- Palitha Jayasooriya
- 2021 24 Mar
The world remembers 9/11 every year. That date is firmly etched in the minds of people all over the world as we remember the destruction that took place on that day. In the midst of all the tragic events that unfolded, however, many unknown men and women stood out as real-life, flesh and blood heroes – some even giving their lives to save others.
Every nation has its heroes in most walks of life, and that’s true of my beloved nation Sri Lanka as well. It’s good to remember them with honor and gratitude for the impact they have had on our nation.
The Bible, too, has its list of famous heroes, many of whom are preached about on any given Sunday. However, there are also quite a few lesser-known heroes of the Bible that are sadly not highlighted too often. I would like to call them the unseen heroes, or the lesser-known heroes of the Bible. Although not known too well, they were nevertheless effective in the role they played to fulfill God’s plan for their generation.
In this article, I would like to highlight three lesser-known heroes of the faith who impacted God’s work profoundly.
In the Book of Acts, we come across this faithful, respected disciple whose name is recorded in just two passages of Scripture. Yet, what he was called to do, though an unpleasant task for him, would impact Christianity forever. The disciple’s name was Ananias, and he was directed by God to minister to the deadliest enemy of the Christian faith at that time – Saul.
Saul, in fact, had just arrived in Ananias’ town, Damascus, with reportedly a clear agenda. It was to arrest all Christians, including Ananias, and to deport them forcibly to Jerusalem. It was a mission intended to create terror among the Christian community in Damascus.
When Ananias was therefore commissioned by God to go and pray for Saul, who was now blinded, it would have been a task that he probably never wanted to be a part of (Acts 9:11-12). He almost certainly would have been in hiding when the Lord spoke to him in a vision. Since his knowledge of how the Lord had met Saul on the Damascus road would have been hazy, Ananias argued the matter with God (Acts 9:13-14). I can only imagine the tension he went through as he set out on what he may have considered to be ‘Mission Impossible!’ However, he handled this unpleasant assignment with incredible grace.
As we follow the story in Acts 9:17-19, we see that Ananias fearlessly approaches Saul, and calls him by the loving term ‘brother.’ He also lays hands on Saul, praying for his sight to be restored and for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ananias then begins to mentor this enemy of the faith, eventually guiding him into being baptized. As a result, Saul immediately began preaching about Jesus (Acts 9:20).
What a powerful testimony for a man whose ministry is recorded in just two passages in the Bible! Many years later, Saul, now known as the famous Apostle Paul, speaks endearingly of how Ananias ministered to him on that eventful day (Acts 22:12-16). He gratefully remembered Ananias’ role in his now powerful ministry.
Ebed-Melek was from a Cushite background and served in the palace of King Zedekiah in the time of Jeremiah the prophet. The story, found in Jeremiah 38:1-13, recalls how Jeremiah is imprisoned in a cistern filled with mud by the spineless King Zedekiah, with the real possibility of having to face death (Jeremiah 38:4-9). The plot to imprison Jeremiah had been hatched through the maneuverings of some powerful but corrupt government officials who hated Jeremiah’s prophecies (Jeremiah 38:1-5).
When the situation looked precarious for Jeremiah, Ebed-Melek stepped in; and what a difference it made. He decided that he would not sit back and watch the prophet’s demise. Instead, he courageously went on a dangerous mission to the king to intercede for Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38:7-9).
Such a mission could have had serious consequences for Ebed-Melek, considering that powerful men had been behind the plot. However, the king responded favorably to his request and gave Ebed-Melek permission to release Jeremiah from the cistern. He was also given the protection of a 30-man security contingent for the mission (Jeremiah 38:10).
Not only did Ebed-Melek get Jeremiah released, but he also felt Jeremiah’s pain. He knew that Jeremiah’s armpits would have been wounded when he was let down by ropes into the cistern. He also realized that those same wounds would be aggravated when Jeremiah was being pulled out of the cistern with ropes. So, what did he do?
The Scripture says that Ebed-Melek first went to a room under the treasury where he could get some rags and worn-out clothes (Jeremiah 38:11). Then, he let down the ropes with the rags, advising Jeremiah to put the rags and worn-out clothes under his arms to pad the ropes, so that his body would not get injured further (Jeremiah 38:12-13).
A quote I came across reminds me of Ebed-Melek’s act of love. It says, “Duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.”
Not too long after, Jeremiah was hauled out of the cistern to safety and subsequently continued his powerful ministry to the nation. As a result of what he did for Jeremiah, God prophetically assured Ebed-Melek of his unfailing protection in the tumultuous days ahead (Jeremiah 39:15-18).
God never forgets his children, nor does he forget what we do for him (Isaiah 49:15). Humans often forget, but not our Lord!
3. An Unknown Servant
The third unseen hero is, sadly, an unknown person. What he did, however, would impact the history of the nation of Israel profoundly because it had an impact on the life of Israel’s greatest king, David.
David, as we well know, remains a legendary personality in the history of Israel, whose life and story has inspired millions. He was known as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22) and was the benchmark around whom worship styles were built in the Old Testament. Even today, David remains the benchmark for the ministry of worship.
However, prior to his unprecedented success as king, warrior, and worship maestro, David’s dreams of greatness would have been a distant dream. He would only have had the promise of future kingship – a promise received when he was anointed by the Prophet Samuel, to hold on to (1 Samuel 16:13). He was by all accounts just another unknown young man in Israel at that time.
So, the question is, how did David enter King Saul’s palace and get used to royal life? How did he train as a warrior and become an armor bearer for Saul (1 Samuel 16:21)? How did he end up being a back-up musician in Saul’s royal band (1 Samuel 16:23)? Who spoke up for him and gave him the break he needed?
The answer to those questions is very significant. David found his way into the royal court because an unnamed servant spoke up and recommended David’s brilliant playing of the harp to Saul. He also spoke about David’s valor, oratory skills, and faith (1 Samuel 16:18).
Yes, that is how David’s palace journey began. It was through an unknown person who is a little-known hero in the Bible. What this unknown person did, however, would impact Israel’s future beyond what he ever thought possible.
So, to conclude this article about 3 lesser-known heroes in the Bible, let us honor and encourage all the unknown men and women who serve God faithfully, whose names may never be widely known. That includes pastors, Sunday school and other teachers, youth leaders, counselors, choir singers, writers, mothers, fathers, mentors… and the list goes on!! It’s people like you reading this article today!
Be assured that even though your name may never be known publicly, God and His Kingdom are greatly blessed by what you faithfully and lovingly do. So, keep on doing what you do so well, because your ministry may well impact another Paul, Jeremiah, or David.
While the glory for your ministry should go to The Lord Jesus Who is our ultimate Hero, who knows? Maybe one day, many will look at you, young and old alike, and express the feelings reflected in the pop song made popular by Bette Midler and Lou Rawls:
“Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I would like to be
I can fly higher than an eagle
You are the wind beneath my wings”
Use me LORD, in my life Your will be done, Amen.