Tough (?) Jews of the Tanakh

Think there’s no way a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth deserves the title of Messiah? The Hebrew Scriptures are full of people whom we’ve considered heroes for generations, but a closer look reveals that these people may have been far from the typical tough types we are prone to admire. Yet they possessed other qualities that make them genuine heroes. This shows us that God is in the business of using ordinary people for extraordinary purposes.

NameNot So ToughNonetheless…
AbrahamAbraham was an unlikely choice for a hero, given the fact that he was elderly.Abraham was faithful to God's call and commands. He became the father of Israel, God's covenant people. He is called "the friend of God" (James 2:23), "faithful Abraham" (Galatians 3:9), "the father of us all" (Romans 4:16).
MosesMoses' speech impediment and position as shepherd made him an unlikely prospect for hero status.Moses was obedient to God and led the Israelites out of Egypt. This once-reluctant shepherd became known for his meekness, patience and firmness. It was said of him: "There arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses…" (Deuteronomy 34:10). Moses' name occurs frequently in the Psalms and Prophets as the chief of the prophets. In the New Testament Moses is the only character in the Tanakh to whom Jesus likens himself.
JosephA former slave and exconvict are not usually considered heroic credentials.Joseph rose to great power in Egypt and was a man of forgiveness, charity and compassion. He could have had his brothers summarily executed for what they had done to him, but he chose to embrace them instead.
DavidAs a boy, David was a mere sheep tender and not even the firstborn son. As an adult, he committed grievous acts of adultery and murder.Although David committed deep sin, he still was known as a man who sought God's will. Certainly he was not perfect, but he was willing to repent and follow God's leadership. His influence for good in the life of his nation was great, since every king of Judah after David was compared to the standard he established. The Jewish historian Josephus praised David by saying, "This man was of an excellent character, and was endowed with all the virtues that were desirable in a king." David was truly a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).
GideonThe first time we see Gideon, he is threshing wheat in a winepress because he is afraid of his enemies. And he always seems outnumbered.Gideon received a direct call from God to undertake the task of delivering Israel from the Midianites. First, with ten of his servants, he overthrew the altars of Baal and cut down the asherah, and then blew the trumpet of alarm, and then 22,000 men flocked to the crest of Mount Gilboa. These were, however, reduced to only 300. Armed with torches and pitchers and trumpets, they rushed in from three different points on the camp of Midian at midnight, crying, "For the Lord and for Gideon" (Judges 7:18). Terror-stricken and confused, the Midianites slew one another. Only 15,000 out of 120,000 survived. The memory of this great deliverance impressed itself deeply on the mind of the nation (1 Samuel 12:11; Psalm 83:11; Isaiah 9:4; 10:26; Hebrews 11:32).
EstherA Jewish woman, part of the Persian king's harem, was a reluctant queen.Esther almost single-handedly saved the Jews from destruction by Haman. Esther appears pious, faithful, courageous and resolved—a dutiful daughter to her adopted father, docile and obedient to his counsels…' she obtained favor in the sight of all them that looked upon her' (Esther 2:15). She was raised up as an instrument in the hand of God to avert the destruction of the Jewish people.
DanielA young captive in exile in Babylon stubbornly insisted on his religious tradition and had a knack for dream interpretation.Daniel went from captive in Babylon to chief dream interpreter, and endured the lions' den because he wouldn't give up his faith in God. In more than 60 years of life in Babylon, Daniel faced many challenges, but he grew stronger in his commitment to God. His book is characterized not only by prophecies of the distant future but also by a sense of wonder at God's presence.

Other unlikely heroes worth mentioning: a novice boat builder (Noah), a confident senior citizen (Caleb), a God-fearing prostitute (Rahab), a fig-picking prophet (Amos), a prejudiced preacher (Jonah), a determined cupbearer (Nehemiah). This pattern of God choosing unlikely heroes continues in the New Testament portion of Scripture, with a tax collector named Levi (Matthew), a locust-eating but passionate man named Yochanan (a.k.a. John the Baptizer) and a man who persecuted followers of Jesus…until he ended up becoming one of them, the Apostle Paul.