August 1: Connecting the Stories
Isaiah 1:1–2:5; Luke 1:1–38; Job 1:1–12
The connections between the Testaments aren’t readily apparent, but a closer reading—empowered by the Spirit—can reveal them. Such is the case with the connections among Isaiah, Luke, and Job. The authors of each of these books begin by introducing a person, and then they invite us into the story. “There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright and God-fearing and turning away from evil. And seven sons and three daughters were born to him” (Job 1:1–2). “The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, heavens, and listen, earth, for Yahweh has spoken: ‘I reared children and I brought them up, but they rebelled against me’ ” (Isa 1:1–2). “Since many have attempted to compile an account concerning the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning passed on to us, it seemed best to me also—because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning—to write them down in orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty concerning the things about which you were taught” (Luke 1:1–4). Although these three introductions represent a simple pattern repeated among the books, only later do we see the deeper parallels. Isaiah draws on the thematic framework of Job: People need an advocate—someone righteous to stand between themselves and God—because all people are unworthy (Job 9; compare Isa 49:1–3; 52:13–53:12). We then find that Luke draws upon Isaiah’s framework: He identifies this advocate as a savior who will suffer on behalf of God’s people (the Suffering Servant; Luke 4:22–30; compare Isa 52:14–15; 53:3). The narratives in these books quickly lead us in directions we don’t expect, and as we begin to feel the tension and disorientation of the characters, the focus of each shifts to the savior at the center of God’s work in the world. In the midst of the pain these stories record, we see God working out something great—something beautiful. The world will be saved through one man: Jesus, God’s Son. This Suffering Servant will pay the price for the sins of us all. No matter the time, the place, or the people, God’s work in the world reflects and builds on itself to accomplish His great purpose of salvation. How does your story fit in the story of God’s saving work? What part do you play? How will your story be told?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 2: Small Players
Isaiah 2:6–4:6; Luke 1:39–66; Job 1:13–22
A priest should know better. A man representing the spiritual state of God’s people shouldn’t be so quick to question God’s promises. But for Zechariah, obedience became complicated. When the angel Gabriel told him he’d have a son, he responded with doubt: “By what will I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years!” (Luke 1:18). Such happy news—such unexpected goodness—deserved a glad, believing response. While Zechariah fully expected to encounter God in the temple, Mary wasn’t anticipating anything like Gabriel’s appearance. Yet she readily responded to the angel’s declaration with bold, simple allegiance: “Behold, the Lord’s female slave! May it happen to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Her alignment with God echoes Job’s response after he endured crippling loss: “Naked I came out from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes. Let Yahweh’s name be blessed” (Job 1:21). It’s easy to view doubting or believing responses like these in a distant way. We don’t expect to experience such miraculous events or such crippling loss in our own lives. Because of this, we feel like small players in God’s plan—small players who need only small faith. Regardless of whether we encounter such earth-shattering events in our lives, we did experience the most dramatic, miraculous act of God in history when Jesus died. We have been buried with Him and will be resurrected with Him (Rom 6:3–4). Because of this, we’re expected to put our hope and faith in God. Like Mary, we’re expected to fully align ourselves with Him; like Job, we are to bless Him in the difficult times. And finally, we’re expected to praise God when He shows us mercy we don’t deserve, as He did to Zechariah (Luke 1:64). How can you boldly and sincerely step out in faith?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 3: The Art of Discipline
Isaiah 5:1–6:13; Luke 1:67–2:21; Job 2:1–10
Jesus didn’t die for us so that we could continue to sin—He sacrificed Himself so that we could have sinless lives. God is patient, but His patience does not last forever. We wouldn’t test His patience so often if we had not lost sight of the notion of discipline, a concept that is at the forefront in the OT. In the book of Isaiah, God describes His people using the image of a vineyard: “And now let me tell you what I myself am about to do to my vineyard. I will remove its hedge, and it shall become a devastation. I will break down its wall, and it shall become a trampling. And I will make it a wasteland; it shall not be pruned and hoed, and it shall be overgrown with briers and thornbushes.… For the vineyard of Yahweh of hosts is the house of Israel, and the man of Judah is the plantation of his delight. And he [Yahweh] waited for justice, but look! Bloodshed! For righteousness, but look! A cry of distress!” (Isa 5:5–7). The vineyard described in this passage is eventually restored through Christ, who creates a new vine and new branches. Yet the vineyard still requires the same level of care and discipline (John 15:1–17). It’s tempting to justify our behaviors by arguing that it is impossible to not sin, but is this true? Jesus came to make it possible for us to live as God has always desired for us to live—this is one of the many things that makes His birth so glorious (Luke 2:14; compare Isa 6:3). While no one other than Jesus has been sinless, Christians are meant to be people who are freed from sin (Rom 6:1–14). Thus, it may be unlikely to live a sinless life, but it’s not impossible: “All things are possible for God” (Phil 4:13). Discipline is one way that God teaches us to become more like Him—as He intended us to be (Gen 1:26). God disciplines believers because He cares too much about His people to allow us to throw away all the grace and goodness He offers. If sin had no repercussions, we would live the lives we desire, not the lives we are meant to live. And if we don’t live the lives we’re meant to live, we miss out on God’s blessing and lose sight of the goals He has for us, leading others astray in the process. When we openly sin (without repenting), we discourage others from wanting to live in God’s likeness. God has called us to do everything we can, with the Spirit’s empowerment, to live sinless lives. We must repent daily and move closer toward that goal. As we seek that goal, we have greater opportunities to live so that others may know and find Him. In the meantime, we should expect His discipline to help shape us to become more like Him. How is God currently disciplining you? What are you learning from it?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 4: In Grief
Isaiah 7:1–8:22; Luke 2:22–52; Job 2:11–13
It’s difficult to know how to respond to people suffering grief. Those brave enough to speak often attempt to rationalize another’s grief with ill-timed theological truths. Those who feel inadequate or awkward about reaching out to grieving people sometimes avoid them altogether. Job’s friends are well known for misinterpreting Job’s suffering. But they aren’t often recognized for the moments when they responded to Job’s anguish with wisdom. When Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar first heard of the tragedy, they immediately came to comfort Job:“Thus they lifted up their eyes from afar, but they did not recognize him, so they raised their voice, and they wept, and each man tore his outer garment and threw dust on their heads toward the sky. Then they sat with him on the ground for seven days and seven nights, but no one spoke a word to him because they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:12–13). Often we try to diminish grief with clichés that seem helpful and fill the awkward silence, like “God is in control.” Job’s friends realized that such spoken attempts—even spoken truths—would only interrupt and add to the grieving that was necessary and appropriate. Instead, they shared his grief, offered their presence, and didn’t speak a word. Job’s friends didn’t keep silent for long, though, and when they did speak, Job wished they would be silent: “O that you would keep completely silent and that it would become wisdom for you” (Job 13:5). Our response to grief should be measured and prayerful. Attempts to explain events that we don’t ultimately understand can bring even more pain. However, shared grief and empathy can bring comfort to someone who knows truth but is struggling to come to grips with a new reality. How can you empathize rather than rationalize grief?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 5: Patterns and Prophecies
Isaiah 9:1–10:19; Luke 3:1–38; Job 3:1–16
Luke sees the events surrounding Jesus’ life through the lens of Isaiah. For Luke, Jesus’ life is Isaiah’s prophecy made tangible and complete. Jesus is the anticipated Messiah, prophet, and savior. Even John the Baptist’s role in Jesus’ life is based on Isaiah’s prophesy. Luke repeats the metaphor of “the wilderness” from Isaiah—used by the prophet to describe the time when the Israelites would come out from their captivity in Babylon—to cast John the Baptist as a central figure in God’s work. The wilderness metaphor doesn’t originate with Isaiah. He uses it to represent the second time God’s people entered the land He promised them (the term originally comes from the time when the Israelites roamed the wilderness after the exodus). Luke quotes Isaiah in casting John the Baptist as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight! Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled, and the crooked will become straight, and the rough road will become smooth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God’ ” (Luke 3:4–6; quoting Isa 40:3–5). For Luke, the smoothing of the rough road represents a change in the spiritual landscape, and the flesh that sees the salvation of God means the message is not just for the Jewish people but for all people—including Luke himself. Luke builds upon this connection by identifying Jesus as the child that is prophesied in Isaiah (Luke 1:26–28):“For a child has been born for us; a son has been given to us. And the dominion will be on his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion will grow continually, and to peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will do this” (Isa 9:6–7). Luke is adept at the art of connecting the Testaments. He tells us directly that he’s quoting Isaiah, and in doing so, he illustrates that God works by building current events on the foundation of past events. Those events form the basis of prophecy—God’s way of telling us both what He has done and what He will do in times to come. Although the way God works is too great for us to comprehend, He allows us to see patterns in His work; we just need to look for them and believe they are there. If we focus on God’s works and the echoes and harmonies between them, our perspective on the events of our lives changes dramatically. We glimpse the reality that God is not only at work in today’s matters, but He is also using them to prepare and signify the events that are to come. The patterns are as important as the events, as God uses both to reveal Himself to us. What patterns are you noticing in your life? How do you think God is working and will continue to work through you?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 6: Feeling Entitled
Isaiah 10:20–12:6; Luke 4:1–44; Job 3:17–26
Familiarity breeds contempt, so the saying goes. But the line from Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Lion” wasn’t meant to imply that we often take those closest to us for granted. Rather, the fox fails to properly acknowledge the lion—the king of all beasts—because he doesn’t know his place. His self-perception is dangerously inflated. The same is true for the fickle Nazarenes who heard Jesus interpret the Scriptures. When Jesus preached in the synagogue of His hometown, the Nazarenes were initially receptive. But when He interpreted the prophet Isaiah’s words in a way they disliked—a way that showed Him as the one who “proclaim[s] release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind” (Luke 4:18; see Isa 61:1)—they belittled Him: “Is this man not the son of Joseph?” (Luke 4:22). The Nazarenes weren’t ready to admit their need (Luke 4:23). They didn’t understand that they were blind and unrepentant. They may have expected Jesus to perform miracles for them—after all, He was a local. But He didn’t show them physical proof of the spiritual truth that they were unwilling to grasp. Instead, He reminded them that Elijah the prophet was sent to a Sidonian woman and Elisha to a Syrian. God chose to show mercy and healing to those who were unfamiliar with Him because they were willing to believe. They were willing to humble themselves to a point where belief was possible. The Nazarenes’ response to Jesus tells a spiritual truth that we might easily overlook. When it comes to the Christian life, it’s tempting to feel that we have status. When we’re comfortable—when we know what to expect from preaching and have memorized the pertinent passages—we can feel a sense of entitlement that is dangerous. Entitlement breeds contempt that needs to be uprooted. Unless we see our true state—that we need to be set free—we forget that we need to humble ourselves before the Lamb of God. Do you feel a sense of entitlement? What would it take for you to become humble before Jesus?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 7: Raise the Signal
Isaiah 13:1–14:23; Luke 5:1–39; Job 4:1–11
The Bible echoes with great battle cries: “Raise a signal on a bare hill, lift up your voice to them; wave the hand.… A sound of the roar of the kingdoms, of nations gathering! Yahweh of hosts is mustering an army for battle” (Isa 13:4). In this proclamation, God declares war on Babylon for their brutal and evil deeds against His people. Yet He calls for “a signal” to be raised so that the Babylonians might repent from their great wickedness. They have an opportunity to surrender to Yahweh before it’s too late—and we must do the same. We tend to see ourselves as less evil than the infamous sinners of the past, but in a way we all carry shades of Babylon in ourselves. Just as the Babylonians did, we set up and worship idols instead of loving Yahweh with our entire being. Similarly, we attack others instead of loving them the way God has loved us. If we search our hearts, we find that painting ourselves as more righteous than past sinners doesn’t work: We’re all in need of a Savior. We’ve all fallen short (Rom 3:21–26). In that sense, we all come from Babylon. Although most of us are willing to identify our private idols—such as money, power or fame—few of us realize the depth of our betrayal. When Isaiah portrays the sinner that is Babylon, he is neither tolerant nor sympathetic (Isa 13:19). Instead, he issues a harsh warning that the day of Yahweh’s coming—the time of reckoning is near (Isa 13:6). It’s no different for us today. When the NT writers depict sin, they do not underestimate how much it inhibits God’s work in us and in the world (2 Pet 1:8–15). With the same urgency that Isaiah expressed, they note that now is the time to repent and do God’s will (2 Pet 3). God has called us to join Him in the battle against evil by living Spirit-filled lives in accordance with His will—lives of loving others, despite how hard that might be sometimes (Eph 4:1–6; 6:11–20). We must answer God’s urgent call upon us. There is no time to waste. How can you express love today as a sign of God’s war against evil?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 8: Distortion
Isaiah 14:24–16:14; Luke 6:1–49; Job 4:12–21
If attending church and small group or even reading the Bible and praying become activities that we do out of obligation, then we have a bigger problem than we might realize. If our hearts are disengaged, our religious motions and listless obedience serve only as a security blanket—something that makes us feel safe and good. The Pharisees faced this dilemma, but they took the error one step further. They took the Sabbath—a practice intended to point people toward God—and twisted it into a heavy burden. So when Jesus wanted to do good on the Sabbath, it’s no surprise that they seized the opportunity to trap Him. Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ accusation by telling them He is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). But He also showed them the true purpose of Sabbath while at the same time exposing their hearts: “And Jesus said to them, ‘I ask you whether it is permitted on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save a life or to destroy it?’ ” (Luke 6:9). Caught up in their religious observance, the Pharisees misunderstood the heart of God’s commands. Not only this, but they used the Sabbath to do harm—the polar opposite of Jesus’ life-giving actions. Ultimately, the actions of the Pharisees appeared holy and righteous, but underneath they were lifeless. They were like the lukewarm waters described in Revelation, for which Jesus feels utter contempt: “Thus, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of my mouth!” (Rev 3:16). Nothing displeases God more than when our hearts and our actions don’t match up. If this is the case for us, we need to let Scripture examine our hearts as we pray for wisdom and the Spirit. Nothing can make us right with God unless we know why we are wrong with Him—and where our hope really lies. Our outward actions need to be infused with the desire to follow Him. What are the motives behind your motions?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 9: Borrowed Imagery
Isaiah 17:1–19:25; Luke 7:1–35; Job 5:1–7
In the OT, Yahweh regularly explains Himself by using imagery familiar to the time. Sometimes Yahweh even uses images associated with other gods to emphasize that He—and not the gods of other nations—has authority over the earth. This poetic exchange would have served as an intercultural dialogue between the Israelites and their neighbors. A classic example is the image of the rider upon the clouds: “Look! Yahweh is riding on a swift cloud and is coming to Egypt. And the idols of Egypt will tremble in front of him, and the heart of Egypt melts in his inner parts” (Isa 19:1). Here, the prophet borrows a metaphor usually associated with the god Baal (from Ugaritic literature) to demonstrate Yahweh’s superiority over Baal: Yahweh arrives in Egypt in greater glory than that of the god feared by Egypt’s (and Israel’s) Canaanite neighbor. Because Egypt has oppressed Yahweh’s people, Yahweh will withhold the rains—a decision that Baal, the god of rain, was notorious for making (see Isa 19:5–8). The writer goes on: “And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and each one will fight against his brother and each one against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom. And the spirit of the Egyptians will be disturbed in his midst, and I will confuse his plans, and they will consult the idols and the spirits of the dead, and the ghosts and the spiritists” (Isa 19:2–3). The threat of violence in this passage may be intimidating, but believers can find hope in it. We take comfort in seeing that Yahweh intercedes for His people. We find joy in knowing that He loves people enough to explain Himself in ways they can understand, using whatever metaphor best reveals His power and glory. On all accounts, He is God of justice. In what situations are you currently seeking justice? What metaphors is God using to answer your prayers?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 10: Love, Praise, Forgiveness
Isaiah 20:1–22:25; Luke 7:36–8:15; Job 5:8–16
Our praise for God is often directly connected to accepting and confessing our brokenness. Our capacity to love Him is tied to the realization of how much He has forgiven us. The woman in Luke 7 who anointed Jesus’ feet is described with one phrase: She was a sinner. We’re not given clarifying detail, but we do know her sin was notorious and, as a result, she was marginalized by society. She was not only weighed down by her sin; her public identity was grounded in it, and she could not hide it. She knew that she needed to receive forgiveness from the only one who could provide it. Her necessity made her bold: She came to Simon the Pharisee’s house to wash and anoint Jesus’ feet. Her behavior created quite a spectacle. Simon the Pharisee was quick to condemn her actions and question Jesus’ decision to show her compassion. But Jesus turned the tables on him. While the woman was aware of her brokenness—and was all the more grateful for forgiveness—Simon ran with those who had built up a charade of holiness. Jesus told Simon, “For this reason I tell you, her sins—which were many—have been forgiven, for she loved much. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little” (Luke 7:47). Our praise for Jesus—the way we speak of Him and the way we speak of our sin and forgiveness—is a reflection of the state of our hearts. Because our hearts are inclined to be prideful, it’s often easier for us to defend our sin than to confess it. It’s easier to go about our religious activities while rationalizing our sin. But unless we drop the charade and confess the true state of our hearts, we’ll never honor Him as we should. Do you “love little”? What holds you back from expressing praise?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 11: Proclaiming the Light
Isaiah 23:1–24:23; Luke 8:16–56; Job 5:17–27
Many of us wait for precisely the right moment to tell others about Christ’s work in us. Yet every moment is the right moment to speak up for Christ. Every moment is the right time to fully express what Christ is doing in us and through us. Jesus affirms this sense of immediacy when He remarks, “And no one, after lighting a lamp, covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light” (Luke 8:16). This line becomes even more profound when we consider what happens a short time later. After Jesus heals a demon-possessed man, He says to him, “Return to your home and tell all that God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). The man doesn’t wait for a better time. Instead, “he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole town all that Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:39). We may consider our encounter with Christ less significant than a man healed from demon-possession, but we, too, have been delivered out of the darkness and into the light. Like the demon-possessed man, we have been saved by Christ’s work. We can all boldly proclaim, as the hymn “Amazing Grace” says, “I once was blind, but now I see.” In the busyness of our lives, focused on the work and worries of the day, it’s too easy for us to slip the light of Christ under the bed where no one can see it—and where we cannot see ourselves in its light. Do we talk as much about Christ and His great work as we do about our jobs? If not, perhaps we should rethink our approach. If this life is merely a prologue to the eternal life to come, shouldn’t the light become our main focus—both in our conversations and our actions? Why wouldn’t we proudly display it for all to see? How can you live the light today? What needs to change in your conversation topics?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 12: At a Great Price
Isaiah 25:1–26:21; Luke 9:1–27; Job 6:1–13
It’s easy to be devoted to a leader or a vision when it doesn’t require much of us. In following Jesus, the disciples didn’t have that option. They were called to follow Jesus in difficult circumstances—ones that required them to put their lives on the line. After Jesus told His disciples about His impending death and resurrection, He defined the true meaning of discipleship. His words required their immediate response and intense loyalty:
“And he said to them all, ‘If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross every day and follow me’ ” (Luke 9:23). Daily the disciples needed to commit to Him, the kingdom He was ushering in, and the possibility of facing death. We like to quote this verse, but we might not think it applies in the same way today. Because we don’t face the same circumstances the disciples faced, we might not take the call to loyalty quite as seriously. But loyalty shouldn’t be dictated by circumstance. Jesus had “to suffer many things and to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be killed” (Luke 9:22) to reconcile us to God. His sacrifice was incredibly costly; the grace extended to us came at a great price. His sacrifice—not our circumstances—requires everything from us. It requires that we see our motives, our hopes, our actions—our daily lives—in the perspective of that costly grace. Jesus went on to say, “For what is a person benefited if he gains the whole world but loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25). The gospel changes everything, and it speaks into every area of our lives. It requires us to deny our own interests. It requires us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. How are you taking up your cross daily? What area of your life do you need to commit to Him?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 13: Haunted by Leviathan
Isaiah 27:1–28:29; Luke 9:28–62; Job 6:14–30
Indiana Jones isn’t afraid of anything—until a snake shows up on the scene. Then we hear him mutter, “I hate snakes” and “Snakes, why did it have to be snakes?” Everyone is afraid of something. Even now your greatest fear is probably creeping through your mind—something completely irrational, like heights, spiders or dolls. Like Indy and like us, the ancients had fears as well: They hated snakes. In ancient literature the serpent Leviathan was a symbol of chaos—a great monster to be subdued. When a god subdued Leviathan in the ancient stories, it showed his supremacy. Isaiah uses the same metaphor to proclaim that Yahweh can destroy all fears: “On that day, Yahweh will punish with his cruel, great and strong sword Leviathan, the fleeing serpent, and Leviathan, the twisting serpent, and he will kill the sea monster that is in the sea” (Isa 27:1). Yahweh Himself mentions Leviathan when He responds to Job, who had suffered the loss of all he had: “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook? Or can you tie down its mouth with a cord?” (Job 41:1). When we struggle, it’s easy to focus on the Leviathans in our life, but God wants us to focus on His majesty. God can provide what we need. He can bring goodness in the midst of heartbreak (Isa 27:6). Perhaps this is why Jesus allowed Peter, James and John to see Him in His glory (Luke 9:28–35). He knew that they needed to understand that His glory was more powerful than anything they feared. Perhaps this is also why Jesus repeatedly pushed back the powers of darkness in front of His followers (e.g., Luke 9:37–43); He showed them that He could subdue anything He encountered. When the Lord of the universe, who crushes the head of the great Leviathan, is in our corner, we have nothing to fear. All powers of darkness should tremble, for He is creating a great vineyard for us out of the chaos (Isa 27:2). If only Indy had known. What goodness is God making out of the fear in your life?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 14: Being Busy
Isaiah 29:1–30:17; Luke 10:1–42; Job 7:1–10
Sometimes it’s difficult to deal with quiet. For most people, chaos, deadlines, managing multiple schedules, and being “so busy” are a way of life. And if we’re honest with ourselves, we like it. Busyness implies we are special and valued and the work we’re doing is necessary. And we have a desperate need to be valued. When others failed to recognize Martha’s work—when Mary didn’t hold to the same values—she complained to Jesus. He responded by rebuking her: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things! But few things are necessary, or only one thing, for Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42). What is the “better part”? Mary “sat at the feet of Jesus and was listening to his teaching” (Luke 10:39), and Jesus praised her desire to listen and learn. Mary was captivated by the “one thing” that would change the world: Jesus and the kingdom He was ushering in. Jesus showed Martha that she should also give Him this reception—being willing to learn, not anxious about her busy schedule. He asked her to shift her perspective. Choosing the “better part” doesn’t invalidate the things we’re busy with; indeed, Martha’s work served the needs of others. But the things we do shouldn’t shape our identity. The “one thing” that should shape our identity—the one thing we really need—is Jesus. Ultimately, it’s the desire to know Him and serve Him that should shape our lives. And whatever is not dedicated to that service is not among “the few things [that] are necessary.” What things are you busy with? Why?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 15: Lethal Planning
Isaiah 30:18–32:20; Luke 11:1–36; Job 7:11–21
I’m a planner. I love schedules. The trouble is I sometimes make plans without consulting God. While I often think of this as a modern problem, I’ve discovered that, like many other modern issues, the Bible regularly addresses it. For example, in Isaiah 30:1 Yahweh declares, “Oh rebellious children!… to make a plan, but not from me, and pour out a libation, but not from my Spirit, so as to add sin to sin.” Apparently, God’s people had been offering libations—a type of drink offering—in the ways of the Egyptians rather than in the ways of Yahweh. We make the same mistake in our lives. We seek wisdom in books or from people before consulting Yahweh. We ask our colleagues what they think before turning to our God. We look to our parents or friends instead of waiting patiently on God’s resolve. We look to our own strength or influence instead of relying on the God who created us. In our demeanor toward God, we are so much like Israel relying on Egypt—we look to others and to ourselves for salvation rather than to God. We have removed the miraculous from our faith. Instead of asserting that God will change the course of history, we determine that we will do it. Although God certainly uses us in this work, salvation doesn’t come from our efforts—it comes from Yahweh. Rather than seeking to align our already formed plans with God’s, we must approach Him with an open mind and a willing heart. We must find the answers we seek in Him. How can you seek God today in all that you do? How can you look to Him first and make Him foremost?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 16: No Fear and Full Confidence
Isaiah 33:1–17; Luke 11:37–12:21; Job 8:1–10
Jesus didn’t exactly follow social niceties as a dinner guest. Once again while dining with a Pharisee, He exposed the hypocrisy that was rampant among those religious leaders: “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but your inside is full of greediness and wickedness” (Luke 11:39). The “woes” He followed with challenged His host and, by extension, the Pharisees in general. His boldness is a trait He wanted to pass on to His disciples: “But nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, and secret that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2). The gospel message will not be kept secret; the new kingdom is coming into being. Jesus wanted the disciples to be fearless among people because it is God who is in charge, not the Pharisees; they had built up a false construct of authority. And although they may have exercised authority—they could kill and spread fear—they weren’t ultimately in charge. God is in charge: “But I will show you whom you should fear: fear the one who has authority, after the killing, to throw you into hell! Yes, I tell you, fear this one! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten in the sight of God. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered! Do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:5–7). When we’re overwhelmed by rampant sin and evil around us—even in us—it’s comforting to maintain this sure knowledge. It is God who both judges and gives life. If we confess Jesus as God, we have nothing to fear. We can be bold in trials and have confidence in Him. What confidence do you have in your trials? How can you place your trust in God rather than people?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 17: Anxiety and the Wilderness
Isaiah 35:1–37:13; Luke 12:22–59; Job 8:11–22
Anxiety has a way of ruling over us. Although many of our concerns are legitimate—like having money to pay the rent and buy food—some of them are nonsensical. We envision future catastrophes and spend our days worrying about what might never happen, creating an emotional wilderness for ourselves. Anxiety isn’t new. The prophet Isaiah addresses the problem: “Wilderness and dry land shall be glad, and desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.… Say to those who are hasty of heart, ‘Be strong; you must not fear! Look! your God will come with vengeance, with divine retribution. He is the one who will come and save you’ ” (Isa 35:1, 4). Isaiah realizes that there is a time and season for everything. He proclaims that God will bring the people out of the wilderness (their exile in Babylon) and back into their land. There is an answer to the anxiety, pain and worry that they feel about the future. His words ring with prophetic certainty because he knows them to be true—they are Yahweh’s words. Jesus also addresses anxiety when He says to His disciples, “For this reason I tell you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, or for your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, that they neither sow nor reap; to them there is neither storeroom nor barn, and God feeds them. How much more are you worth than the birds?” (Luke 12:22–24). Why must we worry? Why must we strive over things we cannot change? Ultimately, everything in life is a matter of depending on God. What anxieties can you hand over to God today?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 18: Connecting the Dots
Isaiah 37:14–38:22; Luke 13:1–35; Job 9:1–11
When we don’t have all the facts, we still like to connect the dots. Questions make us uncomfortable, so we draw lines with answers that make us feel safe and that fit our worldview. But sometimes we hold too tightly to the picture that results. Job’s friends were guilty of this error. Although they affirmed true things about God’s character, they connected the dots in unhelpful ways. For example, in Job 8, Bildad pointed to God’s justice and stated that Job’s hardship couldn’t be for nothing. Therefore, he must have sinned. Job also affirmed God’s justice, wisdom, and strength, but he didn’t buy into Bildad’s worldview. In Job 9, he acknowledged that God was beyond his understanding. Job might have suffered, but he kept his high opinion of God. Job wanted answers, too. He longed for God to make Himself known and settle the matter (Job 9:3). Job mourned that he had no way of defending himself before God: “There is no arbiter between us that he might lay his hand on both of us. May he remove his rod from me, and let his dread not terrify me; then I would speak and not fear him, for in myself I am not fearful” (Job 9:33–35). In the end, when Job requested an answer from God—who alone could answer his questions—God silenced him. He restored Job’s prosperity, but Job still had to live without knowing why. When we don’t have the answer, we should still affirm God’s love and goodness, acknowledging that “He is the one who does great things beyond understanding and marvelous things beyond number” (Job 9:10). And we do have one answer that quiets our fretful hearts—we know the arbiter and what He has done for us, which makes it easier to live with the unanswered questions. How are you sharing the good news of Jesus with someone who is dealing with difficult questions?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 19: The Cost of Comfort
Isaiah 39:1–40:31; Luke 14:1–35; Job 9:12–19
“ ‘[You all] comfort; comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, that her compulsory labor is fulfilled, that her sin is paid for, that she has received from the hand of Yahweh double for all her sins’ ” (Isa 40:1–2). God directed this command at the prophet and a group of people—possibly all those remaining in Israel. They were to speak comfort to the exiled Israelites, to call them home again. Sometimes we feel the need for this kind of comfort. Like the prodigal son in the pig sty, we feel exiled and alone; we have paid our sentence, and we want to go home. We’re not even asking for joy—just comfort. Despite their sins, God responded to the Israelites. But God did not merely restore them to their former state. He sent the Suffering Servant, prophesied later in Isaiah (Isa 52:13–53:12), to die on behalf of the people, to pay for the sins that resulted in exile in the first place. God does this so that all our sins—past, present and future—might be paid once and for all. But God requires much from those to whom much has been given, which is all of us. The great news of the Suffering Servant, Jesus, is not only that we find comfort and peace in Him, but also that we are empowered to act—free from sin. As Jesus’ disciples, we must live the way that He has called us to live, being willing to make the sacrifices that discipleship requires (e.g., Luke 14:25–35). The grace we receive from God is free, but a great price was paid for it. We must live fully in it. We must embrace it with our entire being. For when we do, we become not just a comforted people, but a restored people, instruments of God’s work in the world. What is God calling you to sacrifice? How can you take joy in the comfort He has brought you, and then show others that joy?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 20: The Pursuit of Failures
Isaiah 41:1–42:9; Luke 15:1–32; Job 9:20–24
Often, when we focus too much on our own failures, we don’t reach the point where grace changes us. That’s why the parable of the Prodigal Son is so comforting for people who are caught up and brought down by their failures. In this parable it’s not the younger son’s humility or the elder brother’s jealousy in the limelight. It’s the father’s pursuit of both his sons. After living selfishly and squandering his inheritance, the younger son realized how foolish his actions had been. He realized that even his father’s hired hands received more love and attention than he had received after leaving his father’s house. Deciding to plead for mercy, the younger son rehearsed his request to the father: “I will set out and go to my father and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight! I am no longer worthy to be called your son! Make me like one of your hired workers.’ ” (Luke 15:18–19). But his plan was interrupted. Before the son even finished his request, his father kissed him, put a robe around his neck, and ordered the fattened calf to be killed. And then the father repeated this action. When the elder son refused to attend the party in his brother’s honor, the father again went out to meet his son, imploring him to rejoice as well (Luke 15:28, 31–32). God pursues failures of all types. It’s His grace extended to us that works in our hearts to prompt change in us. Even when we neglect Him, He pursues us. Even when we don’t return His attentions, He pursues us. Instead of focusing on our failures, then, we should focus on His love. How do you take joy in God’s grace to you through His Son? How does His love change the way you relate to Him?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 21: Transitions
Isaiah 42:10–43:28; Luke 16:1–17:10; Job 9:25–35
Life is marked by seasons—times of great difficulty and times of great joy. Usually we focus on making the transition from pain to relief as quickly as possible, but in the process, we may forget the significance of the transition itself. A transition is an opportunity to contemplate: Who is acting to move us from one season of our lives to the next? Why does winter give way to spring? “Sing a new song to Yahweh; praise him from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea and that which fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Let the desert and its towns lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them shout loudly from the top of the mountains. Let them give glory to Yahweh and declare his praise in the coastlands” (Isa 42:10–12). This song of praise moves from the “end of the earth” inward, from region to region, until the whole world is involved. Yahweh is renewing everything. The world is moving from a despairing place to a place of order, which is great news. But the great news is not only the joy of renewal—it’s also the way that it all comes about. Yahweh brings war to create order (Isa 42:13). He leads the blind (Isa 42:16). He turns darkness into light (Isa 42:16). We often want healing and joy to descend on us suddenly, like a flash of lightning. But for joy to grow in our lives and in our world, great evils must first be stamped out. Like the gradual return of plants and sunlight in the spring, joy comes during and through Yahweh’s patient work. We must embrace the nature of His work, and the difficulty of it, as much as we embrace the results. What transitions are you in? How can you depend on Yahweh in the midst of them? What are you learning about Him in the process?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 22: Complaints
Isaiah 44:1–45:13; Luke 17:11–18:8; Job 10:1–10
Complaining can be automatic. We complain about the weather, our children, our jobs. And we might do it for any number of reasons—even something as trivial as to keep a conversation going. Although we might complain lightly, we still betray something about our hearts. We assume that we are owed something—that we are entitled. We might readily admit this. We might freely say that this should not be our posture before people or before God. But Job challenges our stereotype of the complainer. What can we learn from his complaints? In his outcries, we find someone struggling to understand his situation before God. He prays, “My inner self loathes my life; I want to give vent to my complaint; I want to speak out of the bitterness of my inner self. I will say to God, ‘You should not condemn me; let me know why you contend against me’ ” (Job 10:1–2). He repeats and recasts his elevated and prolonged complaints in surprising similes: “Did you not pour me out like milk and curdle me like cheese?” (Job 10:10). Although his boldness and forcefulness might be shocking to us, we also understand how someone dealing with pain and grief might wrestle with these thoughts. The book of Job ends with God silencing Job and his friends. Job’s demeanor changes when God sets everyone’s perspective right. But how should we understand these passages? Should we complain like Job when we feel frustrated by the disappointments in life? Job’s complaints stemmed from a sense of loss—a realization that something was not right with the current state of affairs. This doesn’t mean that all complaints are motivated by complete ingratitude. Sin, loss, injustice, hurt, and evil in the world are not reasons to dismiss our cares. Indeed, God is concerned about our cares, and He wants to know them. But the things we wrestle with should first be brought to God. We should bring our complaints to Him, ready to have our hearts and minds examined by His Word. Not only is He very concerned about our circumstances, but He also knows our hearts and can judge our complaints rightly. He can comfort us in sorrow and provide us with all that we need. Jesus died to set right the things that are wrong with the world, so we can be completely assured of His love and care for us. How are you responding to events in your life? How can you bring your complaints to Him?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 23: God the Innovator
Isaiah 45:14–47:15; Luke 18:9–19:10; Job 10:11–22
Innovators often say they learn more from their failures than their successes. The successes come as a result of repeated failures, whether in business or in life. We must learn from our mistakes if we are to expect a different, brighter future. God expects us to learn from our failures—the depths of which we can best understand in comparison to the glory of His successes. God speaks about Himself not only to remind people of His abilities, but also to explain where His authority begins and theirs ends. In Isaiah 45:1–2, God gave Cyrus a lesson in these boundaries—both by what He said and by what He did not say. Like other kings of the time, Cyrus would have thought himself godlike, but God’s detailed description of what He was about to do left Cyrus with no doubt about who was in charge: “And I will give you the treasures of darkness and treasures of secret places so that you may know that I am Yahweh, the one who calls you by your name, the God of Israel, for the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen one. And I call you by your name; I give you a name of honor, though you do not know me” (Isa 45:3–4). From Cyrus’ perspective, he had all authority and could accomplish all things. He did not yet know the Master Innovator who can reverse any situation and honor any person as an instrument in accomplishing His larger plan—to restore His people. God blessed Cyrus with wealth so that it would be easy for him to help God’s people. God exercised authority over the economy to create a new spiritual economy. Cyrus may have pointed to his achievements, but God had enabled them all. As God created the circumstances for Cyrus to succeed—and for His people to be blessed—He also showed the Israelites His perspective on failure and success. In His power and compassion, He could work in difficult and unexpected ways to bring about their redemption, despite their many failures. The Israelites may have gotten themselves into a horrible situation, but God could make a way to get them out. What innovations is God making in your life story? In the process, is He teaching you to completely depend on Him?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 24: Who Is Trustworthy?
Isaiah 48:1–49:26; Luke 19:11–48; Job 11:1–12
We might get sidetracked when reading the Parable of the Ten Minas. Businessmen aren’t sympathetic characters in our modern world. In movies and sometimes in life, they’re often flat, miserly characters who take advantage of naïve individuals and community values. Although there is often an element of truth to some stereotypes, it can be too easy to take sides. And we’re forced to take sides in this parable. Whose view is correct—the people of the city who hate the nobleman, the fearful servant, or the nobleman and his faithful servants? The response of the masses seems unjustified. The two servants entrusted with minas are faithful characters, but not the focus of the parable. When the final servant is summoned, we expect an interesting turn of events. Will we sympathize with him? We’ve already heard that the citizens hate the nobleman, and the final servant seems to confirm this: “For I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man—you withdraw what you did not deposit, and you reap what you did not sow!” (Luke 19:21). But it’s not the final servant who provides the climactic turn of events that we’re looking for—it’s the nobleman. Instead of punishing the servant for disobeying His commands, the nobleman holds the servant accountable to his own perceived value system: “By your own words I will judge you, wicked slave! You knew that I am a severe man, withdrawing what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. And why did you not give my money to the bank, and I, when I returned, would have collected it with interest?” (Luke 19:22–23). Rather than letting him off the hook, the nobleman points out that the servant is inconsistent. He has been making excuses for his unfaithfulness all along. Because we’re imperfect characters, we need to be ready and willing to take an honest look at the lenses with which we view the world: our hearts. If we’re ready to live faithfully, we need to look to the only trustworthy character—the one who sacrificed everything for us. How do you rationalize or interpret Scripture in a way that makes you less accountable? Do you have someone in your life who challenges you? Why or why not?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 25: Riddle Me This
Isaiah 50:1–51:23; Luke 20:1–40; Job 11:12–20
Jesus’ enemies regularly attempted to make Him look foolish or to disprove His authority. The absurd questions they concocted to discredit Him are rather amusing. The Sadducees posed one of the most preposterous questions about the resurrection of the dead and its relevance to divorce (Luke 20:27–33): If a woman has been married seven times, whose wife will she be when the dead are resurrected? This scene is especially humorous in light of rabbis’ habit of playing mind games to outsmart (or “outwise”) one another and the Sadducees’ belief that resurrection does not exist. Jesus’ opponents thought they had rigged the game: Any answer to their riddle would be incorrect. It was an attempt to trap Jesus into agreeing that the resurrection of the dead is a myth. Jesus, however, offered an answer that put them in their place (Luke 20:34–40). His response made the Sadducees look even more foolish in light of larger biblical theology about marriage and divorce. More than 500 years before this conversation, Isaiah remarked, “Thus says Yahweh: ‘Where is this divorce document of your mother’s divorce, with which I dismissed her? or to whom of my creditors did I sell you? Look! you were sold because of your sin, and your mother was dismissed because of your transgressions’ ” (Isa 50:1). The Sadducees—along with the entire nation of Israel—had already been condemned for not honoring marriage in life. So often we are concerned with logistics or details when our energy should be spent on discerning God’s will for our lives and whether we are in that will. Like the Sadducees, we tell ourselves witty lies to get around doing the will of God. We somehow believe that if we can reason our way forward, we can justify our inactions. But as Jesus taught the Sadducees, in any game of riddles or reason, faith will always win. What are you wrongly justifying or “witting” yourself out of doing?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 26: Lives of Spiritual Opulence
Isaiah 52:1–54:17; Luke 20:41–21:24; Job 12:1–12
The Pharisees upheld a faulty religious system. They were supposed to be the Jews’ spiritual leaders, but they were more interested in making themselves the religious elite. They loved “greetings in the marketplace and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets” (Luke 20:46). Their ministry was built on the backs of the poor. In contrast, the widow depicted in Luke 21 chose to give all she had. Because she had so little, her generosity was sacrificial. Those who gave out of abundance didn’t feel the loss of income like she did. But the contrast between the widow and the Pharisees shows us much more. Luke says that spiritual wealth can be present where we least expect it—that things aren’t always as they appear. Although Jesus is the long-anticipated Messiah, following Him is never going to bring a life of glory and fame. Jesus is ushering in a kingdom like a mustard seed (Luke 13:18–19) or yeast (Luke 13:20–21). It will grow and swell through perseverance rather than praise. It requires a life of sacrifice like the widow’s, not the glory-seeking of the Pharisees. Through these examples, Jesus warned his disciples to look beneath the shiny veneer for something more valuable. It would have been tempting simply to follow those in charge—in some ways it would have been much easier. But piety that pleases God isn’t found in striving after position or place. Following Jesus means sacrifice and service. How are you serving God with everything you have?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 27: My Momma Done Tol’ Me
Isaiah 55:1–57:21; Luke 21:25–22:23; Job 12:13–25
I went through a phase when I was obsessed with the blues. Something about the soul was at work in the music—a genre created late at night while reflecting on hard times. The music was written more for the songwriter than the audience because the audience had usually gone home by the time these songs were sung. The blues express raw, uncut emotions. The same can be said of the OT prophets. A blues singer can turn a common phrase into something profound. The idea that “I knew better, but I made the mistake anyway” becomes the blues refrain “my momma done tol’ me,” complete with chord structure and growling voice. And “I’m struggling—everything is falling apart” becomes “my dog done died.” The prophets likewise use mundane things like water and food to describe emotional and spiritual struggles. They explain the root of the problem—the cause of our ills: “Ho! Everyone thirsty, come to the waters! And whoever has no money, come, buy and eat, and come, buy without money, wine and milk without price! Why do you weigh out money for what is not food, and your labor for what cannot satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul take pleasure in rich food” (Isa 55:1–2). Jesus did the same thing as the prophet—but on a much grander scale—when He turned the idea of bread and wine into a symbol of His sacrifice for all humanity: “ ‘For I tell you that I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’ And he took bread, and after giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And in the same way the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured out for you’ ” (Luke 22:16, 19–20). But Jesus wasn’t singing the blues about His broken body and His blood poured out; He was turning the phrase for a new purpose. Jesus’ work turns our blues into beauty. What mundane things is God—through the redemptive act of Christ—turning from blues to beauty in your life?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 28: Meaningless Maxims
Isaiah 58:1–59:21; Luke 22:24–62; Job 13:1–12
“Your maxims are proverbs of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay” (Job 13:12).
There were bits of truth in the words spoken by Jobs’ friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Between their blundering interpretations were words that expressed God’s majesty, justice, and sovereignty. Unfortunately, they pieced together their bits of truth and applied them incorrectly to Job’s life. Job quickly saw through their packaged solution. However, not all those struggling with loss can handle an onslaught of helpful Christians with easy answers. When people go through difficult times and ask for advice—or even if they don’t—it’s tempting to deliver our responses based on our own experiences. Eliphaz argued this way: “Just as I have seen, plowers of mischief and sowers of trouble will reap it” (Job 4:8). The way we interpret and respond to events in our lives is often Scripture-based and Spirit-led. Though we should readily provide encouragement to those who struggle, we shouldn’t always encourage others toward the same application. Our responses to those in need should be carefully weighed, and they should always guide others to Scripture, the good news, and the work of the Spirit. Ultimately, these are the means through which truth speaks into our experiences. We should never intend for our guidance to be the final authority in others’ lives. How are you helping others understand their pain and sorrow?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 29: Becoming a Saved People
Isaiah 60:1–62:12; Luke 22:63–23:25; Job 13:13–28
For Luke, Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s message. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, according to Luke, Jesus opened the Isaiah scroll in a synagogue and proclaimed that the words in Isa 61 are about Him (Luke 4:17–19): “The Spirit of the Lord Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me, he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim release to the captives and liberation to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of Yahweh’s favor, and our God’s day of vengeance, to comfort all those in mourning” (Isa 61:1–2). This moment defines what Jesus’ life would mean—and He was immediately persecuted for claiming the authority rightfully given to Him by God (Luke 4:20–30).
Luke’s message—an extension of Isaiah’s—is played out further near the end of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ claim to authority resulted in His being sentenced to death (Luke 23). It is easy to view the events of Jesus’ life as proof that He was the figure that Isaiah prophesied—that He was exactly who He said He was. But if we stop there, we miss the larger picture. Luke has an agenda: He draws on Isaiah and uses the story of Jesus reading in the synagogue because he intends for our lives to be changed by Jesus. We are the oppressed receiving the good news. We are the captives being liberated. We are meant to be a people called out to follow Him (Isa 40:1–2; 53:10–12). When we look upon Jesus—the Suffering Servant, Messiah, prophet, and savior—we should be confronted with the reality that we’re still so far from what He has called us to be. We should be prompted to put Him at the center of our lives. We should be prompted to change. We must realize our place as the people He has saved and respond with gratitude. How is Jesus’ sacrifice changing your life?
JOHN D. BARRY
August 30: Dawning of a New Era
Isaiah 63:1–64:12; Luke 23:26–24:12; Job 14:1–10
Jesus’ resurrection brings a new era. Although Jesus told His disciples and loved ones that He would suffer, die, and be raised on the third day (Luke 9:22), they didn’t fully comprehend His promise. The women preparing fragrant spices and perfumes for a burial ritual fully expected to find Jesus’ body in the tomb. Instead, at the dawn of the first day of the week, they found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. The women were perplexed by their discovery, but the angels challenged them, reminding them of Jesus’ promise: “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he spoke to you while he was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of men who are sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise?” (Luke 24:5–7). Jesus’ resurrection presents new hope for the disciples and those who believe in Him. It also shows that He prophesied correctly about God’s saving plan—presenting new hope for us. Jesus has the victory; death has no power over Him. By believing in Him, we share in His death and resurrection, giving us incredible hope as we face life, and death. Not only this, but we live knowing that our Savior is alive and acting on our behalf. We live in a new era. How are you living in the hope of Jesus’ resurrection?
REBECCA VAN NOORD
August 31: Walking with Jesus
Isaiah 65:1–66:24; Luke 24:13–53; Job 14:11–22
Imagine encountering Jesus on the road to Emmaus. It would be a surreal experience. You’re walking to the next town, and you start a conversation with a man beside you, only to find out later that you’ve been talking with the resurrected Son of God. Even more surreal, the topic of conversation up to your moment of discovery has been the death of the man walking with you (Luke 24:13–35). I have often wondered what it would be like to meet Jesus face to face—to have Him explain to me how He exists in the biblical text from Moses, in all the prophets, and in all Scripture (Luke 24:27). How different would my life be after that experience? Would I rethink everything I had known and heard—perhaps everything I do? Asking these questions is not only healthy, it also turns on our spiritual GPS. Are we on the path God has called us to? Have we strayed in one direction or another? Are we caught in some odd roundabout where we’re explaining to Jesus what His coming means? Many Christians—not just scholars and preachers—complicate matters of salvation. We overthink God’s work or place it at a distance from our daily lives. Like the old saying, we become “too big for our britches,” forgetting that, ultimately, the entire Bible points to Jesus and His redeeming work. Jesus’ work is real and surreal. In the Bible, He is present everywhere. In our lives, He is present in every aspect and every moment. We need only to acknowledge Him and act upon the truth of His message. That simple idea is what it means to walk the road with our Savior. How can you walk more aligned with the Savior?
JOHN D. BARRY