Several times in the Bible a story starts in an inauspicious manner. Sure, the Old Testament is filled with stories of kings, prophets, and people of great valor. But scattered throughout the text, there are other narratives with much more humble beginnings.
Consider the beginning of 1 & 2 Samuel. In the course of these books, the reader will learn about the rise of a kingdom, the struggle between gods, and the start of a dynasty. God will speak, strike people down, and completely shape the path of a nation. Yet the book begins with “There was a certain man from Ramathaim…” (1 Samuel 1:1). The domestic struggles of a family from Ephraim in the north serve as unlikely introduction to this great story of kings and kingdoms.
This pattern of unlikely characters is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. The young son of an insignificant family in Israel is found hiding in a winepress; Gideon is hailed as a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12) by the angel, whose words come true in Judges 7. The barrenness of a Danite (Manoah’s wife) begins the birth narrative of Samson, the slayer of the Philistines (Judges 13:2). The travel log of a family fleeing a famine in Bethlehem starts the story of Ruth, the great-grandmother of King David (Ruth 1:1)
In each of these cases, someone on the fringes of Israel’s society: insignificant and even forgotten. But God uses these humble roots to form the foundation of a new story. And in each of these stories, God uses the character to have an unexpected impact on the nation.
Isn’t this the case of Israel?
God brings a people enslaved in Egypt to freedom, and then gives them a land they can call their own. But this is not because they deserved it. God reminded them of their relative insignificance on the world stage in Deuteronomy 7:
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. (Deuteronomy 7:7, NIV)
Just like the stories mentioned before, the humble beginnings of Israel serve as the foundation for a great story.
The reason for all these humble beginnings can be found in Hannah’s prayer in 1 Samuel 2: it is God’s nature to do so.
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
It is God’s nature to redeem and restore the broken, the poor, and the powerless. Not because they deserve it, but because God is gracious and merciful. I don’t know about you, but this is life-giving news to me!Tweet