David Wood asked me a question last week that has generated quite a bit of thought. He asked me who I thought the top five men were in the bible and I could not give him a top five. I gave him my top three but it is hard to do a top five. The top three are men of great character. They all have impeccable integrity. In other words they were well turned, integrated, void of duplicity with few or no visible flaws. The term used of Job comes from the lathe, it means to be well turned without visible flaw. The LORD Himself says of Job [Job 2:3] “There is no one like him on earth, a blameless man, an upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he holds fast to his integrity.” The words integrity and blameless are very close in definition. Job may not have been perfect but it is very hard to find fault in him. There is no question about it, not as far as scripture is concerned: he was straight as an arrow, well turned, he feared God and hated sin plus he had that impeccable integrity.
In light of this: my top three [put them in any order you choose] are Joseph, Job and Daniel. All three are upright, God-fearing men who put a high premium on integrity. These guys were honest to a fault and they had such great integrity until you could put them under a microscope. In other words, these men could have lived in glass houses whereas folks like King David [and myself] needed some walls to hide behind. By the way, all three of these guys had an enduring strength that refused to give in to the circumstances. All three endured a lot of suffering. Joseph spent time in prison for refusing to have sex with the wife of his boss; Daniel was thrown into a Lion’s den for praying and Job lost all ten of his children in one storm for no earthly reason.
My second three come under a different heading. With the first three, I considered their entire life, body of work but with the second group, it is what they accomplished after conversion [so to speak]. My second three are Moses, Paul and David. Again, put them in any order. It would be hard to say who is four and who is six. These men all had glaring faults which is what separated them from the group above. Moses had a violent temper and it cost him–it did not get to go into the land of promise because he lose his temper, threatened the Israelites and struck the ROCK in anger. Moses was one hundred times greater than myself, I am just telling you what is in the bible. Paul was a little bitty fellow who wanted to be a big man. They named him Saul [big] but God changed his name to Paul [little]. John Chrysostom believed he was a dwarf. All legends have him painted as a very little man. I think this is why he was such an over achiever. I asked Joe David a week or so back: “If you were going on a mission trip, who would you prefer to go with, Paul or Barnabas?” Without a moment’s hesitation, he said, “Barnabas”. The boy knows his bible. Barnabas was easy to get along with, compassionate and patient. If Paul’s patience was gun powder, he wouldn’t have had enough to blow his nose. He was highly driven. Light the every ready bunny, he went night and day and expected everyone else to do the same. I think it would have been hard to relax in his presence. People who work with me say that I don’t beleave stress, I create it and they may be right but I am mild compared to Paul. Paul worked with a lot of people: John Mark, Barnabas, Silas, Aquilla, Apollo, Peter and on and on but Timothy is the only one that stayed with him from start to finish. I think you and I know why: Timothy was a mild-mannered young man who could work with anyone. All that said, I do not question Paul’s devotion to Christ. In my opinion, he lived next door to Jesus. What I really appreciate about Paul is his contribution to scripture and his explanation of the doctrine of Grace. This puts Paul either four or five on my list.
Moses was a great leader. He was meek and that does not mean weak. Meekness is strength under control. Moses was the meekest man on earth. God worked miracles through Moses. God gave us the law [Torah] through moses. Through Moses, God taught the Israelites how to approach Him in worship. I heard a very intelligent man make an idiotic statement a month or so ago on talk radio. He said, “The bible had no influence on the founding of our country or any of our laws”. The man is not a liberal, he is a pagan conservative. He cannot see the forest for the trees. Practically all the old laws and the constitution can be linked to scripture and the Laws of Moses. Moses has a thick portfolio. His influence is still being felt world-wide and that was 6,000 years ago.
David is unique. He was a man after God’s heart. He had a passion for worship that in unmatched in scripture and his greatest contribution is to praise and worship. Can you imagine life without the PSALMS. I cannot, I absolutely love the Psalms. I read them almost everyday and sometime twice a day. Our strength is also our weakness. David was passion driven but sometimes he allowed the wrong passions to drive him and he committed some atrocious deeds. He took another man’s wife and life. The LORD did not wink at that and He never accepted Bathsheba as David’s legitimate wife [Matthew 1:6]. David would be much closer to the top had he been a man of integrity. He wanted to be and at times he thought of himself as a man of integrity but that was his lacking, not his strength. You cannot put him in the same class with Job, Joseph or Daniel. He was a great man and Israel’s best king from top to bottom. I think Josiah was there best king in terms of integrity and purity but David was a little wiser and a stronger leader.
So there are my top SIX, so where do we go from here? Number 7 is tough because I have two people in mind. ABRAHAM and JOHN THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST. He was from the South, check it out. I’m not sure he ever went as far North as Galilee. We will go with ABRAHAM as 7 and John as 8. Abraham’s contribution is unquestionable: he is our father in the faith. We all [those that believe] go back to Abraham. Abraham’s faith was off the charts. He had the ability to visualize the unseen. He did have a bad weakness: he was a used camel salesman. Just kidding but he was known to deceive on occasion and it was not a good witness. It was also a character flaw that was passed to succeeding generations. Issac would lie if you got him in a tight and Jacob became better at deception than his father or grandfather. Joseph had to break this curse. I guarantee you, you did not want to buy a camel from Jacob. Despite Abraham’s flaw, he has to be in the top ten. He was a great man of faith.
John the Baptist grades high on Integrity, very high. He grades high on spiritual disciplines. He was the model witness, always pointing away from himself to Jesus. He was humble, common, frugal, plain, and as down to earth as you could want. He never wore a suit and tie. Gray Allison and Teddie Turrentine would never allow John the Baptist to preach a revival in their church because he did not dress like a preacher but he was a preacher. I would use him. Tim Keenum would use him. Not only would he not wear a tie if he came to your church, he might not wear shoes either. We know exactly what he would preach every night: repentance from sin and turning to Jesus. He would get on Obama every now and then just as he did Herod in his day. I heard a black preacher say once, that “John’s political views caused him to lose his head”. I didn’t appreciate the statement then and I don’t now. A real prophet will denounce sin, even if its living in a white house. Preachers, we don’t get our orders from the world, the Capitol or the Vatican. If a politician is corrupt and if they promote the wholesale slaughter of the unborn, we are to denounce them. Jesus also denounced Herod. Preach the whole bible not just the parts you like. God can’t get you out of something that you don’t have the courage to get into.
Nine and Ten are really hard: some many names come to mind. I think I will go with STEPHEN and JOHN THE APOSTLE but there are so many that are on my mind like: Jeremiah, Samuel, Hosea, Barnabas, Simon Peter and many, many more. STEPHEN makes my top ten because of his INTEGRITY. I am just high on men of integrity. I’m like David, I don’t have much but that is what I want…I want to be a man of integrity. Stephen was full of faith, wisdom and the Holy Spirit–not a bad combination. He knew the bible from front to back. He was a man of courage and he faced the same hateful mob that cried for the crucifixion of the LORD. Stephen lived well and died heroically. He gets straight A’s across the board.
JOHN THE APOSTLE was the only mystic and theologian among the disciples. Peter did delve into theology some but he was mostly an evangelist whereas John was a thinker, a writer and a teacher. The gospel of John is out of this world. Chapter one is unbelievable. John uses light as a metaphor for Christ. Light gives life. Light is pure–cannot be contaminated. You can corrupt water, air, any substance known to man but you cannot contaminate light. John believed that every natural created thing mirrored a spiritual reality. God created this visible world to reflect the world that is coming. All the gospel are great but I love John. Hey, I love them all.
Well folks, the above is what I think–put it with $1.60 and you can get a diet root beer at Gregg’s Grocery on 157. I am publishing this without it being proof read. If you see any mistakes: call me and I will correct them. I sure you will find some.
All this may seem impossible to you but is it impossible for Me? Says the LORD of heaven’s armies. [Zechariah 8:6]
We humans are bad about putting everything into one of two categories: possible and impossible. Jesus said, “ With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” Gabriel said to Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Although we are very familiar with these verses that tell us explicitely that there are no categories for possible and impossible because all things are possible and if all things are possible, impossibility does not exist; we still continue to judge situation and circumstances on the basis of what seems possible or impossible.
Zechariah the prophet is speaking to the Jewish exiles. They lived in Babylon for 70 years. Many of the Jews died in captivity and many were born during this period. These Jewish exiles had given in to despair. They saw absolutely no hope of getting out of their bad situation. All the prophets were speaking of restoration but that seemed impossible to the Jews. They had no visible leader, they had no freedom, they were scattered all over kingdom come and their home land was occupied by someone else. Zechariah said, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your King is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet He is humble and riding on a donkey.” I can just hear the Jews saying, “Yeah, right–I bet we rejoice and don’t hold your breath until we shout. We have nothing to rejoice about and there is no shout in us.” I can see their point of view, things did seem impossible.
What the Jews did not understand was that God had a plan and He was working that plan to perfection. He was sending a KING, a righteous King, a victorious King and an humble King. He was coming to the Jews and He would do for them what they had never been able to do for themselves. He would guide them, strengthen them, teach them and even die for them. A couple of quick obervations:  God did restore the Jews [Babylonian Captivity lasted only 70 years]  God sent them the humble, yet righteous King [Jesus]. In other words, what seemed to be impossible with the Jews was always possible with God. God fulfilled both promises without their faith or their help.
Let me present a question–what seems impossible to you today? Be honest, if you are human there is something in your life that seems impossible. It could be a situation; it could be a relationship; it could be an addiction of some sort or perhaps a financial problem. What ever it is: it looms big and you feel overwhelmed and possibly even helpless. The problem seems impossible to you. You do not see how it can work out for your good and God’s glory.
This is where Zechariah and the story of the Jewish exiles is so encouraging. What seems impossible is not impossible. Our human “seeming” does not change reality. We can “seem” all we want and at the end of the day, there is no such thing as impossibility with God. The Jewish exiles had given in to hopelessness and despair because their situation seemed hopeless. In looking back we wink at their unbelief because we know how things turned out but had we been in their place, would we have reacted any differently?
So the main problem from the human point of view is the circumstances that make something “seem” impossible. There are a host of examples in the bible where men believed that things were impossible until God demonstrated His power and revealed them to be possible. One example is found in Zechariah 3:9–“I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.” I am sure that if we interviewed a Jewish Priest that he would have said, “No way Jose…it cannot be done. It would take more sacrifices than can be performed in a days time.” Yet God did exactly what He said He would do through His only begotten. In one day, Jesus became the only sacrifice needed to atone for the sins of all the world. What seemed impossible to the Jewish Priest in Zechariah’s day is crystal clear to us. We know beyond a doubt that God fulfilled the prophecy but it seemed impossible to them.
I believe you would get the same reaction from one of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Let’s do an imaginary interview. “Sir, could you just take a break from making those bricks. I have a couple of questions I want to ask. What do you think about this man Moses who says that God has sent him to liberate you folks from bondage?” [The Israelite] “Well, I’ll tell you exactly what I think–its a pipe dream. I think the man has been in the sun too long. He came here with nothing but a stick in his hand while Pharaoh has one of the most powerful armies in the world. You can do your own math but I am telling you, it’s impossible or at least it seems that way to me.”
Fast forward 4,ooo years to Calvary. The crucifixion has just taken place and Jesus disciples are hiding in an upstairs room in the heart of the city of Jerusalem. We approach one of the disciples and say, “You fellows need to cheer up. Why all this doom and gloom. Do you not understand what God just did for you today. Listen, Jesus is not really dead. I’m not saying that He did not die but I am saying that it is impossible for Him to stay dead because He is the Son of God and death has no power over Him. You know guys, the cross as gory as it was, is not the end of the world, it is the beginning of a new era, a new order. Millions will enter into the same relationship you have with Jesus because of what happened out there today. Men, the worse is over–Jesus will suffer no more. It is time to celebrate the victory that was won today. Did you guys here Him cry out, ‘IT IS FINISHED’? Fellows, that mean that the work of redemption was complete, all our sins have been paid for so lets rejoice and be glad.” You know how they would have responded to that, the same way that you and I would…”Man get out of our face, all this stuff you are saying sounds good but we saw his lifeless body. We watched them put Him in the tomb. He is dead and all the things He stood for, died with Him.”
I am sure that it did seem impossible to the disciples, that God had just won the victory of the ages but in reality, it was a day of victory not defeat. The disciples felt defeat and were acting defeated because victory in this situation seemed impossible.
I am telling you what the word of God teaches me–when things seem impossible, it is merely an illusion because there is no such thing as IMPOSSIBLE with God. A thing may seem to be impossible but our seeming does not change reality. We may determine how things seem but God determines how things are: and they are seldom what they seem.