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                     People of the Old Testament

   

Here will be featured unique profiles of many of the people of the Old Testament, including studies of their strengths and weaknesses, greatest accomplishments and mistakes, and important lessons learned from their lives, and key Scriptural verses applicable to their testimony.

 

 

  JOSEPH                          

    As a youngster, Joseph was overconfident. His natural self-assurance, increased by being Jacob's favorite son and by knowing God's deigns on his life, was unbearable to his ten older brothers, who eventually conspired against him. But this self-assurance, molded by pain and combined with a personal knowledge of God, allowed him to survive and prosper where most would have failed. He added quiet wisdom to his confidence and won the hearts of everyone he met--Potiphar, the warden, other prisoners, the king, and after many years, even those ten brothers.

    Perhaps you can identify with one or more of these hardships Joseph experienced: he was betrayed and deserted by his family, exposed to sexual temptation, and punished for doing the right thing; he endured a long imprisonment and was forgotten by those he helped. As you read his story, note what Joseph did in each case. His positive response transformed each setback into a step forward. He didn't spend much time asking "Why?" His approach was "What shall I do now?" Those who met Joseph were aware that wherever he went whatever he did, God was with him. When you facing a setback, the beginning of a Joseph-like attitude is to acknowledge that God is with you. There is nothing like His presence to shed new light on a dark situation.

Strengths and accomplishments:

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Rose in power from slave to ruler in Egypt

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Was known for his personal integrity

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Was a man of spiritual sensitivity

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Prepared a nation to survive a famine

Weaknesses and mistake:

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His youthful pride caused friction with his brothers

Lessons from his life:

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What matters is not so much the events or circumstances of life, but your response to them

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With God's help, any situation can be used for good, even when others intend it for evil

Vital Statistics:

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Where: Canaan, Egypt

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Occupation: Shepherd, slave, convict, ruler

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Relatives: Parents: Jacob and Rachel. Eleven brothers and one sister named in the Bible. Wife: Asenath. Sons: Manasseh and Ephraim

Key Verse:

But he refused and said to his master's wife, 'Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge. There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?'"  [Genesis 39:8,9]

 

 

 

   SAMSON                        

    It is sad to be remembered for what one might have been. Samson had tremendous potential. Not many people have started life with credentials like his. Born as a result of God's plan in the lives of Manoah and his wife, Samson was to do a great work for God--to "begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines." To help him accomplish God's plan, he was given enormous strength.

    Because Samson wasted his strength on practical jokes and getting out of scrapes, and because he eventually gave it up altogether to satisfy the woman he loved, we tend to see him as a failure. We remember him as the judge in Israel who spent his last days grinding grain in an enemy prison, and we say, "What a wasted potential!"

    Yes, Samson wasted his life. He could have strengthened his nation. He could have returned his people to worship of God. He could have wiped out the Philistines. But even though he did none of those things, Samson still accomplished the purpose announced by the angel who visited his parents before his birth. In his final act, Samson began to rescue Israel from the Philistines.

    Interestingly, the New Testament does not mention Samson's failures or his heroic feats of strength. In Hebrews, he is simply listed with others "who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises," and in other ways were given superhuman aid. In the end, Samson recognized his dependence on God. When he died, God turned his failures and defeats into victory. It is important to note in this context that Scripture tells us that in this final act for God, Samson killed more Philistines at once than he did during all his other feats. Samson's story teaches us that it is never too late to start over. However badly we may have failed in the past, today is not too late for us to put our complete trust in God. Amen.

Strengths and accomplishments:

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Dedicated to God from birth as a Nazirite

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Known for his feats of strength

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Listed in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11

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Began to free Israel from Philistine oppression

Weaknesses and mistakes:

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Violated his vow and God's laws on many occasions

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Was controlled by sensuality

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Confided in the wrong people

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Used his gifts and abilities unwisely

Lessons from his life:

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Great strength in one area of life does not make up for great weaknesses in other areas

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God's presence does not overwhelm a person's will

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God can use a person of faith in spite of his or her mistakes

Vital statistics:

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Where: Zorah, Timnah, Ashkelon, Gaza, Valley of Sorek

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Occupation: Judge

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Relative: Father: Manoah

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Contemporaries: Delilah, Samuel (who might have been born while Samson was a judge)

Key Verse:

Then Samson called to the LORD and said, 'O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God...And Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines!' And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. [Judges 16:28,30]

 

 

ABRAHAM

   We all know that there are consequences to any action we take. What we do can set into motion a series of events that may continue long after we're gone. Unfortunately, when we are making a decision most us think only of the immediate consequences. These are often misleading because they are short-lived.

   Abraham had a choice to make. His decision was between setting out with his family and belongings for parts unknown or staying right where he was. He had to decide between the security of what he already had and the uncertainty of traveling under God's direction. All he had to go on was God's promise to guide and bless him. Abraham could hardly have been expected to visualize how much of the future was resting on his decision of whether to go or to stay, but his obedience affected the history of the world. His decision to follow God set into motion the development of the nation that God would eventually use as his own when he visited earth himself. When Jesus Christ came to earth, God's promise was fulfilled; through Abraham the entire world was blessed.

   You probably don't know the long-term effects of most decisions you make. But shouldn't the fact that there will be long-term results cause you to think carefully and seek God's guidance as you make choices and take action today?

Strengths and accomplishments:

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His faith pleased God

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Became the founder of the Jewish nation

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Was respected by others and was courageous in defending his family at any cost

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Was not only a caring father to his own family, but practiced hospitality to others

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Was a successful and wealthy rancher

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Usually avoided conflicts, but when they were unavoidable, he allowed his opponent to set the rules for settling the dispute

Weaknesses and mistake:

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Under direct pressure, he distorted the truth

Lessons from his life:

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God desires dependence, trust, and faith in Him--not faith in our ability to please Him

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God's plan from the beginning has been to make himself known to all people

Vital Statistics:

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Where: Born in Ur of the Chaldeans; spent most of his life in the land of Canaan

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Occupation: Wealthy livestock owner

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Relatives: Brothers: Nahor and Haran.  Father: Terah. Wife: Sarah. Nephew: Lot. Sons: Ishmael and Isaac

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Contemporaries: Abimelech, Melchizedek

Key Verse:

"indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." [Genesis 22:17-18]

 

 

ISAIAH

      Trees and prophets share at least one important characteristic - both are planted for the future. Yet seedlings are often overlooked and prophets often ignored. Isaiah is one of the best examples of this. The people of his time could have been rescued by his words. Instead, they refused to believe him. With the passing of centuries, however, Isaiah's words have cast a shadow on all of history. 

     Isaiah was active as a prophet during the reigns of five kings, but he did not set out to be a prophet. By the time King Uzziah died, Isaiah may have been established as a scribe in the royal palace in Jerusalem. It was a respectable career, but God had other plans for his servant. Isaiah's account of God's call leaves little doubt what motivated the prophet for the next half century. His vision of God was unforgettable.

      The encounter with God permanently affected Isaiah's character. He reflected the God he represented. Isaiah's messages - some comforting, some confronting - are so distinct that some have guessed they came from different authors. Isaiah's testimony is that the messages came from the only One capable of being perfect in justice as well as in mercy - God himself.

      When He called Isaiah as a prophet, God did not encourage him with predictions of great success. God Told Isaiah that the people would not listen. God compared his people to a tree that would have to be cut down so that a new tree could grow from the old stump (Isaiah 6:13).

      We who are part of that future can see that many of the promises God gave through Isaiah have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We also gain the hope of knowing that God is active in all of history, including our own.

Strengths and Accomplishments:

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Considered the greatest of the Old Testament Prophets

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Quoted at least 50 times in the New Testament

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Had powerful messages of both judgment and hope

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Carried out a consistent ministry even though there was little positive response from his listeners

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His ministry spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah

Lessons from His Life:

bulletGod's help is needed in order to effectively confront sin while comforting people
bulletOne result of experiencing forgiveness is the desire to share that forgiveness with others
bulletGod is purely and perfectly holy, just and loving

Vital Statistics:

bulletWhere: Jerusalem
bulletOccupations: Scribe, Prophet
bulletRelatives: Father: Amoz  Sons: Shear-jashub, Maher-shalal-hash-baz
bulletContemporaries: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Micah

Key Verse:

"But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him." (Isaiah 53:5-6)

 

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