Student Bible

Duration: 365 days

CATASTROPHES THROUGH GOD’S EYES

Isaiah 21

An endless cycle of war and death—what did it mean?

Isaiah 21:3 At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see.

There is one easy way to picture the Middle East of Isaiah’s day: Simply follow today’s newspaper headlines and project backward in time. Then, as now, one nation would invade its neighbor, leveling cities and devastating the land and its people. The prophet Isaiah longed for an end to the cycle, much as modern-day residents of Lebanon or Israel do today.

Isaiah looked at the world with a kind of split vision. Around him he saw spiritual decay and the dreary cycle of war and death. Yet God had given him a clear vision of what his nation could one day become: a pure people, faithful to God, living in peace with “war no more.”

A Kingdom for a Purpose

With God’s view of the future shining brightly before him, Isaiah went about reinterpreting history. Others in Judah looked upon military invasions as terrible catastrophes. By contrast, Isaiah—though he felt anguish over the events—saw glimpses of a higher purpose.

Isaiah said that Judah had to endure pain and suffering in order to be purified. He counseled against making political alliances to forestall the punishment. God’s people had to go through the fire, and from the trials a remnant—a small remaining number of persons—would emerge that God could then use to accomplish his work. Isaiah went so far as to name his own son “a remnant will return” (Shear-Jashub) as a walking object lesson of his message to Judah (see Isaiah 7:3).

Why had the Jews been called by God in the first place? They were to be a “light for the Gentiles,” Isaiah said (see Isaiah 42:6), a nation used by God to bring his truth to other nations. And out of the land of Judah God would raise up a great Prince who would rule over all the earth.

Who Is in Charge?

In short, God had not discarded his people, no matter how bleak things looked. The Israelites would ultimately become a missionary nation, pointing others to God.

Above all other messages, Isaiah stressed this one: God is in charge of history. To Judah—surrounded by enemies, staggering from invasion, weary of bloodshed—God seemed far away and distant. Isaiah assured its inhabitants that the great powers of earth were mere tools in God’s hands; he would use them and fling them aside.

Life Questions

Isaiah described people who felt afraid and abandoned by God. Have you ever felt like that? How does Isaiah’s message offer hope for us today?

NIV Discover God’s Heart Devotional Bible

Duration: 365 days

GOD’S COMPLETE RESCUE

Galatians 1–3

God’s Story

A dangerous, destructive teaching is infecting the churches in Galatia. So God inspires Paul to write the believers an urgent letter.

For centuries, God worked within the family of Israel to bring forth the world’s Savior, Jesus. Jesus’ death paid the price for sin. Then God raised him back to life, and Jesus now offers that life to anyone who wants it, even if they’re not a part of the family of Israel. God is building a new family, a single family, an in-Jesus family.

But teachers have come to the Galatian churches and are teaching that Gentiles, people who aren’t from the family of Israel, have to keep the law that God gave Moses—especially the sign of the covenant in circumcision—in order to be Christians.

That is not God’s teaching.

People are declared righteous through faith in Jesus. We died, in his death, to the law; we are raised, in his resurrection, to new life in him. No one—Jew or Gentile—is declared righteous by following the law. Righteousness is a gift God gives.

Paul rebukes the Galatians. They received God’s Spirit by faith, yet now they’re going back and acting like right standing with God is based on works. And that’s incredibly dangerous.

The King’s Heart

God wanted the whole world to see his good heart through his people Israel. But they were just as infected with sin as the rest of the world. So to keep them living in a way that showed his goodness and his purity, God gave the Israelites the law to follow until he came to rescue them from sin forever through Jesus. The law was never intended to save them.

The false teachers in Galatia were encouraging the believers to follow the law again—which means turning their backs on Jesus and his work. He’s the only one who can save them; following the law can’t. Paul’s words are strong because their very salvation is on the line.

God loves us so much that he gave his life to make us righteous. It is a gift and is to be received as a gift. Salvation can’t be earned. While that may sound too good to be true, it isn’t. Our God is just that good.

Insight

Peter got used to eating with Gentile believers—a big change for a born-and-raised Jew. But when Judaizers came to Antioch to visit, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles in order to gain the Judaizers’ approval (see Galatians 2:11-12). Paul rebuked him for it; he was being fake. And beyond that, he was discrediting the gospel.

Copyright © 2014 by Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved.

Stewardship Bible

Duration: 365 days

JOB’S RESTORATION

Job 42:10

Job’s spectacular turnaround isn’t just a reward for righteousness but also a joyous act of God’s generosity. The fact that God owes us nothing has never deterred him from giving us everything, freely and graciously (cf. 2Co 9:7). Notice that Job’s restoration comes only after he forgives his friends and prays for them. As Jesus says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Lk 6:37–38).

Pastor and author Gordon MacDonald notes that in

the first forty chapters of the book of Job, this man faced a sample of nearly every imaginable kind of suffering. On a few occasions he appeared to bend under the weight of the stress, but he never broke. Given every reason to doubt himself and to revise his view of God, he stayed the course.

Every person who desires to live generously will want to acquaint himself with the journey of Job. His is a message from ancient times of a man with a soul that was bigger than the circumstances. Satan certainly got his answer: Job feared God in comfortable times and in chaotic times. No contest!

As this amazing book concludes, a couple of points stand out as worth pondering. Notice that God never told Job why all this was happening to him … All of Job’s anguish finds its roots in a strange conversation in which Job’s character was impugned. One would like to hear God say to Job, “Now that this is all over, let me tell you what it was all about.” But Job was left, apparently, to live out his days continuing to trust in God …

More significantly, Job regained his prosperity … (see Job 42:10). What does this tell us? First, that prosperity is not always a coincidence nor merely the result of hard work. In this case at least, God showered prosperity upon a man because the man had demonstrated his faithfulness.

Second, the prosperity came not simply because Job had endured the suffering but because he prayed for his friends … Job had no reason to pray grace upon these “friends” of his. They’d done little more than add to his misery during his dark days. Still Job, through his prayer, wished for their best and prayed that God would act kindly toward them …

Two important lessons to keep in mind: First, everything we own may be attributed to Providence as much as to hard work; remember, there are others who work hard without gaining material prosperity. Second, we must never forget that a grace-filled heart does more to trigger God’s kindness than all the more visible things a person can do.

THINK ABOUT IT

  • How do you think this story would have ended had Job not prayed for his friends?
  • How is the story of Job tied not just to the topic of suffering but also to the idea of prosperity?
  • What life lessons can you take away from the story of Job?

PRAY ABOUT IT

Lord, Samuel reminds me that prayer is important when he says to the people, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you” (1Sa 12:23). Remind me, Lord, that my prayers on behalf of others are my duty as well as my privilege.

Quest Bible

Duration: 365 days

CAN SPIRITS BE CALLED FROM THE DEAD?

1 Samuel 28:12

Clearly, something supernatural happened in the house of the medium that night.

The woman saw “a ghostly figure coming up out of the earth.” Traditionally a number of perplexing questions have swirled around this passage of Scripture. Was this woman actually able to bring someone up from the dead or was she an expert faker? Did Samuel actually appear or was this old man (see 1Sa 28:14) a demon playing the role of Samuel? Did Samuel appear as a result of the medium’s power or did God intervene and raise Samuel himself?

An element of mystery surrounds this story, and it would be presumptuous to claim that we have all the answers. This episode seems to affirm a realm beyond the ordinary physical world—a spiritual realm that can somehow interact with the world in which we live. Though the scientific mind-set of Western culture has numbed our sensitivity to the reality of spiritual forces, the Bible confirms the reality of the unseen world. In Ephesians 6:10–18, Paul describes the Christian life as a kind of warfare, and he urges his readers to prepare to encounter an opponent not of flesh and blood but of spiritual forces of evil.

We need wisdom to know how to respond to the attacks of the enemy. Occult practices can both intrigue us and frighten us. While acknowledging the reality of the spiritual forces of evil and the deceitful practices of Satan, who “masquerades as an angel of light” (2Co 11:14), we are urged to resist him and stand firm in the faith (see 1Pe 5:9).