Most churches give people the idea that the great men, leaders and prophets of God throughout the Bible were all respectable, conventional examples of exemplary behaviour.--Men who, were they living today, would no doubt be ideal members of society; good, upright church-goers and civic-minded citizens.
However, if we take a look directly into the Word of God--not in the churches' interpretations and explanations of the famous Bible characters' lives, but what the BIBLE itself says about them--we see that the great "saints" were anything BUT conventional! They were men of FAITH who simply believed GOD enough to follow His leadings and obey His commandments no matter WHAT He told them, even when they had no idea WHY God was asking them to do certain things!
More often than not, God required them to do things completely CONTRARY to their own natural expectations, their own natural reasoning. They were men who "walked by FAITH and not by sight" (2Corinthians 5:7), who did things just because God said so. Sometimes they even ARGUED with the Lord, telling Him that that just wasn't the way to do it, or that surely there must be a better way! But when they finally let go & let God have HIS way, they always found out God was right and that HIS way was the BEST way!
It's often been said that, "God works in MYSTERIOUS ways His wonders to perform", and a study of the lives of the famous Bible characters whom God used certainly proves this true! In fact, God LOVES to do things contrary to our NATURAL expectation!--Because that takes a MIRACLE, and that shows that it's GOD'S doing and NOT MAN'S, and gives HIM the opportunity to manifest His supernatural power, and therefore HE gets ALL the GLORY!
The Lord says, "MY thoughts are NOT YOUR thoughts, neither are YOUR ways MY ways! For as the Heavens are higher than the Earth, so are MY ways higher than your ways, and MY thoughts higher than your thoughts!"--Isaiah 55:8,9. The "proper" way of doing things is usually of Man. But the UNEXPECTED and the IMPROPER, the UNCONVENTIONAL and UNTRADITIONAL, the UNORTHODOX and UNCEREMONIOUS, CONTRARY to Man's NATURAL expectation--this is the way that GOD usually works!
This is why the Lord says to His children, "I have chosen you to be a PECULIAR people unto Myself!"--Deuteronomy 14:2. Those who truly love and follow the Lord will always be DIFFERENT, "peculiar", compared to the vast majority of an unbelieving World.--Which is why God's children, prophets and leaders are often viewed by the rest of the World as a bunch of odd-balls, religious fanatics or just plain NUTS!
But the way that the WORLD looks at things is usually very DIFFERENT from the way that GOD looks at things.--"For the NATURAL (logical and carnal) man does NOT receive the things of the SPIRIT of GOD; for they are FOOLISHNESS unto him, neither can he know them, because they must be SPIRITUALLY understood!"--1Corinthians 2:14. Jesus even said, "That which is HIGHLY VALUED among MEN is an ABOMINATION in the sight of GOD!"--Luke 16:15.
Imagine how the wicked World must have looked on NOAH, who suddenly began building a GIGANTIC SHIP on DRY LAND! Day after day he toiled away for 120 years, until finally the great ocean vessel was complete! It was totally UNIMAGINABLE, UNEXPECTED and UNBELIEVABLE! It was so ridiculous, so complete ly unreasonable, they surely must have thought that Noah had lost his mind, because no one had ever tried to do anything like that before!--It'd never even RAINED before!
But Noah and his sons obeyed God and built that boat anyway, faithfully warning an unbelieving World of the impending judgements of God. And though he was laughed at and mocked, he had the last laugh, for the Flood came just like he said it would, and the very waters that drowned the wicked World literally saved Noah and his family by lifting the Ark high above the Earth below!--Genesis 6-8.
Another very unconventional character was DAVID, the greatest king that Israel ever had. From the start, David's life and ministry were contrary to natural expectation. When God's prophet, Samuel, went to Bethlehem to anoint one of the sons of Jesse to be the next king, he met the strong and handsome eldest son, Eliab, & thought, "Surely THIS one is the Lord's anointed!"--1Samuel 16:6. But the Lord told Samuel, "Do not consider his APPEARANCE or his HEIGHT, for I do not look at things as MAN looks at things; for MAN looks on the OUTWARD appear ance, but the LORD looks on the HEART!"--1Samuel 16:7.
After meeting and prayerfully looking over Jesse's six other sons, Samuel said, "The Lord has not chosen any of these. Are these ALL the sons you have, Jesse?"Jesse replied, "Well, there is still the YOUNGEST, but he is out tending the sheep."
Samuel sent for him, and as soon as David entered the room--the one who was so small & young that his own father did not even consider him being chosen--the Lord told Samuel, "Arise and anoint him, THIS is the one I have chosen to be king!"--1Samuel 16:12.
A short time later, David's famous confrontation with Goliath took place. King Saul initially refused to let David go meet the giant in battle, realising that this little shepherd boy was no match for the mighty man of war. But when Saul saw that David would not be deterred, he insisted that David wear his royal armour and take his sword. But David declined, and went to battle armed with his wooden shepherd's staff, a sling and a few stones.
The great Goliath was so insulted to see such a weak-looking opponent coming to meet him that he roared with contempt, "Am I a DOG that you send a BOY to fight me with STICKS?"--1Samuel 17:43.
But David shouted back, "You come to me with a sword, spear and shield, but I come to you in the NAME of the LORD of hosts, Whom you have defied! And the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and all present shall know that the Lord is not dependent on a sword or spear: For the battle is the LORD'S and HE will deliver you into my hand!"--1Samuel 17:45-47.
David then loaded his faithful slingshot, ran toward Goliath and cut loose with just one honest bit of rock, and the Philistine phoney bit the dust! And the LORD won a great victory!--In a way completely contrary to anything that the seasoned generals and advisors of Israel's army had ever dreamt or imagined!
Another example of the absolutely unorthodox way in which God works can be found in the story of GIDEON. Gideon was the simple son of a simple farmer, but the Lord was with him, and he found himself commanding an army of 32,000 soldiers of Israel. Before engaging the vastly superior forces of the enemy, "the Midianites, the Amalekites, and all the the children of the East, who lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude, without number!" (Judges 7:12), the Lord surprised Gideon by telling him, "The people that are with you are TOO MANY for Me to deliver the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel exalt THEMSELVES against Me and say, `Mine OWN hand has saved me!'"--Judges 7:2.
So the Lord had Gideon send home 31,700 men, leaving him with a tiny band of only 300 soldiers! Then the Lord told Gideon to do about the CRAZIEST thing you ever heard of in order to win a battle!--He divided his 300 men into three bands, and armed each man with a TRUMPET and a CLAY PITCHER with a LAMP burning inside of it!--The World's first firebombs, or "Molotov cocktails"! They then crept up on the sprawling camp of their enemies by night, spreading out and surrounding it from all sides. Then Gideon gave the signal, and all of his men began shouting and yelling, blowing their trumpets and breaking their pitchers at once!
The Midianites were so startled and ter rified to be awoken by the horrible crash and clatter of 300 pieces of pottery breaking at once and the sudden flood of light from 300 brightly burning fires surrounding them from all sides, combined with the tremendous racket of Gideon's orchestra of 300 TRUMPETERS, that they panicked and in confusion literally began slaying each other! "And all the host ran and cried and fled, and the Lord set their OWN swords against each other, and the entire army fled before Gideon!"--Judges 7:15-22.
What a RIDICULOUS way to win a battle! What an INGLORIOUS way to conquer the enemy! It seemed stupid, idiotic, unheard of!--But GOD did it! And Gideon & Israel could only thank GOD for the victory, because all they did was something absolutely ABSURD like breaking pitchers, waving torches, tooting trumpets and yelling their heads off, while GOD did all the dirty work! Who could possibly get the credit for THAT kind of a battle except the LORD?--Certainly not a fool like Gideon who was crazy enough to believe God and follow His illogical leadings!
Frequently the Lord told His prophets to do some very shocking, unorthodox & uncon ventional things just to JOLT the people out of their lethargy and make them pay ATTENTION to His message to them. In some cases He had His prophets act out certain parts, or play certain roles, in order to vividly portray and illustrate His messages in ways the people couldn't forget--demonstrations!
Theologians and Bible scholars often refer to the great prophet, ISAIAH, as "the ROYAL prophet" or "the NOBLE prophet", but very few seem to realise that he was also "the NAKED prophet"! "And the Lord told Isaiah, 'Go and remove the clothing from off your loins, and take off your sandals from your feet!', and Isaiah did so, and WALKED NAKED and BAREFOOT! And the Lord said, 'Like My servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for THREE YEARS for a SIGN and a WONDER unto Egypt and to Ethiopia, so shall the King of Assyria lead away the Egyptians and the Ethiopians as captives and prisoners, naked and barefoot, with their buttocks bared, to the shame of these nations!'"--Isaiah 20:2-4.
IMAGINE!--The prophet of God running around STARK NAKED for THREE YEARS to show the people of Egypt and Ethiopia how they would shamefully be carried away captive and punished for their sins! Sounds CRAZY, doesn't it? Well, it WAS, but it was GOD'S doing!
The Lord also had His prophet, Ezekiel, put on a dramatic public demonstration to warn His people.--A demonstration that was so unusual, so improper, such an exhibition of "abnormal" and "anti-social" behaviour, if anyone were to pull such a stunt in most "enlightened" and "civilised" countries today, they'd be immediately jailed or locked up in a mental institution!
Under God's instructions, Ezekiel took a large clay tablet and drew on it a picture of the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem. He then laid SIEGE against this representation of Jerusalem, building ramps and setting up miniature battering-rams around it. He then lay down on his side before it for 430 DAYS!
The Lord instructed him beforehand to prepare a large container of wheat, barley & beans, from which he was to make rations of bread for himself for the entire 14-month period. The Lord then turned poor Ezekiel's stomach by telling him, "Eat this food as you would a barley cake; bake it with DUNG that comes out of a MAN, in the sight of the people! For thus saith the Lord, even so shall the children of Israel eat DEFILED BREAD among the Gentiles where I will drive them!"--Ezekiel 4:12,13.
Being a strict orthodox Jew who had always observed all the dietary laws of Moses, Ezekiel protested, "Oh, Lord God! I have never defiled myself! From my youth until now I have never eaten any unclean food!"
"Very well," the Lord answered. "I will give you COW'S dung instead of man's dung, and you shall prepare your bread with IT!"--Ezekiel 4:14-15. So for 430 days, Ezekiel beseiged a clay representation of the city of Jerusalem & lay on his side eating rationed portions of dung bread in order to forewarn the people of the judgements that were soon to befall them!
The prophet HOSEA was instructed to put on a demonstration that was perhaps more pleasurable than Isaiah's, but neverthelsss very unorthodox and unusual! To demonstrate to backslidden Israel how their sins and idolatry were spiritual adultery in His eyes, God commanded Hosea, "Go, take a woman of whoredoms, a PROSTITUTE, and MARRY her, for the land has committed great whoredom in departing from the Lord!"--Hosea 1:2. Despite all of their religious laws, conventions and traditions against such action, Hosea promptly found a prostitute whom he married, and by whom he had three children.
Then to show His Love for His people despite their unfaithfulness to Him, after Hosea's wife left him for other lovers, the Lord told him, "Go, show love to your wife again, though she is loved by another. Love her as the Lord loves His people, though they turn to other gods." Hosea obeyed, and says, "So I bought her back to me for 15 pieces of silver."--Hosea 3:1,2.
Hosea's marriage certainly wasn't the respectable sort of relationship that preachers are usually expected to have, but it was GOD'S doing, and served as a powerful example and reminder to His people of HIS relationship with them!
No greater testimony of God's DISREGARD for the traditions, conventions, expectations and opinions of men can be found than that of the birth, life and death of His Own Son, JESUS! Think how much more RESPECTABLE and ACCEPTABLE it would have been if the King of kings had been born in a PALACE with illustrious members of the court in attendance, with all the honor and praise of Rome!--But no, God chose to have His Own Son come into this World born on the dirty floor of a barn with the cows and the asses and the smell of all that manure, wrapped in rags and laid to rest in an animal feed trough with a motley crew of poor little shepherd boys kneeling on the floor beside Him!
Common sense tells us that Jesus could have gotten off to a better, more respectable start if He'd had the approval and blessing of the system of His day. But instead of having a prominent potentate, a man of influence and power, for an earthly father, God chose Joseph the CARPENTER, a humble hewer of wood.
Instead of this truly first family being received, recognised & reverenced by the World, Mary and Joseph were forced to become FUGITIVES from injustice, fleeing for their lives with baby Jesus into a foreign country as if they were common criminals!
And consider the sort of DISCIPLES Jesus chose: Instead of selecting SCHOLARS from the SANHEDRIN--the Jewish religious court where the great learned Doctors of the Law and the nation's best theologians and priests were trained--He chose a bunch of stinking FISHERMEN and even a despised TAX COLLECTOR to be His closest followers, as well as some of the town's worst HARLOTS and RADICALS!
Instead of COOPERATING with and securing the blessing of the powerful religious system and its hierarchy, He continually CHALLENGED the churches of His day, DEFYING their CONVENTIONS and DESTROYING their TRADITIONS, even telling them that the great TEMPLE, around which their entire religion revolved, was going to be DESTROYED!--No wonder they accused Him of sacrilege and blasphemy!
And imagine, He personally made a WHIP and stormed into their hallowed Temple grounds, lashing the money changers, busting up the furniture and spilling all their money--on two or three different occasions! He must have KNOWN that the big-shot religionists wouldn't be too pleased with such actions and were bound to get Him in the end!--Which they DID!--And WHAT an end!--To be WHIPPED and STRIPPED and publicly executed, crucified cruelly on a CROSS to die between two THIEVES!
Then the Lord picked PAUL to be one of His leading Apostles!--Surely the Lord must have known that the Jews wouldn't like the idea of one of their top men turning into a radical Christian! Even the BRETHREN doubted the wisdom of such a thing, and found it hard to believe that their worst persecutor could suddenly be their bosom buddy! Paul's life was so RADICAL, so FANATICAL, it was totally CONTRARY to what most people today think a Christian should be like!
Realising how the rest of the World looked on him, Paul wrote to some rather well-to-do compromising Christians, "We Apostles are a SPECTACLE unto the World! We are FOOLS for Christ!--But YOU are WISE. We are WEAK, but YOU are STRONG. You are honoured, but WE are DESPISED! To this very hour we go hungry, thirsty and are naked, persecuted, and have no certain dwelling place. We are as the SCUM of the Earth, the REFUSE of this World!"--1Corinthians 4:9-13.
Time and space would fail us to tell of ABRAHAM, who left his home country to take off and travel for the Lord for the rest of his life, "not knowing whither he went"!--Hebrews 11:8.--Or of MOSES, who forsook Egypt and the position of a Pharaoh and all of the wealth and power he could have wanted, to become a shepherd in the wilderness, who returned 40 years later to defy Pharaoh and to free his people!--Or of SAMSON, who was always cracking jokes, chasing women, and slew 1,000 of his enemies single-handedly with the jawbone of an ass!--Or of JEREMIAH, who ran around wearing an ox-yoke as he prophesied his nation's doom and captivity, and was consequently hung in the public stocks and thrown in prison, branded as a traitor to his own people!--Or of PETER, ANDREW, JAMES and JOHN, who suddenly left their families' fishing business to take off with a total Stranger Who called, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of MEN!"--Matthew 4:19.
There are countless other examples of dedicated men and women of God throughout the Bible and history whose lives vividly demonstrate that, indeed, the Lord DOES work in MYSTERIOUS ways His wonders to perform!-Almost always preferring to do things CONTRARY to NATURAL expectation, just to show that HE is GOD, and the BOSS, and can do ANYTHING--even the IMPOSSIBLE--REGARDLESS of natural conditions and circumstances or Man's traditions or conventions!
His followers are often poor, weak and not very well educated--certainly not the kind of men or women that the World expects could ever really accomplish anything. But the Bible says that God actually CHOOSES and PREFERS to use this kind of person. He says, "NOT MANY WISE men after the flesh, not many MIGHTY, not many NOBLE are called: But God has chosen the FOOLISH things of this World to CONFOUND the WISE, and God has chosen the WEAK things of the World to CONFOUND the things which are MIGHTY; and the LOWLY things of the World and the things which are DESPISED has God chosen, yea, and the thing which are NOTHING to bring to nothing the things that are something, so that NO FLESH should glory in His presence!"--1Corinthians 1:25-29.
The Lord chooses and uses such people because they know that their OWN ideas, their OWN strength, their OWN wisdom are NOT ENOUGH, and therefore they HAVE to lean on HIM and follow HIS leadings, and are willing to go GOD'S way no matter how CRAZY it may seem sometimes!--Even if it's unconventional, unexpected, improper, illogical and completely contrary to Man's so-called "norm"!
In fact, if you are really willing to follow GOD, to be a faithful WITNESS for the Lord, you cannot help but go AGAINST the normal, acceptable, respectable, traditional ways of the WORLD, "for whosoever will be a FRIEND of the WORLD is the ENEMY of GOD!"--James 4:4.
God help YOU to follow HIM and HIS Will and HIS Word!--NOT MAN'S way but GOD'S way! If you're willing to buck the tide and go GOD'S way, standing up for Jesus and telling others about the Lord, He will mightily BLESS you and be WITH you and make you a GREAT BLESSING to many!--And even if the unbelieving WORLD mocks, ridicules and REJECTS you, HE will praise, honour and ACCEPT you, welcoming you Home one day into His Heavenly City with glorious eternal rewards!--"Well done, My good and faithful servant!--Enter into the JOY of your Lord!"--Matthew 25:23.--Will THESE be His Words of welcome to YOU?
My name is James Arendt. I was raised in the Hegewisch neighborhood on the southeast side of Chicago, Illinois, served in the USAF from 1970 to 1974, and became a full-time missionary for Christ living 40 years in Japan, 3.5 years in Russia, and a few months in other countries such as Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, South Korea, Taiwan and mainland China where I also served the King of Kings, Jesus, as an Ambassador for His Kingdom.
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