[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.
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.
“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.