The Phoebe Knapp Story–[*See Footnote [i]]
In 1873, those who probably knew Phoebe Knapp as nothing but an organist at her Methodist church in NYC. She was a wealthy enough woman–her parents had left a large estate. But much of it was tied up in her husband’s company National Union Life and Limb.
Nowadays, that company takes its name from the Metropolitan District of New York City, which eventually became successful and know as MetLife.
But in 1873, Phoebe wasn’t all that special. During The Great Financial Panic of 1873, a similar version to The Great Depression, businesses were failing and the insurance market was in jeopardy. But Phoebe and Joe felt called to providing insurance. They stuck it out, and with God’s providence were able to continue their business.
Then in the 1880’s, comparative wealth rolled around. With hard work and being in the right place at the right time, defining most businesses, Joe and Phoebe Knapp were able to gain wealth and fame running an American icon like MetLife.
But the Knapp’s most enduring legacy came in the depths. In 1873, Phoebe was just an organist at church, she and her husband were best known for their piety. But the KEY to who they were was their TRUST IN GOD and letting Him work through them through their circumstances.
THE SIMILARITY TO MOSES’ LIFE: “I KNOW I’M A PRINCE, BUT I FEEL STUCK JUST WATCHING THE SHEEP!”
[Scripture Verses: Exodus 3:1-16; 4:1; 10-13]
God Had A Plan for Moses – Exodus 3…
When MOSES set out to accomplish righteous ends using his own methods, things didn’t go well. When he set out to accomplish righteous ends using GOD’S METHODS…things worked out better. But still, Moses was stuck out in the desert. Casually reading the story in Exodus, for all practical purposes, MOSES was a nobody.
He was a man who was prince of Egypt, and now he finds himself watching sheep (Exodus 3:1). Talk about a waste of potential. But GOD had a plan for Moses. If God wants to do something, it’s going to happen!
God wanted Moses to be…THE MAN…the man who gave Israel His deliverance. So God did something He doesn’t often do. He called Moses directly (Exodus 3:2-4).
We all have some image in our minds of the BURNING BUSH. It’s a famous encounter when God calls man, asks man to join Him in what He’s doing or about to do. God still calls us today, even if He is less dramatic about it. I’m not saying we can’t have a “burning bush” moment is life, because I’ve listened to others testimony.
Our sometimes responses…
I love looking at the JOY in peoples faces serving in ministry of the church by responding to God’s call. For whatever reason, when God calls, their response is more like that of MOSES–Here I am, Send him/her.
I have often heard the statistic “20% of the people in church do 80% of the work.” Why is that the case? One answer, one that I’ve found to be true in my own personal Christian walk is illustrated by the QUESTIONS of Moses, and more importantly, the ANSWERS God gives.
When God Calls Us to Join Him…
It’s pretty natural to have questions. After all, He’s God, and well…we’re not. How we answer these questions determines what part we’ll have in His work.
The Call from a Burning Bush – (Exodus 3:2-11)
Here is GOD ALMIGHTY, calling out of a “burning bush,“ telling MOSES you’re to act on My behalf as Israel’s Deliverer. That’s no easy task. Moses’ track record already shown he can take God’s call and mess it up. So what’s Moses’ first question?
“Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11 AMP).
In this age where SELF-ESTEEM is so important to teach our children, God has an interesting answer:
“I shall surely be with you…” (3:12)
Notice God doesn’t say, “Oh, Moses you’ve been trained” or “Moses you’re good man.” No, God says, ‘Who you are isn’t important.’
“IT JUST DOESN’T MATTER”
Lacking in self-confidence during my teenage years, as most teenagers do, especially in the case of asking girls out on a date, I tried to build up my courage while in front of the bathroom mirror. While getting ready for the big evening, I began singing loudly a lyric from Peggy Lee’s hit…“Mr. Wonderful” [ii]. However, I modified the words “Mr. Wonderful, that’s you'” to “Mr. Wonderful, that’s ME.” Although it didn’t work too often, I enjoyed irritating my 7 year younger brother as he walked down the hallway.
Acting without CONFIDENCE…
I know people like that–venturing out into life with little or no confidence in what they have been asked to accomplish. And yet, what is God’s answer?
It doesn’t matter who you are–what experience you have, or lack thereof–I’ve called you, and there’s only one thing you need to know–I’m with you.
MOSES’ SECOND QUESTION–
So, if it doesn’t matter who Moses is, then Moses asks the next logical question “OK, God, then who are you?”
The way Moses asks this question, I get the impression Moses is perhaps thinking back in time why he fled Egypt in the first place. Notice his words in Exodus 3:13:
“When I come to the Israelites and say to them, The God of your father has sent me to you, and they say to me, What is His name? What shall I say to them?”
In Exodus 2:14, Moses remembering what the Hebrew said when trying to intervene in their fight…”Who made you prince and a ruler over us?” “What gives you the right?”
You see, people DON’T like being in charge and still are stuck on the first question of “Who am I?” They’re the type who wants God’s ‘help’, yet not His leadership.
“GOD IS GOD, AND WE’RE NOT!”
That’s why Moses gets God’s name. God isn’t the God of some particular thing, He’s just God!
“And God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM and I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE; and He said, You shall say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you!” (Exodus 3:14).
THAT statement alone is MYSTERY in and of itself–nothing can be added to it. When people ask, “Who does God think he is anyway?” The answer is simply, “I AM.”
God is allowed to be in charge, because He is God. He was GOD yesterday, He is GOD today. And when we’re dead and gone, GOD will still be GOD. He is always a present tense God.
Before Abraham was, I AM. When He is ALPHA and OMEGA, I AM.
Even when He hides His face, look up! God is not dead, “I AM”.
You see, it doesn’t matter who WE ARE. GOD “IS”.
It’s NOT who I am, it’s who He is.
THE THIRD QUESTION OF MOSES–The TRUTH isn’t always easy to accept:
“But behold, they will not believe me or listen to and obey my voice; for they will say, The Lord has not appeared to you” (4:1).
So Moses asks another question and…he raises it as an objection–he says…
‘Okay, I realize it’s not about me, I realize it’s who you are Lord. But what if the people don’t believe me?’
That’s reasonable response. I’ve imagined the same question as I sit down to write a new blog: ‘What if the people don’t believe what I’m writing– what truths am I trying to get across in my words?’
People in general like PROOF. People want PROOF.
Our PROOF today comes from the written Word, the Bible–
For over 2000 years, eyewitness testimony and acts of God are right in front of us, so we can show consistency in what God has called us too, with what He has done in the past.
But in Moses’ time, most of them probably wouldn’t even been able to read. So GOD talks to them in their terms.
God uses MIRACLES in His calling…
God gives Moses a MIRACLE to show that he, Moses, has been called by God.
I wondered in reading here, why doesn’t God just use a miracle and miraculously move all His people out of Egypt… without Moses? And, why doesn’t He do the same for us today? It would be so much easier! But that’s not God’s style.
Following the Staff of Moses:
God gives Moses a staff–a sign to follow, but leaves the following of to the people. You’d think that would be enough. But Moses finally runs out of excuses. He just lays his lack of confidence on the line:
“And Moses said to the Lord, O Lord, I am not eloquent or a man of words, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and have a heavy and awkward tongue” (4:10).
To paraphrase Moses’ words here…‘LORD, PLEASE SEND SOMEONE ELSE. I don’t want to do it!’ I know You made me; I know You care for me. Moses is saying, “That’s just not who I want to be.”
And so God says, “Okay. Have it your way, I’ll give you Aaron.”
Aaron isn’t always a helper–think about the Golden Calf, the grumbling and complaining. But God says to Moses “You insist on doing it your way? I can use that too.”
It might not be PLAN “A”, but I’m God. I can work with it.
GOD CARES FOR HIS PEOPLE…
But God doesn’t care about their own “self-images.” He simply wants us to realize, it doesn’t matter who we are. God is with us.
THE MIRACLES, the GREAT BIBLE STORIES that inspire us, that’s not what we aspire to; there is only a finite number of miracles, only so many stories to read. Ultimately, GOD allows us to join Him. He pleads with us to join Him. But if we are to be God’s people, eventually we have to put up or shut up. If we’re going to do God’s work here on earth, we must do it in HIS POWER.
THE FANNY CROSBY–[*See Footnote [iii] on the Fanny Crosby story.]
Doing God’s work in His power…
I’m sure you’ve heard this godly woman’s story before and doing the work of God in her own circumstances.
When Fanny was only six weeks old, she came down with a cold that affected her eyes. Since the family doctor was out, a man who stood in his place; though he knew what to do, he ended up blinding the little girl instead.
But God hadn’t given up on Fanny Crosby. She was a smart girl and by the age of 10, she had memorized the entire New Testament. When she was in her 20 s, she became a teacher and a well-known poet.
She became good friends with another school teacher at the time, a man by the name of Grover Cleveland who later became the President of the United States. On several occasion in his Presidency, he would call Fanny to write a poem for a special occasion.
She truly was something of a wonder to behold, but even she was missing something. When she was 30, a cholera epidemic swept through her town. As she watched love ones die all around her, she realized even with all her great accomplishments, she only lived because of the POWER and the GRACE of God.
God had given her an amazing ability to put beautiful words down to pen based on the truths of God’s Word. If you’ve ever sung ‘To God Be the Glory,’ you’ve sung one of her songs. Or, ‘Jesus is Tenderly Calling’ and nearly 8000 other hymns came of this godly blind woman.
And so, in 1873, Fanny J. Crosby was living in God’s POWER, and doing His work. At her church, the organist wanted a part in that too. Her name was Phoebe Knapp.
Phoebe eventually could have been successful being the wife of an insurance tycoon. But that’s not what Phoebe Knapp is known for today. She composed a tune that she believed, had faith enough, to be of God and she wasn’t a POET.
Going to the home of her fellow church-member and friend, Phoebe asked Fanny Crosby, what does this song say to you? Phoebe played the notes on the keyboard and Fanny spoke these words: “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine.”
Having a lack of confidence in your ‘self-worth’ right now?
So it doesn’t matter if you are a farmer, a wealthy woman, a blind poet or even a “sheep watcher.” It doesn’t matter who you are, but only who He is and what He will do through you.
You can have that BLESSED ASSURANCE, but only if JESUS is yours. Or more importantly, that you are His.
I love the way the Amplified Bible’s reading of a verse in Philippians 4:
“I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]” ~ verse 13.
SO WHAT IS YOUR STORY?
WHAT IS YOUR SONG?
[i] Phoebe Knapp story @ christianheritagefellowship.com/phoebe-palmer-knapp.
[ii] Title, music and Lyrics from Peggy Lee’s “Mr. Wonderful, That’s You.”
[iii] Fanny Crosby story from christianitytoday.com/Fanny Crosby/Christian History.
Phoebe Palmer Knapp – Courtesy of the Christian Heritage Fellowship.
Fanny Crosby – Courtesy of Wikipedia/Fanny Crosby-religion.
“Burning Bush”; A man holding his “STAFF” ; and a child watching sheep- by Photo Pin.
BLESSED ASSURANCE – Courtesy of Google Images for Blessed Assurance.
BIBLE TRANSLATION USED FOR THIS POST:
Amplified Bible Translation – Published by Zondervan – http://www.zondervan.com