When I did the first article on overlooked biblical characters, I promised a sequel. It only took 4.5 years, but here it is!
Before I get to my second group of saints that largely go under the radar of Christian teaching and preaching, I want to give a shout-out to those who responded to my first article with their favorites. I started to steal some of their submissions for this one. But I thought I would mention their lists and then come up with a completely new list for today. That is how deep and broad and detailed the Bible is, especially with characters.
Joey Postlewaite mentioned Shamgar in Judges and the servant girl of Namaan’s wife in 2 Kings 5. He also mentioned Andrew the apostle, who isn’t “invisible” but can be overlooked by comparison, because Peter, James, and John were Christ’s inner circle. David Postlewaite mentioned Cheneniah (the musician), Jonadab (Amnon’s wicked friend), Enoch (who didn’t really die), and Benadab (David’s mighty man who killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day).
These are great submissions and I used some of these at my church for a Wednesday Night Bible study on the topic a couple of years ago. Today I discuss five more.
Jehoiada and Jehosheba (2 Kings, 2 Chronicles)
Jehoiada and Jehosheba displayed tremendous integrity and courage in helping preserve King Joash’s life and fighting back against Athaliah. And their story is told in both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, giving them four chapters of coverage.
Jehoiada’s name sounds like one of the many “J” kings in these books, but he’s actually a priest. Yet his title isn’t nearly as relevant as his actions. He stood up to the wicked king mother, and not in a foolish way. He rallied mercenaries and palace guards and made a pact with them to protect Joash from his grandmother, even commanding to kill if necessary. He had a bold plan and a sound strategy.
And as a pastor, I marvel at that leadership.
Then he is the person that crowns and anoints Joash. And in a fantastic story detail, he also gives him a copy of God’s laws. Finally, he did have to order the death of Athaliah for the land to have peace and for God’s people to resume their covenant with him.
Yet not to be forgotten in this list of already overlooked people is Joash’s sister, Jehosheba, hiding him to begin with. Her role in this riveting drama is crucial from the outset.
Baruch was a man Jeremiah trusted greatly. He also was one of only two of Jeremiah’s allies I can find in the entire book. Jeremiah was rejected by nearly everyone. So for Baruch to remain faithful is worthy of our commendation.
In Chapter 32 after Jeremiah strangely buys a piece of property at God’s command, from prison of all places, he has Baruch take the deeds and put them in a sort of time capsule. It’s a seemingly trivial and mundane favor to ask, but those deeds meant everything legally. And Jeremiah had to have the utmost faith in Baruch to handle them.
And in Chapter 36, since Jeremiah is bound and seemingly barred from the temple, he has Baruch do the terrifying thing of taking a written message of judgment to the people, including the king. The response to this message could have been volatile and it took nerves of steel for Baruch to do it, even though God’s message was from Jeremiah. People have been shooting messengers since Bible times.
But Baruch does it, first reading it to godly leaders who tremble at what he reads. They are so concerned for his safety as they go to read it to the king, that they advise him to run and hide. They tell the king and he burns the scroll but no one gets hurt. Crisis averted, right? No, God tells Jeremiah the message again, Baruch writes it down again, and this time Baruch goes to the king with this prophecy of severe judgment.
Baruch was more than just an assistant or scribe. He can be overlooked as Jeremiah’s stand-in physical presence at a time when being that very thing could have gotten him attacked, injured, or worse.
I also appreciate God’s message to Baruch in Jeremiah 45, especially the admonition to not seek great things for himself. We all need that command from God regularly.
The Gaiuses (Acts, Paul’s Letters, 3 John)
There are at least three men by the name of Gaius in the New Testament and possibly four. They all have special things about them. Gaius in 3 John joins a very select group of people like Theophilus, Timothy, and Titus as an individual to have a book dedicated to him. The one in Romans 16:23 was not only host (presumably having him in his home) to Paul but also “the whole church”. That’s Rosaria Butterfield-type hospitality. One and perhaps two others were traveling companions to Paul. And Paul baptized one of them.
Collectively the men with this name play a rather hidden but still profound role in the New Testament. Paul would have been less effective without them and John must have really loved his Gaius to give him a whole book.
Abraham’s Unnamed Servant (Genesis 24)
The chapter is a textbook example of how to pray. And the fact God uses an unnamed servant instead of Abraham, Sarah, or even Isaac to teach this shows us yet again why God says things like, “The first will be last”. God ever acts in countercultural and counterintuitive ways to us and often uses the weak, small, and overlooked things for his glory. Which is the impetus for this very article.
What this servant does can be divided into three types of prayers. Prayers for self, prayers for others, and prayers to thank and glorify God. I once preached this chapter and titled it “Prayer is a Three-Way Street”.
The first two are really tied to each other, at least as this story goes. The servant prayed for his own success because he loved his master. May we all desire to pray like that! I do pray for success as a husband, father, and pastor because I love my wife, my sons, and my people. If I pray for success for purely or primarily selfish reasons, that is sin. But the servant is praying that he fulfills his mission because it will mean a huge blessing for Abraham and Isaac. He verbalizes that in his prayer.
But then on two other occasions, one after seeing Rebekah and once after getting confirmation from her dad that she could go with him, he praises God. In reading Romans 1, it becomes obvious to me that all sinful perversion begins with a lack of thanking and praising God. Those who refuse to do those things deserve God’s wrath. This servant here immediately praises and thanks God. Manifesting a heart of not just a servant to a mere human, but to the Almighty Sovereign who works all things together for our good.
Thankfully for him in this case, “good” meant he found a wife for his master’s son. Just as Abraham wanted. Prayer was crucial before, during, and after meeting Rebekah.
Shulamite Bride (Song of Solomon)
If you preach on Song of Solomon, there is no way the bride can be overlooked. Yet in my entire (almost) 45 years, essentially all of them in church weekly, I have heard but one sermon on the Song of Songs. The book overall is overlooked and underappreciated from my perspective.
And I mention the bride and not the groom, not because I am trying to unnecessarily favor the woman out of misplaced nobility, but because the husband may be Solomon. A character anything but invisible in our Bible. Personally, I do not think Solomon is the groom in this wholly unique Bible book, but he may be. As such, I focus on the much more certainly obscure young woman.
The thing I admire the most about the young woman is how passionately complimentary she speaks of her promised husband. She utters very creative and heartfelt words about him, from the deepest part of her soul. “You are so handsome, my love,” she says, “pleasing beyond words!” And also, “Like the finest apple tree in the orchard is my lover among other young men. I sit in his delightful shade and taste his delicious fruit.”
I get why this book is often avoided in conservative Christian churches. Even now I have chosen verses for this article that avoid overt sexual references. Presumably, this isn’t even a new source of awkwardness about our Bible, as I have read that Song of Songs was one of at least five Old Testament books that were very slowly added to our canon of Scriptures.
But it teaches us something very poignant and necessary about marriage and this is that it is supposed to be romantic, yea even sexual. We are supposed to compliment our spouses, even physically.
So much more can be said about this book and perhaps I’ll write a whole article on it soon, but for right now I say I adore the bride in the book and I am thankful my wife Kayla is very much like her. I feel affirmed by her even though I have never been and will never be an Adonis. She works hard to make me feel loved. Even by physical compliments.
So that is my second list of five people or groups of people that we should teach and preach more. Who else would you consider overlooked in Christian teaching and preaching?
- Elka: People I Never Knew But Will Hug In Heaven 4 - November 27, 2023
- Harriet Tubman: People I Long To Hug In Heaven 3 - November 20, 2023
- People I Never Knew But Will Hug In Heaven: Louie Zamperini - November 13, 2023