“No-Name”; The Samaritan Woman

Tonight we are returning to the New Testament to continue our “No-Name” series. The story is found in the gospel of John, chapter 4 and is one of the most well-known among all the encounters Jesus had with people during His ministry on earth. I would dare say that anyone who has spent any time at all going to church and/or Sunday school has heard the story of the woman at the well. The Samaritan woman.  But few have really considered the potentially significant role she played in spreading the good news of the gospel. I realize that the previous “No-Name” stories we have heard during this series have been rather lengthy. So tonight I will attempt to condense the paraphrased version of the story and get to the valuable lesson of it in short order. So here goes.

Shortly after Jesus had been seen by John the Baptist who had made the statement that Jesus must increase and he must decrease, Jesus left Judea and headed for Galilee. It so happened that on His way to Galilee He passed through Samaria and a city called Sychar. This city was very near what was known as Jacob’s well which was main source for water for that area. Jesus was tired from His journey and stopped at the well to rest and perhaps have a drink of cool water. During the afternoon as Jesus rested there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water as was normal for that time of day. Jesus asked her for a drink of water because His disciples had gone into the city to purchase food. The woman certainly never realized that this would begin a conversation with the Lord that would radically change her life.

The woman had recognized that Jesus was a Jew from the beginning so she replied with a question. “Why do You, being a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” she asked. This question reveals the hatred that these two groups had for each other and shows the woman’s surprise that He even had spoken to her. So, it is not hard to imagine her even greater surprise with the answer He gave her. Jesus said to her “If you were aware of God’s gift and who I am that says give me drink, you would have asked Him instead and He would have given you Living Water”. She understood that He was referring to Himself but she didn’t understand how He could get living water without anything to draw with and because the well was so deep. She even tried to compare Him to Jacob and his sons implying that He would certainly not be greater than them. Jesus patiently explained that He was talking about something greater than the water from the well. He was talking about satisfying the thirst much greater than the physical thirst for water. That He was talking about a spiritual well that would never run dry. His response prompted her to ask for this water.

We know how the story goes from here. Jesus tells her to go get her husband and bring him and she replied that she had no husband. Of course Jesus knew that and even knew that she had been married five different times and was living with a man who was not her husband. In other words, He knew her reputation and her history of sinful living. At this point she realized that He was not an ordinary man and after more conversation with Him, explained that she knew that the Messiah was to come and declare all things to His people. Jesus said to her “I am He”. The woman then left her water pot at the well, went into the city and told the men to come and see a man who told her all the things she had done. She posed a question to the men that indicates she believed Jesus was the Christ. And the men left the city to go meet this man Jesus.

Here we see another person whose name that we are never given, be an instrument in God’s hand to play a role in the furtherance of the gospel. This “No-Name” became a witness in her own right and was responsible for many of the Samaritans from the city  becoming believers as stated in verse 39. She simply shared what Jesus had done for her. Further proof that God uses people, even those whose names are never revealed, for His purposes to bring others to Him. Again, we should all be like the Samaritan woman at the well and share with others what He has done for us. 



“No-Name”; Pharoah’s Cupbearer

The “no-name” we looked at last week was found in the New Testament in the book of Acts. As we learned, it was Paul’s nephew and He made it possible for Paul to escape harm and possibly death. He had overheard a plot of a group of the Jewish religious leaders of that day to kill Paul and thus informed Paul of the plan. Paul then informed the Roman captain of the guard and they devised a pan to move Paul under cover of darkness to insure his safety. The plan was successful and the rest is history.

This week we are going back to the Old Testament for another story of a “no-name” that God used to take care of one His own. The story revolves around Joseph and how God was using him to continue with His master plan and keep His covenant with Abraham. The story is found in the book of Genesis and begins in chapter 40 and continues through chapter 41. We will begin with a brief summary of the events leading up to this.

In preceding chapters in Genesis we can read about the life of Joseph up to the start of our story. We know that he was loved by his father more than any of his brothers and his brothers hated him for that. We know that God had given him a special gift to interpret his own dreams when they occurred. When he told his brothers his dreams and then gave them the interpretation of his dreams, the brothers realized that, according to Joseph, the dreams revealed that at some point he would rule over his brothers. This did not set well with his brothers so they planned to kill him. However one of them did not want him to be killed so he convinced the others to put Joseph in a deep pit to die from starvation or from attack by a wild animal. However, he planned to go back for Joseph by himself and return him to his father. After they placed him in the pit a caravan of traders came by on their way to Egypt and the brothers sold Joseph to them. And off they went to Egypt.

Upon arrival in Egypt, Joseph was sold to a man named Potiphar who was an officer to Pharoah, specifically the captain of the bodyguard. Potiphar was so pleased with Joseph over time that he put him in charge of everything concerning his household. Potiphar’s wife had her eye on Joseph and began to make advances toward him when Potiphar was away. Joseph refused to have anything to do with her but eventually she cornered him and pulled his robe of when exposed his nakedness. Joseph fled from her but she kept his robe. She then used the robe to back up her lie that Joseph had attacked her. Potiphar then had Joseph placed in the jail where the king’s prisoners were kept. However, he found favor in the eyes of the chief jailer because God was with him. The chief jailer then placed Joseph in charge of the other prisoners and this is where we pick up our story of “No-Name”; Pharoah’s Cupbearer.

The king’s baker and cupbearer had displeased the king in some way and so they were put in jail where Joseph was in charge of the prisoners. They were to be held there until their fate would be determined by the king. While they were there, both of them had a dream that they did not understand. They were so dejected that it showed on their faces thus prompting Joseph to ask them what was their trouble. When they explained to Joseph that there was no one to interpret their dreams, Joseph asked them to tell him the dreams. When they had finished, Joseph began to explain to them what they meant.

The cupbearer’s dream consisted of three grape-vine branches that produced a cluster of grapes on each which the cupbearer then squeezed into the king’s cup and then gave the cup to the king. Joseph interpreted his dream to mean that in three days the king would spare his life and restore him to his cupbearer position. The baker’s dream consisted three baskets of white bread on his head and in the top basket were many baked good for the king. However, the birds were eating the baked goods and not the king was not. Joseph interpreted his dream to mean that in three days the king would have him hanged and the birds would eat his flesh. And as the Bible so vividly describes, it all came to pass just as Joseph had said. The cupbearer was restored and the baker was executed.

After Joseph had favorably interpreted the cupbearer’s dream he asked the cupbearer to remember him and put in a good word for him in hopes that he would be released from the jail. However, the cupbearer did not remember to do that and Joseph continued to be confined for another two years. But God had not forgotten him and the plans he had for his life. So the story is not finished.

When the two years had passed Pharoah himself two dreams. The first was that seven fat cows came up out of the Nile and started grazing. Then seven ugly cows came up out of the Nile and consumed the fat cows but there was no change in their appearance. His second dream was that seven plump ears of corn grew up on a single stalk . Then seven other ears, scorched and thin, sprouted up and consumed the seven plump ears. He was so troubled by the two dreams that he called all of his magicians and wise men together and told them the dreams but they were unable to interpret them. This is the point where our “No-Name” cupbearer remembers what Joseph had done for him. He then spoke to Pharoah and told him about Joseph’s ability. He calls for Joseph and Joseph successfully interpret’s the dreams. He makes Pharoah aware that the two dreams are actually the same and that they represent seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. He also advises Pharoah that he has a plan for the situation and explains it to Pharoah. As a result Pharoah appoints Joseph to head up this plan and eventually Joseph becomes a powerful man in Egypt, second only to Pharoah himself. Another “No-Name”, the cupbearer, has made a difference!

God again insured that He had His man in the right place at the right time to do His will to carry out His plan. A man whose name was never mentioned. A man who probably never realized the impact he had on the future of mankind. As I have said before, we have no idea how many “no-names” that God still uses today to carry out His plan. We should all pray that He uses us whether anyone else knows our name or not. I, for one, would be proud to be a “No-Name” for His service.







“No-Name”; Paul’s Nephew

Last week we started our series of no-name characters of the Bible by introducing the first one as Abraham’s servant. We saw a loyal and obedient man to his master and obviously a man of prayer. He relied on God to provide the sign he needed to confirm that the woman God had set aside as a wife for Isaac would be the one to offer him water for himself and his camels. As we saw, God granted his desire and answered his prayer. And what a great example of how God uses people to carry out His plans whether or not He reveals their name. But God knows their name and that’s all that matters.

This evening we will move to the New Testament with another wonderful story of how God used another no-name to protect His servant Paul. The Bible clearly reveals this boy as the son of Paul’s sister which would, of course, be Paul’s nephew. As we see in the story found in the book of Acts, chapter 23, Paul’s nephew was in the right place at the right time to hear the details of a plot against Paul and thus warn him of the plot. Certainly, this was not by accident or coincidence. God had this boy in place at the appointed time to ensure His plan for Paul would not be interrupted. So let’s move on to the background information before we give the full details of our story.

Paul was in Jerusalem as directed by the Holy Spirit but at the same time against the wishes of many of his friends and converts. Paul loved the people of Jerusalem being a Jew himself and knowing that the gospel had been first given to them. Paul was certainly aware of how the Christians in Jerusalem were being persecuted by the Jewish religious leaders and was willing to go and minister to them in spite of the risk. He had even made the statement that He was willing to die there for the cause of Christ. Although He was gladly received by the brethren there and even though they praised God for what He had done in the Gentile world there was some concern over some of the stories they had been hearing that Paul had been teaching them to abandon the Law. This, of course, was not the case but Paul honored their request to go through a vow ritual to show that He was keeping the Law himself and was not teaching anything contrary to the Law. But this was not good enough for some of the Jewish religious leaders from Asia so they began to stir up discontent. They went as far as to take him by force to harm him but the Roman soldiers intervened to keep anything from happening that would appear to be an uprising. Paul was able to speak his piece before the mob and eventually revealed to the Roman soldiers that he himself was of Roman citizenship. The commander of the soldiers were very afraid that they themselves would be in trouble for false arrest. At this point is where the real story begins.

The next day the commander released Paul because he wanted to know exactly why the Jews had accused him. He ordered the chief priests and the Sanhedrin to assemble to give Paul a chance to speak his defense. As Paul spoke, the high priest Ananias ordered someone to strike Paul on the mouth and Paul responded, not knowing who Ananias was, that he was a white washed wall and that God would strike him instead. This angered the group greatly. Paul then perceived that there were both Sadducees and Pharisees present so he appealed to Pharisees being one himself. His comments created a great dissension between the two sects and a great argument arose and the soldiers move Paul back to the barracks for fear of harm coming to him. The next day the Jewish religious leaders developed a plot to kill Paul and took an oath to follow through with it. However, this is the point where Paul’s’ nephew overheard the conversation regarding the plot and went to the barracks and informed Paul. Paul had his nephew then taken to the commander so he could also expose the plot to him. The commander then devised a plan to have Paul moved to Caesarea by night and refer the case to Felix the Governor for resolution. The plan was thus carried out and Paul was safely moved as instructed. God had again used a no-name to insure that His will was being done and that His plan would be continued without interruption.

We need to point out that in verse 11 of chapter 23 God had told Paul to take courage; for he had been His witness in Jerusalem for His cause and He would do the same in Rome also. We know by reading the rest of the book of Acts that Paul was a witness to Felix the Governor and later to Festus the Governor in Caesarea and ultimately to King Agrippa. He was then sent to Rome just as God had promised. And all of the this because another no-name, Paul’s nephew, was where God wanted him to be for His purpose.


“No-Name”; Abraham’s Servant

The Bible is full of wonderful stories about how God worked through certain individuals  to insure that His master plan for humanity would continue along the path that He had established in eternity past. A great many of those people are spelled out by name and those names had significant meaning in Biblical days. However, in quite a few instances He used certain folks that seemed to be rather insignificant in the great scheme of things but actually played a major role in keeping things moving in the direction that He desired. And I am convinced that He is still using people today to further that plan and will ultimately bring it to an end at some point in eternity future. Some are well-known in different circles but I would say the majority of them are unknown to us by name. The focus of this “No-Name” series will be on a number of those Biblical characters that filled the role God had for them but we were never given their name. And this evening we will start with our first one, Abraham’s Servant.

Most of the us are familiar with the story of Abraham and how he was selected by God to become the father of a great nation. The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. In other words, his faith and trust was in God. We remember how He promised Abraham and Sarah in their old age that they would have a son and how Sarah laughed to herself. After Isaac was born and grew into a young man Abraham obeyed God by being willing to offer his son on the sacrificial altar at God’s direction. We know God stayed his hand and made a covenant with him that his offspring would be as the sands of the sea and the stars in the sky. Many other stories could be recounted about Abraham but our story is not about him.

After Sarah died and Abraham was nearing the time of his final days on earth he decided it was time to find a wife for Isaac. It was imperative that she be a young woman from his relatives in the land he left and not from Canaan where he lived. However, at his age he was unable to travel so he decided to use someone he fully trusted and this was his head servant who was responsible for all of his affairs. So Abraham called his servant to him and had him swear an oath that he would go to Abraham’s homeland and search for a wife for Isaac but never to take Isaac back there. This is where our story begins.

Abraham’s servant (No-Name) did indeed swear the oath as requested by Abraham then immediately made the necessary preparations for his journey and set out for the land of Abraham’s family. He took with him ten camels and numerous other goods that could be offered as gifts in return for hospitality shown. When he arrived at his destination he stopped near  a well that was used by the local women to draw water. It was near the late evening time and he knew the women would be arriving very soon. After having the camels kneel down there he lifted up a prayer to God asking for a confirmation sign for the woman who God had set aside to be Isaac’s wife. His request was that when he asked for a small drink of water the young woman would give him water to drink and then water his camels also. Before he finished his prayer, Rebekah showed up with her water jar on her shoulder. The Bible tells us that she was the daughter of Betheul who was the son of Milcah who was the wife of Nahor who was Abraham’s brother. If I read this right, she would have been Abraham’s brother’s granddaughter. She was Abraham’s grand niece. Looks to me like she would certainly be a relative.

To continue with the story we see that Rebekah did exactly what No-Name had requested in his prayer. She gave him water and then watered his camels. In other words, God had answered his prayer. No-Name then gave to Rebekah a gold ring and two bracelets and asked her if there was room at her father’s house for he and his party to lodge. And she answered in the affirmative. No-Name then again prayed to God with thankfulness in his heart that God had dealt with him in loving kindness and Had granted his request. If we read the remainder of the story in Genesis 24 we will find that Rebekah agrees to return to the land of Canaan with No-Name and when Isaac went to meditate in the fields he saw the camels in the distance and then meets Rebekah. Isaac takes Rebekah back to his mother’s tent and there she becomes his wife.

There are a lot more details in the story that I have not covered but the paraphrase version is a good account of what happened. So what is so important about the involvement of Abraham’s servant? Well, let’s first take a look at what kind of man he was. First of all we see that he was the oldest of the servants. Obviously he was well-respected by Abraham and was very loyal to his master. He apparently was a believer in Jehovah God and he was a praying man. He was an obedient man and He was a kind man. But his name has not been mentioned so what is the big deal?

Here it is. God had No-Name in the right place at the right time to play a major role in the fulfilment of His covenant with Abraham. And at the same time to fulfill the prophesy of the coming of the Messiah out of this great nation. The very One that would become the final sacrifice for the sins of the people and for all those who accept Him. No-Name helped make this possible by bringing a wife to Isaac who would later become the mother of Jacob who would later be renamed to Israel who would later be the father of twelve sons that would become the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel from which the Messiah would come. The covenant and prophesy would be fulfilled because No-Name was an obedient servant.

I wonder how many No-Names are out there today?