The Least

“…to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a
contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2b

       The biggest, the brightest, the best, and in some cases the “badest” is what usually grips our attention. Man admires “the most,” the majestic, the magnificent, the massive, and the marvelous. People are gripped with overwhelming awe by the magnitude of such things as the Great Pyramid of Giza, which remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years. Then there is the current world’s impressive tallest artificial structure such as the 2,722 ft. tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This building gained the official title of “Tallest Building in the World” at its opening on January 4, 2010. When it comes to manmade structures there is no way to describe, or see in a lifetime, all the great castles, cathedrals, temples, shrines, museums, and monuments found all over the world.

      It’s hard to wrap your mind around the “big” populations of the world’s largest cities, beginning with Mexico City with an estimated population of 9 million and Tokyo with a population of 8,949,447, let alone comprehend a world population of over 7 billion souls—people whose every thought is known by God.

      When it comes to mountains, everyone knows (with the exception of the know-it-all-couldn’t-care-less types that FOX News frequently interviews on the streets of New York City) that Mount Everest takes the prize at 29,029 feet. If you’ve ever been to Seattle and viewed Mount Rainier in the distance you know how imposing that mountain is—yet Rainier is less than half the height of Everest.

      We are impressed with the largest and most powerful rivers, the grandest waterfalls, the highest waves of the ocean, and the monsters that swim in it. Big game hunters aren’t content to go rabbit hunting when they can hunt and kill a wonderful, intelligent animal like an elephant.

      Those who are the fastest, the leanest and the meanest in the world of sports are hailed as heroes to the point of blatant idolatry regardless of how they live. Don’t touch that football star, even if he is a wife beater (or wife killer). Sports are king. Besides sports heroes, most “heroes” in our postmodern world are those whom the masses look up to because of their “big names,” not because of the content of their character. Titles, positions, possessions, and popularity are what brand the “elite” as worthy of blind adoration and acclaim. Sadly, this is true in the religious realm as well. People are wowed by mega churches and the people who head them with titles and names that are a household word to thousands. But, consider what Jesus said to the Pharisees, “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” Luke 16:15. [Emphasis added.] Jesus said, “And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” Matthew 20:27, 28.

      Coming back to the big and remarkable again, who can fail to be impressed with God’s magnificent creation in the huge landmasses, and the giant nations of the earth, and beyond that the enormous galaxies, with countless suns and planets that make the earth and our sun look like mere specks in the vastness of space? Truly, our God is a great God. “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God” Isaiah 44:6. What should truly impress us and inspire overwhelming awe in our hearts and minds is the triune God, whose ways are past finding out, who continually amazes us with His infinite wisdom, mighty power and intimate knowledge of all things, great and small, and how He so often uses the “least” to carry out His will. Consider the tiny nation of Israel. How amazing that God would choose and establish such a small place for His chosen people, and for the throne of the King of kings! Why not a whole continent, like Africa?

      For example, who of us, if we could, would use a lowly jackass to speak to a wayward prophet? But, God did. We read in Numbers 22 how Balaam angered God because he went with his two servants and the princes of Moab at the demand of king Balak. The ass was the only one who saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, with his sword drawn in his hand, and turned aside out of the way into a field. After hitting his poor ass and turning her back onto the path, she again saw the angel of the LORD, and with nowhere to escape, she thrust herself against a wall, crushing Balaam’s foot. So he hit her again. Then the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no place to turn, and when the ass saw him, she fell down under Balaam. She suffered a beating with his staff, but then the LORD opened her mouth, and she spoke to Balaam. To me, the incredible thing is that Balaam talked back to her! Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes so that he could see the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his sword drawn. Balaam bowed down his head, and feel flat on his face. You can read the rest of the story, but the point is, if God can use a humble jackass, He can use you and me if we humble ourselves.

      Another story that reveals how God uses the least is found in Judges 6. An angel of the LORD came to the place where Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites who were oppressing Israel at that time. Judges 6:12 says, “And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him, and said unto him, The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor.” When the LORD told him to go and save Israel from the Midianites, Gideon said to Him, “Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house” verse 15. Gideon saw himself as being the last person who should be chosen for such a task. But God had chosen him, and God used Him mightily. In this story we see that God whittled Gideon’s men down from 22,000 to a mere 300 to gain the victory. Thus, the Lord used the least by choosing Gideon, and the least number of fighting men to show Himself mighty lest any man take the glory.

      In 1 Samuel 16 we read how Samuel was called by God to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem because one out of his eight sons was called by God to be the future king of Israel. When Samuel arrived, and looked upon one of Jesse’s eight sons, he assumed he was the Lord’s choice for king. “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” verse 7. Of course we all know that the last son to be called was the young shepherd boy, David. Surely he was at that time considered the least likely candidate for king!

      These are just three stories out of many that we find in the Holy Scriptures that give us examples of how God sees the potential in the least, while mankind looks to the “outward appearance” and other worldly considerations when making decisions as to whom is the greatest, and “most likely to succeed.” When you consider Jesus’ life as Son of Man, the well-known “One Solitary Life” sums it up beautifully: “Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.

      “Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…” (I understand that this is the original essay by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).

      In spite of all evidence to the contrary, it is, nevertheless, only natural for us, as fallen human beings, to assume that God thinks like we think and that what impresses us must surely impress God. This type of thinking is the mental launching pad that propels us onto the wrong road of detours, darkness, error, and even destruction. Such a road is not one that any of us should desire to travel on, yet many stubbornly insist on continuing down this treacherous road that sooner or later dead ends in the ditch of delusion. God says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:9.

      God’s ways are so amazing and wondrous that they thrill the soul, encourage the heart, inspire the mind, and edify the spirit. Even so, His ways are the polar opposite of our normal way of doing things. While mankind is naturally competitive and strives for greater achievements in order to impress, God’s ways usually go unnoticed and involve what most overlook or ascribe as being unimportant, of no consequence, obscure, weak, and the very least of the least. If you compare the normal human response to life’s challenges to God’s ways, you discover that His ways are simple yet profound, and most often involve the least. I love the inspiration of the Apostle Paul who put it this way in 1 Corinthians 1:25-31: “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption; That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

      The idea that God highly esteems what we highly esteem is the essence of pride. Until we learn to humble ourselves under the hand of Almighty God, our pride will continue to blind us as to what constitutes true greatness in the Kingdom of God. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” Isaiah 57:15. What a glorious truth this is, what a wonderful comfort and encouragement to know that when we consider ourselves to be the least of the least, when we have humbled ourselves before God, when we despise our pride, arrogance, conceit, and self-love the way God despises it, that He will then dwell with us, He will revive our spirits, and He will revive the contrite heart. God will lift us up when we fall at His feet in total surrender, knowing that nothing we can ever do, or think can lift us up. Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Luke 18:14. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” Micah 6:8.

      Perhaps you consider yourself to be the least of the least, and someone whom God does not see or even regard. Sometimes you may even feel invisible. But nothing can be further from the truth. Remember what Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows” Matthew 10:29-31. Take heart, for Jesus also said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” Matthew 25:40b. Study Psalm 139 which confirms that God knows all about each of us from our conception to our death. He knows every detail of our lives. Psalm 138:6 assures us, “Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.”

      In closing, the question is are you ready and willing to be considered the least in the Kingdom of God so that God can use you for His glory alone?