From Jim O'Brien
August 2, 2019


I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us - don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To croak your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

--Emily Dickinson

Hi Friend,

"God must love the common man," said Abraham Lincoln, "he made so many of them." He was right. God seems to love the unrecognized person who may think of himself as a "nobody".

When the army of Israel trembled before the giant Goliath, God chose a boy who was "nobody" to fight the trained warrior. We learned that one mere boy with the Spirit of God has more courage than an entire army.

But if we think that faith and courage are appreciated by brothers we would be disappointed. Goliath proved to be an easier opponent than David's eldest sibling Eliab. Even after the Prophet Samuel anointed David to be King, Eliab takes the role of accuser. He "burned with anger" at him. "Why have you come down here?" he demanded. "And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert?" (1 Samuel 17:28 NIV) The condescension fairly dripped from his words.

But Eliab wasn't finished. "I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is...."

"Oh!" David must have thought, "I feel better now! Those are just the words I needed before going into battle. If I trust in God and act on faith even my brother calls me wicked and arrogant."

You know the story. David defeated Goliath and went on to become a military leader. His reward? Saul offered his daughter to David in marriage. But David said to Saul, "Who am I, and what is my family or my father's clan in Israel, that I should become the king's son-in-law?" In ancient Israel there was a caste system and David's family was bottom tier.

A history professor friend in the U.S. escorted a group of college students to Israel. On the way over the group stopped in London to tour sites of historical interest. They were not able to secure the services of a professional guide so their bus driver offered to substitute. As it turned out, his knowledge of the subject and presentation of facts was so impressive that the professor asked why he did not become a tour guide. Surely it was more lucrative than driving a bus. "Oh, that would be above me," replied the driver. The caste system still exists.

The Old Testament records the story of the people of Israel who once cried out to God for relief from the oppression of the Midianites. Farmers worked to produce crops and their enemies would steal them after harvest. God sent an angel to a "nobody" named Gideon. "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior," said the angel. It was a strange greeting for a man threshing wheat in a winepress in order to hide from his enemies. But God didn't see Gideon as a coward. And even if he did, God's spirit more than compensated. But his low station in life was a barrier for Gideon. "How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." (Judges 6:15)

How should a man respond to an angel who appears to him and says, "The Lord is with thee,"? (verse 12) Gideon replied "But sir, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our fathers told us about when they said, 'Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and put us into the hand of Midian." (verse 13) What an irony that today men ask the same questions that Gideon asked even while reading about his life.

Gideon saw himself as a man of no reputation from an insignificant family. Saving Israel would be above him.

Faith causes a man to act, even when he has no credentials. People watching his initiative will ask, "Who does he think he is?" And when his actions bear good fruit jealousy will cause the bystanders to discredit him.

The Pharisees were angered when Jesus forgave sin. Jesus responded by healing people as evidence of his power to forgive. That angered the Pharisees even more. "Who do you think you are?" screamed the Pharisees. (John 8:53) To them, he was a "nobody".

The difference between a Pharisee and a "nobody" is this. Pharisees act on what they can see. "Nobodies" act on faith!

Are you a "nobody"? Good! There're a lot of us you know. And we come from a long line of "nobodies" that have been used by God to do some pretty awesome things.

Until next time,

Jim O'Brien