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Man of God

24th April 2015

What is a "man of God"? A good place to start answering that question is to look at the biblical examples. I can find eight people whom the Bible describe as "man of God". We might guess the first five:

  • Moses (Deuteronomy 33v1, Joshua 14v6, 1 Chronicles 23v14, 2 Chronicles 30v16 and Ezra 3v2 - also the introduction to Psalm 90).
  • Samuel (1 Samuel 9v6, 7, 8 and 10).
  • David (2 Chronicles 8v14, Nehemiah 12v24, 26).
  • Elijah (1 Kings 17:18 and 24, 2 Kings 1v9, 10, 11, 12, 13).
  • Elisha (2 Kings 4v7, 9, 16, 21, 22, 25, 27 (twice) 40, 42, 5v8, 14, 15, 20, 6v6, 9, 10, 15, 7v2, 17, 18, 19 (twice) 8v2, 4, 7, 8, 11, 13v19).

These five led such extraordinary lives that we can easily see that they were men of God. Moses was the greatest prophet of the Old Testament. He led God's chosen people out of Egypt, and parted the Red Sea. He was the one through whom God gave the Law. Samuel was the great prophet and judge who led God's people before the days of the monarchy. King David established the Israelite monarchy after the death of Saul, defeated its enemies, extended its borders, brought the Ark of the Covenant home, and greatly developed the ministry of worship to God. He's described as a man after God's own heart in 1 Samuel 13v14 and Acts 13v22. Elijah was also a great prophet. His prayers stopped the rain for three and a half years. He won the great contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and performed several other miracles. Elisha, too, performed many miracles.

The sixth, seventh and eight men of God are less obvious, however. One is Timothy, to whom Paul wrote:

1 Timothy 6v9-14
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ

Paul described Timothy as a man of God while feeling the need to warn him to resist the temptation of money and to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness". To be a man of God is not to be perfect. But we know this already, because Moses and David were murderers. Samuel unwisely appointed his corrupt sons as judges, which led directly to the rejection of theocracy in Israel. David was an adulterer. Elijah seems to have had a breakdown when he laid down in the desert and prayed for death.

Our seventh man of God named in the Bible is Shemaiah:

2 Chronicles 11:2-4
But this word of the LORD came to Shemaiah the man of God: "Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah and to all the Israelites in Judah and Benjamin, ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’" So they obeyed the words of the LORD and turned back from marching against Jeroboam.

Shemaiah also prophesied in 2 Chronicles 12v5 and is mentioned as having (or writing) a Chronicle in 2 Chronicles 12v15. Why is he described as a man of God and not merely as a prophet? We're not told.

And the remaining man of God is Igdaliah. All we know about him is recorded in this passage:

Jeremiah 35v3-4
So I went to get Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers and all his sons — the whole family of the Recabites. I brought them into the house of the LORD, into the room of the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah the man of God. It was next to the room of the officials, which was over that of Maaseiah son of Shallum the door-keeper.

Shemaiah, and particularly Igdaliah, prove there is no link between being a man of God and being famous. Shemaiah prophesied three times, and his chronicle is mentioned once. Igdaliah did nothing that God chose to record in the Bible. And there are other men of God in the Old Testament who are not even named (1 Samuel 2v27, 1 Kings 13, 2 Chronicles 25v7).

What distinguishes a man of God from a prophet? There are many prophets mentioned in the Bible but only a few are called man of God. Some men of God were prophets but, so far as we know, some of them weren't.

A prophet, I suppose, is someone with a profound gift of prophesying - speaking out a message given by God.

I think a man - or woman - of God is someone who has dedicated his life to God, who has rejected worldly living and worldly thinking, who recognises he's wholly dependent on God, only interested in the will of God, dedicated to the service of God, listening for the word of God.

Some of these people are in the Bible. Most are not. Some are well-known. Most are not. I believe there are many men - and women - of God today like Shemaiah and Igdaliah, who quietly do the will of God, without ever becoming well-known. Some might be recognised by their brothers and sisters in Christ. Some may not. Some may be in your local church.

Thank God for every one of them.