Men in Support Roles – following God’s calling to serve

[Today’s guest post is from Anu Riley, who provides a reflection on what it means to be a helper in God’s kingdom.]

The Bible says woman was formed to be man’s “helper”* (Genesis 2:18) but did the
Bible intend to limit that role to women? Here are a few examples of godly, helpful, and supportive men in the Word who exercised love, humility and obedience to the Lord.

Aaron, Moses’s brother

This man was so important because Moses was fairly resistant to God’s calling to go
back to Egypt and stand before Pharaoh. The Lord then offered to bring in Aaron to
make it a two-man operation instead:

“You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him.” (Exodus 4:16-17.)

With Aaron by his side, being with mouthpiece and standing with Moses–one of the
greatest events in history and in the Word was accomplished.

Elisha

Elijah’s friend and successor to his ministry: After Elijah fled from Jezebel, the queen
who wanted to kill him, he became quite distressed and felt very alone. The Lord
assured him that he was not completely alone (1 Kings 19:15), and instructed him to
anoint Elisha to be a prophet in his place, and a partner in his current ministry

“And anoint Jehu son of Nimshi to be king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah to be prophet in your place… Yet I will leave Myself 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:15-18.)

Not only did the Lord provide proof that he was not the only left who had not bowed to
idols, but now he had a friend, a servant and a successor to encourage him.

Jonathan, David’s brother in law and best friend

Jonathan would actually be considered the “rightful successor” to the throne, being
Saul’s oldest son. But that did not stop him from forming a strong bond with David. He
“ loved him as he loved himself.” (1Samuel 20: 17.) Their souls were “knit” together and Jonathan gave him his sword, his armour and robe. (1Samuel 18:1-5.)

After finding out and confirming that Saul was trying to kill David, he stood by David (and against his own father) and helped him escape. Their friendship was so deep that they openly wept as David fled Saul’s court. (1Samuel 20). Jonathan never spoke of or insisted on his right to be the next king of Israel when they parted. He only asked that David be kind to his descendants (1Samuel 20:14). Typically, a new king would wipe out any potential threats to his rule, but David swore that he would not do that.

Joseph, the husband of Mary

Mary is truly a central figure in the birth of Jesus. She is rightly admired for her
obedience to the Lord. But Joseph too plays a significant part.

After finding out that Mary was pregnant, he wanted to break the engagement quietly and not expose her to “public disgrace.” ( Matthew 1:17-18.) He was faithful to the law, but did not call for a public stoning as was the Jewish law in that day. He simply wanted to let her go without making any trouble for her. After an angel confirmed Mary’s story, he was believed the Lord (and Mary’s story) and married her.

This took great courage because along with Mary, he bore with the probable gossip and whispering from the community about her sudden pregnancy, and questioning Joseph for still consenting to marry her. He was so respectful of her that he waited until she gave birth before having marital relations with her. (Matthew 1:25.) If (as some traditions hold) they had no one to help them with the birth of Jesus, it is most probable that Joseph assisted her. After Jesus was born, he again obeyed the Lord and fled to Egypt in the middle of the night to protect them both. (Matthew 2:13.)

As far as we can tell, he raised Jesus well and treated him as a son, even though he was technically not his biological father.

Onesiphorus

“May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.” (2 Timothy 1:16-18.)

This reference is a bit more obscure and very little is known about him, but Paul’s words of gratefulness and strong language stand out. There was no prison directory or Internet services to track Paul down. And Rome was a big city to search! It took time, effort and great diligence for Onesiphorus to find him, just so he could refresh and encourage him. (I had help from the Bible commentary “Enduring Word” that gave much insight into this verse. The words are mine but the insight came from a commentator.)

Being a prisoner is a lonely, difficult ordeal. This brother obviously knew how much Paul needed a good friend and was determined to be there for him. Not only that, but he did not care what that might look like to others; he was not ashamed of  chains, perhaps because of his own status as a slave to Philemon. (Philemon 1:12-16.) Not only that, but he was a great help to Paul in “many ways” apart from his great gesture. Apparently he known for it, as he told Timothy.

***

Tim here: Have you ever seen your greatest contribution to be behind the scenes? What did that look like?

*The concept of “suitable helper” (ezer kenegdo in the original Hebrew) in Genesis 2 goes far beyond being someone’s helpful assistant. For more on the meaning and unusual power of the phrase, read Gail Wallace, In The Image Of God: Implications for Gender Equality.

***

Anu Riley is one of the most insightful people I read online. Her comments and observations always add to every conversation. I hope you have enjoyed her post here, and that you’ll connect with her on her Facebook page too.

***

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15 Responses to Men in Support Roles – following God’s calling to serve

  1. JYJames says:

    Insightful.

  2. Laura Droege says:

    Great post, Anu. We as a family read that passage about Onesiphorus last night, and I explained to my daughters what being a prisoner in Rome was like, and how valuable O’s help was for Paul. If O hadn’t refreshed him (food? encouragement? material goods? hope?), Paul’s situation would’ve been much worse.

    One other thing struck me as I read. Both Jonathan and Elisha were powerful men. (Jonathan, as heir to the throne, and Elisha as a man from a wealthy family.) Culturally, both then and now, it would’ve seemed absurd for them to give up their power and status to be “only” the friend or “only” the servant. These supporting role would’ve seemed less important, less powerful, and a demotion in status. And yet, as you’ve shown, their roles were vitally important to others and not lesser at all.

    • Anu Riley says:

      Yes, I could barely spell or pronounce O’s name myself! Paul said he knew how to get by with a little or a lot, b/c he had learned contentment (Philippine 4:11) So my personal thought is that it was the support and love and friendship that Paul was so grateful for. He had spoken of being abandoned by people multiple times in other letters.

      Yes, I totally agree and love what you said about being the “friend” while another person gets all the attention. Right on par with John the Baptist, who clearly stated he wasn’t the Messiah (and so didn’t deserve extra attention), and once Jesus came along he understood he wasn’t going to be in the spotlight as much anymore (He will increase and I will decrease; John 3:30). But he still kept baptizing, content with his ministry and overjoyed that the Messiah had arrived (John 3:29) John wasn’t a rich man but he did have some powerful prophecies made over him before and at his birth. And he was a miracle baby. That could have given him a swelled head but it never did.

      I actually had a hard time reading about when Jonathan died. I often wondered how David’s life would have turned out had he lived.

  3. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    Thank you for this post, Anu. You’ve really highlighted how significant those in the background can be — that men can be called to these roles by God and serve Him best as supporters and helpers.

  4. Anu Riley says:

    Hi, everyone thanks for your supportive words and for Tim’s kind words towards me. We didn’t get a chance to include Nathan on this list b/c it was an afterthought. I thought I’d include him in the comments because it’s so relevant with all the “metoo” stories coming out. Please be blessed. Tim, I hope it’s okay that I added this.

    Nathan the prophet, the man brave enough to confront David the King, from 2Samuel 12: David had committed adultery with the wife of a faithful soldier, then had him murdered. David could have chosen to have Nathan killed as well, who was about to give him some very unwelcome words, right to his face. Nathan seemingly did not blink. I believe he feared the Lord more than he feared David’s potential wrath. If David sins went unchecked, David’s abuse of power could go from bad to worse. Nathan had a heart for the Lord and a heart for the nation of Israel as well. He was willing to put his life on the line to do what was right.

    Every man or woman in power would greatly benefit with having a “Nathan” by their sides.

    • Tim says:

      That’s a great addition to a wonderful post, Anu. Thank you for sharing this with everyone today.

      • Anu Riley says:

        Thank you. And thank you for allowing me to flex my love of writing. In another life I was going to be a writer, until the Lord got a hold of me and had other plans :-).

    • Laura Droege says:

      Oh, this is great, Anu. Nathan seems to have been the only one to confront David on his misuse of Bathsheba and killing of Uriah, and he does so with a powerful story (designed to grab David’s emotions) and hammers home the point with those piercing words: you are the man! How many times have we seen powerful people misuse and abuse their power and wondered why no one confronted them? We need Nathans in positions of influence who are unafraid to confront abusers or others misusing their authority, no matter the consequences.

  5. JYJames says:

    There’s an interesting article today about what we lose as a society when a narrow or “off” perspective controls the narrative. http://bit.ly/2BnnOoC

  6. Nancy2 says:

    Anu,
    I would love to hear your take on Deborah and Barak!

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