At the Movies-Hidden Figures, the Power of One
John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Show these two clips back to back:
I love movies that are based on true stories. The 2016 blockbuster movie, “Hidden Figures,” told the almost untold story of three women, three African-American women who were beyond brilliant. They were employed by NASA in the early 1960’s as mathematicians.
Dorothy Vaughn was one of the three. She led a team of what were deemed “human computers.” She instructed the team about an early computer code before anyone at NASA had the foggiest idea of what it was all about. Even though she was passed over for promotions because of the color of her skin, she faithfully worked as a supervisor without the title and without the pay for many years.
Mary Jackson became NASA’S first African-American Aerospace engineer after having begun at NASA as a mathematician.
It was the incredible mathematical calculations done by the hand of WV born Katherine Johnson that became the centerpiece of the movie. Katherine, who is now 98 years old, was a physicist and mathematician. Her nearly untold story was a remarkable tale of how she calculated the complex trajectories and launch windows to back up NASA’S own computers, giving the space program the go-ahead to send John Glenn into orbit! Glenn orbited the earth three times and returned home safely because of the brilliant mind of Katherine Johnson.
Without these three women who were on the front lines of our space program, all while remaining “Hidden Figures” behind the scenes, we wouldn’t be where we are today. They relentlessly worked to make an impact, fighting major discrimination not only as persons of color, but as women who were working in a “man’s world.” Until very recent years, they almost remained “hidden figures” in American history.
Seeing this movie made me wonder how many other untold stories there are out there. I am guessing millions. How many other people’s accomplishments get glossed over or how many other people’s work is credited to someone else because that someone else has the position or title and willingly accepts the credit?
As I thought about the stories of the Bible I thought about Noah, Abraham, Moses, King David, Elijah, the disciples, the Apostle Paul, and of course, Jesus. In light of what I learned about the American Space program and how influential three almost-no-name women were, I decided to do some digging and look at some potentially “hidden figures” in the Bible to check out their contribution.
The first hidden figure I want to share with you is a woman named Jehosheba. Go ahead and turn to II Kings 11.
Anyone here know who Jehosheba was? Let me tell you a bit about her background. She was a princess, and she was married to a wonderful priest named Jehoiada. Her dad was King Jehoram. He was a king in the southern kingdom known as Judah. He had a wife named Athaliah. Guess who Athaliah had for a mother or perhaps stepmother? The evil queen Jezebell. That would be like having Disney’s “Cruella Deville” for a mom! So, Athaliah had Cruella Deville for a mother, and she became like Cruella Deville herself. Like her mother, Athaliah was a Baal worshiper.
Athaliah was probably not a mother, but a stepmother to Jehosheba, the first hidden figure we are talking about today. Well, Athaliah had a son, named Ahaziah who became King when Athaliah’s husband, King Jehoram died. Ahaziah only reigned a year before he was killed.
Upon his death, Athaliah decided not only to make herself queen, but she ordered her grandchildren to be slaughtered so that her queen-ship could go uncontested! Her murderous rampage might have been why you didn’t grow up hearing about Athaliah like you did Zacchaeus and Noah that are a bit more child-friendly! That is probably why you also may not have heard about our first hidden figure for this morning, Jehosheba.
Let’s read in 2 Kings 11:1-3 1 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. 2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. 3 He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the LORD for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.
Jehosheba loved God, and she married someone who loved God. How many of you know those are good decisions to make? She married Jehoiada, a priest who wanted to influence people to take the godly path. Even though Jehosheba had a negative upbringing, even though her parents weren’t believers, even though they worshipped false gods, even though they did wicked things, she chose to make godly decisions and to position herself to create a godly future.
Our text here in II Kings tells us that when Queen Athaliah went on her murderous rampage, Jehosheba, took her nephew Joash and hid him for six+ years. How do you hide someone for 6+ years from the Queen? Do you think it required some sacrifice on Jehosheba’s part?
She wanted to preserve the royal bloodline. She wanted her brother’s heir, her brother’s son, (the King who had been killed just before the wacko mom took over), she wanted him to become the next King.
When you read the next part of the chapter you find out that a plan was devised to go public with now 7-year-old Joash and to crown him as king; and crowned he was. Joash was crowned and Cruella was clobbered, creamed, and killed.
Why was this daring rescue so special and strategic and important? Had every grandchild been killed as Cruella Deville had ordered, there wouldn’t have been a descendant of King David’s to sit on the throne as had been promised by God in I Kings 9:5 and Jesus, the Messiah, who had been prophesied to come through the lineage of the House of David in II Samuel 7:12 and Isaiah 9:7? Well, that could never have occurred.
Jehosheba’s actions were part of God’s plan to keep His promise to the House of David. How important were Jehosheba’s actions that day? She single-handedly saved King David’s last surviving descendant! Being a part of the preservation of one of God’s promises—That’s pretty cool, right! Sort of cool like being behind a man’s orbit of the earth! ?
Joash had been in the care of godly Jehosheba and her priest husband, Jehoiada, for six plus years. I am sure they continued to influence him and to teach him about God. And Joash, who became king at age 7, re-established the worship of God in Judah and those who followed him as kings were good kings.
Listen, when you are willing to do the right thing even though it is the risky thing and do it at the right time, God can change (or preserve-depending on how you look at it) the trajectory of history in and through your actions.
Jehosheba’s name just gets two honorable mentions in Scripture. She gets mentioned one time here in II Kings 11 and once in II Chronicles 22:11. Here is someone who could easily be overlooked with a quick read of the Scripture, but whose courage and quick thinking preserved the Davidic blood line from whom Jesus descended. What promises might God want to preserve in and through your life? What practices might He want to re-establish or preserve in and through your faith, your faithfulness, and your influence over people?
King Joash went on to make repairs to the temple. He was also quite a diplomat as he dissuaded the King of Syria from attacking Jerusalem (II Kings 12:17-18). At least for a while things were good for the southern kingdom.
Great reformation can often begin with just one person.
Many “hidden figures” turn out to be the people who put others into space or who put others on the map or help others achieve greatness and their God-given callings. You may have heard of Dr. Bill Bright who founded Campus Crusade for Christ. You may have heard of D.L. Moody, the greatest evangelist in his day. You have most assuredly heard of our contemporary, Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of our day. But have you ever heard of Edward Kimball or Henrietta Mears? These hidden figures, these lone souls, are greatly responsible for changing the landscape of evangelical Christianity.
Without Edward Kimball there would never have been a D.L. Moody. Mr. Kimball was a shoe salesman who worked at a Chicago shoe store. At the leading of the Holy Spirit, Edward Kimball was compelled to share the Gospel with his co-worker, Dwight Moody. Moody gave his heart to Jesus and went on to win countless souls for the Kingdom!
Henrietta Mears was called to teach a Sunday School class in 1928 at the First Presbyterian Church in Hollywood. That class grew from 400 students to 4,000 students. Mrs. Mears went on to found the Gospel Light Publishing Company. Of all the people her Sunday School teaching impacted, 400 of them went into full-time ministry. Among those 400 were two “Bill’s.” Bill Bright and Billy Graham!
There is power in one life; in one person like Jehosheba who in preserving her nephew’s life, wound up preserving the bloodline through which Jesus would descend. You can’t always know the contribution your efforts will make down the road. Stay faithful. Stay courageous. Stay prepared for the moment that could make or break an entire generation. God is still looking for people who are willing to do His work without concern for who is going to get the glory! In the end, doesn’t all the glory belong to God anyway?
The other “hidden figure” I want to mention is a guy named Shamgar. He is only mentioned twice in the Bible. He is mentioned in Judges 3:31 and in Judges 5:6. Here is what those verses say: Judges 5:6 “In the days of Shamgar son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the roads were abandoned; travelers took to winding paths. Why would roads be abandoned? Why would travelers take the back roads, the winding paths? We’ll get to that in a minute.
The second verse gives us a bit more to go on: Judges 3:31-“After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. Now Shamgar carried and fought with an oxgoad. An oxgoad wasn’t a weapon. It was an agricultural tool. It was a pole, some 8-10 feet long and was about 2 inches in diameter. One end was tipped by a long iron point. That end was used to prod the oxen he was driving to move. The other end of the tool was shaped like a spade. I guess you could say Shamgar was packing! He carried his oxgoad.
Another thing we know about Shamgar has to do with the times in which he lived. It was
a very difficult time for the people of Israel. Judges chapters 4-5 talk about the times in
which they lived.
The nation of Israel was being oppressed by Jabin, the King of Canaan. Jabin was a powerful enemy, who possessed 900 iron chariots (Jud. 4:3). His army seemed totally unbeatable.
It was a time when the people of Israel were filled with fear (Jud. 5:6-7). They were afraid to travel the highways because of their oppressors. That is why they took the back roads. They were afraid to live in their homes because of those who invaded and attacked them.
King Jabin had disarmed the Israelites and made them weak militarily. They were not in
a position to defend themselves. This provided an opportunity for the Philistines, a warlike
people who lived near the Mediterranean Sea, to take advantage of the situation. They
would invade Israel and capture slaves, steal crops and destroy villages.
When the Philistines came, most of the people in Israel would flee in terror. They wanted to avoid death or capture. Shamgar, however, refuse to flee.
When the Philistines came, he stood his ground and he fought. He did not have any weapons of war, but he had his oxgoad. He chose to fight with his farm tool. Shamgar took what he had and he used it to secure victory for his people and safety for his family. He killed 600 of the Philistine raiders. Oh, he wasn’t a mighty warrior like King David with a sword or a strong man like Samson, but he was a bad boy with an oxgoad who was just determined he wasn’t budging when the enemy came calling. ?
Shamgar was a man empowered by God for this task. It wasn’t the oxgoad that turned him into a mighty warrior. It was the Spirit of God that enabled Shamgar to stand and fight like he did. Shamgar stood his ground and fought while others ran away because Shamgar knew that some things are worth fighting for. He was fighting for his home, his family, his freedom and his land. He was fighting for the right to worship his God. Shamgar was a physical and spiritual powerhouse. He was a fighter used in a mighty way by the Lord.
Can I just remind you that we are war today! We are at war with Satan! Like the
Canaanites, he would love to oppress us. We are at war with the things of the world and
the attitudes of the world. Like the Philistines, they would seek to invade us and twist and
reshape what we value and believe.
We are at war, and some things are worth fighting for. Some things cry out for us to
stand our ground and fight. If we do not fight and protect the things that matter the most,
we will see them taken by the enemy and destroyed! What things am I talking about?
The Home – Your marriage, your spouse and your children are worth fighting and dying for! There is no sacrifice too great, or price too high, for those whom God has given into our care. We should fight for the salvation of our family. We should fight to protect them from the world and Satan.
The Church — Satan and the things of the world would love to slip in and take away the things we value as a church. Things like the Word of God, our preaching, our worship, our Bible doctrines are all under attack by Satan and the world. We must stand our ground. It isn’t an anything goes Christianity, but it is a Christianity “by the book” as we follow after Jesus. We must not compromise the truths of God’s Word.
The Lost – They don’t know God and they don’t care about God, but they need someone to stand in the gap and pray for them and witness to them about the good news of Jesus. Listen, the world needs someone who will fight for them. Someone fought for you! I guarantee it.
Can we take what God has given us through His Word and through our personal testimony and fight to defend and protect that which matters most?
The Bible tells that Shamgar “delivered Israel”. He was just an ordinary guy, a farmer,
who used what he had to stand his ground against the enemy. His courage freed the
people around him and allowed them to live in freedom and liberty. He made a difference
in the lives of those he fought for. And Just as God enabled Shamgar to become a mighty
warrior, He will enable you in and through His Spirit to become the same.
Let me encourage you this morning to get in the battle and to stay in the battle. Shamgar
used what he had in his possession, and he stood his ground. The result was that an
entire nation was saved through his efforts. Each of us has what we need in order to
protect our families and faith as well as what we need to go on the offensive, route
the enemy and win people for Christ. There are some things worth fighting for, and the
salvation of souls, the spiritual integrity of the church, and the spiritual protection of our
families are definitely three on my list.
And here we are again, talking about the power of one. Shamgar was just one person. He wasn’t a stand out, but he took a stand, and an entire nation was delivered from oppression. Ordinary people can do great things. Don’t wait for a title. Don’t wait for a platform. Don’t wait for more training. Use what you have where you are and bring deliverance to those around you. You may never have your name in lights. There may never be a movie made about your heroism, your smarts, or your generosity, but Someone is watching who will see it all and reward you well.