The Faith of the Obscure
We begin with a test of our knowledge of Bible people.
1. Who was Shiprah? And who was Puah? What did they do?
2. Who was Shamgar, the son of Anath. What did He do?
3. Who was Uriah, a son of Shemaiah, of Kiriath-jearim? What did this Uriah do and what happened to him. Do you know what this Uriah did... Or what happened to him?
4. Who was Eleazer, the son of Dodo? What did he do?
5. Who were Meshelemiah, Obed-edom, Shemaiah, Shuppim, and Hosah? How about the sons of Jehieli, Zetham and Joel his brother. What did these men accomplish?
The point of the questions is to remind us of some very obscure people in the Scriptures. Their deeds are recorded in the Bible, but they remain relatively unknown. These people constitute the “unsung of the faith.”
Now we continue with the answers.
!. Shiprah and Puah were the Hebrew midwives who ministered at the birth of Moses (Exodus 1:13-21). In doing so, they defied the orders of King Pharaoh because it was the right thing to do. They lived what Peter taught; “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:30). Note also that their story has the happy ending in that God blessed them for their moral stand (Ezodus 1:21). Today, we must consider their example that we must do what is right sometimes in spite of the evil commands of our Pharaohs.
2. Shamgar, the son of Anath, struck down 600 Philistines with an oxgoad; and he also saved Israel” (Judg 3:31). While the story is very brief, what Shamgar did makes him as brave, strong, and courageous as the judge Sampson. The record states “He also saved Israel,” and yet we don’t even know what he did. We don’t know; but God does!
3. Uriah the son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim “prophesied against this city and against this land words similar to all those of Jeremiah” (Jer 26:20-23). Today we have much of the prophecies of Jeremiah; but none of Uriah. But, in his day, the strong words of Uriah’s rebuke motivated King Jehoiakin to arrest him, even pursuing him into Egypt; and to put him to death with the sword. The king also “cast his dead body into the burial place of the common people’ as a symbol of his personal dislike for this faithful prophet of God.
Even though the story of Uriah is brief, it is not insignificant. God’s faithful, among who was Uriah, were “put to death with the sword” (Heb 11:37-40). He was indeed a great unsung hero of faith... even a martyr. Maybe we ought to remember him instead of that victim of David’s sin by the same name.
4. Eleazer, the son of Dodo was one of three mighty men who were with King David when they defied the Philistines (2 Sam 23:8-10). “He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the LORD brought about a great victory that day, (2 Sam 23:10). Can you imagine swinging your sword in battle until you hands are so tired that they are cramped and clamped onto it?
Eleazer was also one of those three might men who broke through the camp of the Philistines in order to secure for David some of the water by the gate at Bethlehem (2 Sam 23:13-14). This deed of bravery was thought by David to be so great that he dedicated the water as a drink offering to the LORD (2 Sam 23:15-17).
Let us let Eleazer teach us first about the first principles of loyalty and bravery. And let his story teach us about the significance of dedication to our Lord.
5. Again Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada was one of many Zechariahs in Scripture. This inspired priest of God confronted directly and personally King Joash. His sermon was "Thus God has said, 'Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, He has also forsaken you" (2 Chron 24:15-22).
Thus Joash had him stoned to death in the court of the house of the Lord. So Joash was one of the faithful who were stoned (men of whom the world was not worthy) (Heb 11:37-38). His stoning was not “outside the gate” but rather in the court of God’s house. Why did it happen?
It happened because he publicly rebuked the people for their apostasy.
Let us also take note that this Zechariah was regarded by Jewish historians as the last of the Old Testament martyrs, and he may well be coupled with Abel, the first martyr (Luke 11:49-51).
6. Meshelemiah, Obed-Edom, Shemaiah, Shuppim, Hosah, and the sons of Jehieli, Zetham and Joel his brother were just some of the names of the Levites who were the door keepers and the gate keepers at the time of king David (1 Chron 26:1-27). Now consider what David wrote about them. Ps 84:10, “I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God, Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
Not all the unsung heroes of faith defied the orders of Pharaoh, or slew the Philistines, or stole the water from Jacob’s well for the king. And not all were killed with the sword or stoned for standing up against apostasy in Israel. Some of the unsung heroes of faith had such mundane occupations as nothing more than gate keepers and door keepers, yet some of their names are recorded in the record of God’s servants. These are men whose deeds fall into that class of “a cup of cold water.”
Most people who on the day of judgement to whom the Lord will say “well done, thou good and faithful servant” will be people who no one ever heard of outside their own community. Most will be the humble servants of God whose work was no more significant than being a doorkeeper in the house of God.
We do not know for sure who it was that was sawn asunder or the names of those who suffered great afflictions (Heb 11:35-37); but, be sure, that they are all known to God. And, assuming their faithfulness in the service of God, their names (however unknown to us) are written in the book of life.
In closing, God has promised no one of us “our fifteen minutes of fame” for serving Him. He has not even promised to bless our houses as He did Sheprah and Puah. He certainly has not promised that we are excluded from a martyr’s death. But whether well known or lost to history, “let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12:1-2). This we must do in order to be found faith in eternity with God!