Review of 12 Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

March 6, 2013

It is undoubtedly true that the Bible contains some of the most unlikely heroes in all of history. It’s pages are filled with stories of the most unlikely leaders, priests, kings, and influential people.

12 Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

Like me, you probably have been encouraged by the stories of biblical people such as Moses (a man who asked God to chose someone else to lead), David (a boy who was not even asked to come and be part of the “choosing ceremony” of the next king), and James (the half-brother of Jesus who was an agnostic and did not believe Jesus to be the true Messiah until Jesus was resurrected.) Many Bible students such as myself and probably you too have desired to get to know these biblical characters in a deeper way.

Thankfully John MacAurther has penned a book titled, Twelve Unlikely Heroes: How God Commissioned Unexpected People in the Bible and What He Wants to Do with You. In this book, MacAurthur outlines and highlights character qualities and parts of the lives of 12 of the most unlikely heroes in the Bible. Those heroes are:

  • Enoch: The Man Who Walked with God
  • Joseph: Because God Meant It for Good
  • Miriam: The Leading Lady of the Exodus
  • Gideon and Samson: Stories of Weakness and Strength
  • Jonathan: The Man Who Would (Not) Be King
  • Jonah: The World’s Greatest Fish Story
  • Esther: For Such a Time As This
  • John the Baptist: The True Meaning of Greatness
  • James: The Brother of Our Lord
  • Mark and Onesimus: A Tale of Two Runaways

For me, one of the biblical heroes who stood out the most was Gideon. Gideon is introduced in chapter 6 of the book of Judges where God spoke to Gideon about going out to fight the Midianites in order to rescue Gideon’s people from the Midianites. Gideon’s startling reply was, “But Lord . . . how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15, New Living Translation). Here was God calling Gideon to do something great; to rescue the people of Israel from the Midianites and Gideon was afraid to follow God’s guidance.

MacArthur sheds light on this story by sharing that “in calling him [Gideon] a man of valor, the Angel of the Lord was not referring to what Gideon was, but what he would become by the strength that God provided” (p. 70). What a wonderful gift for Gideon to be led not to do something for God based on who Gideon was at that time, but to be called to do something where God would make Gideon into someone greater. And, Gideon was faithful to follow God’s guidance to lead the Israelites into battle against the Midianites.

In fact, Gideon did such a great job of both leading the Israelites in battle and in trusting God with his faith that Gideon is considered to be one of the great saints of the Bible. MacArthur writes, “The young man’s transformation, from faithless to fearless, is such that he is included in the New Testament among the elite examples of the heroes of faith (Hebrews 11:32). His example of faith-filled dependence on the Lord serves as a perpetual reminder of the strength that God supplies to those who trust in Him” (p. 75).

As for the entire 12 Unlikely Heroes book, I enjoyed it. MacArthur does an amazing job of not just retelling these stories of the Bible, but of giving readers increased historical and contextual information which helps readers fully understand and appreciate these unlikely heroes.

Question: What is your favorite biblical character who was an “unlikely hero?” Why?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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3 responses to Review of 12 Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

  1. Hello Chris,

    It’s hard to pick just one but off the top of my head would say James. I really enjoy reading the short book of James. Thanks for doing this review, I have been meaning to order this book and you just reminded me about it.

    • Dan, I am grateful that you chose James as one of your favorite biblical characters. What a great man with a down-to-earth heart. In this book, 12 Unlikely Heroes, MacArthur shares some great insight into Jame’s leadership role in the church and how that shaped his theology, and his New Testament book.

      Thanks for sharing.

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