In the Bible we have many major characters who did Godís bidding on a large scale. People like Moses, Samuel and David did many great deeds for the kingdom of Israel. Much is known about these heroes of the faith. But what about those minor characters that come and go fleetingly through the pages of the Bible, whose impact on the nation was major, but in a quieter way. Here we find people like Ruth and Hannah, Elijah and the widow of Zarepheth, and so many more. Letís look at these men and women of faith to find what their contribution to Godís plan entailed and brought forth for the world at large.
We begin with sweet, gentle, humble and kind, Ruth. Ruth didnít know that God had a great reason for the death of her husband. Because of this death, Ruth was left with no way to take care of herself since, in biblical times, it was the man who supplied all the family needed to live. Ruth decided to follow her mother-in-law, Naomi, to Bethlehem, for Naomi, too, needed someone to look after her in her old age. Even though Ruth was a Moabite, and the Israelites were not allowed to inter-marry other cultures, God brought her together with a land-owner named Boaz who would soon become Ruthís new husband and caretaker for both her and her mother-in-law Naomi. The significance of this meeting and marriage was that the line of David, and ultimately the Messiah of Israel, began. Because of Ruthís gentle and kind nature, she could not abandon Naomi to suffer alone with no husband to take care of her. Instead of going back to Moab to find a suitable mate, Ruth decided that taking care of Naomi was the bigger object of her attention and mercy. Ruthís nature was admired by all who heard her story, especially Boaz.
And then there is Hannah, the Prophet Samuelís mother. Hannah and her husband were trying to have a child. One day, Hannah went up to the Temple and prayed for a child, and that, if that child were a son, she would dedicate him to the Lord for His work. After the boy had weaned she did so immediately, leaving the child there at the Temple for the priests to raise in the Lord. This son, whom she named Samuel (heard of God), became one of the greatest prophets of the age. It was Samuel who anointed Israelís first king, Saul. After Saul had displeased God, it was Samuel who followed Godís direction and had David anointed king even before Saul had been taken out of the position. Because of Hannahís incredible sacrifice of giving up her first-born child to the Temple, and because of Ruthís unfailing love towards Naomi, Israel knew the reign of their greatest king, King David, who gave the nation of Israel their longest peace-time years.
Then there was Elijah, the prophet who angered a Queen (Jezebel) after God had put her priests of Baal to death at Elijahís hand. Jezebel wanted him dead because of this, though it is ironic that Elijah prophesized the violent deaths of Jezebel and her husband years after the Baal incident. Knowing that Jezebel wanted him dead, Elijah went on the run and hid from the world, but couldnít hide from God. God found him, fed him, and sent him to anoint new kings for the nation (Hazael king over Syria, and Jehu king over Israel) and to anoint Elisha as the next prophet over them. The scene with the priests of Baal, God showed the idol gods that He was ruler of all the earth, not they. Elijah was nervous about going through with the process of how it was done, but gained the strength of God to do it. God was glorified even though Jezebel and he husband didnít change their ways. Elijah shows us that we can still be overcomers if we rely on Godís strength to accomplish our mission. Even when we try to run and hide, God is still with us and will help us get back to the task He has handed us to do.
The woman at Zarephath was running out of food. Elijah showed up at her door one day and asked her for a drink of water, which she got for him. But when he asked for food, the widow remarked that she had only enough oil and meal for her and her son to eat one more loaf of bread. Elijah, knowing that God will supply all that is needed, told her to use what she had and bake the loaf of bread for him to eat. As she did so in obedience, she found that her jars would not empty, no matter how much she poured out. When her son became sick, Elijah implored to God to heal the child and God did so. The widow knew that, through Elijah, God was truthful and could be relied on to get them through the famine that covered the land for the moment.
In all of these lives we see the Glory of God. In and through these lives, God continued His plan to redeem His creation, and that He would do whatever it took to accomplish that plan. Because of these lives, the plan of salvation was carried out in the person and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through these lives we see how much God loves what He has created in how He not only changed the lives of those He had chosen to accomplish His plan, but how He changed the lives who had been touched by those same people. Ruthís obedience brought her happiness. Hannahís sacrifice brought her later fame as a mother who had Godís will instead of her own in mind. The widow of Zarephath had enough food to last her throughout the famine until the rains came once again. Elijah became the first man to get to heaven without having to die first (no one is absolutely sure about Moses yet). In all of these lives God was greatly glorified. And we, in this time, have been encouraged by the faith in God these lives have shown us. Because of them, we can go about our days knowing that if, and when, God calls us to a mission He needs done, we can go with the full assurance from the lives we find in the Bible, that God will be with us and will accomplish the plan of salvation He began even before the world had begun.