to this point. But Exodus 3, and if you want to go ahead and get over there. By this point in Moses's story, there have been a number of things in Moses's life that have changed. We know the basic story. We know that Moses was born to Levite parents. Okay, we know that his parents were both of the lineage of Levi. We know that Moses arrived on the scene in the midst of pharaoh's infanticide. Okay, we know that pharaoh was attempting to reduce the Hebrew population by killing the firstborn...or sorry. Killing the male Hebrew children.
We know that Moses's mother, to allow Moses to escape that fate, places him in a basket in the Nile and releases him into the Nile. He's ultimately...kind of bounces along the reeds and the edges and ends up nestling amongst some reeds. Ultimately, we know that pharaoh's daughter finds him and raises him as her own. Now as often works with God, Moses's sister was in the right place at the right time, kind of watching the basket go down the river, and we know that she was able to suggest that Moses's own mother serve as his nursemaid. So Jochebed had a chance to spend some time with her son before ultimately returning him to pharaoh's daughter.
So, growing up, Moses would've been brought up in the Egyptian palace. He would've been brought up in the Egyptian way of life in many ways. Would've been taught a number of different things. He would've been fluent in Egyptian, both verbally as well as writing—or drawing or whatever you want to call that I guess since it's hieroglyphics at that point. He may have been fluent in a number of other languages as well. People that they did trade with, people that they, you know, interacted with, allies… Not only that, he would've been trained in warfare, diplomacy, civil and religious matters that pertain to the royal court. You know, Moses had a pretty solid state background, we might say in many ways in his life.
We also know that Moses struggled with some different things in his life. One day he went out and was witnessing the abuse that the Hebrews were receiving at the hands of the taskmasters and we know that Moses did a kind of quick look this way and did a kind of quick look that way to see if anybody was watching and then killed the taskmaster that was beating his Hebrew brother. He buried him in the sand. He knew what he did was wrong. He buried him in the sand and left it at that. Next day he goes back. He sees two of his own people arguing and he goes to separate them, tries to break up the scuffle and as they are in the process of being ripped apart from each other by Moses, says, "What? What, are you going to kill us like you did that Egyptian the other day?"
And Moses realizes, "Oh, they know." And so, Moses flees. We know Moses fled Egypt at that point. According to Stephen's Sermon in Acts 7, Moses was 40 years old when that event occurred. So, he's 40 years old when he took off and fled Egypt. So, he'd lived in Egypt at that point for 40 years. By the time we catch up with him in Exodus 3, it's been another 40 years. So, the Moses that we see in Exodus 3 is an 80-year-old Moses. It's been another 40 years according to Stephen's Sermon that Moses spent out in the Midianite wilderness. So, let's pick the story up in Exodus 3:1. I don't know if you've ever pictured this as a young Moses. Don't. He's 80. I mean, he's young-ish. Young at heart, we'll say. But this is an older man at this point in time in his life. Even though they were longer-lived, he was a little bit older man at this point.
Exodus 3:1-3 “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’”
I'd like to think that he was a little more excited than that. “I know! I will turn aside and I will see this…” It's like, "What? That bush is on fire and it's not burning..." That would've been my response. “Ahhh!” You know, that sort of thing. But he says, "I'll turn aside. I'll look." So, he does. He says, "I will turn aside."
Exodus 3:4-6 “So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then He said, ‘Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.’ Moreover He said, ‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’”
And we see Moses's response. Moses had enough knowledge of God to know he needed to hide his face. You know, so he immediately, you know, does one of these…was afraid to them look upon God.
Exodus 3:7-10 “And God said: ‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and large land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Amorites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites. Now therefore, behold, the cry of the children of Israel has come to Me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.’”
So, we see Moses's response. Moses says, "Thank you, Lord! Someone's finally recognized my greatness, my leadership skills, my abilities, my humility! Someone's finally noticed." No. That's not what Moses says at all. What does Moses say?
Exodus 3:11 “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” Moses essentially replies to God, "Who, me?" Looks behind him, sees if he's talking to somebody else. “Me? Really? Me? Okay. Well, I don't think so, God.” Moses continues to express his concerns. He makes his case, you know, in this scenario.
Let's go ahead and skip down to Exodus 4:10. We see that, you know, God ultimately kind of reassures Moses. He promises that he'll be with him, He shows him some examples of the miracles that he will do on his behalf, you know. He says, "Look, I've got your back. We're going to do this. You put your hand in there and pull it out." Oh, no. "You know, take the staff, throw it..." Whoa. You know, all these things that God was doing, these incredible things that Moses couldn't do before that. You know, these should've been signs to Moses that God was going to be with him. But notice what Moses says. Go ahead and skip down to Exodus 4 and we'll pick it up in verse 10.
Exodus 4:10 “Then Moses said to the Lord, ‘O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.’ So the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.’”
At this point, Moses says, "Yes, sir,"—is what he should say. But what we see Moses say instead is verse 13,
Exodus 4:13- “‘O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.’” So, what do we see, verse 14? We see that God didn't appreciate that. It says, "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look” Here he comes! “He is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart." And God lays it out that him and Aaron would go, Aaron would serve as his spokesperson—kind of in a little bit of a relationship between God and Christ in that sense as a spokesperson—but essentially sends him forth to go to pharaoh in that sense. Brethren, this is Moses. This is Moses! The man whom God spoke with face to face. The man whose face glowed as a result of those interactions so that he had to wear a veil because people freaked out. This is the person who received the 10 Commandments, who wrote the Pentateuch, who led God's people from Egypt, and through whom God worked incredible miracles. But yet, at this moment in his life, we can see that his doubt, his concerns, those are foremost. He's really questioning God's plan here at the very beginning of this process.
Now we recognize it's still early in Moses's life, so to speak. We know that he's, you know, in his 80s at this point or he's 80 something at this point. So, in that sense, it's age-wise not but in the time in which God is working with Moses, it's still early. Moses is still learning. He's still growing. But at this point in time in Moses's life, God saw something. God saw something He could work with, something that He could develop. And honestly, you compare the Moses in Exodus 3 and 4 to the Moses that we see in Deuteronomy and Numbers, it's hardly the same person. The change in Moses, the leadership that he took on. Now there's still flaws, there's still issues, there's still character things that he's working through.
But God called Moses at the time He did because He knew what Moses could become and who Moses could be and the person that He would need to do those things out in the wilderness was him. And God knew before. Before Moses knew, before Moses had any idea. So, the Moses that we see here, it's kind of a different Moses than the one that we see in Deuteronomy and Numbers. God saw who he could become with His help and with His development, ultimately who he would become. Let's take a look at another example. Let's go to Judges. Book of Judges, Judges 6. I want to go ahead and turn there. We pick up the story of Gideon.
And realistically, you look at the Book of the Judges, it's a cyclical pattern that you can see take place in Israel's history. You know, Israel does what was right in their own eyes. They begin to worship idols. They begin to obey God for a time after that. You know, God would raise up a judge after they would, you know, ultimately disobey Him and begin to follow these false idols. And then the judge would deliver Israel through God's blessing. The people would obey God for a time. They would prosper and then ultimately get pulled back into idolatry and the whole cycle would start over again. And this cycle churned for 400-some years in the land of Israel after Joshua's death.
One of the judges that got raised—Gideon—came at a time in which Israel was under the yoke of the Midianites. So, Israel is under the yoke of the Midianites. Israelites had disobeyed God, they'd set up false idols, they'd forgotten the miracles that God had done for his people, and ultimately they placed their trust in other places. And so, as a result, God brought the Midianites against Israel as punishment for their actions. So, the Midianites, one of the things that we know that they did from the Scripture, they destroyed their agriculture. I mean, they absolutely razed their agriculture. They, you know, stole their food, they'd warred against them, they would come and just hit the outer villages and bring them down. Just cause all kinds of problems and kind of harassed, in many ways, the people of Israel for quite some time. Judges 6:11. We pick up with Gideon. It says,
Judges 6:11 “Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress,” Wait a second. Why would you be threshing wheat in a wine press? Wine presses are for grapes. You know, threshing floors, those are for wheat. Well, he was doing it because he was trying to hide from the Midianites. He was trying to do it so he wouldn't get noticed. It says right here, "In order to hide it from the Midianites”. Because they would come in, they would destroy the threshing floor, they would now destroy the wine press, they'd take the grain and cause all kinds of issues. Possibly even killing Gideon.
So, he was kind of doing this in secret.
Judges 6:12-15 “And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, ‘The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!’ Gideon said to Him, ‘O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites.’ Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’” We see Gideon's response in verse 15. “So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’”
Gideon says to God, "How can I save Israel? You know, my family, my clan, they're the weakest in the whole entire tribe of Manasseh. And I'm the least in my father's house." I mean, he says, "Look, I'm a nobody. I'm an absolute nobody. You got the wrong guy. You got the wrong guy." Verse 16. We see God's response.
Judges 6:16 “And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall [e]defeat the Midianites as one man.’” God promises that he'll be with Gideon, that he's not going to be alone. God instructs him to go out, to destroy the altars to the false gods, to tear them down. We see that he does. He goes out, he tears down the altar to Baal and to Ishtar at that point, and replaces the altar with an altar to God.
Gideon and his 10 men grab 10 servants. They went out, they followed God's orders. They did it in the dark of night so they wouldn't be seen because they feared the people and the people's response. Time passes, Gideon's got a little bit of a name for himself. He's got a reputation. And ultimately the Midianites and the Amalekites assemble themselves to go against God or to go against Israel, I should say. And on God's instructions, we see Gideon go out and assemble an army. But interestingly, even after the promise that God had provided them that He would be with them, he still is seeking at that point a sign. This is where Gideon places the fleece out and asks for the fleece to be wet and the ground to be dry and vice versa, that the fleece would be dry and the ground would be wet to prove that God was truly with him.
I did that as a kid one time actually. I had a little base like for baseball. I stuck it out one time and I tried and then I remembered the passage that an evil adulterous generation seeks a sign. God didn't give me one, turns out. But that's okay. It was a different time, different place. But God provided that sign to Gideon. God provided it to Gideon and Gideon ultimately got to work. And so, God wanted to prove to Gideon—and not just to Gideon but to Israel as well—that He fought their battles for them. That it wasn't by their might, it wasn't by their strength that they would go out and win this battle against the Midianites and the Amalekites. That it was because of him. And so, God begins to slowly winnow down—or maybe not so slowly in this first setup—but slowly winnow down the amount of people who had come out in this case.
So, Gideon, if I recall the number, put together about 32,000 people. And in the first wave, God said, "Look, let those who want to just go and don't want to be a part...just let them go." And 20 something thousand people walked. And so, he's left with this 10,000-to-12,000-person group at that point that's facing down an army that is much, much larger than that. But God wasn't done yet. God devises this test, tells Gideon to go down to the river and let the people drink, and then He says, "The ones that get down and lap, you know, on their hands and their knees like a dog, get them out of here. You know, get them out of here." And ultimately, those that stay, there's 300 of them that drink in the appropriate fashion.
You know, I think if I were Gideon, I'd be wondering about whether or not they could swing a sword. But, you know, hey, you know, God's got this figured out. You know, and Gideon placed his trust in God. But the 300 men that Gideon had were up against 135,000 Midianites. They were outnumbered. I'll do the math for you, 450 to 1, 450 to 1. And we see how God delivers the people. They absolutely got the victory. And ultimately what happened was God used those 300 people to encircle the camp of the Midianites at night. They had their torches in the clay pots. They were supposed to make a big old ruckus and then crash the pots together and allow the torch to alight and when they did, it seemed like they were surrounded. The Midianites and the Amalekites got up quickly half asleep and killed each other.
Friendly fire. Wiped out the entirety of the army. The rest were routed and they ran them down and they got the victory. God provided the victory. He did exactly what He said He was going to do. Gideon was not some great general. He was not some famous soldier. Gideon was just a regular guy who found himself in the hands of a God who was extraordinary. Let's go ahead and look at one last quick example here. Samuel 16. I'm going to go ahead and turn over there. 1 Samuel 16 comes on the heels of Saul's disqualification. And so, we see God provide Samuel with instruction to go and to anoint one of Jesse's sons to be king because God at that point had rejected Saul as king of Egypt.
And he was rejected by God because of his pride, because of his arrogance, because of his disobedience, and his sin. You know, in fact, Samuel tells Saul that, you know, while he remained little in his own eyes, while he stayed humble, while he remained little in his own eyes that he was in God's favor. But as Saul kind of settled into the role of king, as he began to settle into this idea of being king, his pride and his arrogance began to increase. And ultimately, we see him set up this huge monument to himself in Carmel. We see him take authority unto himself that is not his to take on—offering sacrifices to God instead of waiting for Samuel. And so, what we see is we see that Saul's heart wasn't in the right place.
It was a heart that was not malleable. It was not set towards God. It was not set towards God's people. It was set inwardly upon himself. And God was seeking a leader with a different heart. He was seeking someone different.
1 Samuel 16:1 "Now the Lord said to Samuel, ‘How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided Myself a king among his sons.’” So, God tells Samuel one of Jesse's sons is going to be king. He should go to Bethlehem, he should make a sacrifice and he should invite Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice, and then that's the place where you're going to anoint the king. That'll be the place. So, we see he goes and the people that are ultimately there, verse 4, if you'll notice say,
1 Samual 16:4 “So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, ‘Do you come peaceably?’” “We good, Samuel? Everything cool?" Everybody there with their hands in the air kind of thing. He was a little concerned, it sounds like, what Samuel might've done at that point as he was coming in.
1 Samual 16:5 "And he said, ‘Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.’ Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice." as well. So, we see Jesse and his sons come. Samuel took a look at the man. He saw Jesse's son Eliab and he thought, "There he is. There's the one. There's the king. Look at him. He's tall, he's handsome, he carries himself like a king. That's your guy. That is the next king of Israel. Clearly."
God says to Samuel, "Hey, not so fast. Not so fast. I'm looking for a slightly different set of characteristics than what men may look for."
1 Samual 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, for I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’" And so, we see Jesse parade each of his sons in front of Samuel, you know, and it's probably not a parade but you know what I mean. You know, kind of walks them through and says, "What about this one?" Calls over, you know, the next oldest and calls over the next oldest and on down the line it goes. That God says, "Not one of these sons is the one that I'm looking for."
And Samuel knows for a fact that one of his sons is going to be king as God said that's what's going to happen. So where is the missing son, Jesse? They're not all here, are they? Oh, no! No, they're not actually. No, there's one more here. There remains yet, verse 11,
1 Samual 16:11 “…the youngest and there he is keeping the sheep. Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Send and bring him for we will not sit down until he comes here.’ So, he sent and he brought him in”—and describing David here it says—“Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah.”
God saw something beyond the characteristics that other people saw. He saw something inside of David that He could work with. He saw that David's heart was in the right place. And, you know, provided that heart is in the right place, provided that heart is malleable, God can take care of the rest. God can teach the rest through lessons in life as time goes on but if that heart is not malleable and is not in the right place, it's very challenging to end up getting to a place that God can work with someone. We know David was courageous. You know, he'd already at that point in his life as a young man had already killed a lion with his bare hands. He'd already killed a bear protecting his father's flocks.
I'm 41 and I haven't done either of those things. Especially not with a bare hand. I feel very safe and secure behind my hunting rifle, but not with my bare hands, right? I mean, that's some courage. That's some incredible stuff. We know David was faithful and more importantly, his heart was in the right place. That's what was important. But he wasn't what most men considered when they thought of a king. You know, might even be that his father didn't really necessarily consider him to be a king, which is why he drew sheep duty. You know, it's possible that that were the case. It's hard to know for sure. But God saw something more. Just like God saw in Moses, just like He saw in Gideon. You know, all three of these men were ordinary men, the regular folks.
They weren't anything particularly special, at least not at first. But their God saw something in them that He could work with ultimately, that God could work with. God saw something He could develop, that He could continue to build on and as part of that process, all three of these men received God's spirit. You know, we saw David received it there when he was anointed by Samuel. We saw that Moses received it at some point before the 70 elders received it in Numbers 11 because God said, "I'll take of you the spirit that is on you to provide to them." We also know that it came on Gideon before he assembled the armies to move against the Midianites.
That is a critical step in this process. Because if you take a heart that is malleable and a heart that is willing to learn and yield itself to God and you put God's spirit in that person, God can do incredible things through that individual. God can work an incredible, incredible series of miracles through that person. All three of these men were ordinary men but they were in the hands of a God that was extraordinary. And that extraordinary God was now dwelling in them through his spirit which is incredible. Transforming who they were at their core, changing them to become more like his son, helping to build a heart of obedience and trust and a heart that is focused on fulfilling the will of their God in accordance with the purposes for which He called them.
Now does that mean they were perfect going forward? No. David's a prime example. But notice once he was made aware of his sin, what was his response? That was the heart that God was looking for. That was the heart, that he was willing to own his mistake, that he was willing to do what it took to change, to become different, to become someone that God can continue to work through. Let's turn over to Romans 8, and we'll go ahead and pick it up in verse 18. Romans 8:18, you know, the New Testament's full of ordinary people too. You know, the Apostle Paul to a certain degree was kind of ordinary. I mean, he was important. You know, he had a role that was, you know, within the Pharisees and, you know, he was important in that sense.
But it took breaking Paul down to his “bare Paulness” so to speak as God was working with him to be able to then build him back up. It took Him breaking him down from that point to be able to now have a heart which He could work with. Romans 8:18, we see the promise that God provides.
Romans 8:18-27 “Consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” Not even worthy of being compared, the sufferings that we experience at this time. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
And Paul talks about the sufferings that we experience, the challenges that we face. Honestly, challenges and sufferings that Moses, and Gideo,n and David, and so many others in Scripture faced. You think about the challenges of the disciples, the challenges of the New Testament church! Some of the various things that they went through as, you know, the head of the Roman Empire changed from time to time and some tyrant takes the place of a mostly benevolent person. God says, "The creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God." It's like the whole creation's holding its breath just waiting for the kingdom that was promised to those whom God has begotten.
And we see the birth pangs today. We see the birth pangs today. We have economic crises, around the world, we have economic issues. We have food shortages. We have food shortages. My wife was informing me the other day, she sent me a text—we have one of our children which eats a significant amount of oats. He's, like, powered by oats. And he loves it. And the deal is a bag of oats, the last time we bought a bag of oats was only 20 bucks. That same bag of oats now is $45. And that's only been about a month and a half, maybe two months. So, we jokingly said, "You're going to have to get a job to support his oat habit."
But the reality is prices are going up all over the place. Gas prices are going up, food prices are going up, supply chain issues… We've got war in Ukraine. You know, we have conflict in the Middle East. We have human trafficking. We have political maneuvering and conflict as men exercise their desires for power and influence and the list goes on. And these things, it feels like, are coming with increasing intensity. For those of you ladies that are not at the women's weekend that have given birth, you know those contractions get faster and faster as it gets closer and closer to the birth. We see those birth pangs today.
Romans 8:28-30 "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose, for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined, these He also called. Whom He called, He also justified and whom He justified, these He also glorified." And so, we see to a certain extent the man who loves and trusts God implicitly, even the unpleasant things in life can be viewed as good. They can be viewed as lessons learned. They can be viewed as opportunities for empathy.
And Paul writes that these are the things that are available to those who are “the called” according to God's purposes. Word purpose in there is the Greek word prothesis. It's the Greek word prothesis. It's G4286. And what prothesis means is a setting forth of something. It means placing something in view, providing something with a specific purpose. In fact, in the Septuagint, if you go back and look at the use of the word in the Septuagint which is the Greek Old Testament, they use that word to describe the showbread because the showbread was placed out for a specific reason to be viewed. Now classical Greek—the word became a little bit different.
Prothesis, if you look it up online, you can see that it's become a word that describes funeral procedures after someone has died. That comes because the original prothesis was placing the body out for a viewing after the person had died. We still do that today. You know, sometimes there's viewings in funerals and other things. That's the idea behind a prothesis. All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who have been called according to God placing them in view, selecting them specifically for a purpose, for a reason, and placing those things out there because those are the individuals that He has chosen to be conformed to the image of his son.
Those who were chosen were called and were justified and were glorified. Brethren, that's you and I. That's us. You know, Mr. Armstrong used to always ask the question at the Feast of Tabernacles. Why are you here? You know, why are you here? I want to ask that same question today but in a slightly different way and I want you to take a second and I want you to write your response in your notes. Why are you here? What is the purpose for why you have been called? What is the reason for our presence in this assembly? What is God doing in our lives? Why are you here? I'm going to give you a minute to think about that. I'm going to give you a minute to write that down and I'm going to try not to talk. Dead air is hard when you're up here by yourself.
Okay, and as you're writing, what's the purpose for your calling? What's the reason for your presence in this assembly, in this ecclesia? What's God doing in our lives? Why are you here?
So, I have no idea how long that was. It felt like an eternity to me but it was probably only 30 seconds. So that's usually how it goes. Keep jotting your thought down, that's fine. I'm going to keep going here. You know, when you consider the calling that we've been given, the reality is none of us are really anything special. None of us are really anything special. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 talks about how God purposefully selects those that are not wise, that are not mighty, that are not noble. Says He chooses the foolish or the based things of the world and He does that for a very specific reason. He does it to put to shame the strong. To put to shame the strong.
Because when something amazing happens as the result of just regular people, the only possible conclusion is that God did it. You know, you put a group of magnates like Elon Musk, you know, Jeff Bezos, you know, the technocrats so to speak of the world. They come up with a good idea or something, you can go, "Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it's Elon Musk, it's Jeff Bezos." It's like, "Yeah, of course they could figure out how to put a rocket in space. No problem! Anybody up for that? Should we build a rocket? Anybody? No?” Okay, a couple of kids, yeah, definitely. I can tell you right now where the rocket would go that I'd try to build. Ain't going far unless God said, "Hey, build a rocket." In which case everybody would do what they did to Noah and make fun of me for building a rocket in my backyard.
Point is God uses—it's a small backyard, very large rocket. The point is that God uses regular people, and throughout history that's the pattern that we've seen God utilize. In fact, the men that he's chosen to serve, to work miracles through, to take the Gospel to the world...honestly, think about the disciples. Think about the disciples. You can't get much more ordinary than the disciples. It's a group of fishermen. It's a group of fishermen, a tax collector, a zealot, and a couple of other guys that we don't quite know exactly what it is that they did. The Jewish people felt that they were uneducated meaning they hadn't gone forth in their Torah studies. They weren't really uneducated. I mean, they could speak and write multiple languages, you know. They were smart guys. They had the ability to do some of these things no problem.
But to the educated, religious educated at the time, they weren't the ones that were competing with other people to be able to follow a rabbi. But Jesus saw something in them, each and every one of them. He saw something in them that He could offer the opportunity to them to follow him, to develop and to grow. And despite the stutters that we see throughout that time when they're with Christ, despite the issues and the challenges that we see, we do eventually see them get it. We eventually see them get it. We see them serve God's people without concern for their health, for their safety, for their well-being.
Majority of them served to the point of their deaths. But it was at that time when God said, "Follow me," that He knew and saw who and what they would become. Despite Peter's brashness, you know, despite some of the other character issues that some of those individuals had, He called them because of who they would become, how they would ultimately serve Him. And when they received God's spirit, their perspective changed. It changed. They realized it wasn't about them, that it was about spreading the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and serving the people whom God called. And they did it without fail. They did it without fail.
These men faced down the Roman Empire. They faced down the Sanhedrin. They fought heresy, all the while caring for and comforting the flock as they went through the challenges of the first century. Just a bunch of fishermen. That's it. Just a bunch of fishermen. They were ordinary men in the hands of an extraordinary God.
God has a long history of this process. God works with ordinary people to do incredible extraordinary things. And brethren, each and every one of us at this time are in the midst of the examination process prior to the Passover. We're all looking at and considering the upcoming Passover, the spring Holy Days, just a few weeks away at this point. As part of that process, it's worth examining, it's worth considering God's plan for us, God's purposes for us, the reason that He may have called us, the reason that he's given us this opportunity, and how we can fulfill that calling more effectively. You know, as I look out over this group gathered here today, you know, this congregation, I see a bunch of regular people and that's awesome. You know, that is fantastic. I see a bunch of regular people. I don't see oil barons. You know, I don't see, you know, princes and kings in this world. In the world to come, yes, you know, queens and princesses. But I'm looking out over a congregation of regular people that are full of talents that God provided them.
Some of you have incredible writing abilities. Some of you are amazing artists. You have musical abilities. Some of you have the ability to comfort and to strengthen and to encourage. Some of you just pray and pray and pray and pray and pray and all of those things are needed. Everybody has their talents. Everybody has the things that they do. Some of you song lead, some of you speak. I think sometimes we think that those things are more service than others and it's not the case. It's those other things that people don't think are always service that are really the important things. Everybody's got their talents but everybody's also got their fears, they have their doubts, they have their self-limitations, they have their reasons why they can't serve in that way at that time.
Brethren, we're called to serve. We're called to serve, we're called to step out in faith, to use the talents that God's provided us in support of his work because while all of us are ordinary people, we are in the hands of a God that is extraordinary. And the possibilities in his hands are limitless.