By Shawn McMullen
The crisis grew from a reasonable request (1 Samuel 25:1-35). Nabal of Carmel was shearing sheep in the desert, not far from where David and his men were staying. Since an ample supply of provisions would be on hand for Nabal’s hired help, and since David and his men had given Nabal’s shepherds protection and treated them kindly, David was sure Nabal would return the favor and offer David’s company food and drink. Nabal refused, however, responding with insults and accusations. Overcome with anger, David commanded his men to strap on their swords. Nabal, not to mention every male member of his household, was about to pay dearly for the insult.
But an unnamed servant took note of Nabal’s foolishness and went to Abigail, Nabal’s wife, warning her of the looming disaster. Abigail interceded for her thoughtless husband and many lives were spared.
Sheba of Bikri was a known troublemaker (2 Samuel 20:1-22). Following David’s victory over Absolom, Sheba refused to honor David as king, leading “all the men of Israel” away from him. David sent Joab, commander of Judah’s army, in pursuit of Sheba. When Sheba took refuge in Abel Beth Maacah, Joab’s men built a siege ramp and launched an assault against the city.
But an unnamed woman took it upon herself to broker peace. When she learned the city was besieged because of one troublemaker, she “went to all the people with her wise advice, and they cut off the head of Sheba son of Bikri and threw it to Joab” (v. 22). At that, the invading army withdrew and the citizens of Abel Beth Maacah were saved.
Some Jews in Jerusalem had it in for Paul (Acts 23:12-24), so they conspired with the chief priests and elders to have him brought before the Sanhedrin. They planned to ambush and kill Paul en route to the meeting.
But an unnamed lad (identified in the NIV only as “the son of Paul’s sister”) got wind of the evil plan and told Paul. Paul then took his nephew to the Roman commander. Upon hearing about the plot, the commander ordered a detachment of foot soldiers and horsemen to escort the apostle safely to the governor.
In each of these accounts, God used unnamed people to save the day and spare lives. We don’t know much about these unsung heroes, but each played a vital role in preventing a crisis.
It’s often that way in the church. Some folks receive public recognition for their good work. Their names appear in bulletins and newsletters. We hold special services to thank them. And that’s fitting. We ought to honor one another when the occasion warrants it.
But for every public champion in the church, there must be a dozen unsung heroes. They’re the people who speak peaceably and smooth ruffled feathers and bring feuding members of the body back together—all in their own quiet way. We don’t often hear about them, and these precious saints prefer it that way. Their satisfaction doesn’t come from public recognition, but from preventing a crisis, restoring peace, and making the body of Christ a more pleasant place.
I’m grateful we have people like that in the church. Aren’t you?
This article is adapted from one that first appeared in the February 15, 2004 edition of The Lookout.