Church history is often about how certain biblical truths can get lost or downplayed, and then later rediscovered or re-prioritised. One such biblical truth is the priesthood of all believers. The idea that we all play a vital role in God’s work, all have direct access to God through Christ, and are all a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9) has ebbed and flowed at times.
But it needs to be reaffirmed big time. We are all of huge importance to God, and we must allow him to work through us. There are no nobodies in his Kingdom. Because of Christ we are all somebodies. The Bible makes this clear over and over again.
For example, in the Bible we often find lists of people. Many are genealogical in nature. But many are simply lists of a number of individuals who have been used by God in various ways. An obvious example is the spiritual hall of fame, listing the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
Here I wish to look at two such lists found in the Old Testament which stood out as I read them recently. In 1 Chronicles 11-12 we find a list of David’s mighty warriors – all those brave souls who stood with David, fought for David, and often died for David.
For example, we read this: “Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard” (11:22-25).
David and Yahweh both thought it prudent to record the names and deeds of these great men. And of course we read elsewhere how this band of warriors came to be. Where did they come from? 1 Samuel 22:1-2 informs us: “So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.”
All the losers, in other words, the outcasts, the nobodies, the no-hopers, attached themselves to David. They became David’s mighty men, and performed amazing exploits for their David and their God. So here in Chronicles we get a listing of some of these heroes and their great deeds.
In Nehemiah 3 we find another list, this time of all those who worked on the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall. Here we have a whole list of ordinary Joes whose names live on in history for the faithful work they did. No one would know of them otherwise, but God thought it meet and proper to record their names for perpetuity.
Here is a small sampling: “The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah – Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth – places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.” (3:6-12).
So why all this minutia about long forgotten people and a long forgotten wall? God thought the toil of these Israelites was important, because it was done for him, for his glory, and for his city. Yahweh notices the small things done in his name, for his work.
As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. Your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Earlier in ch. 12:12-20 he reminded the Corinthians that they were all important, and all have an important place in the Body of Christ:
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
No one is insignificant or lacking in value in God’s kingdom. We all have a place, and we all have a role to play. We are all here by the sovereign call of God, and we all have a job to do. Every person is unique and invaluable in God’s eyes.
As Francis Schaeffer said at the end of his sermon, “No Little People, No Little Places”: “Each Christian is to be a rod of God in the place of God for him. We must remember throughout our lives that in God’s sight, there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God’s place for us, at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people and little places, if committed to Christ and living under His Lordship and the whole of life may, by God’s grace, change the flow of our generation.”
So Christian: hold that head up high, stop whining and complaining, stop thinking you have nothing to contribute, and start letting God use you in big and mighty ways. After all, if he can use those “in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented” then he can use any one of us.
Indeed, if he can stoop down to use a cracked vessel such as myself (2 Corinthians 4:7) then I know he can use you. Will you let him?