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Bible
Find It
A Simple Illustrated Guide
to Key Events, Verses,
Stories, and More
Bible
Find It

Illustrated Bible Handbook Series
Bible Find It
Kent Keller, D Min, and Jonathan Ziman
Copyright ©2012 eChristian
Please see author/contributor information on page 257 of this book.
Print ISBN 978-1-61626-599-1
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for
commercial purposes, except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without written
permission of the publisher.
Churches and other noncommercial interests may reproduce portions of this book
without the express written permission of Barbour Publishing, provided that the text
does not exceed 500 words and that the text is not material quoted from another
publisher. When reproducing text from this book, include the following credit line:
“From Bible Find It, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the King James Version
of the Bible.
Scripture quotations marked nlt are taken from the Holy Bible. New Living Translation
copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of
Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked niv are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®.
niv®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All
rights reserved worldwide.

Contributors
Writers
Kent Keller
Jonathan Ziman
Project Manager
Dave Veerman
Cover Design
Cheryl Blum
Interior Design
Larry Taylor and Tom Shumaker
Compositor/Typesetter
Tom Shumaker
Additional Help
Katie Arnold
Joel Bartlett
Linda Taylor
Dave Veerman
Linda Washington

Interior images © Thinkstock® photos
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683,
www.barbourbooks.com
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value
and biblical encouragement to the masses.

Member of the
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Printed in China.
Table of Contents

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . x i i

Amazing Occurrences
Abraham Makes a Sacrifice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Jacob Has a Dream. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
The Bush Doesn’t Burn. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Bread Falls from Heaven. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Spies Return. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
A Snake Is Raised. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
A Donkey Speaks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Sun Stands Still. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Oil and Flour Keep Coming. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0
Elijah Rides in a Fiery Chariot.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1
Naaman Is Healed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2
An Ax Head Floats. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3
A Dead Man Touches a Prophet’s Bones. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4
An Angel Defeats 185,000. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5
The Sun Moves Backward. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6
Jesus Blesses the Children. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8
Jesus Heals a Crippled Hand. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9
Jesus Stops a Storm. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0
Mark Runs Away Naked. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2
Jesus Feeds 5,000.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3
Jesus Is Transfigured.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4
Ananias and Sapphira Meet the Truth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 5
Peter Has a Vision.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 6
Peter Escapes from Prison.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 8
Paul Survives Capital Punishment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s  | v
Paul and Silas Sing in Prison. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Eutychus Is Brought Back to Life. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Paul Shakes Off a Deadly Snake. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
Paul Survives a Shipwreck.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36

Big Events
God Creates the Universe.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Adam and Eve Disobey God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
A Flood Covers the Earth. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44
The Tower of Babel Is Built.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
God Sends Plagues on Egypt.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47
The First Passover Is Celebrated. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
God Parts the Red Sea.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
God Gives the Ten Commandments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
The Walls of Jericho Fall. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
Samson Brings Down the House. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
David Defeats Goliath. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55
Solomon Builds the Temple.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Elijah Defeats the Prophets of Baal. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57
Nehemiah Rebuilds the Walls of Jerusalem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58
Esther Defeats Haman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
Daniel’s Friends Survive a Fiery Furnace. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Daniel Is Thrown into the Lions’ Den.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62
Jonah Is Swallowed by a Great Fish. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Jesus Is Born. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
The Wise Men Follow a Star. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68
John the Baptist Preaches in the Wilderness. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
Lazarus Is Raised from the Dead. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71
Jesus Enters Jerusalem. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72
Jesus Has the Last Supper with His Disciples. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
Jesus Is Crucified. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Jesus Is Raised from the Dead.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76
Jesus Ascends to Heaven. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

vi | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Holy Spirit Comes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 8
Saul Becomes a Follower of Jesus.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 9

Favorite Folks
Abraham: Friend of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 2
Adam and Eve: First People, First Sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 5
Barnabas: More Than a Sidekick. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 6
Caleb: The Faithful Spy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 7
Daniel: Man of Prayer.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 8
David: A Man after God’s Own Heart.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 0
Deborah: Warrior Prophet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 2
Elijah: Israel’s Greatest Prophet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 3
Elisha: The Man of God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 5
Elizabeth: Joyful Mom. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 7
Esther: Courageous Queen.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 8
Ezekiel: God’s Visionary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 9
Ezra: God’s Man in Troubled Times. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 0
Gideon: A Reluctant Hero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 1
Hannah: The Desperate Pray-er. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 2
Isaac: The Promised Son.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 3
Isaiah: A Handpicked Prophet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 4
Jacob: The Schemer. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 5
Jeremiah: The Weeping Prophet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 6
Job: The Tested Man. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 7
John: The Disciple Jesus Loved.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 8
John the Baptist: The Forerunner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 0 9
Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 0
Joseph, Son of Jacob (OT): Favored Son. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 1
Joseph, Son of Jacob (NT): Earthly Father of the Son of God.. . . . . . 1 1 3
Joshua: The Conquering Hero. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 5
Luke: The Missionary Doctor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 6
Lydia: Convert at the River.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 7
Mary: The One Who Said Yes to God. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 1 9

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s   | vii
Mary and Martha: Sisters, and Friends of Jesus.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 0
Mary Magdalene: Resurrection Eyewitness. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 1
Matthew: The Tax-Collecting Disciple. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 2
Nehemiah: The Wall Builder.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 3
Moses: The Reticent Deliverer.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 4
Noah: The Ark Builder. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 6
Paul: The Great Missionary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 2 8
Peter: The Restored Denier. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 0
Philip: The Evangelist.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 1
Priscilla and Aquila: Behind-the-Scenes Workers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 2
Ruth: Loyal Friend.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 3
Samson: A Flawed Superhero.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 4
Samuel: Prophet and Priest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 6
Sarah: Unlikely Mother. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 7
Saul: Flawed First King.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 8
Simeon and Anna: Faithful Believers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 3 9
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Men Tested by Fire. . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 0
Solomon: Wise and Foolish King. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 2
Stephen: First Martyr.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 4
Thomas: Honest Doubter. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 6
Timothy: Protégé Pastor.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 4 8

Overheard Quotes
“A law unto themselves”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 2
“A house divided”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 3
“A man after his own heart”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 4
“Apple of his eye”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 5
“At my wit’s end”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 6
“The blind leading the blind”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 7
“By the skin of our teeth”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 8
“Can a leopard change his spots?”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 5 9
“Don’t cast your pearls before swine”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 0
“Drop in the bucket”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 1

viii | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Dust of the earth”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 2
“Eat, drink, and be merry”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 3
“Eye for an eye”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 4
“False prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing”. . . . . . . . . . 1 6 5
“Fell on rocky ground”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 6
“Fight the good fight”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 7
“Golden calf”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 8
“Good Samaritan”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 6 9
“Hammer swords into plowshares”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 0
“He gave up the ghost”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 1
“He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone”.. 1 7 2
“Handwriting on the wall”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 3
“How are the mighty fallen”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 4
“Labor of love”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 5
“Letter of the law”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 6
“Many are called, but few are chosen”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 7
“Man shall not live by bread alone”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 7 8
“More blessed to give than to receive”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 0
“My brother’s keeper”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 1
“No peace for the wicked”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 2
“Out of the mouths of babes”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 3
“Pride goes before a fall”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 4
“Put your house in order”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 5
“Salt of the earth”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 6
“Signs of the times”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 7
“Straight and narrow”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 8 9
“A soft answer turns away wrath”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 0
“Suffer fools gladly”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 1
“Sweat of your brow”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 2
“The love of money is the root of all evil”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 3
“The truth shall set you free”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 4
“There’s nothing new under the sun”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 5
“Thorn in the flesh”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 6
“To everything there is a season”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 7
“Twinkling of an eye”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 8
“Wars and rumors of wars”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 9 9
“Weighed in the balances and found wanting”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 0
“What is truth?”.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 1
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 2
It’s in There Somewhere, Right?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 3

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s   | ix
Stories Jesus Told
Teaching Parables: About the Kingdom of God
The Soils. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 7
The Weeds. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 8
The Mustard Seed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 0 9
The Yeast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 0
The Treasure.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 1
The Pearl of Great Price. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 2
The Fishing Net.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 3
The Growing Seed.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 4

Teaching Parables: About Service and Obedience
The Workers in the Vineyard. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 6
The Loaned Money.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 7
The Servant’s Role. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 8
The Nobleman’s Servants. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 1 9

Teaching Parables: About Prayer
The Unjust Judge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 1
The Friend at Midnight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 2

Teaching Parables: About Neighbors
The Good Samaritan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 4

Teach Parables: About Humility
The Wedding Feast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 6
The Proud Pharisee and the Corrupt Tax Collector. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 7

Teaching Parables: About Wealth
The Rich Fool. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 9
The Great Feast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 0
The Shrewd Manager.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 1

x | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Gospel Parables: About God’s Love
The Lost Sheep. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 3
The Lost Coin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 4
The Lost Son. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 5

Gospel Parables: About Thankfulness
The Forgiven Debts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 7

Parables of Judgment: About Christ’s Return
The Faithful and Sensible Servant. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3 9
The Traveling Home Owner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 0
The Ten Bridesmaids. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 2

Parables of Judgment: About God’s Values
The Unforgiving Debtor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 4
The Two Sons. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 5
The Evil Farmers. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 6
The Wedding Feast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 7
The Unproductive Tree.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 8

Scripture Reference Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 4 9

Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s  | xi
Introduction

Ever ask yourself where in the Bible a particular story or a quote can be
found? Perhaps you know the part of a verse (“I know it starts with ‘Love
is patient’”), but not the exact reference. Or, perhaps you’re wondering
whether some of the stories or phrases you’ve heard others discuss are
actually in the Bible. With Bible Find It, we’ve taken out the guesswork so
that you can know without a shadow of a doubt what’s in the Bible. In
this book you’ll find . . .

„„ A
 mazing Occurrences. This section highlights people in the
Bible witnessed out of the ordinary events—events that reminded
them of God’s presence. For example, Moses’ meeting with God
through the burning bush; Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son;
Paul’s confrontation with a deadly snake. Each entry includes the
Bible reference and a description of the event and its significance.

„„ B
 ig Events. In this section, you will find miracles and other
major events in Bible times that greatly affected the lives of many
people. Some of these key events include the Flood and Noah’s
ark, the fall of Jericho, David and Goliath, Jesus’ miracles, and
Paul’s shipwreck. Each entry includes a Bible reference(s) and a
description of the event.

„„ F
 avorite Folks. This section highlights key Bible people like
Moses, David, Adam and Eve, and so on. You can read the profiles
of their lives. We’ve also provided Bible references to help you find
each person’s story in the Bible.

„„ O
 verheard Quotes. This section lists well-known phrases or
words derived from the Bible (for example, “put out a fleece,”
“handwriting on the wall”), common phrases misquoted from
the Bible (“Money is the root of all evil” when the actual quote
is, “The love of money. . .”), and common phrases that people
think are from the Bible but aren’t (“Cleanliness is next to godli-
ness”). Each entry includes the quotation, the Bible reference, and
a paragraph of explanation about the phrase or word.

„„ S
 tories Jesus Told. Here you will find all of Jesus’ parables.
Each has a title, references in the Gospels where the parable is
located, and an explanation of the significance of the parable.

xii | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Use this book as a personal resource for information or personal devotions.
It also will be a valuable resource for teaching a Sunday school class or small
group. You can read it through from beginning to end or skip around to
sections and entries that interest you most. Or you can use the scripture
index in the back and read everything that relates to a specific passage.

As you learn about Jesus’ teachings, key verses, and the significant events
of the Bible and their continued relevance in your life, you’ll be amazed
at how much Bible knowledge you can gain in just a short time. Consider
Bible Find It your GPS—a resource that can take you wherever you want
to go in the Bible.

I n t r o d u c t i o n  | xiii
xiv | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Amazing Occurrences
M any people are tempted to lump the events in the
Bible as mythology because of the amazing occur-
rences listed: five thousand people fed with one lunch,
bread falling from the sky, angels taking on whole armies.
Such a belief doesn’t take into account the real God who
could perform all of these miraculous events. Sometimes
He performed them through trusted individuals who had
faith in His power.

So step right up and feast your eyes on some of the most
amazing events ever to occur in history.


Abraham Makes a Sacrifice
Genesis 22:1–19

Imagine you and your spouse have been married for
decades, maybe fifty years or more. You always
wanted children but were unable to have any.
It has been the single greatest heartache of
your otherwise happy lives. And then, when
you and your spouse are at retirement age,
God promises you a child but makes you wait
another twenty-five years. Finally, he is born and
your life is fulfilled. Then one day, when your son is
a young teenager, this same God tells you to kill him, to prove
how much you really love God—the very God who promised him to you
all those years ago. What would you do?
If you are not familiar with the story in Genesis 22, that is what happened
to Abraham. After waiting all those years, God gave him a son, but then
told Abraham to sacrifice that very son. What kind of God would do such
a thing?
The gods of the Canaanite cultures surrounding Abraham and his family
would, and did. Child sacrifice was quite common in that area at that
time. Abraham had perhaps even seen pagan altars where such atrocities
had taken place. But Abraham had sworn a covenant oath to obey God.
We can scarcely imagine how leaden his feet must have felt all the way
up Mount Moriah with his beloved son. But God had a different ending in
mind. Just as Abraham took up the knife, God stayed Abraham’s hand and
provides a substitute. Because of his remarkable faith, Abraham received
God’s praise and reiterated blessings.

 Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that
moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham!
Abraham!”
“Yes,” Abraham replied. “Here I am!”
“Don’t lay a hand on the boy!” the angel said. “Do not hurt him in
any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld
from me even your son, your only son.”
(Genesis 22:10–12 nlt)

2 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Jacob Has a Dream
Genesis 28:10–17

Have you ever had a strange dream from which you awoke
and later said to someone, “You’re not going to believe
the dream I had last night.” Most of us have had such
dreams—of flying, familiar faces in unfamiliar places, and
so on. What if the dream came from God? What if
He used it to communicate something important
to you?
That’s what happened with
Jacob in Genesis 28:10–17.
He dreamed of a stairway
that reached from where
he slept in the land of
Canaan, which God
had promised to his
grandfather Abra-
ham, all the way
to heaven. Angels
were going up and
down the stairway.
God himself stood at
the top of the stair-
way and actually spoke to Jacob. The Lord reassured him that he would
indeed inherit that land, and that his descendants would be too numer-
ous to count. They would spread out in all directions and be a blessing to
everyone in the world. Furthermore, the Lord promised to be with Jacob
and his descendants and to protect them wherever they went.
That dream came true in the establishment of the kingdom of Israel. Most
of all, though, Jacob’s dream of a stairway opening up access between
heaven and earth foreshadowed the coming of Jesus, who is Himself the
bridge between God and man (John 1:51). Can any of your dreams top that?

 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth
up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the
stairway.
(Genesis 28:12 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 3
The Bush Doesn’t Burn
Exodus 3:1–10

Moses, born a Jew in Egypt, was by an act of God’s grace raised in Pha-
raoh’s palace. One day he saw an Egyptian mistreating a fellow Hebrew.
Enraged, he murdered the Egyptian, tried to cover up his crime, but Pha-
raoh found out. Moses had to flee Egypt to the land of Midian where he
went about rebuilding his life: from Pharaoh’s palace to the wilderness of
Midian, from royal robes to a shepherd’s tunic. It must have been quite a
come-down for Moses.
Until the day, that is, forty years later, Moses had his flocks grazing on the
slopes of Mount Sinai. He saw a bush ablaze with fire yet not burned up.
Such a sight encouraged him to move closer. After all, a wooden object
usually burns to ash. But God used the steadily burning bush to get Mo-
ses’ attention. He had a mission for Moses: go back to Egypt and lead His
people out of their bondage. Even though Moses was very reluctant to go
back to “the scene of the crime,” he obeyed God.
As improbable as all this sounds, Moses’
encounter with a burning bush is a pivotal
event in biblical, and in fact world, his-
tory. This was the moment Moses went
from fugitive to leader, outlaw to lawgiver.
Because he said yes to God, the nation
of Israel was rescued from bondage and
returned to the Promised Land.

 One day Moses was tending the
flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the
priest of Midian. He led the flock far
into the wilderness and came to Sinai,
the mountain of God. There the angel
of the Lord appeared to him in a
blazing fire from the middle of a bush.
Moses stared in amazement. Though
the bush was engulfed in flames,
it didn’t burn up. “This is amazing,”
Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that
bush burning up? I must go see it.”
(Exodus 3:1–3 nlt)

4 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Bread Falls from
Heaven
Exodus 16:4–21

More than likely, you get your bread
from a store or bakery. But in the time of
Moses, the people of Israel acquired bread
not from a store, but from the sky.
You would think the people of Israel, having
just been freed from their captivity in Egypt, would have been the happiest,
most grateful people in the world. Indeed they were as they passed through
the midst of the Red Sea safely through to the other side, thanking God
and praising Him in song (Exodus 14:29–15:21). But ironically, they began
grumbling almost as soon as the waters closed up over the unfortunate
Egyptian soldiers.
The complaints concerned the food they had in the wilderness, or more
accurately, the lack thereof. The people actually said they would rather have
died as slaves in Egypt than as free people out in the wilderness. Rather
than punish them for their ingratitude, God graciously and miraculously
provided food for them. He gave them bread every morning and meat (in
the form of quail) every evening. He also told them He would provide for
them what they needed every day, and that they were not to hoard any
or try to collect more than they needed. The ones who didn’t obey found
out God meant what He said. It was a daily object lesson in learning to
trust the faithfulness of God.
The first time the Israelites saw the miracle bread, they asked, naturally
enough, “What is it?” In the Hebrew language “what is it” is translated
“manna,” hence the name by which it is known today.

That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and
covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp
was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine
as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they
saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was.
And Moses told them, “It is the food the Lord has given you to eat.”
(Exodus 16:13–15 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 5
The Spies Return
Numbers 13:1–33

The consequences of one bad decision
can be lifelong sometimes. The Israelites
can attest to that.
At the brink of Canaan—the land God
promised to give the Israelites upon rescuing them from slavery in Egypt,
Moses sent twelve spies—one from each tribe—to scout out the land.
Note the word promised. God promised that the land would be theirs.
The men set out on their forty-day reconnaissance mission and returned
bearing fruit and a good report of how fertile and rich the land was. But—
there’s always a but—in their assessment, the people living there were too
powerful to conquer.
Not all of the spies were in agreement on that view. Joshua and Caleb
urged the people to go forth and conquer in the strength of the Lord. But
the people of Israel already were conquered by fear. They grumbled against
Moses and Aaron, choosing to believe the negative report.
So God decreed that they would not enter the land. Instead, they would
wander in the desert for forty years.
One bad decision cost them the land. Only Joshua, Caleb, and the children
of that generation lived long enough to enter the land.

 This was their report to Moses: “We entered the
land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a
bountiful country—a land flowing with milk
and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it
produces. But the people living there
are powerful, and their towns are large
and fortified. We even saw giants there,
the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the
Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country.
The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along
the Jordan Valley.”
But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s
go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”
But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed.
“We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they
spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.
(Numbers 13:27–32 nlt)

6 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
A Snake Is Raised
Numbers 21:4–9

Sometimes
as we read
the Old Testa-
ment we get the
impression the Israelites con-
tinually complained. Num-
bers 21 is another painful
example of the people’s pre-
disposition toward complaining.
After the Lord miraculously provided
water for them in the wilderness (Numbers 20:1–11),
the people once again quickly forgot His goodness
to them and whined about the lack of water and
“suitable” food. This time God grew impatient
with their ingratitude and allowed poisonous
snakes to bite them. Not surprisingly, this time
He got their attention. They cried out to Moses,
asking him to pray for them.
God then graciously made a way of deliverance for
those who had been stricken: while they were help-
less to save themselves, they could merely look at a
bronze replica of a snake Moses made and they would be
healed. In this way the Lord reminded them of the serious
consequences of their sin and of His graciousness to them as
their covenant God.
Jesus later revealed that this episode was a foreshadowing of His own
saving death on the cruel cross: “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake
on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, so that
everyone who believes in him will have eternal life” (John 3:14–15 nlt).

 Then the Lord told him, “Make a replica of a poisonous snake and
attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it!”
So Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then
anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and
be healed!
(Numbers 21:8–9 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 7
A Donkey Speaks
Numbers 22:21–34

Do you ever find yourself reading something in the Bible, shaking your
head in disbelief? The story of Balaam and his donkey (Numbers 22:21–34)
is one of those jolting, jarring stories. A talking donkey? Really?
Yet that is exactly what happened. Balaam had a reputation for being able
to bless and curse others. When King Balak of Moab appealed to Balaam
to use his alleged abilities to curse the Israelites, God used extraordinary
means to prevent him from doing so. First, God spoke directly to him,
warning him not to curse those whom God had already determined to
bless. Then, when it appeared as though Balaam was intent upon going
beyond what God told him to do, the Lord got his attention by allowing
his donkey to talk to him.
Three times the donkey turned aside to avoid the angel of the Lord who
stood in the road with a drawn sword. The donkey’s actions roused Balaam’s
anger. But the angel sided with the donkey.
This is the only time in the Bible such an event takes place. God delights
in using unusual, unorthodox, creative ways to accomplish His purposes—
even a talking donkey.

 Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have
I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked
Balaam.
“You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam
shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill
you!”
“But I am the same donkey you have
ridden all your life,” the donkey answered.
“Have I ever done anything like this before?”
“No,” Balaam admitted.
(Numbers 22:28–30 nlt)

8 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Sun Stands Still
Joshua 10:7–14

Do you ever say to yourself, “I need more hours in the day”? If so, this story
is for you. Joshua and the old covenant people of Israel were in the process
of conquering Canaan, the land God promised to them. The people they
had to dispossess of the land did not stand idly by and allow the invading
army to simply take over. They fought tenaciously to defend their homes
and their territory.
One major battle took place at the city of Gibeon, where five Amorite kings
joined together to fight against Israel. As God promised, Joshua and his
men routed their enemies, sending them into a full-fledged retreat. God
sent a hailstorm to kill many of them, and Joshua’s troops doggedly pursued
the rest. The rout was so overwhelming that Joshua hated to see the sun
go down. So he asked God to hold it still in the sky. God obliged, causing
the earth to experience the longest day in history.
Some people, understandably, question how this could possibly take place.
No doubt there are enormous physical and even cosmological implications
of such an event. The answer is that God is sovereign over nature. The
God who created the laws of the universe can set them aside or supersede
them when and as He sees fit.

 On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites,
Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let
the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.”
So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of
Israel had defeated its enemies.
(Joshua 10:12–13 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 9
Oil and Flour Keep Coming
1 Kings 17:8–16

The Bible is replete with admonitions to take care of widows and orphans
(e.g., Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:29). Here is an example of a time when
God Himself did a miracle through His prophet, Elijah, to meet the needs
of a widow and her son.
In the first half of the ninth century bc, Elijah was God’s spokesman to
the kings and people of Israel, calling them to repent of their sins and
return to their covenant vows before the Lord. On this occasion, however,
God sent His servant to a non-Jewish widow in the small Canaanite village
of Zarephath on the Mediterranean coast.
The people there were in the throes of a terrible famine, one so severe
that this poor widow was out gathering wood to cook what she thought
would be the last meal for herself and her son. A desperate situation,
indeed, but God used it as a platform from which to demonstrate His
power and concern for the poor and powerless.
Elijah asked the woman for some water and a little bread, a very
common thing for a traveler to do in the ancient Near East at that
time. This widow, however, informed her would-be table guest of
her desperate situation, and that she had only what she needed for
that final meal. Imagine her sadness and tears as she said those words
and her surprise when this stranger said the above words.
Amazingly, she complied, and God came through
for her and her son. He demonstrated to
her and through her that when we trust
Him in spite of our circumstances, He
can be depended on to come
through.

 But Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid! Go ahead and do
just what you’ve said, but make a little bread for me first. Then
use what’s left to prepare a meal for yourself and your son. For
this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: There will always be
flour and olive oil left in your containers until the time when the
Lord sends rain and the crops grow again!”
(1 Kings 17:13–14 nlt)

10 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Elijah Rides in a Fiery Chariot
2 Kings 2:1–12

Have you ever thought about how you would like your life to end? A
strange question perhaps, but one that most people have thought about
at least occasionally. Most of us, if we had a choice, would likely prefer to
die in our sleep in our own bed.
The prophet Elijah had no such quiet, uneventful home going. After a
spectacularly eventful, even turbulent ministry among the kings and people
of Israel (1 Kings 17–2 Kings 2), it is fitting that his departure from this
world was also dramatic. In fact, he was one of two people in the Bible
who didn’t die before leaving the earth.
When God was ready to bring Elijah home and transfer the prophetic
mantle to his servant Elisha, God had Elijah strike the Jordan River with his
cloak. The waters parted, reminiscent of the parting of the Red Sea before
Moses (Exodus 14:13–31) and the Jordan at Joshua’s command (Joshua
3:1–17). But that was merely a warm-up: after the two men crossed over
to the other side, a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire appeared and
took Elijah away, carrying him off to heaven. It was a fitting climax to his
ministry, often punctuated by the appearance of fire (1 Kings 18:38; 19:12;
2 Kings 1:10–14).

 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire
appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men,
separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.
Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and
charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his
clothes in distress.
(2 Kings 2:11–12 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 11
Naaman
Is Healed
2 Kings 5:1–14

If you had a dreadful disease,
one that disfigured you and
made you a social outcast,
and were told to a take a dip
in a nearby river to be cured,
would you do it? Most people
would probably say yes, even
if that river was polluted.
But Naaman, the commander
of the Aramean army, didn’t
see it that way. Afflicted
with leprosy, he nevertheless
remained a proud warrior.
When a young Jewish slave
girl suggested he ask the Is-
raelite prophet Elisha to heal
him, and his king agreed,
Naaman went along with it.
But when Elisha sent a mes-
senger to tell Naaman to sim-
ply wash himself seven times
in the muddy Jordan River,
the great warrior balked. He
was insulted. He wanted Eli-
sha himself to come and heal
him or perhaps give him some
great task to accomplish. But washing seven times in the Jordan? How
demeaning!
Naaman would have returned to Aram an angry leper had not his officers
intervened and reasoned with him. Listening to the voice(s) of reason, he
followed Elisha’s advice and came up healed.

 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven
times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as
healthy as the skin of a young child’s, and he was healed!
(2 Kings 5:14 nlt)

12 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
An Ax Head Floats
2 Kings 6:1–7

As miracles go, seeing an iron object that is too heavy and too dense to
float on water and yet still does, is not tops on the list. It doesn’t quite
rank with the parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14) or Jesus raising someone
from the dead (Mark 5:21–43; Luke 7:11–15; John 11:1–46). But when
a man of God commands something to happen that defies the laws of
nature, and it does in fact occur, it is noteworthy all the same.
One day a group of prophets led by Elisha gathered by the Jordan River
to cut down trees to build a meeting place. One of the men, perhaps ne-
glecting to check the condition of the far end of the ax he was using, got
a little carried away in his efforts, and the ax head flew off. Or, possibly he
carelessly allowed the heavy iron head to slip down the wooden handle and
off the narrow end. Either way, the iron cutting implement, which would
have been a rare and precious tool in that time and place, fell into the water.
The man was understandably alarmed, since the ax head belonged to
someone else. He cried out to Elisha for help. After asking where the ax
head fell, Elisha cut a stick and threw it to the same place. Miraculously,
the ax head floated to the surface, and the man eagerly grabbed it.
God used this event to validate that Elisha was indeed his chosen servant.
God would use other miracles, including someone actually walking on
water to validate that Jesus was His Son.

 When they arrived at the Jordan, they began cutting down trees. But
as one of them was cutting a tree, his ax head fell into the river. “Oh, sir!”
he cried. “It was a borrowed ax!”
“Where did it fall?” the man of God asked. When he showed him
the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it into the water at that spot. Then
the ax head floated to the surface. “Grab it,” Elisha said. And the man
reached out and grabbed it.
(2 Kings 6:4–7 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 13
A Dead Man Touches
a Prophet’s Bones
2 Kings 13:20–21

God did incredible things through Elisha during the prophet’s ministry to
the people of Israel: restoring a dead boy to life (2 Kings 4:18–37), healing
a leper (2 Kings 5:1–14), blinding an entire army (2 Kings 6:18), and many,
many more. But God caused yet one more miracle to occur through Elisha
after he was dead and buried.
A man had died, and a group of his fellow Israelites were burying his body.
It so happened that they buried their late countryman in the same place
where Elisha had been laid to rest. Spying a nearby raiding party from
Moab, the burial detail naturally wanted to get away from these raiders,
their adversaries. So they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. Coming
into contact with the bones of the late prophet brought the dead man
back to life! He sprang to his feet, no doubt with an incredible story to tell
his family and friends.
We’re not told whether the Moabite raiding party witnessed this resurrec-
tion. If so, we can surmise that they probably cut their mission short. In any
case, the man who was given a new lease on life undoubtedly had a new
appreciation for life, for God’s servant Elisha, and for God, too.

 Then Elisha died and was
buried. Groups of Moabite
raiders used to invade the
land each spring. Once when
some Israelites were burying
a man, they spied a band
of these raiders. So they
hastily threw the corpse into
the tomb of Elisha and fled.
But as soon as the body
touched Elisha’s bones,
the dead man revived and
jumped to his feet!
(2 Kings 13:20–21 nlt)

14 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
An Angel Defeats 185,000
2 Kings 19

In 701 bc, King Sennacherib of Assyria laid siege to Jerusalem, his army
vastly overmatching that of Judah’s King Hezekiah. Supremely confident
in his military superiority, Sennacherib taunted Hezekiah in the hearing of
the people of Jerusalem. He even mocked his trust in God to deliver them.
Big mistake. He soon realized that the God of Israel has a sense of irony.
Any unbiased assessment of the situation would have given the Assyrians
overwhelming odds against the much smaller and less formidable army
of Judah. Any prudent military adviser would have counseled Hezekiah to
discuss immediate terms of surrender in order to spare his people complete
annihilation.
God, however, is never impressed by nor limited to such human judgments.
He had a major surprise awaiting Sennacherib and his unfortunate soldiers.
Hezekiah cried out to the Lord, pleading for him to deliver his people from
their oppressors, but not just for their sake. Hezekiah also appealed to the
Lord to defend his own honor and glory.
That is exactly what happened. God
only needed one angel to take on
Sennacherib’s allegedly invincible
army. Yet the situation was about
to get even worse. Some years after
this humiliating defeat (in 681 bc),
his own sons assassinated him as he
worshipped his god.
God specializes in such ironic reversals,
humbling the exalted and exalting the
humbled.

 That night the angel of the Lord went out
to the Assyrian camp and killed 185,000
Assyrian soldiers. When the surviving
Assyrians woke up the next morning,
they found corpses everywhere. Then King
Sennacherib of Assyria broke camp and
returned to his own land. He went home to his capital
of Nineveh and stayed there.
(2 Kings 19:35–36 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 15
The Sun Moves Backward
2 Kings 20:1–11

If you have ever wished for more hours in a day or more years in your life,
this story is for you. King Hezekiah of Judah received the dreaded diagnosis
of his impending death not from a royal physician but a divinely anointed
prophet, Isaiah. Like most of us, his initial reaction was one of sadness. His
next response was to cry out to the Lord and ask for healing. Although God
does not always grant such requests, this time He did, even telling Hezekiah
(through Isaiah) how much more time he would be given—fifteen years.
The king, understandably, wanted some assurance that this would indeed
be the case. So he asked for a sign. God then did something virtually un-
paralleled in Scripture: He gave Hezekiah a choice of miraculous signs. God
would cause the shadow on the sundial of King Ahaz to go forward ten
steps or backward ten steps, thereby supernaturally either shortening the
day or lengthening the day, depending on Hezekiah’s decision. Hezekiah,
perhaps more keenly aware now of the preciousness of time, chose to ask
God to move the sun backward ten steps (reminiscent of Joshua and the
sun standing still at the battle of Gibeon—Joshua 10:1–15). God did it,
confirming for Hezekiah that his life would indeed be extended.
Again, God doesn’t always say yes to such prayers, much as we wish He
would. But sometimes He does.

 Meanwhile, Hezekiah had said to
Isaiah, “What sign will the Lord give to
prove that he will heal me and that I
will go to the Temple of the Lord three
days from now?”
Isaiah replied, “This is the sign
from the Lord to prove that he will
do as he promised. Would you like
the shadow on the sundial to go forward ten
steps or backward ten steps?”
“The shadow always moves forward,” Hezekiah replied, “so that
would be easy. Make it go ten steps backward instead.” So Isaiah the
prophet asked the Lord to do this, and he caused the shadow to move
ten steps backward on the sundial of Ahaz!
(2 Kings 20:8–11 nlt)

16 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Amazing Occurrences | 17
Jesus Blesses the Children
Matthew 19:13–15

“Get those kids out of here! They’re
making way too much noise!” How
many times have you heard (or said?)
those words or words like them at a
church event? Maybe you’ve had this
experience: the adults are having a meet-
ing in one room to discuss a serious mat-
ter, and the youth group or children’s
ministry is in another room close by. Too
close, perhaps, because the noise level
of the youth activity reaches that point at
which the adults’ heads begin to turn and
frowns appear. Someone is dispatched to
quiet the young people or instruct them
to relocate.
How different is Jesus’ reaction to a group
of “inconvenient” children whose par-
ents brought them to Him so He could
place His hands on them and pray for
them. Those parents sensed there was
something about Him that was different,
that He was genuinely interested in their
children. Yet the disciples “scolded the parents for bothering him” (v. 13).
Far from being bothered, however, Jesus welcomed the children.
Of course there are times when young people get out of control and
need some serious, immediate crowd control, before either bodily injuries
or structural damages occur. But rather than see them as nuisances, we
need to consider how Jesus received them: as opportunities for blessing
and advancing God’s kingdom.

 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could
lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the
parents for bothering him.
But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For
the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he
left.
(Matthew 19:13–15 nlt)

18 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Jesus Heals a Crippled Hand
Mark 3:1–6

Do you know anyone, including yourself, with a significant physical disability—
cerebral palsy, blindness or deafness, crippling arthritis, or Parkinson’s
disease? How would you react if the Lord healed that person or yourself
during a Sunday morning worship service?
Silly question, right? No doubt you would rejoice either way. Regardless of
your views on Sabbath keeping, you would have to be very hard-hearted
to do anything other than celebrate such an event.
“Hard-hearted” pretty well sums up Jesus’ enemies, the scribes and
Pharisees this day in the synagogue. Imagine seeing a man healed of a
severe deformity and quibbling over when it happened! They had come
specifically to watch Jesus, already renowned as a miraculous healer, to see
if He would heal anyone on the Sabbath. In their view such healing would
violate the law of Moses. So when He did, restoring the withered hand of
a man there, he challenged those critics. He asked if the law permitted
such good works—and they refused to answer. Jesus was angry and deeply
saddened by their callousness and lack of compassion.

 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in
front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law
permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a
day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their
hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man
held out his hand, and it was restored!
(Mark 3:3–5 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 19
Jesus Stops a Storm
Mark 4:35–41

Of all the characteristics that make Jesus of Nazareth special in all of history,
one that stands out is His mastery over nature.
On this occasion, after a day spent teaching the multitudes in parables,
Jesus and His disciples got into a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. Soon after
setting out a nasty storm blew up, threatening to capsize the boat. The
disciples, some of whom were fishermen who made their living on that very
body of water, were nevertheless extremely frightened. Incredibly, “Jesus
was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion” (v. 38 nlt).
Imagine—Jesus, a carpenter, sound asleep in the stern while his fishermen
followers were frantically bailing and fearing for their lives: “The disciples
woke him up, shouting, ‘Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to
drown?’” (v. 38 nlt)

20 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Taking command of the situation, and the elements themselves, Jesus
commanded the wind and the waves to be still. They immediately did so,
provoking even more terrified and awestruck reactions from the disciples:
“‘Who is this man?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and waves
obey him!’”
Two thousand years later, people still wonder.

 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves,
“Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great
calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no
faith?”
The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked
each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”
(Mark 4:39–41 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 21
Mark Runs Away Naked
Mark 14:50–52

Writers of ancient historical documents did not always identify themselves.
Instead, they would place an eyewitness detail in the narrative that would
give a clue as to their identity, but without saying, “I was the one who
did this.”
Tradition holds that the Last Supper took place in an upper room in Mark’s
family home in Jerusalem. Following the meal, Jesus and the disciples walked
to the garden of Gethsemane, where Judas’s betrayal and the arrest took
place. Not identifying himself as one of the disciples, Mark placed himself at
the scene wearing “only. . .a long linen shirt”(v. 51 nlt)—likely his nightshirt.
Since these dramatic events took place in the middle of the night, it stands
to reason that if Mark had followed Jesus and the disciples, he might not
have bothered or perhaps had time to get dressed more appropriately.
It is quite unusual for such an author to include a detail like this that makes
him look bad, as this brief glimpse into the night before Jesus’ death does
Mark. It is just one more reason to trust the authenticity of the Bible.

 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. One young man
following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob
tried to grab him, he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
(Mark 14:50–52 nlt)

22 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Jesus Feeds 5,000
Luke 9:10–17

How much food would it take to feed over 5,000 people?
With Jesus around, all you need is one boy’s lunch.
As a popular teacher, Jesus drew large crowds. During one preaching ses-
sion, the Bible accounts only mention the men (5,000), but there may have
been at least double that amount of people present. The twelve disciples
asked Jesus to send away the crowd so that they could find food. Not an
easy task in the days before convenience stores. But Jesus didn’t need a
convenience store. He was the Son of God!
First, He assessed what they already had: five loaves and two fish donated
by a child. Not much for even one person. Nevertheless, Jesus took the
food, gave thanks for it, and started passing it out. And passing it out.
And passing it out. Before anyone knew it, everyone had been given food.
There was even enough food left over to fill twelve baskets! One basket
for each doubting disciple.

 For there were about 5,000 men there.
Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups
of about fifty each.” So the people all sat down.
Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked
up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then,
breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving
the bread and fish to the disciples so they could
distribute it to the people. They all ate as much as
they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up
twelve baskets of leftovers!
(Luke 9:14–17 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 23
Jesus Is
Transfigured
Luke 9:28–36

Many amazing events took place
during the time Jesus walked our
ground, breathed our air, healed our
afflictions and bore our sins. One
of the most remarkable is recorded
in Luke 9:28–36 (also Matthew
17:1–13 and Mark 9:2–13), an epi-
sode commonly referred to as the
Transfiguration.
On that occasion, Jesus took Peter,
John, and James up on a mountain to
pray. We’re not told which mountain;
it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that He went up that mountain
with those three men, often seen as sort of His “inner circle,” and “as he
was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes
became dazzling white” (v. 29 nlt). That would be overwhelming enough.
But there was more: Moses and Elijah appeared.
Can you imagine? Peter, John, and James had grown up hearing about and
studying the writings of or about these men, and suddenly, here they were
before them. It would be like an American citizen touring the White House
and suddenly encountering George Washington and Abraham Lincoln,
alive and well. He would be overcome, stunned, and perhaps impulsively
blurt out something inane like Peter did (v. 33).
The transfiguration of Jesus on that mountain and the appearance of Moses
and Elijah were not the most astounding events in the life of Jesus; the
crucifixion and resurrection certainly outrank it. But for Peter, John, and
James (and through their eyewitness account, the rest of us), it must be
considered one of the most astonishing episodes in the most astonishing
life ever lived.

 About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a
mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was
transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men,
Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were
glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world,
which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.
(Luke 9:28–31 nlt)

24 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Ananias and Sapphira Meet the Truth
Acts 5:1–11

Dramatic events swirled around the apostles in the days following Jesus’
ascension and the early days of the founding of the church. Such hap-
penings were necessary as authentication of the ministries and authority
of Peter, John, Philip, and the others. Most of these were welcomed by
those who were the objects of the supernatural power manifested through
these men. One exception to that took place in Jerusalem with Peter and
a couple named Ananias and Sapphira.
The church in Jerusalem experienced explosive growth in the weeks following
Pentecost (Acts 2). Those early converts to Christianity were characterized
by fervent worship, devoted community, bold evangelism, and cheerful
generosity, which makes the actions of Ananias and Sapphira all the more
tragic and unnecessary. Why they engaged in this deceit is not clear; they
were under no obligation to give the proceeds to the church. Perhaps they
wanted more credit than they truly deserved. What is painfully, unmistak-
ably clear is that God took a very dim view of their actions: first Ananias,
then Sapphira dropped dead on the spot after lying to Peter.
We may thank God that He does not always deal with all sin so harshly.
We should also remember we live our lives before a holy God and let that
knowledge inform every aspect of our conduct.

 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife,
Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the
apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept
the rest.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You
lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.”
(Acts 5:1–3 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 25
Peter Has a Vision
Acts 10:9–33

How old were you when you learned there was no Santa Claus? That go-
ing swimming less than thirty minutes after eating would not cause you
to have a cramp and drown? That when you made funny faces at your
mother, your face would not freeze that way?
Those are silly examples that make a serious point: some beliefs we grow
up with die hard. So imagine how Peter, a lifelong, committed Jew must
have felt when he had a vision of all kinds of “unclean” animals—animals
classified as nonkosher according to Old Testament dietary laws (Leviticus
11)—and a voice telling him to “Get up. . .kill and eat them” (v. 13 nlt).
Peter was aghast. He protested that he had never broken kosher laws
before. But his protest brought a most unexpected rebuke: “Do not call
something unclean if God has made it clean” (v. 15 nlt).
The vision, which was repeated three times, taught Peter that since Jesus
had come and fulfilled the Law (Matthew 5:17), it was time to set aside
the Levitical proscriptions against eating unclean animals. But it also taught
something much more fundamental and far-reaching: that God’s plan
of redemption was and is far broader than just for ethnic Jews, the old
covenant people of Israel. His plan includes Gentiles, those beyond the
bounds of ethnic Judaism.
Sure enough, just after the vision concluded, three men came to the house
where Peter was staying and asked him to come with them. They had been
sent by Cornelius, a Roman army officer—a Gentile—to request that Peter
come with them to preach the Gospel to Cornelius, his family, and close
friends. Where Peter previously would have refused to go with them or
enter a Gentile household, he consented. He went to Cornelius’s house
and shared the good news of Jesus with them. It was the beginning of the
proclamation of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

 The next day as Cornelius’s messengers were nearing the town, Peter
went up on the flat roof to pray. It was about noon, and he was hungry.
But while a meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the
sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four
corners. In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. Then a
voice said to him, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.”
“No, Lord,” Peter declared. “I have never eaten anything that our
Jewish laws have declared impure and unclean.”
(Acts 10:9–14 nlt)

26 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Amazing Occurrences | 27
Peter Escapes
from Prison
Acts 12:6–19

Talk about your dramatic
jail breaks. The apostle
Peter, the leader of the
early church, was ar-
rested by King Herod
for the simple crime of
following Jesus. Herod
had already put James,
the brother of John
and another key leader
of the church, to death for the
same crime. Things were not looking good for Peter.
To make matters even worse, Peter was imprisoned, chained between two
soldiers. Others soldiers stood guard at the prison gate. Escape seemed
completely out of the question. Until. . .
The night before his trial was to begin, an angel radiant with light appeared
in the cell. He awakened Peter, released him from his chains, told him to
get dressed and come with him. Thinking it was all another vision, Peter
followed the angel to the Jerusalem city gate, which opened by itself. As
they walked through the gate and out into the city, the angel suddenly
disappeared, leaving Peter alone on the city street. At that point, Peter
realized this was no dream or vision. He was really free.
What happened next is almost humorous. Peter went to the home of his
younger friend John Mark (who would later write the Gospel of Mark)
and began knocking at the gate. A servant girl came to open it, but when
she heard Peter’s voice, “she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening
the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, ‘Peter is standing at the
door!’” (v. 14 nlt).
Those inside had been praying for Peter’s release, but perhaps like some of
us they refused to believe God had answered their prayers. It wasn’t until
they heard Peter’s continued, undoubtedly urgent knocking and went to
the gate themselves that they saw and believed.
Probably very few Christians today have witnessed or experienced an answer
to prayer as dramatic as that. God does, however, still answer our prayers.

28 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep,
fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the
prison gate. Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of
the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken
him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. Then the
angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now
put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered.
So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it
was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening.
(Acts 12:6–9 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 29
 Then some Jews arrived from Antioch and Iconium and won the
crowds to their side. They stoned Paul and dragged him out of town,
thinking he was dead. But as the believers gathered around him, he got
up and went back into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for
Derbe.
(Acts 14:19–20 nlt)

30 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Paul Survives Capital Punishment
Acts 14:19–20

Imagine seeing someone who has just been executed get up and go on
his way. You would be in utter disbelief, and perhaps more than a little
afraid. A person simply does not survive an execution.
Yet the apostle Paul survived an execution in the town of Lystra. Paul and
his faithful ministry partner Barnabas had been preaching the good news
of Jesus throughout the region of Galatia, winning converts but also en-
gendering strong opposition. In fact, at Lystra, when God used Paul to heal
a crippled man, the local people became convinced the two men must be
gods: Barnabas—Zeus, and Paul—Hermes.
Barnabas and Paul were grieved, insisting they were mere men like all the
locals. The Jews were jealous, seeing these men as a serious threat to their
belief system, their livelihood, and their power over these people.
They somehow won the crowd over. The people that had just been ready to
deify him stoned Paul and dragged his body outside the town limits. They
thought they were done with him and, no doubt, with Barnabas as well.
Stoning was not a reprimand; stoning was the death penalty. It was the
first-century Jewish equivalent to the electric chair. A person did not walk
away from a stoning, yet Paul did. Not only that, he went right back into
Lystra. Can you imagine the reaction he must have received?
How that resurrection happened is not explained in the text, but it seems
clear that God did a supernatural act on Paul’s behalf by bringing him
back to life. Some New Testament scholars believe this may have been
the time God raised him up to heaven and gave him his spectacular vi-
sion (2 Corinthians 12:1–4). God knew how much more He was going
to demand of His servant, so perhaps He let Paul have a glimpse of what
awaited him at the end of his earthly journey, something to convince him
his sufferings were worth it.
We don’t know that for sure. One
thing of which we are certain,
though, is that God used Paul,
Barnabas, and the rest of
the apostles to preach the
Gospel throughout the
Mediterranean world,
the Roman Empire,
and beyond, chang-
ing the world forever.

Amazing Occurrences | 31
Paul and Silas
Sing in Prison
Acts 16:25–34

If you were arrested on a bogus charge, stripped and beaten
in front of an angry mob, and thrown unceremoniously into
the local jail, how would you respond? With anger, fear, indignation, or
despair? How about singing?
Most of us would probably not feel like singing hymns of praise as we
nursed our wounds, surrounded by other prisoners in a filthy jail cell. That,
however, is exactly what Paul and Silas did as they sat in the dungeon in
the city of Philippi.
Paul and Silas had come to Philippi in order to preach the Gospel of salvation
by the grace of God through faith in Christ alone. Along the way, however,
they had encountered a slave girl who was possessed by a demon. As
horrifying as that was, however, the girl’s owners did not wish to see her
made whole since her fortune-telling was a source of income for them. So
when Paul cast the demon out of the poor girl, her masters were enraged.
They “grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them before the authorities at
the marketplace” (v. 19 nlt). They were beaten, put in jail, and restrained
with their feet in stocks—a rather unlikely setting for a praise and prayer
service, wouldn’t you say?
And yet that’s exactly what they were doing at midnight: praying and sing-
ing as the other inmates listened in. Probably none of them had ever heard
anything quite like that under those circumstances. As they were singing,
Luke writes: “Suddenly, there was a massive earthquake, and the prison
was shaken to its foundations. All the doors immediately flew open, and
the chains of every prisoner fell off! The jailer woke up to see the prison
doors wide open. He assumed the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his
sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him, ‘Stop! Don’t kill yourself!
We are all here!’” (v. 28 nlt)
The jailer, understandably overwhelmed by the experience, asked Paul
and Silas the all-important question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
(v. 30 nlt).
Paul and Silas told him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved,
along with everyone in your household” (v. 31 nlt).
That very night the jailer and his entire family believed the Gospel and were
baptized—undoubtedly the most beneficial aftershock in history.

32 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns
to God, and the other prisoners were listening. Suddenly, there was a
massive earthquake, and the prison was shaken to its foundations. All
the doors immediately flew open, and the chains of every prisoner fell
off! The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open. He assumed
the prisoners had escaped, so he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul
shouted to him, “Stop! Don’t kill yourself! We are all here!”
(Acts 16:25–28 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 33
Eutychus Is Brought Back to Life
Acts 20:7–12

Lots of people fall asleep in church. Most, however, don’t do it sitting in a
windowsill three stories above the ground and fall to their deaths.
That’s what happened to a young man named Eutychus as he listened to
the apostle Paul preach a long sermon late one night in the Macedonian
town of Troas. Luke, the writer of Acts (and also a physician—Colossians
4:14) was an eyewitness to the event.
You can just picture what happened: a late night, flickering lamps, a long
sermon that kept getting longer and longer. The poor young man could
not keep his eyes open any longer. Unfortunately for him, he was sitting
on a windowsill three stories up. The result was not surprising: Eutychus
fell asleep and fell out of the window. He died on impact.
Fortunately for him, the preacher was no ordinary pastor but the apostle
Paul. He rushed to the side of the lifeless young man, picked him up, and
miraculously, God restored him to life. Then Eutychus went back upstairs
with Paul and the others where they celebrated the Lord’s Supper and ate
a meal together.
Amazingly, Paul resumed speaking till dawn. Luke doesn’t tell us, but
presumably no one else fell asleep while he spoke, or at least not while
sitting in the windowsill.

 On the first day of the week, we
gathered with the local believers
to share in the Lord’s Supper. Paul
was preaching to them, and since
he was leaving the next day, he kept
talking until midnight. The upstairs
room where we met was lighted with
many flickering lamps. As Paul spoke
on and on, a young man named
Eutychus, sitting on the windowsill,
became very drowsy. Finally, he fell
sound asleep and dropped three
stories to his death below. Paul went
down, bent over him, and took him
into his arms. “Don’t worry,” he said,
“he’s alive!”
(Acts 20:7–10 nlt)

34 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Paul Shakes Off a Deadly Snake
Acts 28:3–6

Paul would be forgiven if he sometimes wondered whether he had a black
cloud over his head that followed him wherever he went. He had survived
the shipwreck off of Malta and reached land along with his companions.
The local inhabitants treated them kindly, building a fire to warm them
after their harrowing arrival onshore. Ever the servant, Paul gathered wood
for the fire, only to be bitten by a poisonous snake.
The locals saw this and decided that even though he’d escaped the sea,
justice had found Paul. They believed the snake had been sent to punish
this criminal, a sort of divine earthly retribution. They changed their minds
when they saw that he was completely unharmed and even decided he was
a god. The text does not tell us, but we can be confident Paul disabused
them of that notion, just as he and Barnabas did in Lystra when the people
believed them to be gods (Acts 14:8–18).
Paul survived the snakebite as he had so many other life-threatening
events. God asked a great deal of his choice servant, but he also gave him
the courage and the grace to meet these ordeals head-on and not only
persevere but triumph.

 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the
fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand.
The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each
other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will
not permit him to live.” But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and
was unharmed. The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop
dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t
harmed, they changed their minds and decided
he was a god.
(Acts 28:3–6 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 35
Paul Survives a Shipwreck
Acts 27:1–44

Trouble seemed to follow Paul wherever he went. From the sufferings
inflicted by other men (2 Corinthians 11:23–29), to the trials before the
governing authorities (Acts 21–26), to the mysterious affliction he called
his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7–10), Paul’s was not an easy
life. On his way to stand trial in Rome, he even had to contend with and
survive a shipwreck.
Paul and company set sail from Caesarea in Judea on the Mediterranean
coast, intending to make their way to Rome where Paul was to stand trial,
as he requested, before Caesar (Acts 25:11). Leaving the town of Fair Haven
on the island of Crete, they attempted a dangerous late autumn journey
to a safer harbor at Phoenix, also on Crete. Paul warned against it, but
the ship’s captain disregarded his advice. After all, Paul was a tentmaker
by trade (Acts 18:3), not a sailor. What would he know?
What he knew was that the voyage was destined to end badly: “‘Men,’
he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—
shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as
well’” (v. 10 nlt).
And end badly it did, just as Paul said, with exactly the
results he predicted. Fierce winds battered the ship. The
crew, soldiers, and prisoners all had to abandon ship off the
shore of Malta. All survived, including Paul, although his days of
living dangerously were far from over. He would continue to endure
hardship and glorify God through his trials for several years to come.

36 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 Then the sailors tried to abandon the ship; they lowered the lifeboat
as though they were going to put out anchors from the front of the ship.
But Paul said to the commanding officer and the soldiers, “You will all die
unless the sailors stay aboard.” So the soldiers cut the ropes to the lifeboat
and let it drift away. . . .
The soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners to make sure they didn’t swim
ashore and escape. But the commanding officer wanted to spare Paul,
so he didn’t let them carry out their plan. Then he ordered all who could
swim to jump overboard first and make for land. The others held on to
planks or debris from the broken ship. So everyone escaped safely to
shore.
(Acts 27:30–32, 42–44 nlt)

Amazing Occurrences | 37
38 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Big Events
I f someone were to ask you to list the major events discussed in
the Bible, what would you come up with? Creation? The Flood?
Jesus’ birth? These events are significant because they shaped or
changed the course of human history. Many are turning points in
redemptive history.

On the following pages we’ve listed the key events in the Bible
and where you can find them. In these stories, you’ll find a world
created, the birth of a nation, the first sin and its aftermath,
God’s rescue of his people Israel, and the birth of a Savior—God’s
solution to the problem of sin.


God Creates the Universe
Genesis 1—2

These ten words (seven in the original Hebrew language) have caused a
great deal of discussion, disagreement, and outright arguments through the
years. That’s because they’re not merely poetic; they make a huge statement
about life on this planet. Either we were placed here intentionally by our
Creator, or we are simply random conglomerations of molecules thrown
together by time and chance.
Is there any evidence that supports the Bible’s teaching of divine creation?
Consider:

„„ The angle of the earth. If the angle of the earth was tilted
slightly in either direction, the resulting changes in temperature would be
so extreme that life as we know it could not exist.
„„ The position of the earth. Similarly, if earth were slightly closer
to or farther from the sun, the resulting temperature changes would be
too extreme to support life.

40 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
„„ The moon. If the moon were 50,000 miles away from the earth
instead of 200,000 miles, the ocean tides would be so enormous that all
the continents would be submerged. Even the mountains would erode.
„„ Earth’s atmosphere. If the ratio of carbon to oxygen in the
atmosphere had been slightly different, none of us would be around to
breathe it.
„„ Water. Unlike most other substances, when water freezes, it
expands and floats. If water didn’t have this unique property, lakes and
rivers would freeze in cold weather all the way down to the bottom. All
sea life would die.
Other critical factors such as the precise strength of the force of gravity,
the exact balance of the electrical force, the rate of the expansion of the
universe from the moment of creation on, and the uniformity of the universe
in all directions show the need for precise calibration. Without it, human
life would not be possible.
So, it seems that the universe was designed to support human life. Any of
the above events could have just happened; accepting the truth of Genesis
1:1, however, seems a lot more reasonable.

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
(Genesis 1:1 nlt)

Big Events | 41
Adam and Eve Disobey God
Genesis 3:1–19

While some might believe that humans are basically good, the experience
of Adam and Eve in the garden sheds a different light on that theory. God
gave the first couple some very simple instructions when He placed them
in Eden. They were to tend the earth, reproduce other little image-bearers
of God, and avoid eating the fruit of one tree in the middle of the gar-
den. Sounds simple enough, right? But our original parents couldn’t do
it. Instead, they disobeyed, plunging the world into ruin and misery. This
is known as the Fall. At the Fall, sin entered the world, and with it came
disease, decay, and death. Sin caused enmity between God and humans,
between human beings, and even between humans and nature.
We have reaped the consequences of their
disobedience to this day.
Before we judge Adam and Eve
too harshly, though, consider
this: What happens when
you see a sign that reads: Wet
Paint? You want to touch it and
see if it really is wet, right? Or, when
you read a sign posted at the edge
of a lush, green yard reading: Keep
Off the Grass, isn’t your impulse to
put at least one foot in the for-
bidden area? That’s what hap-
pened first with Eve and
then Adam.
God would have been
entirely justified if He had
simply wiped His hands
clean of the whole human
experiment. But He didn’t. In-
stead, H e made a way to

42 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
undo the damage. Verse 15 hints at that way when God says He will send
one of Eve’s descendants to crush the head of the serpent who deceived her.
What Genesis 3:15 hints at, Romans 5:17 (nlt) spells out: "For the sin
of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even
greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all
who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one
man, Jesus Christ."
As devastating and far-reaching as the effects of the Fall are, the impact
of the cross is even greater.

 I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your
offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike
his heel.
(Genesis 3:15 nlt)

Big Events | 43
A Flood Covers the Earth
Genesis 6—9

While watching or listening to the stories of violence, corruption, hatred,
and heartbreak on your local news, ever wish you could take a fire hose
to scrub your town clean and just start all over?
Believe it or not, that’s how God felt in an earlier epoch of human his-
tory. “So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on
the earth. It broke his heart” (Gen. 6:6 nlt). So God decided to scrub the

 “Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy
every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will
confirm my covenant with you. So enter the boat—you and your wife
and your sons and their wives. Bring a pair of every kind of animal—a
male and a female—into the boat with you to keep them alive during
the flood.”
(Genesis 6:17–19 nlt)

44 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
world clean of evil and the people who caused it. Genesis 6–9 recounts
the story of the great flood and of Noah and his family who, thanks to
God’s grace, were the only ones who survived. God then used them to
repopulate the earth.
Virtually every major religion has some account of a catastrophic flood.
The vast majority of them tell of a survivor or small band of survivors living
through the ordeal by taking refuge in some kind of boat. That doesn’t
mean the biblical account is true and the others false or vice versa. In
fact, it has no bearing on the veracity (or lack thereof) of any one Flood
narrative. But it does raise the question, for those who wish to dismiss
all such stories as merely ancient myths, as to why the submersion of the
earth is such a universal tale. Unless, of course, it’s true.

Big Events | 45
The Tower of Babel Is Built
Genesis 11:1–9

Skyscrapers are always eye-catching. You can’t help
looking, because they’re usually the biggest things
on the horizon. But in Bible times, one “skyscraper”
caught God’s attention in a negative way.
At this point in history, people spoke with one
language. Because of this unity, they decided to
build a city and a tower built on the plains of
Shinar, near Babylon (present-day Baghdad, Iraq).
The method of building was cutting-edge for the
time: fire-hardened bricks with tar with for
mortar. The result was a city and a great
tower—a stepped ziggurat “that reached
into the sky” (v. 4 nlt).
The builders intended this project to be a great
achievement. Certainly nothing is wrong with
that in itself, but this city and tower were
built to be monuments to human ego and
ambition.
The city, along with its tower, is known to us
as Babel (v. 9). Babel meant “gate of god” to
the Babylonians and represented the efforts of
humanity to accomplish great things without
regard to their Creator. But God put a halt
to the whole undertaking by confusing their
speech. The consequence they feared was the
result: the people scattered.

 Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a
tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us
from being scattered all over the world.”
(Genesis 11:4 nlt)

46 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
God Sends Plagues on Egypt
Exodus 7:1—12:36

When the Israelite population increased in Egypt, the fearful pharaoh en-
slaved them to keep them under control. By the time of Moses, the people
of Israel had been enslaved for over four centuries. God sent Moses to
Pharaoh to command him to let the people go. Knowing that Pharaoh
would refuse, God used a special form of persuasion: ten plagues.
Any careful reader of the account of the plagues God sent on
the land of Egypt (Exodus 7–12) may well be tempted to ask,
“Why did God do all those terrible things to the Egyptians?”
Perhaps you have asked that question yourself or wondered
why there was a plague of lice, darkness, locusts, hailstones,
etc. Seems a bit random, huh? Yet the plagues were not an
attack against the people, but against the gods they worshipped.
Exodus 7:3-5 (below) is almost a declaration of war.
Egypt boasted a large pantheon of gods. Besides Ra, the sun god,
there was Osiris, the lord of the dead; Hapi, the god of the Nile;
Anuket, the goddess of the Nile; Heget, the frog goddess; Bat, the
cow goddess; and many others. In order to prove to the Israelites,
the Egyptians, and everyone else in the world “that I am the Lord,”
God had to show His superiority over Egypt’s alleged gods. The
first salvo was turning the waters of the Nile to blood. Although
the Egyptian magicians proclaimed their ability to duplicate this
act by the power of their god, they could not duplicate any of
the other plagues.
The God of Israel had made His point. But the worst plague of
all was yet to come.

 “I will make Pharaoh’s heart stubborn so I can multiply my miraculous
signs and wonders in the land of Egypt. Even then Pharaoh will refuse to
listen to you. So I will bring down my fist on Egypt. Then I will rescue my
forces—my people, the Israelites—from the land of Egypt with great acts of
judgment. When I raise my powerful hand and bring out the Israelites, the
Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.”
(Exodus 7:3–5 nlt)

Big Events | 47
The First Passover Is Celebrated
Exodus 12:1–30

What does it take for God to get your
attention? A catastrophe? Something
amazing? God gained the pharaoh of
Egypt’s attention through a series of
catastrophes. Through Moses, God
used nine plagues (Exodus 7–11) to
warn Pharaoh to heed God’s com-
mand to free the people of Israel from
enslavement. Despite the damage
and pain those catastrophes inflicted
on the Egyptian people, Pharaoh
stubbornly refused. So God dramati-
cally raised the stakes.
The tenth plague—the death of all firstborn sons, including livestock—was
the most devastating of all. The hope for the future, as symbolized by the
firstborn sons, was now gone.
God gave His people instructions to keep this plague from befalling their
households. They had to sprinkle the blood of an unblemished lamb over
the lintels and doorposts of their homes. This was the sign for the Lord to
“pass over” those houses, sparing them from the death angel, hence the
name Passover. They were to eat the sacrificed lamb and unleavened bread
(bread without yeast) and bitter herbs. During the meal they were to be
dressed as if ready to leave immediately.
The Passover became a permanent festival, one celebrated every year in
remembrance of God’s miraculous deliverance of His people. Because of
this deliverance, the Jewish calendar was permanently changed. Passover
is still celebrated every year by people around the world.
In the New Testament, Jesus is described as a Passover Lamb sacrificed
for the sins of all (1 Corinthians 5:7). His death causes eternal death and
separation from God to pass over those who trust Him.

 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down
every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will
execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! But
the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses
where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This
plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.
(Exodus 12:12–13)

48 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
God Parts the Red Sea
Exodus 14:21–31

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt between a rock and a hard
place as the proverbial saying goes? Looking back, you see a bad situation
and a worse one ahead. If so, you have some idea how the people of Israel
felt as they stood on the shore of the Red Sea.
After agreeing to let the Israelites go, Pharaoh changed his mind and went
in pursuit with a well-trained army and six hundred chariots. Imagine facing
a crack army on one side and crashing waves on the other. The people of
Israel reacted in an all too human ways: panic and grumbling. They couldn’t
fathom a third option: that God had a plan.
God saved His people in a way that only He could. Using the wind, He
parted the waters and caused the Israelites to pass through safely. The
point of the Red Sea, which
scholars conjecture might
have been around the Gulf of
Suez, was at least a half mile
wide. The people of Israel
numbered around two mil-
lion and had only one night
to make the trip. While they
survived, none of Pharaoh’s
crack soldiers did.
This demonstration at the Red
Sea showed God’s power to
overcome even a situation
between a rock and a hard
place.

 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up
a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that
night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked
through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on
each side!
(Exodus 14:21–22)

Big Events | 49
God Gives the Ten Commandments
Exodus 19—20

You’ve probably seen the old Cecil B. DeMille movie The Ten Commandments
or some other representation of the episode between God and Moses on
Mount Sinai. Even if you haven’t, you probably have some image in your
mind as to how it would have looked to an observer. Whatever it actually
looked like, it must have been an awe-inspiring encounter.
What often gets overlooked is that the giving of the Ten Commandments
(often simply called “the Law”) was part of a covenant ratification process
between God and the people of Israel. A covenant was and is an agreement
between two parties. In the Bible it was a blood oath broken on penalty
of death. While the consequence was serious, this covenant one also was
beneficial for Israel. Rather than leaving them to cast about on their own,
hoping to please God—and fearing the consequences if they didn’t—the
Law provided the following three benefits. It. . .

„„ Revealed God’s holiness. God was holy, powerful, just, compas-
sionate, and so forth. He was eager to bless obedience but also willing to
punish disobedience.
„„ Outlined righteous behavior. The Law revealed God’s standard
of behavior. God expected His people to honor Him above all others, set
aside one day in seven to worship Him, respect their parents, treat one
another with dignity and compassion, and so forth.
„„ Showed their need for God. The people of Israel would need
God’s covenant guidance, blessing, and protection forever. When they
failed, which they would do continually, they would need God’s help to
be restored to a right relationship with him.

Ultimately, the Law pointed out their inability to “be holy because I, the
Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1 nlt)—and thus their need for God
to do for them what they were unable to do for themselves; hence the
need for God’s grace through Christ.

 Then God gave the people all
these instructions: “I am the Lord
your God, who rescued you from
the land of Egypt, the place of
your slavery. You must not have
any other god but me.”
(Exodus 20:1–3 nlt)

50 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Walls of Jericho Fall
Joshua 6

People who believe in God love to talk about His love, mercy, forgive-
ness, and so on. Joshua 6 reveals characteristics of God’s personality
few like to think about: His wrath and judgment.
The people of Israel were in the early stages of entering Canaan,
the land God promised them. The biggest obstacle was fact that the
land was already populated. This chapter describes the unorthodox
military strategy Joshua and the people employed to conquer the
city of Jericho. Instead of being armed with swords and a battering
ram, the people marched in silence around the city once a day for
six days and seven on the seventh day, while the priests carried the
ark of the covenant.
Another unorthodox strategy involved Rahab, a prostitute who lived
in Jericho and played a huge part in the victory at
Jericho. Because she hid the spies Joshua sent
on reconnaissance and showed a willingness
to believe in the God of Israel, her family
was preserved and she gained a place in
the family line of Jesus (see Matthew 1:5).
In recent years numerous scholars have
concluded that Jericho, which has been
thoroughly excavated, was indeed de-
stroyed suddenly around 1400 bc, its walls
collapsed inward. Some attribute this to
seismic activity. Those who believe
the Bible know differently.

 When the people heard the sound of the rams᾿ horns, they
shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho
collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and
captured it.
(Joshua 6:20 nlt)

Big Events | 51
Samson Brings Down the House
Judges 16:22–31

The news stories are full of gifted athletes, actors, and others who came
to a bad end. We shake our heads at how such promise was eclipsed.
Samson’s story is sadly similar.
Samson lived in the first half of the eleventh century bc. This was the era
before Israel had kings. Instead, they had judges—specially chosen deliv-
erers. The need for judges can be seen in a refrain found throughout the
book of Judges: “The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord”
(Judges 3:7). After the death of Joshua, the godly leader who succeeded
Moses, the people of Israel turned to the idols of other nations. Thus
began a vicious cycle: their idol worship caused God to allow their en-
emies to conquer them; their cries for help led God to choose a judge to
deliver them from their enemies. Yet they forgot God time and time again
and the cycle continued.
Before Samson was born, God told his parents that Samson had a special
purpose: he would be the instrument to deliver his people from the Phi-
listines. Samson was to be a lifelong Nazirite, a Hebrew word that means
“dedicated.” Individuals who took the Nazirite vow did not cut their hair
or drink wine. Even Samson’s mother was forbidden to drink wine while
pregnant.
Samson grew up and became a judge known for amazing physical strength.
While he had some victories over the Philistines (Judges 14–15), his lack of
moral discernment led to his downfall, starting with his involvement with
Delilah, a prostitute from the Valley of Sorek. Forced by the Philistine lead-
ers to discover the secret of Samson’s strength, Delilah’s incessant nagging
gained her Samson’s secret: he never cut his hair. Her betrayal cost Samson
his freedom and his eyesight. He wound up in a Philistine dungeon.
The story, however, doesn’t end there. While in captivity, Samson’s hair grew
along with a sense of contrition. Gloating Philistines sought to put him on
display in their temple. After Samson prayed, his strength returned. His
last act brought down the house—literally—on three thousand Philistines.
He died a hero.
Samson’s story is a great reminder
that God gives second chances,
and that failure, no matter how great
or significant, does not have to
be our final legacy.

52 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 Then Samson put his hands on the two center pillars that held up
the temple. Pushing against them with both hands, he prayed, “Let me
die with the Philistines.” And the temple crashed down on the Philistine
rulers and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than
he had during his entire lifetime.
(Judges 16:29–30 nlt)

Big Events | 53
54 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
David Defeats Goliath
1 Samuel 17

The story of David and Goliath is the ultimate underdog story. During the
time when Saul, Israel’s first king was in power, the Israelite army was
plagued by the army of the Philistines. Israel couldn’t get the better of
them, thanks to their champion, Goliath, a giant of a man. He was nine
feet tall and had a coat of mail weighing over one hundred pounds and a
spear the head of which weighed fifteen pounds. Altogether he was very
intimidating. While single-combat, fight-to-the-death contests between
champions is extremely rare in the Old Testament, it was common among
the surrounding peoples. So Goliath’s challenge to the Israelites (v. 8–10) was
not unusual, but what typically happened in such cases was that the other
army would send out their “champion.” That man, presumably, was Saul.
King Saul was just as intimidated by Goliath as everyone else—everyone
but David—a mere youth unlikely to succeed where trained soldiers failed.
David was a shepherd visiting his brothers on the battlefield when Goliath
issued his challenge. But when that challenge included an insult against
the God of Israel, David reacted. While David’s older brother Eliab scoffed
and Saul tried to offer his own armor, David went into battle with only one
weapon: a slingshot and five stones. But he
had a secret weapon: the strength of God.
That secret weapon turned the tide of the
battle. One thrown rock later, the
giant Goliath was cut down to
size. A new champion was
born: David. But the real
champion was God.

 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear,
and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s
Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” . . .
As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.
Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it
with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in,
and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.
(1 Samuel 17:45, 48–49 nlt)

Big Events | 55
Solomon Builds the Temple
1 Kings 6–8; 2 Chronicles 3–6

What’s the most magnificent building you’ve ever seen? The Taj Mahal in
India? Museo Guggenheim in Spain? Bibliotheca Alexandrina in Egypt? In
ancient Bible times, the most magnificent building anyone had ever seen
was Israel’s first temple.
God had called the nation of Israel to be his covenant people, beginning
with Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3), continuing through Moses, and reaching
a culmination with the anointing of King David (2 Samuel 2:1–4; 5:1–5).
Despite the great growth and accomplishments of his people, they never
had a permanent place in which to worship the Lord until King David came
up with a plan to build one (2 Samuel 7:12–16). But God told David that
David’s son Solomon would be the one to build it.
Since David had already collected offerings from the people and work-
ers to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22), Solomon executed the plan
beginning in about 966 bc over a seven-year period.
Like the tabernacle, which had been used for centuries,
the temple was to have three sections: the Holy Place,
the Most Holy Place, and an outer courtyard.
The temple was built on the mountain where Abraham
offered his son Isaac (Genesis 22). Stones used to build
the temple had to be chiseled off site by killed work-
ers. It was 90 feet long, 45 feet high, and 30 feet wide
and built from cedar trees of Tyre. Many of the temple
furnishings were made of gold.
Why did the temple need to be so opulent? Because
it was to be a fitting location for the earthly dwelling
place of the Lord Most High. God himself was going to
inhabit the Most Holy Place in the inner sanctuary. Noth-
ing less than the spectacular would be good enough.
At the temple dedication, 120,000 sheep and goats
were sacrificed, along with 22,000 cattle. But the most
amazing sight of all was when the glory of God de-
scended upon the temple.

 When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a
thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord. The priests
could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious
presence of the Lord filled the Temple.
(1 Kings 8:10–11)

56 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Elijah Defeats the Prophets of Baal
1 Kings 18:16–46

You’re having a conversation with a few friends,
and suddenly the topic turns to religion. You feel
that lump in your throat and a knot in your stom-
ach. What do you do? Stand up for what you
believe and risk alienating the others or stay quiet
and feel as though you let God down?
The prophet Elijah faced that question and an-
swered it in a dramatic fashion. Ahab, who reigned
from 874–853 bc was king of Israel at the time
and encouraged the people to worship Baal and
Asherah—Canaanite gods worshipped by his wife
Jezebel. Elijah confronted Ahab and 450 prophets
of the Canaanite god Baal and all of the people of
Israel. He set before them a choice: worship Baal or
worship Yahweh. No middle ground, no straddling
the fence. He then set up an empirical test: he had
a sacrificial altar set up with a bull for the offering,
and issued this unforgettable challenge: “The god
who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” (v. 24 nlt)
The prophets of Baal worked themselves into a frenzy, dancing and even
cutting themselves trying to convince their god to answer the challenge
but to no avail. Elijah mocked them, their god, and their efforts, going so
far as to suggest that perhaps Baal was away on a trip or asleep (v. 27).
Then Elijah upped the ante.
After drenching the wood and the bull with water, he called for God to
send down fire on the altar—further mocking Baal and his worshippers,
for Baal was believed to be the god of thunder, lightning, and storms.
Fire from heaven came down, consuming the bull, the altar, and even the
water! Elijah had supreme confidence in God and His ability to assert His
supremacy over all others.

 So Ahab summoned all the people of Israel and the prophets to
Mount Carmel. Then Elijah stood in front of them and said, “How much
longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God,
follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” But the people were
completely silent.
(1 Kings 18:20–21)

Big Events | 57
Nehemiah Rebuilds
the Walls of
Jerusalem
Nehemiah 1–6

In the spring of 445 bc, Nehemiah was
the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes in
Susa, the capital city of Persia, on the
Persian Gulf. This was the period of
Israel’s seventy-year exile predicted by
many Old Testament prophets.
Some of Nehemiah’s people—the people of Israel—returned home to
Jerusalem. Ezra the scribe who wrote the book of Ezra returned at that
point. Nehemiah’s brother, Hanani, came to Nehemiah with a report about
Jerusalem and the state of their people. The city was in a sorry state of affairs.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed it back in 586 bc. In 458 bc,
Samaritans and other enemies attacked it and burned the walls. Without
the protection of the walls, the people were in danger from their enemies.
Instead of wringing his hands, Nehemiah prayed first then asked the king
for permission to travel to Jerusalem and begin repair work on the city,
starting with the walls. Having been granted that permission, along with
permission to cut timber for the rebuilding effort, he set to work.
We might think such a proposal for urban renewal would meet with wide-
spread local support. The actual response, however, was quite the opposite.
The people in the surrounding area—Ammonites, Horonites, Arabs, and
others—opposed the work from its inception and made life very difficult
for Nehemiah and company. The Bible lists individuals like Sanballat, Tobiah,
Geshem, and the others who tried every way they dared to undermine the
wall-building efforts. Workers took to having a weapon in one hand and
a building tool in another. But by the grace of God and the perseverance
of the workers, the wall repair project was completed in remarkably short
time: fifty-two days.

 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we
had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about
it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been
done with the help of our God.
(Nehemiah 6:15–16 nlt)

58 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Esther Defeats Haman
Esther 4–7

Have you ever been in the uncomfortable
position of being the only person with bibli-
cal values and principles in your workplace,
military unit, classroom, or even home? When-
ever a situation arises that involves moral or
ethical tension, you can feel isolated or even
an outcast.
Esther, whose given name was Hadassah, was
a beautiful young woman who caught the eye
of King Xerxes, a Persian king in the late fifth
or early fourth century. After Xerxes’s wife Vashti disobeyed his command
to appear before him at a banquet, Esther was chosen over many others to
be queen. She decided, on the advice of her older cousin Mordecai, not to
reveal her ethnicity to the king. Her heritage remained secret until a plot
was developed to exterminate all the Jews in Persia.
The originator of this plot was Haman, one of the king’s officials who
wanted revenge against Mordecai for Mordecai’s refusal to pay homage
to Haman even when ordered to do so by a royal decree. Xerxes made a
decree allowing the genocide.
Esther found herself in the difficult position of having either to go along
with a royal decree that would result in genocide or to speak out against it
to the king. Appearing before the king without being summoned was an
offense punishable by death. What choice would you have made?
Mordecai encouraged Esther to act on behalf of her people, regardless of
the risks. He warned that even if she remained silent she wasn’t necessarily
safe. Besides, he urged, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for
just such a time as this?” (4:14 nlt)
Queen Esther stepped up, taking her life in her hands and intervening
with the king on behalf of her people. By God’s grace, she saved her
people. Because the proposed genocide was overturned, a new holiday
was born—Purim.

 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that
because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are
killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the
Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.
Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:13–14 nlt)

Big Events | 59
 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before
you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we
serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your
Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your
Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue
you have set up.”
(Daniel 3:16–18 nlt)

60 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Daniel’s Friends
Survive a Fiery Furnace
Daniel 3

If you were given this choice—worship an idol or be put to death—what
would you choose? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced this choice.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the captives taken from
Israel when the army of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jeru-
salem in 605 bc. Like their friend Daniel, they were considered exceptional
and were quickly grafted into the king’s court. Also like Daniel, however,
they refused to compromise their beliefs.
When Nebuchadnezzar commissioned the building of a ninety-foot tall
golden statue, he also made a decree that the statue be worshipped when-
ever certain musical notes were played. Disobedience of this law earned a
person a one-way trip to the fiery furnace.
Often those in power make enemies. A group of astrologers were quick to
denounce Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for their failure to worship
the golden statue. A furious Nebuchadnezzar gave the three yet another
chance to submit to the edict. Their refusal, quoted above, is one of the
most stunning examples of faith in the Bible.
Their answer stoked Nebuchadnezzar’s anger and pride. The three were
thrown into the furnace. The flames were so hot, the people who placed
them there were instantly killed. Yet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
not only survived, but they had company in the furnace. Whether this
was God or an angel sent
from God, the Bible does
not say. What it does say
is that God proved Himself
faithful to those who put
their faith in Him.

Big Events | 61
Daniel Is Thrown into the Lions’ Den
Daniel 6

Have you ever been the victim of a plot to discredit you or force you out
of your job? Ever been on the wrong side of an office power play? That’s
what happened to Daniel in Daniel 6.
Daniel was a God-fearing Jew serving as a high-ranking adviser to a suc-
cession of kings, starting with Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon in sixth
century bc. Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and
many of the people of Israel had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
Throughout his years of captivity, Daniel saw the fall of the Babylonians and
the rise of the combined kingdom of the Medes and Persians.
In this chapter, Daniel was about eighty years old and was now among the
advisers of Darius, the king of the Medes and the Persians. His excellence,
however, led envious colleagues to conspire against him to discredit him.
The only dirt they could dig up on him, however, was his habit of praying
three times a day! They convinced Darius to set up a law against praying
to anyone but the king. The laws of the Medes and the Persians could not
be repealed. The punishment for this crime involved being lowered into a
den of hungry lions.
At this point, would you have stopped praying? Daniel didn’t. In fact, he
prayed in a place where passersby could see him at prayer. His faithfulness
led to his being thrown into the lions’ den. But God rewarded his faithfulness
with a miracle: the lions never touched him. The same could not be said
for the envious advisers on the following day when Daniel was discovered
alive. While Darius changed his royal decree in favor of Daniel’s God, Daniel’s
accusers and their families suffered the death they had plotted for Daniel.

 So at last the king gave orders for Daniel to be arrested and thrown
into the den of lions. The king said to him, “May your God, whom you
serve so faithfully, rescue you.”
(Daniel 6:16 nlt)

62 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Big Events | 63
64 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Jonah Is Swallowed by a Great Fish
Jonah 1:1–2:10

Think of the person with whom you have the hardest time getting along.
Now, imagine God tells you in no uncertain terms that you are to go tell
that person to repent and turn to the Lord. How do you feel about it?
Multiply that by about 120,000 and that’s how Jonah felt when God told
him to go to Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, and preach there. The
Assyrians were a brutal people and enemies of Israel. In 722 bc, the As-
syrians destroyed Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel.
For Jonah to go to tell them they needed to turn from their sins and to
God was beyond his comprehension, or at least his willingness to obey.
Instead of heading to Nineveh, Jonah took the first boat going in the
opposite direction—to Tarshish. But he couldn’t outrun God or God’s
commission. When a sudden squall threatened the safety of the ship and
the sailors cast lots to see who was responsible for it, Jonah knew that he
had been cornered. After the sailors threw him into the sea at his request,
the storm ended.
The Bible does not say that the fish sent to swallow Jonah was a whale.
But we’re told that a fish big enough to swallow Jonah whole appeared
on the scene. Jonah remained in the fish for three days and nights.
Yet, even after his ordeal in the belly of the fish, Jonah was a reluctant
servant. He preached the message of repentance as God had commanded,
but he was hoping that it would fall on deaf ears. When his message led
to mass conversion and revival, Jonah was highly distraught over it. Jonah’s
book shows the Lord to be merciful and compassionate.
Jesus later used Jonah’s experience to proclaim His upcoming death, burial,
and resurrection (Matthew 12:39–40).

 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go
to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because
I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from
the Lord.
(Jonah 1:1–3 nlt)

Big Events | 65
Jesus Is Born
Luke 2:1–20

Royal births are celebrated
in various ways in differ-
ent countries, different
cultures:
„„ A
 twenty-one-
cannon salute
(Morocco)
„„ E
 laborate rituals
(India)
„„ I ntricate
naming
ceremonies (Japan)
„„ Car horns blaring; champagne corks popping (England)
You would expect something amazing to happen at the birth of the Son
of God. Yet this event took place under far humbler circumstances.
He was born to an ordinary Jewish couple. Joseph and Mary, or Yosef and
Miriam as they would have been known in Nazareth, were neither wealthy
nor prestigious. We don’t know a lot about them. Joseph was a carpenter
(Matthew 13:55), a descendant of King David (Luke 1:27), but his family
heritage did not entitle him to any real advantages or privileges. Mary would
have been a teenager, perhaps a young one at the time of her engagement.
They traveled to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus had ordered a census
update (Luke 2:1–3). Bethlehem was even smaller than Nazareth, just a small
village on the road into Jerusalem. Its population at the time of Jesus’ birth
was from three hundred to perhaps one thousand. Its only real notoriety
was that it was the hometown of a young shepherd named David, who
had grown up to be the greatest king in Israel’s history.
Because the lone “inn” was full, Jesus was born in a stable. A “manger,” for
all its sentimental overtones, is just an animal feeding trough—an unusual
place for any newborn, much less this one, to spend his first night outside
his mother’s womb. Jesus’ first visitors weren’t local or foreign dignitaries
or even family members, but shepherds. Shepherds weren’t held in any
higher esteem then than now, and the ones who turned up at the stable
that night would not have been mistaken for royalty.
Yes, there were angels, wise men (see article “The Wise Men Follow a
Star” on page 68), and a star that shined overhead, but Jesus’ birth was
not accompanied by any of the normal trappings of a royal birth. Yet the
birth of Jesus had, and has, far greater significance than all the other royal
births in history put together.
66 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in
strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging
available for them. . . .
Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the
radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but
the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good
news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah,
the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”
(Luke 2:7, 9–11 nlt)

Big Events | 67
The Wise Men Follow a Star
Matthew 2:1–12

You’ve heard that three wise men, kings from the East, followed a star to
the manger the night Jesus was born, right? Contrary to the old Christmas
carol, “We Three Kings,” the wise men (Matthew 2:1–12) were not kings,
and we don’t know how many there were. Legend says these “kings” were
three, and their names were Caspar, Balthazar, and Melchior, but the Bible
doesn’t say any of that. The word magoi, translated “wise men,” comes
from the same root from which we get magic and magician.
Scholars believe these men were industrious, courageous, truth-seeking
pagans, who were skilled astronomers and members of a priestly caste
from Persia (present-day Iran). The Bible doesn’t say they came to visit
the baby Jesus at the stable the night He was born. They came later, as
much as two years later: “They entered the house and saw the child with
his mother, Mary” (Matthew 2:11 nlt). Note that Jesus and Mary were in
a house, rather than a “stable,” and Jesus was a “child,” not a “baby.”
Verse 11 nlt also says “they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they
opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and
myrrh.” Their gifts are significant:

„„ G
 old. A gift offered to royalty. As the Son of David, Jesus was
born King of the Jews.
„„ I ncense. As befits Jesus’ status as the Son of God. Incense is a
biblical symbol for prayer.
„„ M
 yrrh. A gift for His humanity. Myrrh is a spice used to prepare
a body for burial.

The wise men weren’t the only ones for whom the Incarnation of the Son
of God was costly. Later in Matthew 2 we’re told that Herod decreed that all
baby boys up to two years of age were to be put to death. This genocide was
predicted in Jeremiah 31, from which the Gospel writer, Matthew quotes.

 After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they
had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them
and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star,
they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with
his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they
opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense,
and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:9–11 nlt)

68 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Big Events | 69
John the Baptist
Preaches in the Wilderness
John 1:19–28

If you heard that an angel announced the upcoming birth of someone,
what would you think? That this person would grow up to do great things?
After all, the angel Gabriel was sent to announce the birth of the Savior
(Luke 1:16). An “angel of the Lord” (Judges 13:3) announced the birth of
Samson, though he failed to live up to his potential.
John’s birth also had been announced by Gabriel to John’s father, Zechariah
(Luke 1:5–20). But instead of growing up to perform feats of wonder, John’s
mission in life was to prepare the way for the Savior, who was also a close
relative. John was the Elijah-like forerunner whose coming was predicted
by the last of the Old Testament prophets, Malachi.
John lived in the wilderness and ate locusts and honey. He didn’t sugarcoat
his message of repentance. Instead, he boldly proclaimed it and baptized
those who repented.
The Pharisees saw some things in John that made them want to ask if he
was indeed that man. “He came right out and said, ‘I am not the Messiah’”
(v. 20 nlt). Such directness was characteristic of John. He
understood that his life was not about him, but
about Jesus: “He must become greater and
greater, and I must become less and less”
(John 3:30 nlt).

 Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the
Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptize?”
John told them, “I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is
someone you do not recognize. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m
not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”
(John 1:24–27 nlt)

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Lazarus Is Raised
from the Dead
John 11:1–44

Jesus was known for his amazing compas-
sion. So when some of His closest friends,
Mary and Martha, asked him to come and
heal their gravely ill brother Lazarus, they
expected Him to head over immediately.
Imagine how Mary and Martha felt, how-
ever, when Jesus delayed His arrival until
after Lazarus died.
We aren’t told why Jesus delayed going
back to Bethany for two more days after
hearing the news of His friend’s illness and
then death. But four days after Lazarus’s
interment, Jesus arrived.
Martha’s reproachful cry, “Lord, if only
you had been here, my brother would
not have died” (v. 21 nlt) was answered, not with an excuse by Jesus but
with the promise quoted above. He had more than just healing in mind
as He proved shortly afterward.
Even while his tears expressed His grief, Jesus called for the stone in front
of the tomb to be removed. Ignoring the remarks of practical-minded
Martha who reminded Him of the probable smell of decay, Jesus prayed,
then spoke one command: “Lazarus, come out!” The once dead Lazarus
obeyed the command.
This miracle marked a turning point in Jesus’ ministry. From this point on,
the Pharisees sought to kill Him. But it proved once and for all that noth-
ing was beyond Jesus. And it foreshadowed an event that would further
change everything: His own resurrection.

 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who
believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and
believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
(John 11:25–26 nlt)

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Jesus Enters
Jerusalem
John 12:12–19

How would you expect a king to enter a city? You
might expect public fanfare, perhaps a ticker tape
parade and a motorcade many blocks long.
The prophet Zechariah proclaimed that the
Messiah—the long-awaited King in the fam-
ily line of David—would enter the city riding
on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9-11). Zechariah’s
words came true as Jesus prepared to enter
Jerusalem. For most of His public ministry, Jesus avoided calling attention
to Himself—what theologians call the messianic secret. He even told His
closest friends (and sometimes His enemies) over and over to not give away
who He was or the nature of His mission.
Now He called attention to Himself. No more riddles, parables, veiling
Himself, no more secret. On a donkey’s colt he rode into town.
The large crowd was really a convergence of the two crowds: the ones from
Bethany who had seen or heard about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead;
and pilgrims flocking to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. They strew
palm branches and cloaks at His feet and cried out “Praise God! Blessings
on the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hail to the King of Israel!”
Palms were a national symbol for the old covenant
nation of Israel. The King had come. But the King had
come for one purpose: to die for the very people
who would later trade the cry of “Praise God!”
for “Crucify Him!”

 Jesus found a young donkey and rode on it, fulfilling the
prophecy that said: “Don’t be afraid, people of Jerusalem. Look,
your King is coming, riding on a donkey’s colt.”
(John 12:14–15 nlt)

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Jesus Has the Last Supper
with His Disciples
Luke 22:7–20

Passover is one of the oldest and most revered of all Jewish traditions, dat-
ing back to over fourteen hundred years before Jesus was born. Every Jew
knows the Passover seder ritual by heart. Jesus’ disciples were no exceptions.
Jesus wanted to celebrate the Passover with His disciples, knowing that He
was going to die soon. So when Jesus deviated from the traditional order,
it must have been shocking to them all.
That is most decidedly not how that meal had been celebrated up till then.
The first Passover, the one observed in Egypt the night the Lord passed
over the land and slew all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, was ushered
in with the sprinkling of the blood of an unblemished lamb (Exodus 12).
Now Jesus had changed things radically, calling for a new covenant, one
that would be ushered in by the shedding of His blood. It would be hard
to think of a more radical departure from a more well-known observance.
But radical it had to be, as it signaled the culmination of the older covenant
and the inauguration of the new. Every time Christians celebrate the Lord’s
Supper, we remember the night an ancient tradition was observed in an
upper room in Jerusalem, and the night everything changed.

 He took some bread and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it
in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “This is my body, which is
given for you. Do this to remember me.” After supper he took another
cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and
his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured
out as a sacrifice for you.”
(Luke 22:19–20 nlt)

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Jesus Is Crucified
Luke 23:26–49

In the place known as Golgotha outside of the city of Jerusalem, history
was made and Old Testament prophecies fulfilled. All because one man
gasped his last breath. That man was Jesus.
Crucifixion, a Roman method of execution, was one of the most brutal
forms of death. A criminal was staked to a wooden pole and left to suf-
focate to death.
After being arrested on trumped-up charges and whipped within an inch
of His life, Jesus stumbled under the weight of the cross beam He was
forced to bear. Another man—Simon of Cyrene had to carry it for Him.
At Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, Jesus was nailed to a cross and left
to die between two criminals. When a jeering crowd had gathered to see
their will done, Jesus offered forgiveness. “Father, forgive them, for they
don’t know what they are doing” (v. 34 nlt).
Even one of the criminals next to Him mocked Him, demanding that He
save Himself if He had the power. But the other believed that Jesus was all
that He claimed to be and asked for a place in Jesus’ kingdom
in paradise.
Darkness fell over the land, the sun eclipsed by the event tak-
ing place. The curtain in the temple separating the Holy Place
from the Most Holy Place tore in two. At that moment, Jesus
cried, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” (v. 46 nlt).
He had done what He came to do.
Die.

 By this time it was noon, and darkness
fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The
light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain
in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the
middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit
into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his
last.
(Luke 23:44–46 nlt)

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Jesus Is Raised from the Dead
Matthew 28:1–15

What are the most significant events of history? If you take a poll, some
people might list the signing of the Declaration of Independence, man’s
first step on the moon, or the birth of atomic energy. Some might even
go so far as to say the birth of Jesus. But the most significant event took
place on a Sunday morning in a graveyard. But that Sunday morning was
anything but typical.
Some of the women who had followed Jesus—Mary Magdalene, Mary the
wife of Cleopas—went to the tomb of Jesus to prepare His body. Since He
died on a Friday—the day before the Sabbath—and was buried immediately
in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, they didn’t have the opportunity to
anoint His body for burial. So they brought the spices and perfumes they
had prepared. But God had other plans for them.
Many of the significant events of Jesus’ life were punctuated with the
appearance of an angel or angels. Just as the women arrived, an earth-
quake hit and an angel appeared. Before the amazed women could react,
the angel rolled back the stone sealed and guarded by Roman soldiers. The
sound of that stone rolling back was the most significant sound ever heard,
because it came with the gladdest tidings of all time: Jesus was alive. The
power of sin was forever broken.
While the guards stood there terrified, the women could only rejoice. Before
they could run and tell everyone, Jesus stood before them in proof of the
angel’s announcement. And soon His disciples could see for themselves
the most amazing event in history. Life would never be the same again.

 Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said.
“I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here!
He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see
where his body was lying.”
(Matthew 28:5–6 nlt)

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Jesus Ascends to Heaven
Acts 1:6–11

Good-byes are hard, aren’t they? When you know you won’t see that person
again, saying good-bye is even more painful. That’s how the apostles felt
on the day of Jesus’ ascension.
Just forty days after the resurrection, Jesus gathered them together on the
Mount of Olives. There they received a wonderful promise: the Holy Spirit
Himself would come upon them and empower them. They would need
that power for the task Jesus now gave them: to spread the good news about
Jesus all over the world, beginning right there in Jerusalem. That empower-
ing would occur very shortly, at the annual Festival of Pentecost (Acts 2).
They received one more wonderful promise, although not from Jesus
Himself. As they stood watching Jesus ascend from earth to heaven, they
must have felt great sadness. They already thought they had lost Him once,
only to see Him again a short time later. What would happen this time?
This time the answer came not from Jesus, but from two angels: Jesus
would return someday the same way He left. They would not know when
but could be certain that He would keep this promise.

 After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were
watching, and they could no longer see him.
(Acts 1:9 nlt)

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The Holy Spirit Comes
Acts 2

Before Jesus' departure He promised His followers a companion: the Holy
Spirit. That promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after
Passover, when Jesus was crucified.
Pentecost was one of the three great annual Jewish feasts. Jews from
many different nations gathered in Jerusalem for this great event. All of
a sudden all heard a sound like the wind. You can imagine their surprise
when, expecting to hear only Hebrew, they began hearing the message
of Jesus in their own languages, spoken by men who had what looked
like flames over their heads!
The Holy Spirit came upon
these believers in a special
way that day, enabling them
to dramatically expand the
church from a small handful of
Galilean Jews to a much larger
group of Jews of many, many
nationalities.
The Holy Spirit had always
been there into eternity past.
In Old Testament times, He
came upon His people in cer-
tain ways at specific times.
Now under the new covenant
inaugurated by the death and
resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit
came upon His people in a spe-
cial, permanent way beginning
at Pentecost.

 On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in
one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring
of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.
Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled
on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit
and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this
ability.
(Acts 2:1–4 nlt)

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Saul Becomes a Follower of Jesus
Acts 9:1–22

Imagine you have spent your whole life zealously following a way of life
and suddenly find out you were radically mistaken. You would be rattled
to the very core of your being.
That’s what happened to Saul of Tarsus as he was on his way to Damascus
to persecute Christians. Saul was an ardent follower of the law of Moses
and persecutor of those who belonged to the Way—the followers of Jesus,
whom he considered to be a false messiah. He had been present at the
murder of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 7). But the risen Jesus
intercepted Saul in a dramatic way and changed his plans and his life.
A bright light surrounded Saul. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice
calling his name. The speaker identified himself as the risen Jesus and ex-
plained that Saul’s persecution of his followers was the same as persecuting
him. But Jesus had a new task for Saul—one he would reveal once Saul
reached Damascus.
It’s interesting that Saul, who had been blind to the truth of Jesus, was now
struck with blindness and had to be led by the hand into Damascus. He
did not eat or drink for three days. We can scarcely imagine the trauma he
must have undergone—this proud, self-reliant religious leader, now totally
at the mercy of others.
Now imagine you were sent to talk to the very person who had authorized
the persecution of your fellow believers. Ananias, a follower of Jesus, who
had also heard from his risen Savior, was dispatched to talk to Saul. But
instead of a proud Pharisee, he found a humble follower of Jesus. He placed
his hands on Saul and with the power of God restored his sight.
Stunned by grace: that was Saul’s experience. He never got over his sense
of wonder at what happened to him. Because of Saul, who would later
become known as Paul, the world has never been the same either.

 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from
heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and
heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now
get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
(Acts 9:3–6 nlt)

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80 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Favorite Folks
C onsider your favorite stories—the ones you might have grown
up hearing and loving. The Bible is a collection of stories
about ordinary people who served an extraordinary God. Of all
the people who can be found in the pages of the Bible, who are
your favorites?

What follows are profiles of well-known Bible characters—warts
and all. As you read the stories, you’ll see how God worked
through imperfect people to bring about His perfect plan: to end
the curse of sin.


Abraham: Friend of God
If you’ve ever moved across town or country, you know how physically
taxing moving can be. Now imagine moving not just across the country,
but to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone at all. This was
God’s call on Abraham’s life, and whatever mixed emotions he may have
been feeling inside, Abraham (who was then known as Abram) obeyed
nonetheless, moving the six hundred to eight hundred miles from Ur of
the Chaldeans to Canaan. There was no shiny new house when they
arrived either. In fact, they walked right into a famine, which forced them
to continue down into Egypt in the search for food.
So what would prompt Abraham to undertake such a move? Look at God’s
unconditional promise above. This promise was all the more amazing since
Abraham and his wife, Sarah, were not able to have children. Also, when
they arrived in Canaan, they discovered other people already living there.

 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your
relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show
you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you
famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless
you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on
earth will be blessed through you.”
(Genesis 12:1–3 nlt)

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Despite being a foreigner among a foreign people, God blessed Abraham
with astonishing wealth and, when appropriate, military success over local
enemies.
He also was known as the first of the patriarchs (the fathers of the Jewish
people) and a man of incredible faith in God, even when asked to sacrifice
his only son, Isaac. In response to Abraham’s faith, the angel of the Lord
told him, “I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me
even your son, your only son” (Genesis 22:12 nlt).
Best of all, he was also known as the friend of God. “‘Abraham believed
God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’ He was even
called the friend of God” (James 2:23 nlt). God informed His friend of what
He planned to do to Sodom and Gomorrah and listened while Abraham
pleaded for the family of his nephew Lot.
In the New Testament, Matthew opens his Gospel like this: “This is a re-
cord of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of
Abraham” (Matthew 1:1 nlt). This was both a testament to God’s faithful
fulfillment of the covenant promise to “bless” the world through Abraham
and a reminder of Abraham’s faithfulness as the vessel through which these
promises were fulfilled.

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84 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Adam and Eve: First People, First Sin
We all carry around feelings of guilt for things we have said or done wrong;
moments we wish we could have back or do over again. Now imagine be-
ing Adam and Eve, the very first people ever to live and breathe and enjoy
God’s perfect creation. How amazing that must have been! Yet, because
of their sin, they lost everything, leaving behind a bitter legacy of pain,
suffering, struggle and death. That’s quite a burden to bear.
Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and given life when God
breathed into him. Eve was made from one of Adam’s ribs, created when
God saw that it was “not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18 nlt).
There was only one rule to living in the garden of Eden—they could not eat
from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, or else they would die.
Adam and Eve had the best of everything. They had close communion with
the Lord, a beautiful garden to work and live in, amazing animals at their
beck and call, and tasty food to eat. However, Satan came along in the
form of a snake and tempted Eve with a lie. He made her doubt God’s love
for her and made her desire to be like God. First Eve then Adam sinned by
eating the forbidden fruit. The impact was felt almost immediately. Through
their sin the whole earth was cursed.
Aside from being forced out of the garden of Eden, God’s punishment on
Adam was that he would have to work hard for the rest of his life. Whereas
in Eden this had been a gift and a joy, from now on it would be a laborious
struggle. Eve would have pain in childbirth and be ruled by her husband.
Finally, as God had warned them, Adam and Eve would die, physically
and spiritually. Yet, in the midst of this darkness, God gave them a glim-
mer of hope: someday another person would be born. That person—the
Messiah—would undo the evil brought into the world by their sin.

 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his
wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from
the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man,
“Where are you?”
He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid
because I was naked.”
“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. “Have you
eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the
fruit, and I ate it.”
(Genesis 3:8–12 nlt)

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Barnabas: More Than a Sidekick
Although some heroes or heroines work alone, many work with an associ-
ate also known as a sidekick. Think of Batman and Robin. While heroes
and heroines often get the lion's share of the glory, some of the applause
is due to their trustworthy companions.
Though Paul is the name everyone associates with the spread of the early
church, Paul accomplished much of that work with the help of his close
friend Barnabas. Barnabas’s real name was Joseph, but he was renamed
Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement” by the apostles. When
we first hear about Barnabas, it’s because of his generosity. He sold a field
and donated the money to the disciples. His next appearance was in Je-
rusalem, bravely vouching for Paul before some unsurprisingly suspicious
apostles who doubted the sincerity of Paul’s conversion from persecutor
to apostle. Barnabas was clearly someone the apostles trusted. Apparently
it was because of his work in Antioch that “many people were brought
to the Lord.”
Barnabas was almost always with Paul. Throughout the book of Acts, Luke
constantly referred to “Barnabas and Saul” or “Paul and Barnabas.” Paul
and Barnabas preached the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles, worked miracles,
and defended their faith before the Jewish leaders. They were a great team,
only parting ways when a dispute arose over whether John Mark should
accompany them on their second missionary journey. As a result, Paul took
Silas and went one way while Barnabas took John Mark and went another.
Ultimately they were able to spread the good news of Jesus’ message to
more places by going their separate ways.

 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.
And many people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. When he found
him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the
church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch
that the believers were first called Christians.)
(Acts 11:24–26 nlt)

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Caleb: The Faithful Spy
For Caleb, getting out of Egypt was the
easy part. However, convincing his
friends and countrymen that they
really could enter the promised land
of Canaan was almost the death
of him. Caleb was clearly a warrior. Obedient to God and Moses, he was
eager to get into the land they had been promised by God.
When the people of Israel arrived at Kadesh-barnea, right on the border
of Canaan, Caleb was one of twelve handpicked spies sent to look over
the land. Upon their return, ten of the spies gave such a negative report
that the people became overwhelmed with fear and wanted to turn back
instead of entering the land. Caleb and Joshua, however, tried to persuade
them to be obedient to God.
Sadly, the people still did not listen and instead threatened to stone them!
So God declared that only their children and Caleb and Joshua would en-
ter Canaan. The rest would die in the wilderness. Caleb in particular was
singled out by God for his obedience. Yet, like Joshua, he had to wander
in the desert for another forty years.
By the time Canaan was conquered and the land distributed, Caleb was
eighty-five years old. Yet he was still willing to drive his enemies out of
that land. He was confident, not in his ability, but in God’s ability to help
him take the land.

 Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord
said to Moses, the man of God, about you and
me when we were at Kadesh-barnea. I was
forty years old when Moses, the servant of
the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to
explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report, but
my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering
the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my
God. So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on
which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your
descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord
my God.’”
(Joshua 14:6–9 nlt)

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Daniel: Man of Prayer
It’s one thing to have to move across town, or maybe to a different state.
It’s another thing entirely to be taken away against your will and forced
to live in a foreign country under the authority of the king whose army
conquered your nation—a king whose way of life is completely different
from yours. Daniel was just a young man when he was forcibly removed
from his home in Jerusalem in 605 BC, and although he could have become
bitter and resentful during his exile in Babylon, he remained faithful and
obedient to God, whatever the cost.
Daniel was one of many bright, young, talented men specifically selected
from the Jerusalem elite to be trained for service to King Nebuchadnez-
zar. However, he seemed to have been a leader among this small band of
exiles. From the moment they arrived and were encouraged to eat and
drink the rich food of the king’s court, Daniel, now renamed Belteshazzar,
encouraged them to refuse this opulent diet. Instead, he negotiated a
special deal with the chief of staff. Daniel became renowned for his ability
to interpret dreams and was frequently called upon to provide advice and
guidance to the various kings who assumed power during the forty-five
years Daniel resided in Babylon.
Daniel was a man of great influence who served in the administrations of
King Belteshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus. Not only was he a prophet,
but he was known for his gift of interpreting dreams and mysterious mes-
sages (see “Weighed in the balances and found wanting” on page 200) as
well as for his faithful intercession. This intercession gained him the notice
of jealous colleagues and earned him a trip to the lions’ den. (See also
“Daniel Is Thrown into the Lions’ Den” on page 62.) But to God, Daniel
was “very precious.”
Daniel is known for the prophetic book that bears his name. While many
of his prophecies have already come to pass, many are predictions of end-
times events yet to come.

 I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people,
pleading with the Lord my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I
was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly
to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, “Daniel,
I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment
you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you
what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you
can understand the meaning of your vision.”
(Daniel 9:20–23 nlt)

88 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 89
David: A Man after God’s Own Heart
Imagine being known as a person “after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel
13:14). You would think that a person with that description would be a
model of perfection. David was anything but perfect. Sure he was a mighty
warrior, Israel’s greatest king, a passionate worshipper, faithful servant,
and gifted psalm writer. Yet he also lied, committed adultery, and tried to
cover up his crime by having the husband of his lover put to death. Still,
Matthew in his Gospel referred to Jesus as “a descendant of David and of
Abraham” (Matthew 1:1 nlt).
David’s life began in a rather ordinary way. Born in Bethlehem, the young-
est son of a man named Jesse, David had seven brothers. Yet when God
wanted a king to replace a disobedient Saul, God shocked the prophet
Samuel by choosing the shepherd David instead of his older, handsomer
brothers. And David’s faith in God propelled him into battle against the
Philistines, where he defeated the giant Goliath with his shepherd’s slingshot.
King Saul resented David’s popularity and tried to kill him on numerous
occasions, but David honored Saul as best he could and refused any and
all opportunities to take the throne by force.

90 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
After Saul died, David assumed the throne and set up residence in Jerusalem,
bringing the ark of the covenant with him. Although David enjoyed military
success, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, an event he tried to cover
up by arranging the death of her husband, Uriah. Called to repentance by
the prophet Nathan, David poured out his heart to God.
Terrible behavior from his children overshadowed the rest of David’s reign,
including a coup led by his own son Absalom. Yet for all his faults, David
pointed the way forward to the time when a perfect king would come
from Bethlehem—Jesus the Messiah.

 When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought,
“Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or
height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you
see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at
the heart.” . . .
So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful
eyes.
And the Lord said, “This is the one; anoint him.”
So as David stood there among his brothers, Samuel took the flask of
olive oil he had brought and anointed David with the oil. And the Spirit
of the Lord came powerfully upon David from that day on. Then Samuel
returned to Ramah.
(1 Samuel 16:6–7, 12–13 nlt)

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Deborah: Warrior Prophet
The story of Deborah stands out at a time when women were
considered second-class citizens. Deborah’s story, in fact,
involves two women—Deborah and Jael—who helped the
people of Israel achieve a stunning defeat over their enemies.
The Bible refers to Deborah as both a prophet and a judge.
A judge was someone who functioned as a leader for
the people in the time before they had kings. A woman
of strength and devotion to God, Deborah settled serious
disputes between Israelites and spoke God’s words to His people.
At this point, the people of Israel were oppressed by the Canannites, the
army of which was led by Sisera. One day, God sent Deborah a message for
a man named Barak. Deborah told Barak that God wanted him to assemble
ten thousand warriors to fight against Sisera’s forces. God guaranteed
Barak the victory. Barak, however, refused to go into battle unless Deborah
accompanied him. Because of Barak’s lack of faith, he would receive no
honor for the victory. Indeed, after the bulk of the fighting was over and
the Canaanite commander Sisera fled on foot, Jael lured Sisera into her
tent. Exhausted from the battle, he fell asleep, and Jael hammered a tent
peg through his head, killing him.
The next morning, Deborah and Barak composed a beautiful song about
the defeat of Sisera. The song explains that God gave them victory by
flooding the Kishon River so that it swept the army away. The Bible states,
“Then there was peace in the land for forty years” (Judges 5:31 nlt). Peace
in the days of Judges was a sign from the Lord of blessing that stemmed
from obedience. Deborah led with boldness and faith, consistently giving
the glory and praise to God.

 Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth, was a prophet who was judging
Israel at that time. She would sit under the Palm of Deborah, between
Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites
would go to her for judgment. One day she sent for Barak son of
Abinoam, who lived in Kedesh in the land of Naphtali. She said to
him, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: Call out
10,000 warriors from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun at Mount Tabor.
And I will call out Sisera, commander of Jabin’s army, along with his
chariots and warriors, to the Kishon River. There I will give you victory
over him.”
Barak told her, “I will go, but only if you go with me.”
“Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no
honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the
hands of a woman.”
(Judges 4:4–9 nlt)
92 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Elijah: Israel’s Greatest Prophet
Imagine being surrounded by a people and a culture that utterly rejects
everything you believe. Furthermore, imagine the most powerful person
in your country trying to kill you—even sending troops to hunt you down.
This is Elijah’s story.
Thanks to King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the people of Israel were torn
between the worship of God and the worship of Baal and Asherah—two
Canaanite gods. Elijah predicted that because the people had broken the
law of Moses, a three-year drought was coming. Such an event was cata-
strophic for a land that needed every last drop of water to survive. God
provided for Elijah, however, sending him to a brook and feeding him via
ravens bringing bread and meat. After the brook dried up, Elijah was then
sent to a widow who was using the last of her flour and oil to make her
final loaf of bread. Elijah asked for bread, and she shared her last meal
with him. In another miracle, the flour and oil did not run out until the
rains returned. Later Elijah prayed and God brought her son back to life.
Elijah’s biggest moment happened on Mount Carmel, where he demanded
that the people either worship God or worship Baal. Elijah instructed the
worshippers of Baal to build an altar of wood and sacrifice a bull to their
god, calling on him to send fire from heaven for the sacrifice. They called
out, but nothing happened. Elijah then built an altar of stone with wood
on top and poured twelve large jars of water over it. The moment Elijah
prayed to God, the sacrifice, stones, and all the water were consumed by
fire from heaven.
Even after this awesome display of God’s power, the people, King Ahab,
and Queen Jezebel refused to turn their hearts toward the Lord. Instead,
Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life. The discouraged prophet fled to Mount Sinai.
On the way he was once again sustained by angels and eventually heard a
message from God in the form of a whisper.
Elijah is one of two people in the Bible (Enoch
being the other—Genesis 5:24) who was
taken to heaven without dying first. Instead,
at the end of his life and ministry, he was simply
carried to heaven by a whirlwind in a chariot of fire.

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 93
 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet
walked up to the altar and prayed, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and
Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant.
Prove that I have done all this at your command. O Lord, answer me!
Answer me so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God and
that you have brought them back to yourself.”
 Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and
burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even
licked up all the water in the trench! And when all the people saw it,
they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The Lord—he is God!
Yes, the Lord is God!”
(1 Kings 18:36–39 nlt)

94 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Elisha: The Man of God
Picture this—one day you’re minding your own business, doing a little yard
work. The next thing you know, a prophet walks by and announces that
you’ve been chosen as God’s anointed spokesperson to the people. How
would you respond?
Elisha was just an ordinary man. But one day, while plowing his fields, the
mighty prophet Elijah walked past and announced Elisha as his successor.
Elisha’s response was immediate—he sacrificed his oxen, burned his plows,
bid his family farewell, and followed Elijah.
Whereas some prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah, are remembered for
their beautiful writing, Elisha’s ministry was symbolized by a combination
of amazing miracles and divinely inspired wisdom and guidance. Elisha’s
ministry began after Elijah was taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Needing
to cross over into Jericho, Elisha touched the Jordan River with his cloak,
and the river divided for him, similar to when Joshua and the people of
Israel entered the Promised Land and when Moses and the people crossed
the Red Sea before that. Indeed, this event solidified his role as chief of the
prophets in the country. Elisha then purified and healed the soil around
Jericho, enabling crops to flourish once again. Elisha encouraged the
kings in battle against the Moabites, assuring them of victory and securing
his position as adviser to kings. Elisha then blessed a poor widow with jars
and bowls of oil that kept replenishing until she had enough to pay off all
her debts. For another woman from Shunem, barren for many years,
Elisha spoke God’s blessing into her life and she received a son. When
that son later became deathly sick, Elisha prayed, and God raised
him back to life. Elisha also healed a powerful commander
of the Aramean army, a man called Naaman, who
was suffering from leprosy.
Elisha exerted a powerful influence over
the people of Israel during a time of
many external threats. He anointed
kings and rebuked enemies of God,
remaining faithful and absolutely obe-
dient to God throughout his long life
and ministry.

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 9 5
 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what
I can do for you before I am taken away.”
And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit
and become your successor.”
“You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when
I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you
won’t.” . . .
Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken
up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River. He struck the
water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the Lord, the God of
Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.
(2 Kings 2:9–10, 13–14)

96 | B i b l e Fi n d I t Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 96
Elizabeth: Joyful
Mom
Most women facing the sunset
of their years don’t think about
changing diapers for the first time.
But having been infertile for many
years, Elizabeth learned to her joy
that she would have a son. That
son would grow up to be John
the Baptist.
Elizabeth and her priest husband,
Zechariah, “were righteous in
God’s eyes, careful to obey all of
the Lord’s commandments and
regulations” (Luke 1:6 nlt). In a
time and place where children
were everything, the shame of
being childless must have been
great. Yet one day while Zecha-
riah was serving in the temple,
an angel appeared to him and
promised, not only that they would have a baby, but that their son would
play an instrumental role in preparing the way for the Messiah.
Despite Zechariah’s doubts to the contrary, Elizabeth indeed became preg-
nant, and praised God. During this time, Elizabeth’s relative, Mary, now
pregnant with Jesus, came to visit her, sparking praise from Elizabeth.
Elizabeth’s story may be short and her role small, but her faithful obedience
to God shines through as an example for all to follow.

 A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town
where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.
At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed
you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored,
that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting,
the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you
believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
(Luke 1:39–45 nlt)

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Esther: Courageous Queen
Esther’s story begins like a fairy tale: a young and
beautiful Jewish girl is singled out from many oth-
ers to be the queen of Persia. But the story ends
with a decision that Cinderella never had to make.
Would she risk her own life to save her people?
Or would she turn away in fear and let them die?
This particular story does end happily ever after, as
Esther successfully saves the Jews from destruction.
In Esther’s day, Persia was one of the most powerful
empires in the world and was ruled by King Xerxes.
One day, after a particularly long and elaborate ban-
quet, King Xerxes was half drunk with wine and or-
dered his wife, Queen Vashti, to parade herself before
him and his officials. After she refused to come, Xerxes
banished her. Then his officials scoured the kingdom
for young women to replace her. Esther, who was
raised by Mordecai, a relative, was chosen.
During this time Mordecai displeased Haman, the second in command
of the kingdom, by refusing to bow down to Haman. As a result, Haman
convinced the king to issue a decree stating that all Jews be killed. What
would Esther do? She was the only hope the people had of reaching the
king and having the decree reversed. But anyone who came before the
king without a summons could be sentenced to death. Moreover, Esther
was a Jew, a fact she had been careful to hide this entire time. Despite the
danger, Esther courageously appeared before the king and asked him to
protect her people from the decree. She was willing to sacrifice her life.
Ultimately, Haman’s plan backfired, and he was hanged on the very gallows
he had prepared for Mordecai.
As a result of Esther’s quick thinking, a new holiday was born: Purim.

  Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that
because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are
killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the
Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die.
Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and gather together all
the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days,
night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is
against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” So
Mordecai went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
(Esther 4:13–17 nlt)

98 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Ezekiel: God´s Visionary
Nobody likes to be the bearer of bad news. It’s even worse when the news
involves the judgment of God on your country and the imminent destruc-
tion of your capital city and subsequent deportation of an entire population
into exile. Such was Ezekiel’s life as a prophet of God around 600 bc. Born
into a family of priests, Ezekiel had a dangerous job because he was called
to warn the people of God’s judgment just as a watchman would warn a
city of trouble coming against it.
Ezekiel’s ministry was unique in that God used very concrete, visual demon-
strations of His coming judgment. Ezekiel ate a scroll that tasted as sweet
as honey and then went to the Israelites to tell them what the scroll said.
He shut himself in his house, where the Lord bound him with ropes, and
he only spoke when God told him to speak. He used a brick and an iron
griddle to demonstrate a siege that was coming against Jerusalem. To de-
pict the many years of Israel’s and Judah’s sins, Ezekiel lay on his left side
for 390 days and then his right side for 40 days. He shaved his head and
beard using a sword, weighing the hair and separating it into three parts.
Each part represented the people: one third would die from famine and
disease, one-third would be killed by enemy forces, and one-third would
be scattered among other nations.
One of the hardest demonstrations of God’s judgment of Israel was when
God told Ezekiel that his wife would die but that he was not to mourn in
public. This was a devastating visual example of what God would do to
Israel. He would take their greatest treasure from them, the temple, and
many people would die.
Ezekiel’s visions are among the most amazing in the Bible. Through the
Holy Spirit, he saw the glory of the Lord depart and return to the temple.

 “Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.”
The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I
listened carefully to his words. “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you
to the nation of Israel, a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me.
They and their ancestors have been rebelling against me to this very day.
(Ezekiel 2:1–3 nlt)

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Ezra: God’s Man in Troubled Times
Sometimes the most exciting moments in life can also be the most intimi-
dating. Ezra was probably wrestling with those emotions and more as he
thought about what lay ahead. Ezra’s mission was almost overwhelming in
scope. Following a call from God and a commission of the king of Babylon,
he was to go to Jerusalem, the city of his fathers, and restore worship to
the newly rebuilt temple. Although Ezra was a descendant of Aaron and
a trained scribe, Ezra had lived in Babylon his whole life. He had no doubt
heard many stories about Jerusalem during the glory days of King David
and King Solomon, but he had never been there himself, never seen the
temple, and had no clear models to follow, except for whatever forms of
localized worship took place among the exiles in Babylon. Yet despite all
this, Ezra moved forward boldly and decisively, setting out for Jerusalem,
determined to do whatever he could to teach the people about God’s law.
Although the rebuilt temple had been in place in Jerusalem for almost fifty
years, by the time Ezra arrived the people were in spiritual disarray, due
to unlawful marriages with people of other nations. Ezra’s first act as the
spiritual leader of the people was to put an end to this practice, protecting
the people from the dangerous influence of paganism.
Later, after Nehemiah rebuilt the protective wall around the city, Ezra would
also lead the people in an act of covenant renewal, reading from the Law
and directing the people in their celebration of the Feast of Booths. As
Nehemiah provided military and administrative leadership, Ezra provided
spiritual leadership, helping the people to reestablish themselves firmly
back in the Promised Land.

 At the time of the sacrifice, I stood
up from where I had sat in mourning with
my clothes torn. I fell to my knees and lifted my
hands to the Lord my God. I prayed,
“O my God, I am utterly ashamed; I blush to lift up my face to you.
For our sins are piled higher than our heads, and our guilt has reached
to the heavens."
(Ezra 9:5–6 nlt)

100 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Gideon: A Reluctant Hero
Has fear ever kept you from doing what you knew was right? Don’t worry,
you’re not alone. During a time when Israel suffered under the oppres-
sion of various enemy nations, Gideon’s story begins with him hiding in a
winepress, attempting to thresh wheat in what was basically a hole in the
ground. The man who would later triumph so decisively over the enemies of
Israel now cowered in a corner when an angel of the Lord came and called
him to lead the people into battle. Despite the angel’s presence, Gideon
was not convinced. The angel patiently performed a miracle, burning up
Gideon’s sacrifice and demanding that Gideon in turn tear down his father’s
altar to Baal and Asherah pole. Gideon, fearful of the reaction this would
have among his family, could only bring himself to do this secretly at night.
Despite the fact that Gideon was able to muster thirty-two thousand
troops to battle the Midianites, once again his doubts and fears got the
best of him and he turned to God asking for a sign. This sign would for-
ever be known as “putting out a fleece.” If a fleece Gideon set out on a
threshing floor that night turned out wet with dew while the ground was
completely dry, Gideon would believe that God was sending him. God
patiently answered this prayer, and still another request for a sign the fol-
lowing night (make the ground wet and the fleece dry), before Gideon
was finally convinced that God was with them.
Perhaps to emphasize that victory comes from God and not our own con-
fidence or abilities, God winnowed Gideon’s army down to a mere three
hundred men. Despite his continued doubts, Gideon and this small band of
troops completely destroyed the Midianite army and killed their kings, assur-
ing a time of peace for Israel as a result. Sadly, Gideon later led the people
into idolatry, but overall he is still remembered for his faithfulness to God.

 “Sir,” Gideon replied, “if the Lord is with us, why
has all this happened to us? And where are all the
miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say,
‘The Lord brought us up out of Egypt’? But now the
Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the
Midianites.”
Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go
with the strength you have, and rescue Israel
from the Midianites. I am sending you!”
“But Lord,” Gideon replied, “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 6:13–15 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 101
Hannah: The Desperate Pray-er
In a time when having a child meant everything to a woman, Hannah’s
infertility probably seemed like a curse. What made this pain almost unbear-
able was the constant taunting and teasing of her husband’s other wife,
Peninnah. Year after year Hannah endured the mocking and laughter of
the fertile Peninnah while she herself remained barren. During their annual
trip to worship at Shiloh, Hannah was reduced to tears and could barely
eat. Nothing Elkanah said could comfort her.
In a moment of desperation, Hannah went to pray near the tabernacle,
imploring God to give her a son, and promising that if God provided, she
would dedicate this boy to the Lord for his entire life. As she prayed, pouring
out her heart to God amid tears of sorrow, the priest Eli saw her. Because he
couldn’t hear her voice, he initially assumed she was drunk and rebuked her
for approaching God in such a manner. After she explained the situation,
Eli’s manner changed toward her.
Hannah’s prayers were answered
and, bearing a son, she named
him Samuel. She kept her promise
to God and delivered her son to
the tabernacle at Shiloh. Upon
leaving him, Hannah offered a
beautiful song of praise and
thanksgiving to God, for although
she was about to say good-bye
to her son, she worshipped the
Lord for His gracious answer to
her prayers and for His sovereign
power over all things.

 As she was praying to the Lord, Eli watched her. Seeing her lips
moving but hearing no sound, he thought she had been drinking. “Must
you come here drunk?” he demanded. “Throw away your wine!”
“Oh no, sir!” she replied. “I haven’t been drinking wine or anything
stronger. But I am very discouraged, and I was pouring out my heart to
the Lord. Don’t think I am a wicked woman! For I have been praying out
of great anguish and sorrow.”
(1 Samuel 1:12–16 nlt)

102 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Isaac: The Promised Son
Imagine being the favorite child of aged parents and
hearing frequently that God has a plan that He is
going to work out through you. And yet now, here
you are, trudging up a mountainside carrying the
wood and materials needed for a sacrifice. Except
this time there is no animal with you. Instead of a
bleating sheep or a small calf, your father carries
nothing but a deep frown and a look of grim
determination that makes your heart sink. As
you draw near the appointed place, the pieces
begin to fall together, and you realize that
the sacrifice is going to be you.
Although Isaac’s name meant something
like “laughter,” a reference to every-
one’s response to God’s promise that
the ninety-year-old Sarah would bear
a son, there was nothing but sad-
ness filling his heart at this moment.
God’s covenant with Abraham was
supposed to pass down through Isaac
and his children. Yet it did not seem possible
or likely given the situation at hand. Just as the
knife was about to fall, God sent an angel and
a special word to Abraham, telling him to stop. God then provided a ram
as a substitute for Isaac’s life, rescuing him from death. Abraham passed
the test. Isaac’s life was spared, and God remained faithful to His covenant.
When the time was right for marriage, Abraham sent his servant to Haran,
where he met Rebekah, who became Isaac’s wife. Although she, like her
mother-in-law, remained barren for many years, eventually she gave birth to
twins, Jacob and Esau. As the children grew up, it became clear that Esau
was Isaac’s favorite son, while Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite son. However,
when the time came for the blessing, Jacob tricked his old and nearly blind
father into giving him the blessing instead of his brother, causing a wound
in the family that would take years to heal.

 The Lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had
promised. She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for
Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it
would. And Abraham named their son Isaac.
(Genesis 21:1–3 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 103
Isaiah: A Handpicked Prophet
What if your whole life was devoted to speaking on behalf of someone
else? Would you be willing to give up any rights to personal recognition in
order to see someone else’s agenda be furthered? More than a mere press
secretary for God, a prophet was charged with speaking the very words of
God to His people, whether they wanted to hear them or not. Although
we can infer a fair amount about Isaiah’s personality from the book that
bears his name, ultimately he was far more concerned that people know
the person of God. His primary mission in life was to point people back to
God and encourage faithful obedience to God. Isaiah’s writings are almost
exclusively directed toward God, revealing an incredibly deep-seated pas-
sion for God’s glory to be elevated above his own personal experiences.
Isaiah, who was married with two children, served as a prophet in Jerusalem
for about fifty years under at least four different kings. This was a time of
immense political upheaval and uncertainty, both locally and internationally.
Facing threats and enemies on all sides, there were massive temptations to
trust in visible military might and strength over the largely invisible power
and authority of God. Isaiah’s message was always the same—that God
alone saves. Perhaps in large measure his constancy stemmed from the vision
of God he had as a young man. This brief personal recollection gives us a
glimpse of Isaiah’s humble obedience before God and his willingness to go
and do and say whatever God commanded. While many kings and lead-
ers ignored his advice, Isaiah is remembered as the greatest prophet in the
Old Testament, a man of both phenomenal
literary talent and astonishing faith in God.
Jesus often quoted from Isaiah’s prophetic
book. And no wonder. The book of Isaiah
contains some of the most memorable
prophecies of the Messiah.

 Then one of the seraphim flew to me
with a burning coal he had taken from
the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched
my lips with it and said, “See, this coal
has touched your lips. Now your guilt is
removed, and your sins are forgiven.”
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom
should I send as a messenger to this
people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
(Isaiah 6:6–8 nlt)

104 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Jacob: The Schemer
Welcome to “Top Chef: Patriarch Edition.”
The challenge: To cook a meal so good that your brother,
who doesn’t really like you, is willing to
part with his birthright for a bowl.
The ingredients: Red lentils. . .and not much else.
Your time starts. . .now.

Sound impossible? Improbable? Unlikely? Perhaps, and yet, through a
combination of culinary creativity and God’s sovereignty, Jacob, the younger
twin son of Isaac, somehow pulled it off, convincing his burly big brother,
Esau, it was a good trade.
Jacob, whose very name means something like “He cheats,” pulled another
fast one on Esau as their father neared death. When their mother, Rebekah,
found out that Esau was about to receive the much vaunted “father’s
blessing,” she helped Jacob cook up another clever scheme. This time
Jacob’s mother made the prize-winning meal while Jacob dressed up like
Esau and went in to Isaac with goat skins strapped on his hands. The old
man, almost blind and unable to tell the difference, blessed Jacob, leaving
Esau with nothing but a bitter, angry heart and a deep desire for revenge.
On his way out of town, Jacob had an extraordinary dreams, of something
resembling a ladder going up to heaven and angels going up and down
on it. As Jacob watched, God spoke to him, promising to bless him and
give him land and offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth. Not long
afterward, Jacob fell head-over-heels in love with his uncle Laban’s younger
daughter, Rachel, and he worked seven years for the right to marry her. Laban,
however, not thrilled about marrying off the younger daughter before the
older, pulled a bait and switch on Jacob, tricking the trickster into marrying
Rachel’s sister, Leah, instead. Then, in exchange for another seven years of
work, Laban caved and gave Jacob Rachel.
Twelve sons later, Jacob returned to Canaan with his newfound wealth and,
much to everyone’s surprise, a warm welcome from his estranged brother,
Esau. Blessed once again by God, Jacob was renamed Israel, which means
something like “Striving for/with God.”

 One day when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau arrived home from
the wilderness exhausted and hungry. Esau said to Jacob, “I’m starved!
Give me some of that red stew!” (This is how Esau got his other name,
Edom, which means “red.”)
 “All right,” Jacob replied, “but trade me your rights as the firstborn son.”
(Genesis 25:29–31 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 105
Jeremiah: The Weeping Prophet
Remember having a conversation with someone and feeling as though
you were banging your head against a brick wall? Or perhaps you know
someone who just keeps making the same bad decisions over and over
again. While your friend may nod his head when you offer advice or give
suggestions for how to help, afterward he goes straight back to his old
way of life. It’s like watching a car wreck happen in slow motion.
Jeremiah experienced all this and more during his time as a prophet to
the southern kingdom of Judah. Despite the crystal clear calls God made
for the people to repent and turn back to God, the nation continued to
drift away into idolatry and unbelief. “There’s a train coming! Get off the
tracks!” Jeremiah seemed to be yelling, but to no avail. In fact, not only did
the people ignore his warnings of impending judgment, but they ridiculed
Jeremiah, imprisoned him, threw him into a cistern, and threatened him
with death.
Despite being rejected by everyone, however, Jeremiah remained faithful
to God and to his calling as a prophet. Even though his message was un-
popular and his advice completely ignored, Jeremiah persevered because
he knew from personal experience that his only hope was in God. Jeremiah
persevered because he had a deep passion for his people and a longing to
see them turn back to God.
Jeremiah’s message was a tear-filled warning of coming judgment. Yet,
even within such a somber book, we find hope for redemption. Through
Jeremiah, God repeatedly offers new life for those who repent of their sins
and turn back to Him. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
“They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a
hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me whole-
heartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will
end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the
nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land”
(Jeremiah 29:11–14 nlt).

 If only my head were a pool of water and my eyes a fountain of
tears, I would weep day and night for all my people who have been
slaughtered.
(Jeremiah 9:1 nlt)

106 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Job: The Tested Man
Imagine the worse day of your life and how you felt on that day. Job, a
man who lived during the time of the patriarchs, faced such a day. This man
had everything—an amazing wife, seven sons, three daughters, thousands
of sheep, camels and goats. In fact, the Bible tells us “he was, in fact, the
richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3 nlt). Usually such enormous
wealth goes to people’s heads, but in this case the Bible is clear that Job
was still “a man of complete integrity” (Job 1:1 nlt).
Satan approached God with a plan to put Job to the test, convinced that
if all Job’s material blessings were removed, then he would cease to be
blameless and curse God instead. So God gave Satan permission to test Job,
and on the same day Job lost all his servants, animals, and children. Stricken
with grief at this unimaginable tragedy, Job tore his clothes and shaved his
head. Surprisingly, however, he did not curse God; instead, he fell to the
ground in worship. Satan returned to God, this time asking permission to
afflict Job with illness, convinced that this would turn Job’s heart from the
Lord. Job’s life then took another turn for the worse as he was stricken
with various illnesses and skin problems. Even his wife turned against him.
Into this nightmare came three of Job’s friends to comfort him. Initially they
sat quietly with him for a week, awed and horrified at the awful extent
of his suffering. The rest of Job’s story is told via a series of conversations
among Job and these three friends as they wrestled with the problem of
suffering and pain. While the friends were convinced that Job must have
done something wrong in order to bring on such suffering, Job continued to
plead his innocence. Despite their rebukes, even though he questioned what
God was doing, Job never cursed God and never turned away from God.
How does such a grim tale end? After extensive debate among these
men, God appeared and spoke directly to Job. He ignored their debate
completely, however, and, instead, confronted Job with a long series of
rhetorical questions.
The best part of this story? After this lengthy response to Job, God then
blessed Job with “twice as much as before” (Job 42:10 nlt) , even giving
him another seven sons and three daughters.

 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his
head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked
from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God.
(Job 1:20–22 nlt)

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John: The Disciple Jesus Loved
Who is the most charismatic person you know—the one who influenced your
life the most? For John, that person was Jesus. When we first meet John, he
was just another Jewish fisherman, the son of a man named Zebedee. One
day he was sitting in his boat with his brother James, mending his nets when
Jesus came along the shore and called to John and James to follow Him.
They left everything to do so. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, because
Jesus captured the brother's tempestuous nature with the nickname, “Sons
of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). John became part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples.
Later in Jesus’ ministry, He again carefully selected James, John, and Peter
out of all the disciples to come with Him up on a mountain where they
witnessed an amazing vision of Moses and Elijah, and saw Jesus “trans-
formed” into dazzling white and heard God name Jesus as “dearly loved
Son“ (Mark 9:2–13 nlt). Finally, John was one of the three men chosen to
join Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane as He poured out His heart to God
in the last moments before being arrested and
ultimately crucified (Mark 14:33). This close
relationship is brought out in a name John
used for himself: “the disciple Jesus loved”
(John 13:23 nlt).
This deep love is reflected in the passion and
poetry of his writing. Many years after Jesus’
death, John wrote one of the most beautiful
accounts of the life of Christ. His Gospel stands
next to that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as
a personal, eyewitness testimony to all that
he experienced.
John also is remembered for having written
three short letters (1, 2, and 3 John) and per-
haps the most unusual and most debated book
of the New Testament, Revelation. Exiled on
the island of Patmos, he was granted a vision
of the final judgment, which he recorded to
encourage believers of both the hope and
judgment that is to come.

 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones
he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. Then he appointed
twelve of them and called them his apostles. . . . James and John (the
sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”).
(Mark 3:13-14, 17 nlt)

108 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
John the Baptist:
The Forerunner
Imagine being told that all of your life will involve
building up someone else—someone whose fame
will eventually eclipse yours. John the Baptist will-
ingly embraced this call to champion the Messiah—
his own relative—even though he had some brief
doubts later in his life.
John’s birth was unusual, beginning with the birth
announcement delivered by an angel—Gabriel—
the same who would later give Mary an announce-
ment of Jesus’ birth. John’s parents, Zechariah and
Elizabeth, were childless and getting on in age. Yet
one day, when his father, Zechariah, was minister-
ing in the temple, an angel announced that Zecha-
riah would have a son. Not only would he be filled
with the Holy Spirit in the womb, but he would be
a lifelong Nazirite—a person who abstained from
alcohol. Most important, he would be the fulfill-
ment of a prophecy uttered by Malachi—the Elijah
sent to prepare people for the Messiah’s coming.
Many people were turned off by John’s forceful preaching and his strange
lifestyle: his diet of locusts and honey. Despite all this, his ministry of baptism
grew and attracted large crowds. Into this waiting crowd strode Jesus. No
doubt prompted by the Holy Spirit, John saw right away that Jesus was
the Messiah and proclaimed Him as such. He was later imprisoned for
speaking out against Herod Antipas, who had married his brother’s wife.
And while in prison, John experienced some serious doubts, which were
allayed by messengers from Jesus.
Although his ministry was brief and his life cut short, John will forever be
remembered as the last of the prophets, the bridge between the old order
of things and the new covenant instituted by Jesus, the Messiah.

  John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it
from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the
Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’ It is the bridegroom
who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him
and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must
become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
(John 3:27–30 nlt)

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Jonah: The Reluctant Prophet
For the most part it is easy to generate feelings of compassion for people
we like. Usually these are the folks we find ourselves wanting to help. But
what about someone who has hurt us or been imprisoned for hurting
others? Jonah’s story is often reduced to the surprising and miraculous
fact that he was swallowed by a giant fish but lived to tell the tale. But if
we look more closely, we’ll see that his story is actually about compassion

for other people.
Jonah was a prophet of God during the reign of Jeroboam II, one of the kings
of the northern kingdom of Israel (750 BC). His story begins with a direct
word from God telling him to go and preach against the city of Nineveh.
However, Nineveh was an Assyrian city. Jonah had no desire to preach to
these enemies of Israel. Instead of following God’s command, he boarded
a ship going in the opposite direction to the city of Tarshish. But God was
not about to let his prophet say no. After God sent a huge storm that nearly
destroyed the ship, Jonah knew that he had placed everyone in danger.
The only way to solve the problem was to throw him overboard. When the
sailors complied, Jonah was swallowed by the fish, where he remained for
three days and nights. This event would take on a new significance when
Jesus hinted at His own coming death and resurrection as “the sign of the
prophet Jonah” (Matthew 12:39 nlt).
Once he returned to shore, a compliant Jonah headed
to Nineveh to preach God’s message. To his dismay,
the whole city repented! Rather than rejoicing
at this change of heart, Jonah complained. But
God had yet another lesson for his prophet:
the lesson of compassion. Shouldn’t he
feel compassion for an entire city, with
so many people? It’s a startling rebuke
of this struggling prophet and a testi-
mony to God’s grace so evident even here
in the Old Testament.

 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: “Get up and go
to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because
I have seen how wicked its people are.”
But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from
the Lord. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship
leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to
escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.
(Jonah 1:1–3 nlt)

110 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Joseph, Son of Jacob
(Old Testament): Favored Son
Think you have a dysfunctional family? Wait until you hear about
Joseph, son of the patriarch Jacob. Joseph was eleventh of thirteen,
with one sister (Dinah) and a younger brother (Benjamin). Born to
Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, Joseph had a cushy childhood as the son
his father loved the most. Jacob even made a “beautiful robe” just
for Joseph (Genesis 37:3 nlt). A wonderful gift, no doubt, and one
that his older brothers greatly resented. Their seething anger boiled
over after Joseph foolishly shared some dreams that clearly indicated
his eleven brothers would one day bow down to him. They decided to
get rid of him once and for all.
Although the brothers initially plotted to kill him, Reuben convinced
the others to sell Joseph into slavery instead and then tell their father
that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Joseph wound up in
Egypt as a slave to a man named Potiphar. His hard work and honesty
gained him favor with Potiphar, but his handsome features gained
him the attention of Potiphar’s wife. When he resisted her advances,
she lied to her husband. As a result, Joseph was thrown in prison.
Many people who have had a disappointment turn bitter toward God. Not
Joseph! His integrity earned him the trust of the jailer and of his fellow
prisoners. He successfully interpreted the dreams of the pharaoh’s baker
and cupbearer, hoping to gain his freedom. Two years later, Pharaoh had
two dreams he could not decipher. Joseph was sent for and explained the
dreams: there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of
famine. Pharaoh was so impressed he put Joseph in charge of preparing
for the impending famine and elevated to second in command of Egypt
under Pharaoh.
Starving because of the famine, Joseph’s brothers journeyed to Egypt and
found themselves bowing down before Joseph and begging for food. This
was a tense moment. Joseph’s dreams had come true, and the lives of his
brothers were in the palm of his hand. Instead of taking revenge, Joseph
revealed his true identity and forgave his brothers. The family was reunited
through forgiveness.

 Then his brothers came and threw themselves down before Joseph.
“Look, we are your slaves!” they said.
But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can
punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.
He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.”
(Genesis 50:18–20 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 111
112 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Joseph, Son of Jacob
(New Testament):
Earthly Father of the Son of God
Imagine being the earthly father of the most famous person who ever
lived. That would be Joseph. Largely relegated to the back pages of the
history books, Joseph often seems to have gotten the short end of the
stick. The Gospel of Mark doesn’t even mention his name, and the Gospel
of John makes merely a passing reference. Whereas Mary is highlighted
prominently in most Christmas pageants, Joseph is often the silent back-
drop to the action unfolding in front of him. But Joseph’s important role
in the events surrounding the birth of Jesus come into focus through the
Gospel of Matthew.
We first meet Joseph trying to quietly divorce his soon-to-be wife, Mary,
after discovering that she is pregnant. Yet the description of Joseph in the
passage below shows his quiet confidence and kindness. He did not want to
publicly disgrace Mary, because doing so could lead to her death by stoning.
Before Joseph can carry out his decision, however, an angel of God appeares
to him in a dream, explaining the importance of this child. He would be
the Savior of the world. Joseph respondes with much the same humble
obedience displayed by Mary when the angel appeared to her. Instead of
ending his engagement, he marries Mary.
During a taxation journey to Joseph's hometown of Bethlehem, the child is
born. Joseph names him Jesus. Yet soon after Jesus’ birth, the angel of the
Lord speaks to Joseph through another dream, this time with a warning of
the imminent danger from Herod. So again Joseph demonstrates strength
and leadership by swiftly moving his family to Egypt, as far away from Herod
as possible. Through a third dream, Joseph is told to move back to Israel.
Three powerful dreams. Three obedient responses. Joseph was the faithful
guardian and protector of the child of promise. His subtle presence was
vitally important in preserving the life of the One who would later give up
His life to save the world.

 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was
engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place,
while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of
the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to
disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.
(Matthew 1:18–19 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 113
114 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Joshua: The
Conquering Hero
Did you ever have to take over a job or a
task from a greatly beloved leader? Imagine
the huge shoes Moses—writer of the Pen-
tateuch, the one who received the Law from
God, deliverer of the people of Israel—left to
fill upon his death.
Joshua was handpicked by Moses to be
his successor as the leader of the people
of Israel. He was also an accomplished
fighter, leading a detachment of troops
in battle against the Amalekites. Later
Joshua was picked to represent the tribe
of Ephraim as one of the twelve spies sent to scout the promised land of
Canaan, and one of only two who supported God’s plan to invade the
land. As a result, only Joshua and Caleb lived long enough to enter Canaan.
Imagine the fear and trepidation Joshua must have felt, standing on the
bank of the Jordan, right on the verge of establishing a permanent home
for his people. This was the land his people had envisioned since leaving
Egypt. Moving into the land would not be easy, for the land was filled with
enemies, starting with the city of Jericho, just in sight across the river. But
God’s promise to be with him was the only fortifier he needed.
Joshua led his troops in many successful battles in the campaign for Canaan.
In one of those battles, God caused the sun to stand still until Joshua’s
troops won the battle. Joshua fought many other battles and at the end of
his life, perhaps sensing the dangers that lay ahead for the people, made a
passionate plea for the Israelites to continue to love and worship God alone.

 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua
son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “. . .Be strong and courageous,
for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the
land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very
courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do
not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you
will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction
continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey
everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you
do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or
discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:1, 6–9 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 115
Luke: The Missionary Doctor
If you look at the writers of the Gospels, perhaps one name sticks out among
the four: Luke. Luke, a physician, was the only Gentile writer. Although he
was not one of the disciples who walked with Jesus, Luke spent a significant
amount of time traveling with Paul as a missionary.
Luke was known for having an outstanding command
of the Greek language. Being so closely associated
with Paul afforded Luke the opportunity to per-
sonally connect with the disciples, the leaders of
the early church, as well as many of the ordinary,
everyday people Jesus had touched and healed
throughout His ministry.
Later Luke took this carefully researched and docu-
mented information and pulled it all together into the
Gospel account that now bears his name. Indeed, the
Gospel of Luke contains more parables and stories from
Jesus’ ministry than any of the other Gospels, as well as
significant details about His birth and frequent and repeated
references to historical figures, places, and dates that can all
be confirmed outside the Bible.
Many of the stories in Acts sound
like firsthand accounts because
Luke was there on the spot.
When Paul traveled in Mace-
donia, there was Luke.
When Paul was ship-
wrecked on the way to
Rome, Luke was in the
same boat.
Thanks to doctor-historian
Luke, we have two of the most influential
books of the Bible, from the pen of a man who loved
Jesus more than his own comfort.

 Many people have set out to write accounts about the events
that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports
circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully
investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write
a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be
certain of the truth of everything you were taught.
(Luke 1:1–4 nlt)

116 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Lydia: Convert at the River
Lydia was wealthy, independent, and the head of a large
household, and little in Scripture indicates her desperate
need for Jesus. She was at completely the opposite end
of the spectrum from the tax collectors and sinners
with whom Jesus had spent so much of his time. The
little information we have about her indicates that
she had her life together—no demons or illness, just
a successful business, selling expensive purple cloth.
Yet something remarkable happened when she met
Paul. Newly arrived from across the sea, Paul traveled
slightly inland to the Roman city of Philippi.
Following his normal pattern of preaching
first to the Jews, Paul ended up going out-
side the city gates to the river to a small
collection of Jews.
There he met Lydia gathered with some
other women. The Bible names her as some-
one who worshipped God, which probably
indicated that she was a convert to Judaism.
As Paul preached the Gospel, Lydia suddenly
believed, but not through Paul’s eloquence
or her own felt needs. God’s Spirit trans-
formed her heart.
Lydia was the first convert in Philippi, one
who influenced her household for God. Her
story, as far as we know it, ends with her warm yet insistent encourage-
ment for Paul and his fellow travelers to come and stay with her. As such,
she is often remembered for her hospitality.

 On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank,
where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat
down to speak with some women who had gathered there. One of
them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth,
who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart,
and she accepted what Paul was saying. She was baptized along with
other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests.
“If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and
stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.
(Acts 16:13–15 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 117
118 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Mary: The One Who Said Yes to God
Mary, the mother of God’s Son, was not a woman of great power or influ-
ence. Her young life was similar to everyone else's. Living in a tiny village
and preparing to be married, Mary had no reason to think she would be
different. But one night an angel visited her, and not just any angel, but
Gabriel, an archangel with news that would not only change Mary’s life
but life on earth in general: Mary would have a son. Not just any son—the
Son of God! Quite a promise! Stunned, Mary’s mind raced to the obvious
question—how? Through the Holy Spirit.
In a remarkable display of humility and obedience, Mary willingly gave
herself over as the Lord’s servant. A few days later she went to see her
formerly barren cousin Elizabeth, who was also pregnant, and there she
sang joyful praise to God, a song we
call “The Magnificat” (from the
Latin for “my soul magnifies,”
the first line of her song). Mary
would later play a crucial role
at a wedding in Cana, encour-
aging Jesus to perform His first
public miracle—turning water
into wine. But as Jesus’ ministry
increased, Mary was content to
fade into the background, her
part played well, her faithful ser-
vice recognized, and her role in the
event that changed world history
forever immortalized.

 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The
Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could
mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found
favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will
name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the
Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.
And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
(Luke 1:28–34 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 119
Mary and Martha:
Sisters, and Friends
of Jesus
What are the priorities of your life? Sisters
Mary and Martha had two very different ap-
proaches to handling a visit from their friend Jesus. During the meal prepa-
rations, however, a disagreement broke out when Martha realized that she
was doing all the work while her sister was simply sitting and listening to
Jesus. This didn’t seem fair to Martha, and she was no doubt hoping that
Jesus would side with her. Instead, He gently corrected her attitude, point-
ing out that Mary was the one who had her priorities straight, choosing
time with Jesus over preparing a meal.
The two sisters appear again in the Gospel of John, this time distraught
at the sickness and death of their brother, Lazarus. Jesus traveled to see
them. Martha, though disappointed that Jesus had not arrived in time to
heal her brother, expressed a firm faith in the power of His prayers and,
ultimately, His identity as the Messiah. Mary rejoiced when Jesus raised
Lazarus from the dead.
The sisters’ final appearance came just before Jesus’ triumphal entry into
Jerusalem, as they hosted a dinner for Him. Martha served again but this
time without complaint. Lazarus reclined at the table, no doubt glad to be
alive. And Mary, for the third time, found herself at
Jesus' feet, this time anointing them with perfume—
a symbolic prelude to His coming death and burial.

 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their
way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village
where a woman named Martha welcomed him
into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s
feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was
distracted by the big dinner she was preparing.
She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it
seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here
while I do all the work? Tell her to come and
help me.”
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you
are worried and upset over all these details! There
is only one thing worth being concerned about.
Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken
away from her.”
(Luke 10:38–42 nlt)

120 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Mary Magdalene: Resurrection
Eyewitness
Imagine the pain and sadness associated with seeing someone you love
die. Now imagine that instead of passing away quietly in their sleep, they
are tortured and executed. Mary Magdalene had accompanied Jesus for
quite some time, since He had cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). She
was at the cross when He was crucified. She saw the life ebb out of Him
as He hung there, beaten, exposed, alone. This man who had healed her
seemed helpless, lost. Her world was spinning. Now what would she do?
After Jesus had been taken down and buried, Mary Magdalene and some
other women went to the tomb to anoint His body. What happened next
was a blur of activity, almost too much to take in. An earthquake, the stone
rolled away, and angels! Dazzling white, they struck such an awesome
sight that the Roman guards fainted out of fear, but Mary stood strong.
She had to know what had happened. The angels announced the good
news of Jesus’ resurrection. Could this really be true? Excited, fearful, sad,
Mary burst into tears. Then she saw Him. Of course, she hardly recognized
Him at first. Only when He said her name did she realize this man was her
Lord. She must have hugged Him, since the Bible then says: “‘Don’t cling
to me,’ Jesus said, ‘for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father’” (John
20:17 nlt). With grief turned into unbridled joy, Mary must have
sprinted to share the good news. Her Lord and Savior, the one who
had rescued her from demonic posses-
sion, was alive again. The nails were
gone. This was truly the beginning
of a brand-new day.

 She turned to leave and saw someone
standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t
recognize him. “Dear woman, why are you
crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you
looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,”
she said, “if you have taken him away, tell
me where you have put him, and I will go
and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out,
“Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
(John 20:14–16 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 121
Matthew: The Tax-Collecting Disciple
Would you give up an incredibly lucrative and financially secure job to
follow an itinerant teacher into poverty, danger, and maybe even death?
What kinds of questions or concerns would you have before signing on?
How many people would you want to run the decision past before making
a firm commitment? For Matthew, the decision was simple. Something
was so compelling, so captivating, so convincing about Jesus that when
Jesus invited Matthew (also known as Levi) to be His disciple, Matthew
immediately quit his job to do so.
Later Matthew hosted a dinner party at his house for Jesus and some of his
old friends. Matthew’s life had been transformed, turned upside-down by
an encounter with Jesus, and now he wanted everyone to have the same
experience. The invitations went out, and the party went on, despite the
sneering accusations of some Pharisees. As Jesus pointed out, “Healthy
people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Matthew knew how “sick”
he had been in his old life and was experiencing life anew as Jesus’ disciple.
Matthew’s care with finances suited him perfectly for
the careful collection of documents and details re-
garding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Later Matthew brought these disparate pieces
together into the document we now know as the
Gospel of Matthew. As someone who had per-
sonal, firsthand experience walking with the Lord,
Matthew was perhaps best suited for presenting
the crucial details of the life of Jesus to a Jewish
world that so desperately needed to hear of the
salvation offered through the Messiah.

 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at
his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to
him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner
guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.
But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does
your teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a
doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning
of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I
have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who
know they are sinners.”
(Matthew 9:9–13 nlt)

122 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Nehemiah: The Wall Builder
Is it possible to be homesick for a place you’ve never lived in?
For Nehemiah, the answer was an emphatic “yes.” Although
he had spent his life in Persia and had grown up to become a
cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I, Nehemiah’s heart still burned
with passion for the land of his ancestors. In fact, when Nehemiah heard
that the people who had been allowed to move back after the exile were
struggling to survive and were defenseless due to the city wall’s destruc-
tion, he fell to the ground and wept. He was determined, however, to do
something about this mess. As the king’s cupbearer he was not in any
obvious position to be able to help his people. Nevertheless, with God’s
blessing and help, he approached the king and was granted leave to go
back to Judah.
Appointed governor of Judah (Nehemiah 5:14), Nehemiah surveyed the
walls and gates of the city and acted quickly to get them rebuilt. Although
most of the people fell in eagerly and quickly behind his strong, committed
leadership, there was nevertheless some strong opposition, most notably
from Sanballat and Tobiah. In fact, Nehemiah had to arm the laborers and
station guards to protect them as the work progressed.
Not only did Nehemiah work to rebuild the wall, but he rebuked the
wealthy nobles and officials who had been oppressing their own people,
challenging them to forgive the loans and give back anything they had
stolen. As a result of Nehemiah’s careful direction and wise planning, the
wall was rebuilt in just fifty-two days, an event
celebrated with great fanfare. He then called
on Ezra the priest–scribe to read the Law, thus
leading the people to rededicate themselves
to serve God.
Nehemiah’s faithfulness to God, prayerful at-
titude, and decisive action were instrumental
in reestablishing the people in Jerusalem after
such a long time in exile.

 So on October 2 the wall was finished—
just fifty-two days after we had begun. When
our enemies and the surrounding nations
heard about it, they were frightened and
humiliated. They realized this work had been
done with the help of our God.
(Nehemiah 6:15–16 nlt)

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Moses: The Reticent Deliverer
Although some people are naturally gifted at public speaking, for most
this evokes more fear than heights, flying in an airplane, and spiders
combined. Although we think of him as a great leader, Moses fits into
the latter category. When God called out to Moses from a burning bush,
telling him to go to Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world, and
demand that he let the Israelites go, Moses was not exactly quick to get
on board. “But Moses again pleaded, ‘Lord, please! Send anyone else’ ”
(Exodus 4:13 nlt). Surprisingly, God agreed to use Moses’ brother, Aaron,
as his “mouthpiece” before Pharaoh (at least initially), and off they went
to try to convince this wicked ruler to release God’s people out of slavery.
The mission was met with more than a little resistance from Pharaoh, incur-
ring ever-worsening signs of God’s judgment in the form of ten plagues
that struck the land and the people in it. Finally, after his oldest son was
killed, Pharaoh relented and the people left. Not surprisingly, he changed
his mind and gave chase all the way to the Red Sea.
Backed into a tight spot, Moses turned to God for help, and
in a nation-defining moment, the sea was parted,
enabling them to cross safely. Reaching the
mountain of God, Sinai, Moses received
the Law on two stone tablets, “writ-
ten by the finger of God” (Exodus
31:18 nlt). Leading a nation of
people out of Egypt, across a des-
ert, and into the Promised Land
was challenging, to say the least.
Moses experienced the highest
of highs with God and the low-
est of lows wrestling with the
needs and failures of the peo-
ple, but God’s presence never
left him. Despite his faithful
leadership throughout their
time in the desert, and the
reverence later generations
would have for this man of
God, Moses was not perfect
and was kept from leading
the people into the Prom-
ised Land because of his sin.

124 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the
Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous
signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his
servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed
terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel.
(Deuteronomy 34:10–12 nlt)

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Noah: The Ark Builder
Imagine, if you will, an apocalyptic event of such terrifying proportions
that it wipes out, not just your neighborhood or your state, but every living
thing on the face of the planet. You and your family are the only people
left alive, adrift on a massive wooden ship filled with animals of every
shape, size, and kind. There is no coast to navigate by, no sign of anything
anywhere. Just miles and miles of water and the floating debris left from
such a calamitous flood.
This was the life of Noah. Born to a man named Lamech, Noah was named
with the hopeful prayer, “May he bring us relief from our work and the
painful labor of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed” (Genesis
5:29 nlt). Noah’s faithfulness would bring about a type of relief, involving
a new covenant and clean slate for the people, but not before a terrible
punishment had been exacted. At this time, the first descendants of Adam
and Eve were increasing in wickedness, becoming more and more evil.
“Everyone on earth was corrupt” (Genesis 6:12 nlt) except for Noah. An-
gered by their sin, God announced to Noah that He would wipe everyone
out except for this one man and his family.

126 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
God gave Noah detailed instructions on how to build the ark, a mammoth
task that must have taken a long time to accomplish. Once the ark was
finished, the rains came and Noah, his wife, their three sons, their wives,
and all the animals were sealed inside by God. These eight people were the
only ones saved from the flood. After the floods receded and the ark came
to rest on Mount Ararat, God established a covenant with Noah, reiterating
the command he had given Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, and
fill the earth. Moreover, God promised to never again send another flood,
setting a glorious rainbow in the sky as a sign of His covenant promise and
great love for His people.

 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man,
the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in
close fellowship with God. Noah was the father of three sons: Shem,
Ham, and Japheth.
Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with
violence. God observed all this corruption in the world, for everyone on
earth was corrupt. So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy
all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence.
Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!
“Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it
with tar, inside and out.”
(Genesis 6:9–14 nlt)

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Paul: The Great Missionary
Have you ever been convinced you were in the right
about something, only to realize later on that you
were horribly mistaken? Paul, an intelligent, proud
Pharisee from the tribe of Benjamin, had been
zealously persecuting the earliest Christians.
He was on his way with orders to stamp out
the Way—the name for those who followed Christ—when the risen Jesus
appeared to him in a blinding vision. Paul’s life was forever changed by this
dramatic experience, and he went on to become the most famous and
influential of all the apostles.
Paul traveled extensively throughout the Mediterranean, telling people
about Jesus. The book of Acts lists three of his missionary journeys with
companions like Luke, Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy. Being a missionary
was an exceedingly difficult task and one that ultimately cost him his life,
as his final journey took him to Rome, where he was later executed. But
Paul didn’t mind. His passion for Jesus overshadowed all other concerns.
All of Jesus’ eleven loyal disciples were persecuted for being followers of
Jesus. As Jesus’ newest apostle, Paul was no exception. He was beaten with

128 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
a whip or rods eight times, shipwrecked three times, stoned to death—note
that—stoned to death and raised to life, imprisoned, broke, hungry—the list
goes on and on. As a missionary traveling through lands where people were
at times hostile to the Gospel and receptive, he was always in danger. But
as a zealous follower of Christ, he was always aware that the God he served
was bigger than any hardship, loss, or inconvenience.
Paul’s concern for the church is shown through the letters that make up
most of the New Testament. Letters like Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians,
and Philemon are the prison epistles—letters written during his times of
imprisonment.

 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or
that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that
perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers
and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing:
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to
reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God,
through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
(Philippians 3:12–14 nlt)

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Peter: The Restored Denier
We’ve all said some foolish things in our lives. But it’s unlikely anyone has
turned around and said to you, “Get away from me, Satan!” (Matthew
16:23 nlt). However, there was Peter, trying to make sense of what he as-
sumed to be a confused or mistaken Jesus, only to be compared to God’s
archenemy. Peter had put his foot in his mouth, for sure. Such was his life.
Brash, impulsive, with something to say in every situation, Peter was perhaps
the most colorful of Jesus’ disciples. A fisherman by trade and the brother
of Andrew, Peter’s original Jewish name was Simeon, or Simon, but Jesus
Himself gave him the name Peter instead (John 1:42). Despite the occasional
rebuke from Jesus, he was nonetheless consistently included with James and
John in Jesus’ inner circle, an eyewitness to miracles like the Transfiguration,
which most of the other disciples missed out on.
One time Peter even got to walk on water, at least until the reality of what
he was doing sunk in and he followed suit (Matthew 14:29–31). It was
Peter whom Jesus chose to be the “rock” on which He would establish
his church (Matthew 16:13–19). Sadly, despite all his protestations to the
contrary, after Jesus had been arrested, Peter was the one who denied
Him three times, fearful that he, too, might be captured and put on trial.
But, in an amazing display of grace, Peter received a special visit from
Jesus after the Resurrection, during which time he was told to feed Jesus’
sheep (John 21). Indeed, it was Peter who gave the inaugural address of
the early Christian church on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), a powerful and
convicting sermon that led to three
thousand people coming to faith and
being baptized. This ordinary man,
with no special training, who was
once rebuked so sternly by Jesus,
was ultimately instrumental for much
of the initial spread of Christianity
throughout the region. He became
a leader in the church and wrote the
two letters in the New Testament that
bear his name. It was, in the end, a
life well lived.

 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my
Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from
any human being.”
(Matthew 16:15–17 nlt)

130 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Philip:
The Evangelist
How comfortable do you feel
sharing your most closely held
beliefs with other people? For many
of us, it’s awkward and difficult, but
for some, like Philip, it just comes
naturally. Not to be confused
with one of the lesser-known
disciples from Bethsaida, this
Philip, later nicknamed, “the
Evangelist” (Acts 21:8 nlt),
played a significant role in the
growth of the church outside Jerusa-
lem. His official ministry started when he was
selected as one of seven men who were
given responsibility for taking care of feeding
the widows and distributing food to those in need in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1–7).
However, when persecution broke out shortly after Stephen was stoned to
death, Philip fled to Samaria, where he discovered an entirely new gift as
an evangelist. Shortly afterward, Philip headed south under the direction
of an angel of the Lord, where he encountered a wealthy and prominent
of the queen of Ethiopia, returning from Jerusalem.
As Philip walked nearby, he overheard the eunuch reading from the book
of Isaiah, and so he asked him if he understood what he was reading. This
led to a discussion about Jesus and pretty soon the man was convinced
that Jesus was the Messiah Isaiah had spoken about. Seeing some water,
he was baptized immediately.
Philip boldly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus. He was willing to go wherever
the Spirit led him.

 The Holy Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and walk along beside the
carriage.”
Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah.
Philip asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”
The man replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?” And he
urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.
(Acts 8:29–31 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 131
Priscilla and Aquila:
Behind-the-Scenes
Workers
Whatever we may like to tell our children about
their potential to be and do anything, the real-
ity is that while some are gifted to be CEOs and
presidents, getting “fame” and public recognition, most of us will play far
less glamorous, though equally important, roles behind the scenes. Such
was the situation for Priscilla, sometimes called Prisca, and her husband,
Aquila. Tentmakers from Italy originally, but forced out under persecution
by Claudius Caesar, they found themselves living in Corinth where they met
Paul. Paul had a hard time preaching in Corinth. The Jews were hostile to
his message, although some, like Crispus, did believe, and Paul's motivation
was so low that God even had to speak to him in a vision to encourage
him. Priscilla and Aquila must have had a close relationship with Paul, for
when he left Corinth to sail across the sea to Ephesus, they went with him.
Paul left Ephesus fairly soon afterward, but this time left Priscilla and
Aquila. A short while later, a gifted young intellectual arrived in Ephesus
from Alexandria, in Egypt, and started preaching about Jesus. When Pris-
cilla and Aquila heard him, they realized that he didn’t have a complete
understanding of Jesus. Rather than critique him publicly, they took him to
one side to share what they had learned about Jesus from Paul. This extra
ministry training filled
out the picture for
Apollos, and he then
sailed off for Achaia
where he preached
powerfully.
This married couple
never worked in the
limelight themselves
but had a powerful
and significant minis-
try nonetheless, sup-
porting Paul and
training others like
Apollos.

 Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the
ministry of Christ Jesus. In fact, they once risked their lives for me.
I am thankful to them, and so are all the Gentile churches.
(Romans 16:3–4 nlt)

132 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Ruth: Loyal Friend

Ruth was at a crossroads. Widowed at a young age, would she take her
mother-in-law, Naomi’s, advice and return to her home and her people in
Moab (as had her sister-in-law, Orpah), where she had a good chance of
finding another husband? Or would she follow Naomi into the unknown
world of Israel, where she faced a life of loneliness and perpetual widow-
hood, a life lived far away from her home and everything she knew and
was familiar with? What would you choose?
For Ruth, the answer was simple. In perhaps one of the most profound
declarations of faithful obedience in the Bible, she assured Naomi of her
continued loyalty.
Upon arrival in Bethlehem, Naomi’s hometown, Ruth took on the humble
task of gleaning: going into the fields to collect the grain leftover after the
harvest. This she faithfully brought to Naomi for them to eat. During this
process she caught the eye of Boaz, the wealthy owner of the fields. He
was impressed with her and made a public declaration affirming her loyalty
to her mother-in-law and her good reputation. The blessing he gave to her
came true when he agreed to act as the kinsman-redeemer by redeeming
the property Naomi might have sold and thus agreeing to marry Ruth,
saving both Ruth and Naomi from a life of poverty and disgrace.
As a further reward to Ruth, Ruth’s great-grandson
David would end up sitting on the throne in
Jerusalem.

 Ruth replied, “Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you
go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people,
and your God will be my God. Wherever you die, I will die, and there I
will be buried. May the Lord punish me severely if I allow anything but
death to separate us!” When Naomi saw that Ruth was determined to go
with her, she said nothing more.
(Ruth 1:16–18 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 133
Samson: A Flawed Superhero
If you could be Superman (or Superwoman) for a day, what would you do?
He may not have been able to fly, but Samson, one of the more colorful
characters in the Bible, was gifted with almost superhuman strength. With
these gifts, he was chosen to be one of Israel’s judges—the special leaders
who helped deliver their people from the persecution of their enemies.
Sadly, what he possessed by way of physical prowess often seems to have
been missing in terms of wisdom and judgment. Born about 1000 BC to
parents who thought they were infertile, his birth was announced by an
angel who said that Samson was to be a lifelong Nazirite—one set apart
for a special purpose. A Nazirite did not drink fermented beverages or cut
his hair. John the Baptist was a Nazirite. Moreover, he was supposed to
rescue Israel from the Philistines. With the help of his amazing strength,
this long-haired superhero certainly began to rescue the people from the
Philistines. However, his behavior makes it hard to see how he truly remained
ritually pure to God in the process.
Given the angel’s announcement, Samson’s story took an unexpected
turn when he insisted on marrying a Philistine woman. On the way to the
wedding, he killed a lion with his bare hands, and he later returned to
eat honey out of its carcass. At the wedding feast itself, he flew into a
rage and killed thirty men after they convinced his wife to give them an
answer to a riddle. Although he left his wife behind in his anger, he later
returned and, after discovering she was married to another man, caught
three hundred foxes, tied torches to their tails, and destroyed the Philistines’
crops. Captured by some of his people who were frustrated at his “frat
boy” exploits, he escaped and, using the jawbone of a donkey, killed one
thousand Philistines.
Despite these incredible feats, Samson was ultimately brought down by
his womanizing. A Philistine named Delilah tricked him into revealing that
his hair was the source of his strength. The trap was sprung. A hidden
Philistine cut off his hair, rendering him easy to capture. Although his eyes
were plucked out and he was thrown into prison, his hair grew back. Dur-
ing a great feast in the Philistine temple, he prayed to God for strength.
God allowed him super strength once more. He knocked over the pillars of
the temple, collapsing the building and killing over three thousand people,
including himself. In death he had regained honor.

134 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
 Finally, Samson shared his secret with Delilah. “My hair has never
been cut,” he confessed, “for I was dedicated to God as a Nazirite from
birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would
become as weak as anyone else.”
Delilah realized he had finally told her the truth, so she sent for the
Philistine rulers. “Come back one more time,” she said, “for he has finally
told me his secret.” So the Philistine rulers returned with the money in
their hands.
Delilah lulled Samson to sleep with his head in her lap, and then she
called in a man to shave off the seven locks of his hair. In this way she
began to bring him down, and his strength left him.
(Judges 16:17-19 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 135
Samuel: Prophet and Priest
Throughout history there are numerous examples of
civilizations rebelling against their monarchs. Most
of the time, most people want to get as far away
from absolute rulers as possible. However, what
do you do when it is the people themselves who
are clamoring for a king? Living about one thousand
years before Christ, in a time when the Philistines still
posed a significant threat to the fledgling country of Israel,
Samuel found himself in just this situation.
Samuel was destined to be a spiritual leader long before
he could even read a scroll. When his once barren mother
Hannah prayed for a son, she promised to dedicate him to
the Lord. When Samuel was born, she kept her promise and
sent him to live with the priest Eli in the tabernacle at Shiloh.
Samuel was trained from a young age to serve the Lord.
One night he heard a voice calling out his name. Although at
first he assumed it to be Eli, he soon discovered it to be God.
Responding accordingly, he received a prophetic word of judg-
ment against Eli and his sons, which came to pass.
Ironically, while Samuel chose to walk in the ways of the Lord,
Eli's sons chose corruption. After serving the people for many
years as a prophet and a judge, Samuel was surprised and upset
when they demanded to have a king just like other nations. Although he
rebuked them, he did as they asked, warning them that they would come
to regret that decision. Once again, his warning came to pass. Saul, the first
king of Israel, started off well but ended poorly. Samuel had the hard task
of telling him that the kingdom would be taken away and given to a man
after God’s own heart—the young shepherd David.
When Samuel died, the whole nation mourned for him.

 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a
message from the Lord before. So the Lord called a third time, and once
more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. So he said to
Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak,
Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And
Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
(1 Samuel 3:7–10 nlt)

136 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Sarah: Unlikely Mother
What do you plan to do in your retirement years?
Would raising an infant figure into those plans?
At an age when many people consider that life
might be about to end, a new life within Sarah
was just beginning.
For most of her life, Sarah was actually named
Sarai. However, when she was ninety years
old, God told Abram about the covenant
he was making with them and Sarai’s
name was changed to Sarah. Sarah
and Sarai mean “princess.”
Marriage to Abraham, the great
patriarch, was challenging at times.
God’s call to leave their extended
family and move to a strange land;
Abraham’s request to pretend that they were not married and thus avoid
conflict with the pharaoh who wished to marry Sarah—these were chal-
lenges Sarah faced. But the greatest challenge of all was barrenness. God,
however, promised to give them a son. Given their advanced age, this
promise seemed laughable, and indeed, when some visitors appeared
from God to confirm this promise, Sarah actually laughed out loud and
was gently rebuked by God as a result.
A year later, God’s promise came true. Sarah had a son, whom they named
Isaac, or “laughter,” a name given by God and reflective of their response
to God’s promise.
Sarah may have struggled at times with the incredible pressures to bear
Abraham a son, even going so far as to encourage him to sleep with a
concubine, but ultimately her faith was rewarded by God and celebrated
by the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews, “It was by faith that
even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too
old. She believed that God would keep his promise” (Hebrews 11:11 nlt).

 Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had
commanded. Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about
this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah
would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
(Genesis 21:4–7 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 137
Saul: Flawed First King
When you are ready to present your new king to an eager and expectant
public but you can’t find him because he’s hiding in fear among some
luggage, that’s usually not a very good sign. Saul, the first king of Israel,
appointed by God and anointed by the great judge and prophet Samuel,
never seemed to wear the title very well. Although he had some suc-
cesses, he is ultimately remembered more for his failures, as a negative
example of how not to lead.
Although born into the “least important” family of the smallest tribe in Israel,
Saul looked the part of a king: tall and handsome. When King Nahash of
Ammon threatened to attack one of the towns of Israel, the Spirit of the
Lord helped Saul lead the people to a decisive victory over the Ammonites.
He led further assaults on the Philistines, with help from his son Jonathan,
but in his impatience offered un-
lawful sacrifices to God, resulting
in Samuel’s promise that his king-
dom would end and another man
would be raised up in his place.
Although mostly successful mili-
tarily, Saul made a series of poor
spiritual decisions. After making a
rash vow that almost resulted in
the death of his own son, he failed
to obey God’s direct command to
destroy the Amalekites and was
formally and completely rejected
by God as a result.
Although Saul officially retained
the title of king for quite some
time after this, he suffered terri-
bly from depression, anxiety, and
bouts of paranoia as the kingdom
slipped slowly from his hands. Demonstrating the depths to which he had
sunk, Saul even sought the advice of a medium before fighting his final
battle against the Philistines. The ensuing conflict was an utter defeat, his
son Jonathan was killed, and ultimately Saul himself committed suicide
rather than be captured. An ignoble end to a mostly embarrassing reign.

 Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned for
forty-two years.
(1 Samuel 13:1 nlt)

138 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Simeon and Anna:
Faithful Believers
To hold the Savior of the world in your arms. To see
His face and know that one day He would fulfill all
the prophecies and rescue His people from bond-
age. What an incredible moment. Simeon and Anna
enjoyed a special place in the life of Jesus as devout Jews
who recognized His true identity even before He could say a
word. Simeon, we are told, was a “righteous and devout” man, and the
Lord “had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the
Lord’s Messiah” (Luke 2:26 nlt). Sure enough, he was in the temple when
Mary and Joseph showed up to dedicate Jesus. Simeon knew right away
this was the child, and he offered a remarkable prophetic prayer of bless-
ing, still referred to today in some church settings by its Latin title, “Nunc
Dimittis.” In this prayer, Simeon revealed that this baby would be “a light to
reveal God to the nations,” referring back to the prophecies in Isaiah that
indicated that God’s salvation would one day extend to all people, Jews
and Gentiles alike. Imagine hearing such a blessing pronounced over your
baby! “Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him”
(Luke 2:33 nlt). Nevertheless, Simeon gave a note of caution, warning that
this special baby would cause Mary significant personal emotional pain, as
she would have to watch His rejection by the people He had come to save.
Anna, whom the Bible refers to as a prophet, was also there and saw what
was going on. She was eighty-four years old and a long-time widow. Her
commitment to God was absolute, and she spent her entire life in the
temple, praying and fasting. When she saw and heard Simeon holding
Jesus and offering his prayer, she also broke out into spontaneous praise.
Indeed, “she talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting
expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 nlt).

 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was
righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come
and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him
that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the
Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present
the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He
took the child in his arms and praised God. . . .
[Anna] came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph,
and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone
who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.
(Luke 2:25–28, 38 nlt)

Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 139
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
Men Tested by Fire
One minute you’re being praised for how awesome and talented you are.
The next moment, you’re being fired, thrown under the metaphorical bus.
How will you respond to such a sudden change? What do you do when the
person you serve is so fickle and temperamental? These three young men
experienced some significant highs and terrible lows but, throughout it all,
kept their focus on God, never turning to the left or the right. At a young
age, they were taken into exile to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, who
wanted, “some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble
families…only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men…well versed
in every branch of learning…gifted with knowledge and good judgment…
suited to serve in the royal palace” (Daniel 1:3–4 nlt). Arriving in Babylon they
were given new names; Hananiah was
renamed Shadrach, Mishael became
Meshach, and Azariah, Abednego.
These were talented and gifted men.
In fact, the king “found them ten
times more capable than any of the
magicians and enchanters in his entire
kingdom” (Daniel 1:20 nlt). However,

 Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego replied, “O
Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to
defend ourselves before you. If we
are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God whom we serve is able to
save us. He will rescue us from your
power, Your Majesty. But even if he
doesn’t, we want to make it clear to
you, Your Majesty, that we will never
serve your gods or worship the gold
statue you have set up.”
Nebuchadnezzar was so furious
with Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego that his face became
distorted with rage. He commanded
that the furnace be heated seven
times hotter than usual.
(Daniel 3:16–19 nlt)

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when they refused to bow down to a massive golden idol the king had
ordered everyone to worship, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. This
wasn’t like the hot coals people sometimes walk on; this was a raging fire.
In fact, “because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in
the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in”
(Daniel 3:22 nlt). Yet, miraculously they emerge completely unscathed. “They
didn’t even smell of smoke!” (Daniel 3:27 nlt). Their survival is important,
but more significant is the mysterious “fourth man” Nebuchadnezzar saw
walking around with them in the fire, for many think he may have been
the preincarnate Christ, representing God’s powerful presence with them.
Although their story is brief, these prayer-filled obedient young men attest
to the sovereign power of God over all human kings and rulers.

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Solomon: Wise and Foolish King
Perhaps you’ve heard the tale of King Midas, the fabled Greek king whose
very touch turned everything into gold. King Solomon may not have had
those exact powers, but during his reign as only the third king of Israel, he
managed to amass more wealth and power than any other king before or
since. For a quick glimpse into his lavish lifestyle, read 1 Kings 10:14–29.
This man put even the wealthiest people today to shame. The Bible even
says that “he made silver as plentiful in Jerusalem as stone. And valuable
cedar timber was as common as the sycamore-fig trees” (1 Kings 10:27
nlt). If ever there was someone with a Midas touch, it was Solomon.

But despite all this wealth, or maybe because of it, Solomon was a mixed
bag as a king. He centralized power in Jerusalem and solidified the national
identity of Israel, but at the same time, he heavily taxed his own people to
finance his massive building projects. Perhaps at the high point of his life
he built a temple for God, a significant moment in the history of Israel, but
later in life he let himself be led astray into polytheism. Under his rule, the
country experienced a time of peace and relative prosperity, but his poor
decisions set the stage for the civil war that would follow soon after his
death. Finally, although Solomon is often remembered for his unsurpassed
wisdom (he is credited with having written most of the book of Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and a couple of psalms), as we read his life
now, it is clear that he didn’t always live up to his own high-minded ideals.
Many years later Nehemiah would use Solomon as a negative example of
how not to behave. “Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel
into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could
compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel.
But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives” (Nehemiah 13:26 nlt).

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 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father,
David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And
here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great
and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart
so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between
right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people
of yours?”
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. So God
replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people
with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of
your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise
and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!
And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No
other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your
life!”
(1 Kings 3:7–13 nlt)

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Stephen: First Martyr
Being stoned to death was (and still is) one of the most terrible ways to be
killed. This is no quick execution; there’s no guillotine-like precision. Just
rocks. Lots of them. Stephen, one of the first leaders in the early church,
is one of the very few examples of stoning we find in the Bible, and his
death came about because of his bold proclamation of Jesus as the Son
of God. Stephen, ”a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) was
initially chosen simply to help serve food to the widows and other hungry
people so the apostles could devote their time to preaching and teach-
ing. However, it soon became obvious that there was something different
about Stephen. Luke, the author of the book of Acts, notes that here was
a “man full of God’s grace and power [who] performed amazing miracles
and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8 nlt). As a result, he was arrested and
brought to stand trial before the Sanhedrin, the high council of religious
leaders in Jerusalem.
Asked to defend himself, Stephen was ready with a very clear presentation
of what he believed. More than a mere speech, this was an amazingly
eloquent description of God’s hand at work throughout the history of
the people of Israel, the main focus being on the persistent rebellion of
people, set in contrast to the covenantal faithfulness
of God. As the mob clamored around him,
Stephen was given a vision of Jesus stand-
ing at the right hand of God. When he

 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by
Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their
fists at him in rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily
into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the
place of honor at God’s right hand. And he told them, “Look, I see the
heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at
God’s right hand!”
Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They
rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young
man named Saul.
As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”
And with that, he died.
(Acts 7:54–60 nlt)

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said this out loud to the people gathered to hear his testimony, they flew
into a rage, took him outside, and stoned him to death. “As they stoned
him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” He fell to his knees,
shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died”
(Acts 7:59 nlt). Stephen’s death unleashed such significant persecution in
Jerusalem that the disciples scattered, but in God’s providence this in turn
led to the expansion of the Gospel into entirely new locales.

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Thomas: Honest Doubter
It may come as a surprise to some people, but even pastors sometimes
experience doubts about their faith. In fact, it’s a normal and natural part
of the spiritual life of every follower of Jesus. Thankfully we can look back
at the life of Thomas and see that even someone who walked every day
with Jesus Himself still had trouble wrapping his head around something
as huge as the resurrection.
We don’t really know much about Thomas’s life, where he came from, or
what he was like. Although he was not one of the main disciples, we do
know that he was willing to follow Jesus, even if that meant imprisonment
and death (John 11:16). For the most part, he seems to have remained in
the background—at least until after the resurrection. When Jesus first ap-
peared to the disciples, who were huddled in fear “behind locked doors,”
Thomas was not there and missed this momentous occasion. Stuck with
simply hearing about the event from everyone else, he put his foot down

146 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
and declared emphatically, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds
in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound
in his side” (John 20:25 nlt). It was over a week later before he got his wish.
They were behind locked doors once again, and Jesus appeared to them
all, Thomas included. Addressing Thomas directly, he encouraged him to
reach out and touch him, not to just see the wounds, but to place his fin-
gers on them. The result was praise and worship. “‘My Lord and my God!’
Thomas exclaimed” (John 20:28 nlt). Perhaps we all wish we could reach
out and touch Jesus, just to know for sure He is real. But, as if sensing this
would be the case, “Jesus told [Thomas], ‘You believe because you have
seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me’” (John 20:29).

 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), was not
with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the
Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his
hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in
his side.”
Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time
Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before,
Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he
said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your
hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
“My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed.
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.
Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
(John 20:24–29 nlt)

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Timothy: Protégé Pastor
We all carry around insecurities, doubts, and fears. There will always be
those dark days at work or at home when we feel like a fraud waiting to
be unmasked as the incompetent fools that we convince ourselves we are.
Despite having a very clear call to ministry, Timothy knew these moments
all too well—worrying about his youth, considered timid and shy by some,
and often struggling with physical illness. He was born into a mixed family
living in Lystra, a small town in Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Although
his father was Greek, his mother, Eunice, was Jewish. Timothy's mother
and his grandmother, Lois had come to faith in Christ as a result of Paul’s
first missionary journey. This faith they in turn passed on to Timothy (2
Timothy 1:5) who grew quickly to maturity, such that when Paul came
back through Lystra on his second missionary journey, he called Timothy
to join him (Acts 16:1–5).
Timothy traveled extensively with Paul and was entrusted to help encour-
age and teach one of the young churches Paul had established in Thes-
salonica. Paul even sent him to the troubled church in Corinth, confident
that Timothy could turn them around, although that seems not to have
happened, requiring further strong letters from Paul himself. Timothy’s
name is scattered throughout Paul’s letters, always referred to with terms
of endearment. Timothy was clearly a significant and close personal friend
and colaborer for Christ with Paul. There are even two letters written directly
to Timothy from Paul, encouraging him to remain strong in the faith and
to persevere in the work God had called him to complete. Probably the
last letter he ever received from Paul begins, “Timothy, I thank God for
you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did.
Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I long to see you
again, for I remember your tears as we parted. And I will be filled with joy
when we are together again” (2 TImothy 1:3–4 nlt).

 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled
your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same
faith continues strong in you. This is why I remind you to fan into flames
the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God
has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-
discipline.
(2 Timothy 1:5–7 nlt)

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Fa v o r i t e Fo l k s | 149
150 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Overheard Quotes
T here are many quotes from the King James Version of the Bible
in use every day. Over the centuries they have become part of
our lexicon. Maybe you’ve said a few yourself. Ever wonder where
they are in the Bible or what they mean? Here are some of the
most known quotes from the Bible and what they mean.


“A law unto themselves”
Many people use this phrase today to refer to a person or a group of people
who decide for themselves what is right or wrong without any oversight
by other authorities. But this quote came from the apostle Paul. In this
context, “a law unto themselves” was specifically referring to the Gentiles.
The Jews were given the law of Moses and the Pentateuch (Genesis,
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) as God’s written rules or
laws for their lives. Disobeying the Law meant punishment. Upholding the
Law meant favor in the sight of God and blessing. Many Jews thought that
the Gentiles, who were never given God’s law and requirements, were not
subject to these rules but were also not entitled to any of the blessings
mentioned. Paul was telling the Jewish leaders that God wrote His laws
on the hearts of humankind. Even if a Gentile had never heard the law,
the person knew right from wrong in his heart and was therefore a “law
unto himself.”

 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the
things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto
themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts,
their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while
accusing or else excusing one another.
(Romans 2:14-15)

152 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“A house divided”
This phrase became part of our common language after an important
speech given by Abraham Lincoln in 1858. Leaning on language he had
picked up from the Bible, Lincoln used this phrase to emphasize the need
for unity in a country that was divided over the issue of slavery. But the
quote originally came from Jesus.
After Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, the Pharisees accused him
of being demon-possessed. They could not bring themselves to believe
that Jesus was really God, and sought to use this moment to discredit His
ability to perform miracles. Jesus carefully replied that such an accusation
didn’t make any sense. If He Himself were demon-possessed, why would
He cast out a demon (a house divided)? Would He not be trying instead
to keep demons in (a house united)?

 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast
out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew
their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself
is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself
shall not stand.
(Matthew 12:24-25; see also Luke 11:17)

Overheard Quotes | 153
“A man after his own heart”
We most often use this phrase today to refer to someone who is of the
same mind-set as us. In this case the original biblical reference means
roughly the same thing.
Saul had been appointed king over all of Israel. Although he started strong,
his reign soon deteriorated and led to a stunning rebuke from God. In this
passage, Samuel, God’s prophet, had bad news for Saul: Saul’s failure to
keep God’s laws would result in the kingdom being taken away from him
and given instead to someone who would keep God’s laws. This “man after
his own heart” was David. Although he was not perfect by any measure,
the Bible is clear that David indeed sought after God with every part of
his life, doing everything humanly possibly to know and please the Lord.

 And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept
the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for
now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.
But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a
man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be
captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord
commanded thee.
(1 Samuel 13:13–14)

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“Apple of his eye”
The original Hebrew actually says something along the lines of “the little
man of his eye.” Whatever that may mean exactly, the intention is crystal
clear: this is a term of great affection. Its use here emphasizes the passion-
ate love of the Lord for the people he rescued out of slavery in Egypt and
also a deep sense of protectiveness.
By the time the King James Version of the Bible was produced, the phrase
“apple of my eye” was in fairly common usage. For example, just a few
years earlier Shakespeare had used this image in his play A Midsummer
Night’s Dream. So, when the translators were looking for a phrase that
captured the sense of endearment and loving protection associated with
this passage, they turned “little man of his eye” into “apple of his eye.”
And now, today, we continue to use this terminology to refer to someone
or something highly regarded.

 For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he
led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
(Deuteronomy 32:9–10; see also Zechariah 2:8)

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“At my wits‘ end”
When we talk today about being at our “wits' end” what we really mean
is that we no longer know what to do. It conveys a sense of distress that
goes beyond mere indecision. There are seemingly no other options left.
We can thank the translators of the King James Bible for making this such
a common phrase today. The psalms were originally written in Hebrew, and
a more wooden translation would be something like “Their wisdom was
confused.” In other words, they had come to the end of their wit (wisdom).
The psalmist is conveying deep mental and emotional distress. The sailors in
the passage have lost their courage and physical strength and are powerless
against the storm. At this point, the only person they can turn to is God.
The Lord alone brings them out of their troubles and restores their feet to
solid ground. The same is true for us today.

 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great
waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep. For
he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves
thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths:
their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger
like a drunken man, and are at their wits‘ end.
(Psalm 107:23–27)

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“The blind leading the blind”
The blind leading the blind is an admission of confusion or ignorance
about something. The concept originally came from a biting commentary
directed at the Pharisees. Jesus used the imagery of a blind person leading
another blind person to highlight the foolishness of the Pharisees. They
were supposed to be the experts of the law and prided themselves on this
knowledge. Yet at the same time, they repeatedly failed to see the purpose
of God’s law. They were so intent on following the law that they ended up
missing the One at whom the law ultimately pointed: Jesus.
By their insistence on leading others when they themselves didn’t understand
the underlying truth, Jesus named them “blind leaders.”

 And [Jesus} called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and
understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but
that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. Then came
his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were
offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every
plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted
up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind
lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
(Matthew 15:10-14; see also Luke 6:39)

Overheard Quotes | 157
“By the skin of our teeth”
This line from the book of Job is considered too difficult to translate be-
cause the underlying Hebrew meaning is less than clear. When working on
the King James Version of the Bible, the translators simply made a direct
word-for-word translation: “with the skin of my teeth.” The point here is
that Job has escaped death, even though his “friends” are accusing him of
having committed some kind of secret sin instead of comforting or helping
him. Throughout this passage Job cries out for justice, for a Redeemer who
will support his cause.
The resulting English idiom has
lost this overarching context
and come to refer simply to
any kind of narrow escape. A
deer bolting at the last second
as an arrow flies over its head
might be said to escape by the
skin of its teeth.

 My bone cleaveth to my
skin and to my flesh, and I
am escaped with the skin
of my teeth.
(Job 19:20)

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“Can a leopard change his spots?”
Sometimes we look at a person entrenched in a harmful lifestyle and
wonder if that person will ever change. The pessimist might answer in
the negative, for after all, “can a leopard change his spots?” Clearly this a
rhetorical question, since the answer is no, of course not.
We find this phrase in the book of Jeremiah, which describes the impend-
ing invasion and capture of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Having just
assured the people that they would be taken away into captivity as a result
of their failure to obey God’s commands and their repeated worship of
false gods and idols, Jeremiah now told them that they had become so
accustomed to rebelling against
God that they no longer knew
how to do good. For them to
change now would be as im-
possible as a leopard chang-
ing his spots. Their behavior
had come to define them
completely.
These days, of course, the
phrase has lost this sense of
prophetic judgment and most
often is used to mean simply that
we should accept people the way
they are.

 And if thou say in thine heart,
Wherefore come these things upon
me? For the greatness of thine iniquity
are thy skirts discovered, and thy heels
made bare. Can the Ethiopian change
his skin, or the leopard his spots?
then may ye also do good, that are
accustomed to do evil.
(Jeremiah 13:22–23)

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“Don’t cast your pearls before swine”
Broadly speaking, this common phrase is most often used as a warning to
be careful with the gifts that have been entrusted to us. It is an exhortation
to prudence and caution. The exaggerated image of beautiful and highly
valued precious pearls being cast into a pigsty was meant to be over the
top. Pearls continue to symbolize beauty and perfection, while pigs repre-
sent everything that is dirty and messy. The only additional twist for Jesus’
audience would have been that pigs were ritually unclean animals, thus
making the comparison even more extreme.
The context for this word picture is one of Jesus’ most well-known sermons:
the Sermon on the Mount. What Jesus seems to be warning about here is
getting involved with people who have become so hardened against the
Gospel that presenting the truth to them would be almost as ridiculous
and pointless as giving a pearl necklace to a pig.

 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your
pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn
again and rend you.
(Matthew 7:6)

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“Drop in the bucket”
Whether it’s a “drop of a bucket” (kjv) or a “drop in a bucket” (niv), the
essential meaning is the same: a single drop of water is inconsequential
compared to an entire bucket of water. They can’t even be compared.
Isaiah uses this imagery to emphasize the majesty of the almighty God. He
alone is the creator, maker, and sustainer of all things. However highly we
may regard ourselves, however mighty a nation might become, ultimately
everything pales in comparison to the Lord who made all things.
Indeed, Isaiah continues, they are “as the small dust of the balance”—
completely irrelevant, and almost imperceptible to any merchant using
scales. Such vivid imagery is a scathing rebuke both of the nations who
thought so highly of themselves and also of the people of God who looked
to these seemingly powerful nations for help. The intent of the pas-
sage is clear: the Lord alone is in control, greater than anything or
anyone in nature.

 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as
the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very
little thing.
(Isaiah 40:15)

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“Dust of the earth”
Talk about “the dust of the earth” generally conveys two related images:
something widespread or ordinary. The biblical source for this image comes
in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. After the Flood, we read in Genesis
12 about a man named Abram, whom God tells to move from Haran to
Canaan. When he arrives, however, there is a famine in the land and he
moves down to Egypt to look for food. After returning to Canaan God
then reiterates a promise made in Genesis 12:2–3 to Abram with this rich
metaphor of offspring “as the dust of the earth.”
For a culture in which children were everything, the promise of not just
land, but a family that would last for generations, was highly significant.
Obviously the image is an exaggeration—no human could possibly have that
many descendants, and Abram would have known that. Yet God described
something bigger than Abram or any of his contemporaries could have
imagined. One of Abram’s descendants would be the promised Messiah,
who would make it possible for us to be adopted into the family of Abram
as his spiritual descendants.

 And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man
can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.
(Genesis 13:16)

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“Eat, drink, and be merry”
Is Solomon advocating a life of partying and excess? Such a philosophy
of life undergirds hedonism and the pursuit of all kinds of materialism, so
what is it doing in the Bible?
First, this verse has to be considered in the light of all of Scripture. The
overwhelming message of the Bible is that our primary goal in life is to love
and serve God. Whatever our circumstances, we are here to glorify God.
Second, Solomon was speaking into a predominantly agrarian culture,
where hard work was the expected norm for all of life. Solomon starts this
train of thought with the perplexing observation that life never seems to
work out the way we expect it to. All too often the rich and lazy appear
to be blessed, whereas the poor and hardworking seem to be cursed. A
naturalistic “cause-and-effect” view of life cannot balance this awkward
equation. But for Solomon the solution comes from outside—God. Solomon
encourages us to embrace and enjoy the high points of life when we can.

 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under
the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall
abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him
under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 8:15)

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“Eye for an eye”
These verses about crime and punishment are often cited as the legal basis
for capital punishment—the death penalty. The concept feeds into our
innate human desire for retribution.
When God gave Moses the Law, He was establishing a people and a na-
tion for Himself. The Israelites had been living as slaves under the brutally
oppressive hand of the pharaoh of Egypt for hundreds of years and didn’t
know any other existence. In a world where there were no courts or judges
or police, laws had to be established to help govern behavior. These com-
mands were a part of that system, but rather than encourage revenge, they
actually stood against it. God opposed the culturally acceptable practice
of vengeance: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the
children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am
the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18).

 And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. And he that
killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. And if a man cause
a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to
him; breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused
a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again.
(Leviticus 24:17–20; see also Exodus 21:24;
Deuteronomy 19:21; Matthew 5:38)

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“False prophets, which come to
you in sheep’s clothing”
The image of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is of uncertain origin. Some say
that it originated in the fables of Aesop, whose writing predates the New
Testament by five hundred years. Others say that it was an already common
image made popular by Aesop. Either way, Jesus used it to warn His disciples
about false prophets seeking to lead people away from God. Although the
idiom may have originated with Aesop, it’s possible that it entered popular
thought through the first English translation of the Bible by John Wycliffe.
The context for this warning from Jesus is the long collection of teaching
referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus tells the disciples, and all
future generations of believers, that over time there would come many
teachers, leaders, or “prophets” who would come across as “sheep” but
actually would be something far more sinister—“ravening wolves.”
This prophecy has sadly come true. Throughout the centuries there have
been any number of false prophets—people claiming to be sent from God
but with messages that have actually led people away from God.

 Beware of false
prophets, which come to
you in sheep’s clothing,
but inwardly they are ravening
wolves.
(Matthew 7:15; see also
Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22)

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“Fell on rocky ground”
The passage comes from one of Jesus’ more well-known parables and uses
common farming language to express a spiritual truth. The way in which
we use this phrase is roughly analogous to saying that a message “fell on
deaf ears.” To “fall upon stony places” means that either people are not
listening or not interested.
In His parable, Jesus presents a farmer sowing seed. He casts the seed
far and wide. In doing so, some falls on the path and is eaten by birds.
Some falls on rocky ground and dies before the completion of its growth
because of the lack of soil. Some falls among thorns that eventually choke
the plant to death. Finally, some seed falls on good soil and grows and
produces significant fruit.
What sets this parable apart from many others is that Jesus actually spells
out the meaning for His disciples and, by extension, for us as well. The
seed represents the message of the kingdom of God. Some people hear
the message but it is snatched away by Satan before it can even take root.
Others hear the message and start to grow, only to fall away suddenly
because the message has not taken root.

 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and
forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: and
when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no
root, they withered away.
(Matthew 13:5–6)

166 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Fight the good fight”
Taking a phrase out of context certainly can change the meaning! People
will often say, “Fight the good fight” in reference to overcoming an injury
or battling back against insurmountable odds. We tend to use it as a syn-
onym for “Hang in there!” or “Do the best you can!”
Paul was writing to Timothy to encourage him to not lose hope in his work
for God. The complete phrase is actually an exhortation to “fight the good
fight of faith.” Timothy’s battle wasn’t about proving athletic prowess
or asserting his opinion. Nor was this a fight against physical infirmity or
financial setback. Paul told Timothy that he was in a fight of faith, a fight
for eternal life.
This encouragement is not about Timothy merely doing the best he can
or passively enduring tough times but actively pursuing and grabbing hold
of “eternal life.” We don’t work for salvation—a gift from God. Having
received such a gift, however, we need to fight against the sin in our lives
and the temptations of the world lest we be led astray.

 Fight the good fight
of faith, lay hold on eternal
life, whereunto thou art also
called, and hast professed
a good profession before
many witnesses.
(1 Timothy 6:12)

Overheard Quotes | 167
“Golden calf”
“A golden calf” usually refers to anything that becomes more important
to us than God: a person, object, or aspiration. The idea traces back to
an event that happened while God was giving Moses the Ten Command-
ments after leading the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. After Moses
had been on Mount Sinai for forty days, the people became anxious and
demanded that Aaron the high priest make them something tangible to
worship.
One of the first Egyptian gods was Khnum, often represented by a cow
or bull’s head. He was believed to be the god of creation and the waters.
The people melted down their golden jewelry to create a golden calf. They
worshipped the golden calf until Moses came down from the mountain
and rebuked them for their sin.
God had given Moses a commandment against the very thing that they
were doing. God punished them for idolatry, and the event lodged itself
in the history of Israel as an example of the danger that idolatry poses.

 And Aaron said unto them,
Break off the golden earrings,
which are in the ears of
your wives, of your sons,
and of your daughters,
and bring them unto me. And all the
people brake off the golden earrings
which were in their ears, and brought
them unto Aaron. And he received
them at their hand, and fashioned
it with a graving tool, after he had
made it a molten calf: and they said,
These be thy gods, O Israel, which
brought thee up out of the land
of Egypt.
(Exodus 32:3–4)

168 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Good Samaritan”
“Good Samaritan” has become a common title in today’s culture. Many
hospitals have taken the name, as well as clothing, food, and donation
centers. There are even good Samaritan laws that protect people from
legal ramifications if they stop to provide assistance to someone. For most
people today, a Good Samaritan helps someone in need, going the extra
mile in a way that exceeds normal charity.
This phrase had a vastly different connotation at the time of Jesus. There
was enmity between the Samaritans and many of the people of Israel. Some
despised the Samaritans’ mixed heritage and involvement with enemies. A
prominent Jewish teacher, therefore, would never have used a Samaritan
as the moral center of his story.
Jesus’ story was both shocking and heart revealing to His listeners, especially
the Jewish expert of the law. Note that the lawyer couldn’t even answer
Jesus’ question directly and say the name Samaritan. But Jesus wanted to
prove a spiritual point that went beyond ancient disputes.

 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was:
and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him,
and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his
own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on
the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them
to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou
spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of
these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the
thieves?
(Luke 10:33–36)

Overheard Quotes | 169
“Hammer swords into plowshares”
Just outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City is a statue
sculpted by Yevgeny Vuchetich entitled Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares.
Peace advocates cite this verse in their efforts to disarm a world prone to
violence and aggression. This promise of peace is an oasis of restoration
after the judgments the prophet Isaiah describes.
Isaiah details the judgments against Israel and many surrounding nations
as a result of their persistent sin against God. Israel and Judah come under
particular judgment because of their unique place as God’s chosen people
and the caretakers of His law. As a result, God promises that they wil be
punished.
Isaiah also references God’s mercy and grace. Here in Isaiah 2, for example,
is the promise that one day God will rule in Jerusalem and all the nations
will turn to Him for guidance. In contrast to all the fighting that Israel has
done, the world will have no war or soldiers. The people will
“hammer their swords into plowshares”; that is, their weapons
of violence will be converted and changed into instruments
for farming.

 And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke
many people: and they shall beat their swords into
plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall
not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any
more.
(Isaiah 2:4)

170 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“He gave up the ghost”
To give up the ghost usually means to die or break down completely. We
use it to talk about people, cars, computers, or just about anything that
ceases to operate. But where does this idea come from?
The phrase is found in the description of Jesus’ last moments on the cross.
The Greek word used here means “the spirit comes out.” The clear sense
of the word is simple—He died. But the more literary description was used
throughout the earliest translations into other languages and probably
made its first appearance via William Tyndale’s sixteenth-century transla-
tion of the New Testament or possibly even Wycliffe’s translation in 1395.
Regardless, the euphemism was popularized by Shakespeare in his plays
Julius Caesar and Henry VI.
The idea of the spirit coming out of someone at death is not a reference
to ghosts in the contemporary sense of the word, but rather it serves as
a reminder that all of life was breathed into us by God (see Genesis 2:7).
When Jesus died, this life-giving breath of God left Him, signaling His death.

 When Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy
hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the
ghost.
(Luke 23:46)

Overheard Quotes | 171
“He that is without sin among you,
let him cast the first stone”
“To cast the first stone” is a phrase used to hold people accountable to
hypocrisy in their lives. This particular idiom has retained most of its original
sense throughout the ages, even if the context in which Jesus spoke these
words has largely been forgotten.
The setting for this scene is another attempt by the Phari-
sees to trick Jesus into violating the law of Moses. In this
case, they brought a woman guilty of the sin
of adultery and asked whether she should
be stoned. Mosaic law, as they well knew,
stated clearly that she should be stoned,
although scant evidence exists that this ever
actually took place.
Jesus did not debate with them. Instead, he
turned the tables completely and simply
suggested that whoever thought that
he was without sin should throw
the first stone.
While the woman’s accus-
ers considered them-
selves “perfect” in
upholding the law,
Jesus knew their
hearts. Moreover,
as they realized they
could not pass the test, they
simply wandered away, avoiding
the one person who could truly offer
them forgiveness.

 So when [the scribes and Pharises]
continued asking [Jesus], he lifted up himself,
and said unto them, He that is without sin
among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
(John 8:7)

172 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Handwriting on the wall”
“The writing’s on the wall” usually conveys a sense of inevitability. Jour-
nalists seem to love this phrase, using it frequently in reference to politics
and international affairs. The general idea is that whatever the current
circumstances, a certain outcome or conclusion has already been decided.
It came about during an incident in the book of Daniel.
King Belshazzar had thrown a big party. While boasting of his power, he
decided to drink wine from sacred objects taken from the temple at the fall
of Jerusalem. Suddenly, a hand appeared and a finger began to write on
the wall in plain sight. An interpretation was needed. So Daniel, who was
about eighty-one years old at the time, was summoned. The interpretation
was clear: Belshazzar’s pride was about to lead to his destruction. Indeed,
the prophecy came true that very night! The king and his guests were killed
by Darius of the Medes and Persians. Daniel survived and became one of
Darius’s top three administrators. (See also “Weighed in the balance and
found wanting.”)

 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote
over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the
king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then
the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so
that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against
another.
(Daniel 5:5–6)

Overheard Quotes | 173
“How are the mighty fallen”
Today this phrase is used in many contexts: from a surprise loss by a top-
ranked sports team to the fall from grace of a popular politician. Anytime
someone or something fails to live up to that title, we might hear this phrase.
The book of 1 Samuel ended with King Saul making the rash decision to
go into battle against the Philistines and suffering a massive defeat. His
son Jonathan was killed, and Saul, severely wounded, took his own life.
When the messengers brought the news to David, his response was utter
grief. David composed a song to honor Saul and Jonathan and ordered
that it be taught to the men of Judah.
David actually repeats this line, “how are the mighty fallen,” three times
in his lament. Both father and son had been accomplished warriors. David
praised their strength, his friendship with Jonathan, and Saul’s elevated
status as God’s anointed one.

 The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places: how are the
mighty fallen!
(2 Samuel 1:19)

174 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Labor
of love”
Have you ever
helped someone
out even though
you really didn’t
want to? Or have
you ever worked
above and beyond
expectations just
because you really
enjoyed what you
were doing? Both
actions are “labors
of love.” On the
one hand, we sac-
rificially serve oth-
ers at some cost to
ourselves simply
because we love
them. At other
times, we pursue
a hobby or goal at
great personal cost, not because we hope to gain anything from it other than
personal satisfaction. It’s just a labor of love.
When Paul thanked God for the people of Thessalonica, he praised them
for a number of things, including their labor of love. Paul was writing to
a new church that had a lot of questions about their newfound faith. The
church also endured persecution.
Paul commended the believers for their faithful work in the name of Jesus
and not giving up hope. This labor was not motivated by personal satisfac-
tion nor by grudging obligation but instead by hearts filled with love and
gratitude toward God for all that He had done for them through Jesus Christ.

 We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you
in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and
labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the
sight of God and our Father; knowing, brethren beloved, your election
of God.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2–4)

Overheard Quotes | 175
“Letter of the law”
When we speak of following the “letter of the
law,” it is almost always in contrast to following
the “spirit of the law.” To follow the letter of the law
means to rigidly adhere to a certain set of rules or proce-
dures without any thought given to the intent behind them. It
implies a stern, fixed position with no room for grace. It can even
be applied to situations where rules and regulations follow such a strict
interpretation that they end up causing more harm than good.
The apostle Paul’s concern about “the letter of the law” was not quite
the same as ours. He drew a distinction between the “old covenant” and
the “new covenant.” The old covenant referred to the law of Moses, the
law given to point people to God. This old covenant, this written code,
however, was never able to justify anyone. It simply highlighted sin. Strict
obedience to the law was nice but never saved anyone. In fact, it could
only lead to death.

 Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of
the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
(2 Corinthians 3:6)

176 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Many are called,
but few are chosen”
Fraternities often pro-
mote their exclusivity
using this phrase. Foot-
ball teams, schools,
companies, and orga-
nizations alike all use
this concept to empha-
size the high standards
of excellence they hold
on to. The focus is on
human efforts.
Jesus’ priorities were
different. Although
huge crowds followed
him looking for heal-
ing or advice, most
of them never took
the next step of actu-
ally confessing Jesus as
their Lord and Savior.
In preaching on the
kingdom of God, Jesus
used the parable of the
wedding banquet to
show the reality of this
issue. A king threw a
banquet, and yet, despite his numerous attempts, those whom we would
expect to come did not. Ultimately the king brought people in from the
street, those who would not normally be invited. Yet even among this
group, there were some who didn’t belong.
“Many are called and few are chosen” refers to the fact that God extends
His call to repent and believe to all people everywhere. The reality, however,
is that in the end only a few will turn out to be true disciples.

 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take
him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and
gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.
(Matthew 22:13–14)

Overheard Quotes | 177
“Man shall not live by bread alone”

When people use the phrase
“Man shall not live by bread alone,” it
usually means people need more than food to live. We all have emotional
and spiritual needs as well as physical needs. Others use the phrase to
justify having a certain lifestyle. People need more than just food; they
need transportation, a place to live, clothes, a good-paying job, and plenty
of entertainment to keep them from becoming bored. Both uses of the
phrase miss the point of its meaning in the Bible.
In the Old Testament, Moses reminded the people that they survived their
wilderness wanderings because God didn’t destroy them, even after they
worshipped a golden calf (Exodus 32). He chose to protect them, provide
for them, and guide them. God did this to teach them that man lives “by
every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord.”
Over a thousand years later, Satan used this phrase to tempt Jesus at the tail
end of Jesus’ forty-day fast. Jesus’ response to Satan was a proclamation
of authority and a reminder that Satan had not lived by the word of God.

 And thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led
thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove
thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his
commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to
hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did
thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live
by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of
the Lord doth man live.
(Deuteronomy 8:2–3; see also Matthew 4:4)

178 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Overheard Quotes | 179
“More blessed
to give than
to receive”
This common phrase is used in a wide variety of places, from churches
asking for funds to expand into a new building to charity drives for a new
hospital or school.
As the apostle Paul prepared to leave, he offered the elders at the church
in Ephesus some advice, including this admonition to care for the needs
of other people. Although he says he is quoting Jesus, these exact words
do not appear anywhere else in the Bible. But they capture the essence of
much that Jesus taught.
When we give, we set aside our own self-oriented needs in order to focus
on others. In effect we are training ourselves to put God first in our lives.
God gave us His Son and forgiveness. We begin to understand in part what
His sacrifice of love was like when we give as well.

 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to
support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how
he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
(Acts 20:35)

180 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“My brother’s keeper”
The brief but tragic story of Cain and Abel has fascinated people for years
and provided the scenario for many movie and novel plots.
Sadly, the first recorded sin after Adam and Eve left the garden of Eden is
the fracturing of the family unit. Having separated them from God, now
Satan started attacking the primary relationships in life, separating family
members from each other. God obviously knew what Cain had done, yet
he gave him a chance to confess by asking him where Abel was. Not only
did Cain lie directly to God’s face, but he tried to absolve himself of the
responsibility at the same time. The oldest son was supposed to protect and
provide for the family. He should indeed have been his brother’s keeper.
Sometimes people use this phrase today as a way of distancing themselves
from a sibling or absolving themselves of responsibility for a sibling’s ac-
tions. Using this phrase communicates clearly, “We have no relationship.”

 And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they
were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I
know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?
(Genesis 4:8–9)

Overheard Quotes | 181
“No peace for the wicked”
This phrase is most often quoted as “There’s no rest for the wicked” and
usually implies an endless amount of hard work to be done. We tend to
use this in a lighthearted way and rarely impute it to someone evil.
Isaiah has a much more serious concept in mind in his two usages of the
phrase. In the first passage, Isaiah 48, we read about God’s work to purify
His people. This is why the people had to be punished and sent into exile.
Yet God promised to bring them back to the Promised Land to live in peace.
The wicked, however, would never enjoy that peace.
This theme appears again in Isaiah 57. The first half of this chapter is a
scathing rebuke of all who would live in opposition to God. These people
will be punished, God declares. Yet God offers comfort and peace for
those who turn to God in repentance and seek forgiveness. Those who
continually oppose God will literally find no rest, no peace, and no hope.

 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest,
whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to
the wicked.
(Isaiah 57:20–21; see also Isaiah 48:22)

182 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Out of the mouths of babes”
Although sometimes verses from the Bible can degenerate over time into
sentimental clichés, in this case there is still some truth embedded in our
current usage of this phrase. We marvel at the funny, amazing, or even
surprisingly insightful things that young children say. The response is often,
“Out of the mouth of babes.”
This is not the idea David had in mind when he wrote Psalm 8. The psalm
is a song of praise to God, extolling his virtues and singing of his majesty
and power. But David purposefully juxtaposes two opposing images in the
first couple of verses. On the one hand are enemies of God: “the enemy
and the avenger.” On the other hand are “babes and sucklings” (infants):
the giggles of a baby or the first words of a small
child. In a sense, God is saying
that He will completely con-
found His enemies. He
has total power over
all things.

 O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name
in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above
the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and
sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of
thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and
the avenger.
(Psalm 8:1–2)

Overheard Quotes | 183
“Pride goes before a fall”
The proverb “Pride goes before a fall” uses a literary technique called “syn-
onymous parallelism.” We see here two phrases that say the same thing
but with different words. “Pride” and “a haughty spirit” are synonyms in
this sentence, as are “destruction” and “a fall.” The phrase we use today,
“Pride goes before a fall,” comes from linking the synonyms together and
simplifying the sentence.
Pride can be both a negative and a positive emotion. Positively, we can be
proud of our children, display civic pride, or have pride in the achievements
of our favorite team. The kind of pride God condemns, however, involves
having an excessively high level of self-importance. Solomon warns that
when people place themselves above others in perceived self-righteousness
or importance, the result will always be catastrophic.
From a biblical perspective, pride is often considered to be the root of
almost all other sins, since it involves the elevation of the self over another
person. Pride ultimately separates us from God and leads to death. Only
through the humble and obedient sacrifice of Jesus Christ
can we be restored in relationship with God.

 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
(Proverbs 16:18)

184 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Put your house in order”
King Hezekiah was for the most part a good king. Although his father Ahaz
led the people of Judah into idolatry, Hezekiah was an obedient follower
of God and went on a campaign to rid the country of all idols and places
of idol worship. Furthermore, he cleansed the temple in Jerusalem and
reintroduced worship of God alone to the people.
In the passage quoted below, Hezekiah had just been struck with a terrible
illness, and God speaks through Isaiah to exhort Hezekiah to get his affairs
in order before dying. This is a straightforward command to organize all
the little details that need to be in place before dying. This is the sense
that remains today.
Isaiah may have been prompting something deeper as well. In the verses
that follow, Hezekiah pours out his heart to God, seeking God’s help for
healing. God hears and responds to this heartfelt prayer, promising to give
Hezekiah another fifteen years of life.

 In those days was Hezekiah sick unto death. And the prophet Isaiah
the son of Amoz came to him, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord,
Set thine house in order; for thou shalt die, and not live.
(2 Kings 20:1; see also Isaiah 38:1)

Overheard Quotes | 185
“Salt of the earth”
At the time of Jesus, salt came from salt marshes and contained a lot of
impurities. Although it was used for pretty much anything and everything,
three common uses stand out. First, salt enhanced the flavor of food. How-
ever, this salt tended to lose its flavor if it was stored improperly. Second,
salt was often used as a kind of fertilizer. Again, this was only possible
because, for the most part, it was not highly refined but contained all
sorts of other minerals. Large amounts of pure salt would have destroyed
the land, but using small amounts mixed with other minerals was helpful.
Third, salt was a common preservative. Salt prevented the bacteria from
growing and spreading; thus, it kept food from going bad.
Jesus undoubtedly drew on all these ideas in creating His metaphor. The
faith of His disciples was intended to have an impact on the world, to act
as a seasoning force that battled corruption and spiritual decay. At the
same time, they needed to guard against being overly influenced by the
world, lest in the process they lose their own saltiness.

 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour,
wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be
cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
(Matthew 5:13)

186 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Signs of the times”
We live in a world of signs—traffic signs, informational labels on just about
everything we eat, and advertisements. We are also profoundly influenced
by less tangible signs. A “sign of the times” is something that represents
the time in which we live and points to
something bigger. Newspapers talk
about rising (or falling) divorce rates
being a sign of the times. The installa-
tion of metal detectors in high schools
might be considered another sign of
troubled times.
As Jesus debated
with the reli-
gious leaders
and authorities,
they sought to
test Him by ask-
ing for a sign.
In effect they
were asking for
Him to perform a
trick for them. Ostensibly this would provide enough hard evidence that
they could then believe His message. But the real reason was based in their
disbelief. Jesus didn’t fall for their ploy. He had already performed countless
miracles, including the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13–21)
and the feeding of the four thousand (Matthew 15:29–39). What further
evidence could they need? Jesus attacked the prideful knowledge of the
Jewish leaders by His declaration that they could forecast the weather but
didn’t know how to interpret the signs of the times.

 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired
him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said
unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is
red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red
and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can
ye not discern the signs of the times?
(Matthew 16:1–3)

Overheard Quotes | 187
188 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Straight and narrow”
Perhaps all criminals facing parole appeal to this phrase to proclaim
their changed ways and desire to be released. “I’m on the straight and
narrow” implies living a morally upright life, where addictions have
been dealt with and criminal pasts left behind. It’s an appeal to
forgiveness and restoration based on the reformed behaviors of an
individual.
Jesus’ intention in the Sermon on the Mount was never to simply pass
on good teaching and then leave it at that. Rather, He searched for
disciples who would throw in their lot with Him, whatever the
cost.
Here Jesus was telling the assembled masses that the way to destruc-
tion is wide and easy. Drifting along on the waves of sinful self-
centeredness may seem pleasant for a while; however, ultimately it will
lead to death. Jesus then explained that the way to eternal life is
narrow and may at times seem restrictive or difficult. Following Jesus
requires complete commitment to Him.

 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide
is the gate, and broad is the way, that
leadeth to destruction, and many there be
which go in thereat: Because strait is the
gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth
unto life, and few there be that find it.
(Matthew 7:13–14)

Overheard Quotes | 189
“A soft answer turns away wrath”
On the one hand, what we find here in Proverbs is simply common sense.
This concept may have been introduced to the world by Solomon, but what
makes Proverbs unique is the God-centered focus that Solomon applies
to this wisdom. Then, as now, it is almost always the case that a gentle
response will deflect anger, whereas an angry response simply ups the ante.
The reason that Solomon encourages his readers to have a soft tongue and
a gentle answer is twofold. First, the Lord sees and knows all things. We can
hide nothing from God and are to live at all times in humble obedience to
Him, reflecting His love and majesty to all people. Second, people of God
are to live as those who bear the image of God. We are to speak light and
life into the lives of others, not darkness and death.

 A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up
anger.
(Proverbs 15:1)

190 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Suffer fools gladly”
We can’t tell from a single verse, but the tone of this entire section in Paul’s
letter to the church at Corinth is sarcastic. Paul rebuked the believers for
their failure to stand firm in the Gospel that he preached to them. Appar-
ently they let themselves be led into thinking that they were holier and
more righteous than they really were. Paul assumed the role of a “fool” in
order to expose their supposed “wisdom” and authority. His intention was
to play off their existing notions of foolishness and wisdom and thereby
help them see where they had been led into false doctrine. He implied
that he had to talk like a fool since the Corinthians would gladly accept
his advice if he did so.
Since Paul wrote this letter, the phrase has assumed an entirely different
meaning. It implies that someone is prone to being curt with anyone they
perceive to be inferior or foolish. Most frequently it appears in obituar-
ies, where it has become a way to talk of the deceased in an honest but
diplomatic manner.

 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.
(2 Corinthians 11:19)

Overheard Quotes | 191
“Sweat of your brow”
Those who earn a living by the “sweat of their brow” work hard for every-
thing they have. We generally consider this to be a positive trait, displaying
a strong work ethic. It’s the kind of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps
attitude that is that is such an integral part of the American ethos. But in
Genesis, the phrase has a negative context.
Adam and Eve chose to sin against God and as a result were forced to leave
the garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). Death entered the world, and God
cursed the snake, the woman, and the man. Each curse demonstrates the
corrupting force of sin. The woman, created to give birth and live in harmony
with the man, would now experience pain in childbirth and struggle in her
relationship with her husband. The man would still have to work, but his
work—“the sweat of [his] face”—would be significantly harder. The free
and generous provision of food they had enjoyed in the garden of Eden
had now been replaced by a life of difficulty.

 And unto Adam he said,
Because thou hast hearkened
unto the voice of thy wife,
and hast eaten of the tree,
of which I commanded thee,
saying, Thou shalt not eat of
it: cursed is the ground for
thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou
eat of it all the days of thy
life; thorns also and thistles
shall it bring forth to thee;
and thou shalt eat the herb
of the field; in the sweat
of thy face shalt thou eat
bread, till thou return unto
the ground; for out of it wast
thou taken: for dust thou
art, and unto dust shalt thou
return.
(Genesis 3:17–19)

192 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“The love of money
is the root of all evil”
This is a truism we see in action everywhere. Professional athletes end up
squandering their massive wealth by making foolish decisions. Business
executives let their enormous salaries go to their heads and succumb to
the relentless pressure to just make more and more money, regardless of
the personal costs.
The love of mon-
ey has also led
many Chris-
tians astray,
causing
pastors to
stumble and
regular church
members to fall
into all kinds of
sin.
So Paul’s warnings
to Timothy are worth
heeding. We should note,
however, that the main rea-
son Paul was so concerned about
the love of money was not so much
because of the consequences in the here
and now but because of the eternal conse-
quences. Far more significant than broken marriages or failed business
ventures is a severed relationship with God. Ultimately this is the single
most important reason to avoid getting ensnared by a love for money.

 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into
many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and
perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which
while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced
themselves through with many sorrows.
(1 Timothy 6:9–10)

Overheard Quotes | 193
“The truth shall set you free”
This popular phrase is used in everything from movies to television
shows. In fact, it appears on the wall at the entrance to the CIA.
Usually the phrase is quoted in order to encourage people to be
truthful. The idea is that knowing and telling the truth release
people from bondage. As with so many phrases we have pulled
from the Bible, however, the original context points us toward
quite a different interpretation.
In this passage, we find Jesus conversing with “those Jews
which believed on him.” The depth of what, specifically,
they believed about Him is unclear, but it was enough that
it prompted further clarification from Jesus as to what
was required and expected of a true disciple. So He
tells them that if they hold on to his teaching, then
they will know the truth. Thus, “the truth” in this
case has nothing to do with the disciple telling
the truth but with the content of the truth the
disciple holds on to. Moreover, having built their
lives around this truth, they will then be set free.
So what is the truth? It is both Jesus’ teaching
and Jesus Himself.

 Then said Jesus to those
Jews which believed on him, If
ye continue in my word, then are
ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall
know the truth, and the truth shall
make you free.
(John 8:31–32)

194 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“There’s nothing new

under the sun”
Although new inventions and new advancements in science and technol-
ogy appear continually, nothing is really “new” when it comes to the big
picture issues of meaning and purpose. Human emotions are the same.
Relational dynamics may change slightly from culture to culture, but they
remain largely the same over time.
The point of the author of Ecclesiastes is that we should have a realistic
outlook on life. In and of itself, most of life has nothing inherently purpose-
ful to it. Life, death, and everything in between can seem random and
arbitrary. As he notes here, nothing new comes along, just more of the
same as the centuries roll on by.
From a Christian perspective, none of this has any meaning without God.
When we separate the creation from the Creator, life is purposeless. But
the marvelous news of the Bible is the revelation of God’s work in creating,
establishing, maintaining, and one day perfecting this world. According to
the Bible, human history is not cycli-
cal but linear, moving toward
a final climactic moment.
Life is imbued with mean-
ing and purpose when
viewed through this lens.

 The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is
done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under
the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it
hath been already of old time, which was before us.
(Ecclesiastes 1:9–10)

Overheard Quotes | 195
“Thorn in the flesh”
A thorn in the flesh usually refers to any kind of nagging problem or
difficult issue that plagues a person or institution. A thorn in the flesh is
exactly what it sounds like, something painful that has embedded itself in
our lives and won’t go away until it is dealt with. Usually it is something
seemingly small yet significant enough to have an impact completely out
of proportion to its size.
The original context here is a letter from the apostle Paul to the church
in Corinth. The church struggled with a number of significant problems,
and Paul wrote multiple letters to them challenging, rebuking, and teach-
ing them on various matters. He concludes this letter with a note that
he himself received a “thorn in the flesh.” So far the meaning is basically
the same. However, he then expands on the situation. The thorn may have
been from Satan, but it was used by God to help Paul remain humble and
dependent on God.

 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance
of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the
messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above
measure. . . . Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in
necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am
weak, then am I strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:7, 10)

196 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“To everything
there is a season”
This passage of Scripture was perhaps made most
famous by two songs that came out in the 1960s.
During a time of turmoil and cultural upheaval,
singer-songwriter Pete Seeger adapted this pas-
sage in Ecclesiastes into a song that was later
covered by a popular music group called the
Byrds. The final line was particularly relevant
when the song first came out, as the Vietnam
War continued to rage, the civil rights move-
ment gained steam, and the Cold War intensi-
fied after the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The author of Ecclesiastes described the world
that he could see around him. In his search for
meaning and significance beyond the everyday,
he observed that everything had its appointed
season. Without God’s presence
with us, the result is not hope-
ful but hopeless. Once again all
we can see is the cyclical, never-
ending, meaningless movement
to life. But God is at work in and
through all things—through birth
and death, weeping and laughing,
war and peace. This is where we
can find meaning and purpose
as we walk through the craziness
of life.

 To every thing there is a
season, and a time to every
purpose under the
heaven.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Overheard Quotes | 197
“Twinkling of an eye”
To say, “This will happen so quickly that you won’t be able to bat an eyelid
before it happens” is not quite as lyrical as saying, “in the twinkling of an
eye.” The original Greek means more or less the same thing, and it was no
doubt a common phrase at the time. However, Paul uses the image here
to emphasize the sudden speed with which Christ will one day return and
transform the mortal into the immortal. It will not be a long, drawn-out
event that slowly spreads around the world. It will simply happen. Death
will be destroyed forever, and sin with it through the victory won by Jesus
Christ. So what? Therefore, Christians today should live and act as workers
in the kingdom.
Paul’s primary concern as he finished this letter to the Corinthians was to
see lives changed. That’s why the final chapter of 1 Corinthians focuses
on the doctrine of the resurrection. If Christ was not raised from the dead,
then He was not really God and His sacrifice was not sufficient.

 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the
trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we
shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this
mortal must put on immortality.
(1 Corinthians 15:52–53)

198 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“Wars and rumors of wars”
The context here is a conversation between Jesus and His dis-
ciples. Indeed, the entire section from the beginning of Matthew
24 to the end of Matthew 25 is often referred to as the “Olivet
Discourse,” since it is a longer series of teaching given by
Jesus while sitting on the Mount of Olives. Jesus knew He
was about to leave, and He wanted to ensure that His
disciples were prepared for difficult times after He left.
The introductory portion of this section, detail-
ing coming earthquakes, wars, and famines is
meant to set the stage for everything that fol-
lows. These things function as signs, or
pointers, that the world is continuing
to move in the direction of Jesus’
return. Wars, earthquakes, and other
disasters are further evidence that we
live in a fallen world creaking its way
toward final judgment and ultimately
restoration.

 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be
not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not
yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers
places.
(Matthew 24:6–7; see also Mark 13:7)

Overheard Quotes | 199
“Weighed in the balances
and found wanting”
The absolute sovereignty of God over and above all earthly powers is the
context for the strange prophecy and interpretation in Daniel 5. The king
of Babylon at the time was a man named Belshazzar, who was powerful
but full of pride. After a mysterious hand appeared and began writing a
message on a wall in Aramaic (see “Handwriting on the wall”), the prophet
Daniel provided the interpretation of the message. It meant “numbered,
weighed, divided.” In other words, Belshazzar’s pride was about to lead
to a catastrophic fall from power. Indeed, that very night Darius the Mede
invaded Babylon, captured the king-
dom, and killed Belshazzar.
Although this phrase is often used
to talk about human efforts falling
short of some kind of standard or
goal, we would do well to remem-
ber that ultimately the standard we
must all measure up to is God.

 This is the interpretation of the
thing: Mene; God hath numbered
thy kingdom, and finished it.
Tekel; Thou art weighed in
the balances, and art found
wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is
divided, and given to the Medes
and Persians.
(Daniel 5:26–28)

200 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
“What is truth?”
“What is truth?” Countless books, articles, blogs, and conferences have
revolved around this question with philosophers and theologians providing
opinions on the topic. The conversation Jesus had with Pilate, the procurator
of Judea, was not about philosophy at all, but about Jesus’ identity. After
three years of prophetic teaching and healing ministry, Jesus was arrested
and put on trial before Pilate. A curious Pilate, however, cut the conversa-
tion short with his declaration of disgust for truth.
Jesus, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), the One who came to
bring truth into a deceitful world, was Himself rejected and dismissed as
an inconvenience and irritation by Pilate, ultimately paving the way for His
crucifixion. Although it appeared to be a lost opportunity for Jesus to be set
free, in the end it turned out that His death was actually the culmination
of His entire ministry. The lost opportunity for freedom here was for Pilate,
who had a rare face-to-face encounter with the God of the universe and
yet missed his opportunity completely.

 Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he
went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault
at all.
(John 18:37–38)

Overheard Quotes | 201
“Where there is
no vision, the
people perish”
Many people today use this brief
proverb in regard to leadership.
Leaders are to carefully craft a
compelling vision or direction for
the people they are leading. Oth-
erwise, the people, organization,
or corporation will fail.
While there may be some prac-
tical business wisdom in this
way of thinking, we can’t lay
that burden upon this particular
verse. The key here is the Hebrew
word that we translate as “vi-
sion.” What it actually refers to
is a prophetic vision or word from
God. People perish when there is
no prophetic word coming from
God. In contrast, the proverb continues, the one who keeps the law of
God will be happy.
Jesus was the ultimate prophetic Word of God, sent to bring life to those
lost in sin. Those who received Him, received life.

 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law,
happy is he. (Proverbs 29:18)

202 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
It’s
in There
Somewhere, Right?
There are many quotes that many people
assume are in the Bible but aren’t really there.

„„ “
 God helps those who help themselves.” Benjamin
Franklin actually wrote this in Poor Richard’s Almanack.
„„ “
 Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Credit for this one
should go to English preacher John Wesley.
„„ “
 Money is the root of all evil.” This saying misquotes
1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of
all evil.”
„„ “
 The lion shall lie down with the lamb.” This might be a
reference to Isaiah 11:6: “The wolf also shall dwell with
the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
and a little child shall lead them.”
„„ “
 Spare the rod, spoil the child.” This is probably a senti-
ment that comes from Proverbs 13:24 (niv): “Whoever
spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves
their children is careful to discipline them.”
„„ “
 A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This comes
from A Hand-book of Proverbs by John Ray (1670).
„„ C
 harity begins at home. You can thank Sir Thomas
Browne, an English physician, for this one. He included
it in his book Religio Medici in 1642.
„„ “
 All that glitters (or glisters) is not gold.” Shakespeare
used this phrase in a rhetorical question in The Merchant
of Venice. But you won’t find it in the Bible.
„„ “Honesty is the best policy.” Another Ben Franklin saying.

Overheard Quotes | 203
204 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Stories Jesus Told
Which of the following
grabs your attention faster?  (Be honest.)

“Listen to my sermon about . . .”
“There was a man with two sons . . .”
“There was a man with two sons” is a phrase akin to the well-
known “Once upon a time.” It immediately hooks us with its
inherent promise of a good story to follow.
Knowing human nature, Jesus used stories to hook His listeners. His
stories were so engaging, even a child could enjoy and understand
them. Yet there were hidden truths about the kingdom of God in
each story. As Jesus often said, “Anyone with ears to hear should
listen and understand” (Mark 4:9 nlt throughout this section).
Jesus told three types of parables: teaching parables, Gospel
parables, and parables of judgment and the future. Although Jesus
expounded on truths in all of His parables, teaching parables had a
specific subject: the kingdom of God, obedience, prayer, humility,
or wealth. The Gospel parables centered on love and forgiveness.


Teaching Parables
about the Kingdom of God

J esus, the master teacher, taught on a variety of
subjects: about the kingdom of God, serving
and obeying God, prayer, being a good neighbor,
humility, and wealth.


The Soils
Matthew 13:3–8; Mark 4:3–8; Luke 8:5–8

Most parents know when their children are listening and when they aren’t.
Their obedient actions show their understanding. Jesus’ parable talks to
this issue of hearing but not understanding.
Unlike many other parables, Jesus explained the meaning of this one to
His confused and inquisitive disciples. In Mark 4:10–20, we read that Jesus
said the “seed” represents “God’s word,” which most likely means the
word of God or the words spoken by God (and Jesus) in regard to the
kingdom of God. The four soils represent four different responses to Jesus
and His word. Some people, like kids tuning out their parents, just don’t
hear the word at all. Others are excited at first, but their initial enthusiasm
quickly wanes. Others hear the word and seem to grab ahold of it, but
“all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life,
the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things” (Mark 4:19). Finally,
the fruitful soil represents people who hear the word and are changed
by it. Their obedient actions show their understanding.

 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in
his field."
(Matthew 13:24)

Te a c h i n g P a r a b l e s | 207
The Weeds
Matthew 13:24–30

Ever been fooled by what you
thought was a flower but learned
that it was a weed? Jesus told a
story of how such a thing might hap-
pen. A farmer who sows wheat seeds in
his field is dismayed to find that an enemy
has sown weeds in his field. The weeds
might have been darnel, a weed that
looks like wheat. Instead of allowing his servants
to pull the weeds, the farmer decides to wait until
the harvest to separate the wheat from the weeds.
Clearly this is more than just good farming advice.
Jesus was teaching His disciples about the mixed
results His message will produce in people’s lives. Some will hear
His word and, as a result of believing it, will mature and bear
fruit. They are the “good seeds.” Others will do the opposite.
Like weeds, they have the appearance of “good” plants. Rather
than investing time and energy trying to root out people who simply
pretend to follow Jesus, true followers should focus on serving Christ
and bearing fruit, trusting that Jesus will ultimately judge everyone fairly
when He returns.

 Here is another story Jesus told: “The
Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer
who planted good seed in his
field. But that night as the
workers slept, his enemy came
and planted weeds among
the wheat, then slipped
away. When the crop began
to grow and produce grain,
the weeds also grew.”
(Matthew 13:24-26)

208 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Mustard Seed
Matthew 13:31–32; Mark 4:30–32; Luke
13:18–19

Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed might
seem like a fairy tale akin to “Jack and the
Beanstalk.” In this parable, Jesus used an-
other image that would have been common
to His listeners—the mustard seed. Ever see a
mustard seed? These seeds are so small that even
picking one up can be difficult. Yet a mustard seed
can grow into a plant at least ten feet tall. The point
is not so much that these are huge plants but that
astonishing growth can take place out of seemingly
tiny or insignificant beginnings.
Given Christianity’s humble start with the death of its leader
on a Roman cross, the mustard seed certainly seems to be a fit-
ting comparison to use. Jesus knew that His tiny band of disciples
would one day grow into a large body of people from all nations.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, the church blossomed and grew (Acts 2).
Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world, but no one can doubt the
amazing influence it has had throughout the world and across the centuries.

 Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of
Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the
smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of
garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come
and make nests in its branches.”
(Matthew 13:31–32)

Te a c h i n g P a r a b l e s | 209
The Yeast
Matthew 13:33; Luke 13:20–21

Many kinds of bread are made with yeast
(leaven). Flatbreads like tortillas and mat-
zo, however, are made without yeast.
Without this little bacterium, bread
dough will not rise. Although a
baker only adds a small amount
of yeast, as it reacts with the
other ingredients, it manages
to work throughout the entire
batch of dough, thus causing
the bread to rise.
The imagery would not have been
lost on Jesus’ disciples as they lis-
tened to Jesus’ parable. Leaven is a
symbol for growth here, rather than im-
purity in other instances (see Matthew 16:11–12; Mark 8:15). The dough
is the life of a believer, which is changed by the leaven—the kingdom of
God and the truth of Christ. Followers of Jesus can expect their lives to be
forever altered by Jesus; over time they demonstrates significant change
to a watching world.

 Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the
yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little
yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”
(Matthew 13:33)

210 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Treasure
Matthew 13:44

If you had a full backpack or purse and found a priceless treasure, what
would you do? You’d empty your backpack to make room for the treasure!
In fact, you would probably do anything you had to do to keep this treasure.
In Jesus’ story, a man happens across a treasure in a field. He immediately
sells everything he has to buy the field so that he can claim the treasure.
As with all parables, we can’t stretch the details too far. While some have
claimed that the man in the story is being deceptive, the point is that
he gave up everything in order to get the treasure he discovered. This is
the same message as that of the parable Jesus told concerning the pearl
of great price.
The treasure is the kingdom of God. Jesus calls His disciples to give up ev-
erything they have in order to receive Jesus’ offer of eternal life. Becoming
a citizen of heaven means giving up one’s right to run one’s life and also
one’s allegiance to the world.

 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered
hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything
he owned to get enough money to buy the field.”
(Matthew 13:44)

Te a c h i n g P a r a b l e s | 211
The Pearl of Great Price
Matthew 13:45–46

Think about the last pearl you saw. How big was it? Jesus told a par-
able of a pearl of great price. This parable has the same truth as that of
the man who discovers buried treasure. The main difference here is that
the merchant is actively looking for fine pearls as opposed to simply stum-
bling across the treasure. Moreover, the entire transaction is done out in
the open, removing any hint or allegation of sneakiness on the part of
the buyer (as opposed to the man who hides the treasure after finding it).
The point is that if we were to find something of astonishing value, we
would most likely do whatever it took to purchase it. This is the emotional
fuel that drives business at antique stores and auction houses. The king-
dom of God is the ultimate treasure—worth any price. Many Christians
have experienced this cost firsthand, setting aside their wealth, family ties,
jobs, and sometimes their lives in order to follow the Savior who paid the
ultimate price for their sin.

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout
for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold
everything he owned and bought it!”
(Matthew 13:45–46)

212 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Fishing Net
Matthew 13:47–50

Jesus used imagery familiar to His listeners: the daily life of the fisherman.
One fishing method involved letting down a dragnet and scooping up
whatever it happened to collect—fish, crabs, plants, and so on. The fish
would be separated from everything else.
Jesus used this parable to teach about the final judgment. The point of the
parable is not how the judgment will take place but rather that judgment
is coming during which a separation of some sort will take place. The
Bible is clear that God is holy and just and that sin has to be punished. At
the end of the age, that punishment will either be borne by Jesus on the
cross or by individuals in hell—not a happy picture. This is not a popular
message. But it’s an amazing reminder that although Jesus came to offer
us the chance to be at peace with God, He will one day come again to
judge those who have turned their backs on Him and refused this offer of
grace and forgiveness.

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown
into the water and caught fish of every kind.”
(Matthew 13:47)

Te a c h i n g P a r a b l e s | 213
The
Growing Seed
Mark 4:26–29

Although some of Jesus’
parables pertained to spe-
cifics unique to the culture
and society of Israel, this
particular one is almost
universally understandable.
Jesus described a farmer
who sowed seed and waited
for the plants to sprout and
grow. The entire process
from germination to harvest
took place without any in-
tervention from the farmer.
Whether he was present or
not, the seed continued to
grow until it finally produced
grain.
Although scientists can
demonstrate exactly what hap-
pens at each stage of growth even down to the cellular level, why growth
happens at all is still somewhat of a mystery. Jesus used this seeming
“miracle” of natural growth as a powerful image for the spiritual growth
that happens inside people. It can often be hard to tell what is really going
on inside someone’s heart. Some people attend church faithfully for many
years before suddenly something clicks and they finally “get it.” Others
experience a radical and dramatic conversion the very first time they hear
the Gospel. Only God knows what is happening inside a person. The seed
of the kingdom of God is sown wide and far and grows and takes root in
sometimes hidden and unexpected places.

 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters
seed on the ground.”
(Mark 4:26)

214 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Teaching Parables
about Service and Obedience

M any people are tempted to lump the events in the Bible as
mythology, because of the amazing occurrences listed: five
thousand people fed with one lunch, bread falling from the sky,
angels taking on whole armies. Such a belief doesn’t take into
account the real God who could perform all of these miraculous
events. Sometimes, he performed them through trusted individu-
als who had faith in his power.

So, step right up and feast your eyes on some of the most amazing
events to ever occur in history.


The Workers in the Vineyard
Matthew 20:1–16

Throughout the world, day laborers congregate at street corners and in
town squares looking for work. Prospective employers size people up based
on the work they need done and then decide on a salary. Equal pay for
equal work seems like a reasonable assumption to make when taking on
a new job. Yet here Jesus introduces a strange parable that reverses our
assumptions and challenges our definition of “fairness.”
In the story, the agreed-upon price for a day’s work is one denarius, a small
sum that was probably normal for this kind of work, although barely enough
for a family to survive on. However, the landowner makes an interesting
decision: to pay workers who began work at the beginning of the day and
at the end of the day the same wage.
The main point seems to be that the landowner has the right to extend
mercy and generosity to anyone he chooses, whatever their perceived value
or worth in the eyes of other people. This is the math of the kingdom of
heaven. Wise workers refuse to compare themselves with others in the
kingdom.

 “For the Kingdom of Heaven is like the landowner who went out early
one morning to hire workers for his vineyard.”
(Matthew 20:1)

216 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
The Loaned Money
Matthew 25:14–30

A misperception of this parable is that Jesus is teaching stewardship of the
gifts and abilities, or “talents,” that God has given us. However, the word
talent does not refer to something we are good at doing, but to a weight
of money. In fact, a single talent would have represented anywhere from
fifteen to twenty years’ worth of salary. The amounts of money in this
parable are therefore completely exaggerated for effect.
The master gives each servant a sum of money “in proportion to their abili-
ties” and then leaves on a journey. The implied assumption is that they will
do something with the money, and that one day the master will return. Set
within the overall context of Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God and
His impending death and resurrection, there are perhaps two main points
here. The first is a further reminder that Jesus is going to return one
day to judge the world. The second is that his disciples will
be held accountable for the way in which they have
served Jesus in His absence.

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a
man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted
his money to them while he was gone.”
(Matthew 25:14)

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The Servant’s Role
Luke 17:7–10

Complete obedience is not a particularly highly valued trait among many
people today. Certainly, anyone in the armed forces is used to following
orders and not seeking special treatment; most civilians, however, value
personal freedom so highly that the idea of being beholden to someone
else seems strange and discomforting.
Yet here we have a parable that clearly teaches absolute obedience to
Jesus. In the context of teaching about the danger of sin and the power
of faith, Jesus rounds out this teaching with a reminder that obedience to
the master was the expected mode of behavior. Just as a slave would not
expect to be treated differently or in any special way simply for doing what
he is supposed to be doing, so
Jesus expects that His disciples
will obey Him and everything
He has said, simply because He
has told them to do so.

 “When a servant comes in
from plowing or taking care of
sheep, does his master say,
‘Come in and eat with me’?
No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal,
put on your apron, and serve
me while I eat. Then you can
eat later.’ ”
(Luke 17:7—8)

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The Nobleman’s Servants
Luke 19:11–27

Although this parable is very similar to the one told in Matthew 25:14–30,
there are enough differences to warrant treating it separately. The first and
most obvious difference is the amounts of money involved. Whereas the
word talent has caused extensive confusion for those seeking to understand
Matthew’s parable, Luke’s use of the word mina allows contemporary
readers to focus simply on the financial element of the story. A mina was
probably worth about three months’ wages, which was still a significant
amount of money but certainly less than “a talent.”
The point of the parable has more to do with the context in which it is set.
A key phrase appears at the very beginning, where Luke says that Jesus
“told [his disciples] a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of
God would begin right away” (Luke 19:11). The focus of this passage then
is directed toward this issue of Jesus’ impending crucifixion and ascension,
followed by His return in judgment. The triumphal king would return at
a later stage, and in the meantime the servants would be responsible for
their roles in seeing the kingdom grow and spread.

 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant
empire to be crowned king and then return.”
(Luke 19:12)

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Teaching Parables
about P r ay e r


The Unjust Judge
Luke 18:1–8

As with so many parables, this parable is not quite as straightforward as it
seems. Throughout the ancient world, widows faced a difficult and dan-
gerous existence. They were completely reliant on help from others and
often lived on the edge of poverty. In this story, the judge is deliberately
contrasted with the plaintive figure of a widow to emphasize just how bad
he is. The comparison is shocking, and Jesus’ listeners would have been
appalled at his coldhearted behavior. Sadly, many would also have been
able to relate to the plight of this poor woman, stuck in a system that
ignored and abused the weak and helpless.
So what does this teach us about prayer? Jesus is trying to communicate
to His followers the amazing love of God. After all, He says, if even an evil
judge will finally relent under the continued requests of a poor widow, how
much more will a perfect and loving God
eagerly and speedily grant justice to
those He calls His children?

 One day
Jesus told his
disciples a story to show
that they should always
pray and never give up.
“There was a judge in a
certain city,” he said, “who
neither feared God nor cared
about people.”
(Luke 18:1–2)

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The Friend at Midnight
Luke 11:5–8

Having just taught the disciples the most famous prayer in history, the
Lord’s Prayer, Jesus goes on to explain in more detail about how to pray.
Having explained the Lord’s Prayer to them and given this parable, Jesus
then goes on to say that if even bad parents know how to give good gifts,
then “how much more” will God delight to bless His children? The parable
of the friend at midnight seems to be an illustration of the same principle.
If even a grumpy man woken in the middle of the night knows how to
give bread to his neighbor when he needs it, then “how much more”
(v. 13) will God delight to bless His children when they need it?
The resoundingly clear message throughout this section is that prayer is
vitally important in the life of a follower of Jesus, and that God not only
hears prayer but is pleased to answer it as well.

 Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose
you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves
of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit,
and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his
bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my
family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he
won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he
will get up and give you whatever you need because of your
shameless persistence.”
(Luke 11:5–8)

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Teaching Parables
about Neighbors


The Good
Samaritan
Luke 10:30–37

When a lawyer asked Jesus a question, he responded with this well-known
parable. The road down to Jericho from Jerusalem was not a particularly
safe one, and anyone traveling alone would face the possibility of being
robbed. Sadly, this is what happens for the man in this parable, and he is
left “half dead.” Having told the story, Jesus then challenged his listeners
to consider who acted as the man’s “neighbor.”
The obvious answer is the Samaritan, but what would have been so shocking
to Jesus’ listeners is that the Samaritans were despised by the Jews. Most
of His audience would have had a hard time imagining themselves stop-
ping to care for a Samaritan. Yet here in the story the Samaritan shows up
both the priest and the Levite (and by extension, most of Jesus’ audience)
with his care and compassion for the weak and needy.
The lawyer who attempted to trick Jesus and justify his own selfish attitudes
and actions was forced to realize that he had missed the point of both
Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. His selfish heart neither loved God
nor loved his neighbor. The challenges remain for us today.

 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from
Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him
of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.”
(Luke 10:30)

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Teaching Parables
about Humility


The Wedding Feast
Luke 14:7–11

Although we generally consider humility to be a primary teaching point
for Jesus, only two of His parables address this issue directly. The first is the
parable of the wedding feast. The context for this story is a meal at the
house of a “leader of the Pharisees” (v. 1). Fully aware that He was being
watched intently, Jesus healed a man suffering from dropsy, much to the
chagrin of the Pharisees.
Following this tense episode, Jesus noticed the people jockeying for the best
seat at the table for the meal. At this moment, he told the parable of the
wedding feast. Unlike some parables which have a more fully developed
plot and characters, this particular story is just one shade away from explicit
teaching: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat
of honor” (v. 8). Jesus was very blunt here about how His audience should
and should not be behaving in such a situation. Humility is the key, and
self-exaltation will only ever result in humiliation.

 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying
to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this
advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of
honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also
been invited?”
(Luke 14:7–8)

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The Proud Pharisee
and the Corrupt Tax Collector
Luke 18:9–14

Sometimes the meanings of certain parables are placed right in the text for
us. For example: “Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence
in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else” (Luke 18:9).
The parable itself draws on two very common images of the time. First,
the Pharisees were the self-proclaimed guardians of orthodoxy and worked
very hard to maintain all appearances of holiness and absolute obedience
to the law. Second, the tax collectors were the lowest of the low. Not only
were they willing employees of the Roman occupying forces, but they had
a reputation for stealing money from their own countrymen and charging
exorbitant taxes in order to build up their own wealth.
So the parable plays off these images by exposing the pride hidden under
the Pharisee’s shiny veneer of holiness and the humility nobody would
have expected under the despised cloak of the tax collector. The point
here is clear—God favors people who have a genuine understanding of
their own sinfulness and don't try to cover themselves up before a holy
and righteous God.

 Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their
own righteousness and scorned everyone else: “Two men went to the
Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax
collector.”
(Luke 18:9–10)

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Teaching Parables
about W e a lt h


The Rich Fool
Luke 12:16–21

The context sets the tone for this parable, the occasion being a man ask-
ing for help in getting his brother to share his inheritance with him. Jesus
responds to the question with a challenge to be on guard against an
unhealthy obsession with money, for “life is not measured by how much
you own” (12:15). This general principle is then expanded upon with the
short parable of the rich man’s abundant crops. The sheer volume of all
this wealth then leads him to pursue a hedonistic lifestyle. The punch-line
to the story is a direct word from God: the man is about to die.
The rich man in the parable is no doubt an exaggeration. It is doubtful
that many farmers would have been quite that fortunate in their endeav-
ors nor quite that foolish in their management of their wealth. However,
inheritances of any size were extremely important, and presumably quite
often the source of argument among relatives. With this short story Jesus
reminds His disciples that while money serves a purpose here and now,
there is more to life than the accumulation of wealth.

 Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that
produced fine crops.”
(Luke 12:16)

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The Great Feast
Luke 14:16–24

In the awkward moments following some difficult teaching by Jesus about
the importance of humility, someone pipes up and tries to change the
mood in the room by announcing, “What a blessing it will be to attend a
banquet in the Kingdom of God!” (v. 15). However, rather than changing
the topic, Jesus used the comment as a lead-in to a longer parable based
on the image of a great banquet.
Read in the context of Isaiah 25, this parable speaks of a time when God
will put an end to all suffering. The guests who were initially invited to
the banquet all bow out when the time comes, giving a series of weak
and rather strange excuses. When they fail to show, others are called to
attend in their place.
The parable would have been shocking and perhaps even confusing for most
listeners. Many people expected God’s blessings to come to them based
simply on their cultural background or nominal faith. However, Jesus was
clear that those coasting on religion may find themselves missing the boat.

 Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent
out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to
tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ ”
(Luke 14:16–17)

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The Shrewd Manager
Luke 16:1–9

Although the issues presented in this parable are complex, at its core this
parable tells the simple story of a man who has been dishonest in his deal-
ings and fired as a result. Fearing for his future, he cuts some deals with
some of his old master’s debtors in order to gain their favor.
Jesus is not applauding this manager’s dishonesty and deception. The
manager had clear responsibilities toward his master that he had failed to
live up to and was fired as a result. Stewardship is undoubtedly at the heart
of the parable. If a dishonest manager is nevertheless shrewd enough to
prepare for his uncertain future after being fired, how much more should
the disciples be careful to prepare for their own uncertain futures?
The parable ends with an admonition to be careful in how we manage
the material resources with which we have been entrusted. Will they lead
us toward God or away from Him? Will we use them to further God’s
kingdom or our own?

 Jesus told this story to his disciples: “There was a certain rich man
who had a manager handling his affairs. One day a report came that the
manager was wasting his employer’s money.”
(Luke 16:1)

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Gospel Parables
about God’s Love

Jesus used stories to shed light on His mission:
to show the depths of God’s amazing love. He
was sent to seek and to save the lost.


The Lost Sheep
Matthew 18:12–14; Luke 15:3–7

Sheep are just not that smart. Easily frightened, they are prone to wander
off. This makes them the perfect metaphor for humans in this parable.
One hundred sheep is a pretty big herd. It’s possible that the shepherd
owned them all, or perhaps two herds were mixed together. Either
way, one shepherd was ultimately responsible for protecting the sheep.
So when one wandered off, it was a big deal.
The main point here is the shepherd’s passionate pursuit of the lost sheep.
Jesus addressed this parable to a group of Pharisees and teachers of the
law who grumbled about His eating with tax collectors and sinners. The
religious leaders could not understand Jesus’ apparent fascination with
them. This parable helps explain that these are exactly the people Jesus
came to rescue. One of the most astonishing truths taught in the Bible is
that God loves everyone. Everyone is a lost sheep who needs to be found.
This was not a message the Pharisees wanted to hear.

 “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away,
what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and
go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the
truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t
wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that
even one of these little ones should perish.”
(Matthew 18:12–14)

Gospel Parables | 233
The Lost Coin
Luke 15:8–10

The frantic search for lost items is a theme that has endured throughout
time. Pretty much everyone everywhere can empathize with the woman
who has lost one of her coins and tears her house apart looking for it.
The surprising element here is that the protagonist of this story is a woman.
We don’t know how the Pharisees reacted when Jesus told this parable,
but the choice was intentionally made to push their assumptions about
who God values and how He operates in the world. Without banks it is
not surprising that the woman would have kept the money in her house
and lost or misplaced a coin in a dark corner as a result.
The parable emphasizes God’s great love for us. Just as this woman goes
to great lengths to find the lost coin, so too will God go to any lengths to
rescue His lost children. Everyone was created in the image of God and is
worth saving, not just those who considered themselves to be holy and
perfect. Jesus came to die for the whole world, not just a select few.

 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t
she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully
until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and
neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost
coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels
when even one sinner repents.”
(Luke 15:8–10)

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The Lost Son

Luke 15:11–32

The parable of the lost son, more than any other parable, has etched itself
into our cultural psyche. While the younger son’s request seems innocuous,
most of Jesus’ listeners would have been shocked by it. Asking for an early
inheritance was akin to telling his father that he should hurry up and die.
Furthermore, the father would have needed to sell off land and cattle—a
further act of public humiliation. Yet the father agrees to his request.
The younger son’s sojourn in a foreign land brought more disgrace to the
family name. Even worse, he wound up tending an animal Jews were for-
bidden from eating and that represented everything impure. At his lowest
ebb, he decides to return home.
An honorable man would never have demeaned himself by running to
his son and showing such extravagant affection to him. Yet this father
does—the perfect picture of the love of God. The parable doesn’t end
here. It continues with the oldest son’s disrespect and the father’s choice to
show compassion. This compassion was a marked contrast to the Pharisees’
disdain for the lost.

 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had
two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate
now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his
sons.”
(Luke 15:11–12)

Gospel Parables | 235
Gospel Parables
about T h a n k f u l n e ss


The Forgiven Debts
Luke 7:41–43

The occasion when Jesus gave this parable was dinner in the home of
a Pharisee. An “immoral” woman (v. 37) entered the room and poured
expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet. Simon, the Pharisee, was shocked and
assumed Jesus would quickly send her away. Instead, Jesus told him this
parable about debts forgiven and applied it to Simon and the woman.
Simon failed at one of the basic tenets of hospitality: washing a guest’s feet.
The woman, however, washed Jesus' feet with her tears and anointed them.
Jesus then added yet another twist. This woman’s sinful nature made her a
debtor as much as the man in the parable. Because she had been forgiven
much, she loved much. Simon’s sins may have been less, but where was
his love and gratitude?
This pointed question would have left an uncomfortable silence in the
room. Jesus broke it by openly forgiving the woman of her sins—a further
shocking development, since only God had the power to do that.

 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two
people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But
neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both,
canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
(Luke 7:41–42)

Gospel Parables | 237
Parables of
Judgment
about Ch r i st’s Retu r n

K nowing that the end of His mission was drawing
near, Jesus used parables to prepare His fol-
lowers for the difficulties ahead and for His second
coming. He wanted them to remain faithful and
watchful.


The Faithful and Sensible Servant
Matthew 24:45–51; Luke 12:42–48

As Jesus approached the end of His active ministry, he wanted to warn His
disciples about what was about to happen. Many false prophets would
rise up to lead people astray; persecution and death were likely outcomes
for all who chose to follow Him. To encourage the disciples to focus their
attention on how they should live until His return, Jesus told this parable.
This servant is wise and obedient, taking care of the people under his
charge. Indeed, when the master returns, he finds the servant hard
at work and is pleased with him. However, this faithful servant is contrasted
with the wicked servant
who takes advantage of
his master’s absence to
abuse his power. When
his master returns un-
expectedly the wicked
servant is punished for
his disobedience.
The implication for the
disciples is that they
were to focus their at-
tention on being obedi-
ent servants of Christ
while He was gone,
taking care of the work
and people entrusted to
their care. The negative
example was given as a
warning to remind them
of the serious nature of
their work.

 “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the
responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.”
(Matthew 24:45)

Parables of Judgment | 239
The Traveling Home Owner
Mark 13:34–37

The last parable in the Gospel of Mark is a final encouragement to Jesus’
disciples to be prepared for His return. Having explained to them that one
day they will see “the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power
and glory” (13:26), Jesus implores them to live their lives accordingly while
they wait for His triumphant return.
This was undoubtedly a confusing time for the disciples. They didn’t fully
understand what was about to happen—that Jesus was going to be cruci-
fied but three days later rise again before ascending into heaven. But Jesus
knew He had a limited amount of time to drive His point home. Like the
servants in the parable, the disciples were to be diligent in their Master’s
work: making disciples and spreading the kingdom. They were to work
hard, even though Jesus would no longer be right there with them. Above
all they were to be watchful for Jesus’ imminent return.

 “The coming of the Son of Man can be illustrated by the story of a
man going on a long trip. When he left home, he gave each of his slaves
instructions about the work they were to do, and he told the gatekeeper
to watch for his return. You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know
when the master of the household will return—in the evening, at
midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping
when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone:
Watch for him!”
(Mark 13:34–37)

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Parables of Judgment | 241
The Ten Bridesmaids
Matthew 25:1–13

This parable extends the theme of faithfulness
during a time of waiting. Jesus sets the stage
by designating five bridesmaids foolish
and five wise. The wise bridesmaids
come prepared with extra oil for their
lamps. Because of their preparedness,
they enter the wedding feast. The
foolish bridesmaids’ search for oil
renders them too late to enter.
While the parable is based on
common cultural practices re-
garding marriage, it probably
does not match them exactly.
A procession from the groom’s
house to the bride’s house and
back again was common, and
many bridesmaids were often
involved. Lamps would have
been required of all partici-
pants in order to light the way,
and Jesus’ audience would
have known of the impor-
tance of bringing extra oil.
The wedding imagery was
often connected with God’s
love for His chosen people, and
Jesus purposefully applies this
language to Himself. Although
the story may seem a little harsh to
us, the point is clear: Jesus’ disciples
are to be prepared for Jesus’ return.

  “Then the Kingdom of Heaven will
be like ten bridesmaids who took their
lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”
(Matthew 25:1–2)

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Parables of
Judgment
about God’s Values


The Unforgiving Debtor
Matthew 18:23–35

Forgiveness is a key theme in the Bible, and this particular parable fleshes
it out. In asking about forgiveness, Peter may have been thinking seven
was a good number to guess, but Jesus countered by suggesting “seventy
times seven” instead. How could that be possible? Enter the parable of
the unforgiving debtor.
In the parable, Jesus mentions a ridiculously enormous amount of money.
The number is intentionally as large as possible, probably alluding back to
the equally surprising number of times Jesus had suggested for offering
forgiveness. The parable was meant to help Peter understand the concept
of forgiveness. On the one hand, we have been forgiven a debt that none
of us could ever hope to pay. The separation between man and God is so
vast it cannot hope to be crossed. Yet God, in His mercy, reached out to
us through the death of His Son, Jesus. Because we have experienced this
forgiveness, we should be ready to extend the same boundless forgiveness
into the lives of other people. If we fail to forgive, we will not be forgiven.

 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king
who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had
borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was
brought in who owed him millions of dollars.”
(Matthew 18:23–24)

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The Two Sons
Matthew 21:28–32

Some stories like this parable require little to no background knowledge
to understand. Drawing on relational dynamics that are common in many
families, this short tale crosses just about all cultural barriers and remains
as applicable today as it was for Jesus’ intended audience at the time.
Shortly after Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleansed the temple, the chief
priests and elders demanded that Jesus explain his actions. Jesus countered
by asking them about the source of John the Baptist’s authority. When they
refused to answer, he told this parable.
The chief priests and religious leaders were like the second son, who should
have gone to help his father, but did not—a disgraceful, shameful act. They
had failed to respond correctly to the words of the prophets in general and
John the Baptist in particular. However, the tax collectors and sinners were
like the first son, who, while not initially interested, did eventually obey his
father. They may not have understood the prophets, but some responded
to John the Baptist and to Jesus.

 “But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told
the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son
answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went
anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes,
sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go. 
“Which of the two obeyed his father?”
They replied, “The first.”
(Matthew 21:28–31)

Parables of Judgment | 245
The Evil Farmers
Matthew 21:33–46; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19

In Matthew’s Gospel, the parable of the tenants follows the parable of the
two sons. In Mark and Luke, it is placed at the end of Jesus’ ministry, and
in all cases, it is directed at the religious leaders. These men were supposed
to shepherd God’s people; instead, they worked against Jesus, challenging
His authority.
The image of a landowner and his vineyard was frequently associated with
God and His kingdom. The tenants would have been easily recognized as
God’s people, while the servants who were abused and killed were the
prophets. The parable, therefore, contains a mini history of Israel, culminat-
ing in the rejection of Jesus Himself.
While the parable was clearly a judgment on the religious leaders for failing
to honor God and faithfully shepherd His people, it is also a warning to
any who would participate in the kingdom of God. Doing God’s work has
eternal consequences. The blessing of God requires absolute obedience
and faithful humility.

  “Now listen to another story. A certain landowner planted a vineyard,
built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built
a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and
moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent his
servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed his
servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. So the landowner
sent a larger group of his servants to collect for him, but the results were
the same.”
(Matthew 21:33–36)

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The Wedding Feast
Matthew 22:1–14

Like the parable of the evil farmers, this parable has a prophetic warning.
The imagery would have been familiar for Jesus’ listeners, with the king
representing God and the banquet potentially referring to the end of the
age. Yet almost immediately there is a twist. The guests refuse to come
and even kill some of the servants. Jesus’ audience would have been in
complete shock by this point. What kind of evil people would act in such
a shameful manner?
Jesus continued. The king punishes the guests then throws open the doors
to invite anyone on the streets to the wedding banquet. This would have
been a strange action for anyone in charge of a wedding. The tension
builds as the king now notices someone at the wedding who should
not be there. This man is then thrown out of the wedding.
The parable reveals God’s reaction to the religious leaders’ failure to care
for His people. Their spiritual blindness was disgraceful, and would not go
unseen or unpunished. The leaders understood the point Jesus made but
didn’t like it one bit.

 Jesus also told them other parables. He said, “The Kingdom of
Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a king who prepared a great
wedding feast for his son.”
(Matthew 22:1–2)

Parables of Judgment | 247
The
Unproductive Tree
Luke 13:6–9

Although often considered to be simply another good moral teacher, Jesus
had a very specific message about repentance. It was not popular then and
continues to be a struggle for many today.
On one such occasion, having just told the people, “Unless you repent, you
will perish, too” (v. 5 nlt), Jesus sought to drive home His point by way of
a parable about a fig tree. The expectation for planting a fig tree is that it
should bear fruit. But this tree never does. Eventually, the owner orders the
caretaker to cut the tree down and use the soil for something else. How-
ever, the caretaker beseeches the owner to give the tree one last chance.
There is one caveat—if there is still no fruit after a year, it will be cut down.
Jesus may sound harsh here, but His message is actually the most loving
message possible. There are real, eternal consequences for living in rebel-
lion against God. However, the good news is that because of Jesus’ death,
anyone can be forgiven and gain access into God’s presence. Jesus’ pas-
sionate plea was for everyone to repent and be saved.

 Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden
and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was
always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three
years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up
space in the garden.’
“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it
another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we
get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”
(Luke 13:6–9)

248 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Scripture Reference Index

Genesis Genesis 22:1–19, “Abraham Takes a
Genesis 1–2, “God Creates the Sacrifice,” p. 2
Universe,” p. 40 Genesis 25:29–31, “Jacob: The
Genesis 2:7, “He gave up the Schemer,” p. 105
ghost,” p. 171 Genesis 28:10–17, “Jacob Has a
Genesis 2:18, “Adam and Eve: First Dream,” p. 3
People, First Sin,” p. 85 Genesis 37:3, “Joseph, Son of Jacob
Genesis 3, “Sweat of your brow,” (OT): Favored Son,” p. 112
p. 192 Genesis 50:18–20, “Joseph, Son of
Genesis 3:1–19, “Adam and Eve Jacob (OT): Favored Son,” p. 115
Disobey God,” p. 42 Exodus
Genesis 3:8–12, “Adam and Eve: Exodus 3:1–10, “The Bush Doesn’t
First People, First Sin,” p.85 Burn,” p. 4
Genesis 3:17–19, “Sweat of your Exodus 4:13, “Moses: The Reticent
brow,” p.192 Deliverer,” p. 124
Genesis 4:8–9, “My brother’s Exodus 7:1–12:36, “God Sends
keeper,” p. 181 Plagues on Egypt,” p. 47
Genesis 5:29, “Noah: The Ark Exodus 12, “Jesus Has the Last
Builder,” p. 126 Supper with His Disciples,” p. 73
Genesis 5:34, “Elijah: Israel’s Exodus 12:1–30, “The First Passover
Greatest Prophet,” p. 94 Is Celebrated,” p. 48
Genesis 6:6–9 “A Flood Covers the Exodus 14, “An Ax Head Floats,”
Earth,” p. 44 p. 13
Genesis 6:9–14, “Noah: The Ark Exodus 14:13–31, “Elijah Rides in a
Builder”, p. 126 Fiery Chariot,” p. 11
Genesis 6:17–19, “A Flood Covers Exodus 14:21–31, “God Parts the
the Earth,” p. 44 Red Sea,” p. 49
Genesis 11:1–9, “The Tower of Exodus 14:29–15:21, “Bread Falls
Babel Is Built,” p. 46 from Heaven,” p. 5
Genesis 12:1–3, “Solomon Builds Exodus 16:4–21, “Bread Falls from
the Temple,” p. 56; “Abraham: Heaven,” p. 5
Friend of God”, p. 82 Exodus 19–20, “God Gives the Ten
Genesis 12:2–3, “Dust of the earth,” Commandments,” p. 50
p. 162 Exodus 21:24, “Eye for an eye,”
Genesis 13:16, “Dust of the earth,” p. 164
p. 162 Exodus 31:18, “Moses: The Reticent
Genesis 21:1–3, “Isaac: The Deliverer,” p. 124
Promised Son,” p. 103 Exodus 32, “Man shall not live by
Genesis 21:4–7, “Sarah: Unlikely bread alone,” p. 178
Mother,” p. 137 Exodus 32:3–4, “Golden calf,” p. 168
Genesis 22, “Solomon Builds the
Temple,” p. 56 Leviticus
Genesis 22:12, “Abraham: Friend of Leviticus 11, “Peter Has a Vision”,
God,” p. 82 p. 26

Scripture Reference Index | 249
Leviticus 19:1, “God Gives the Ten Judges 4:4–9, “Deborah: Warrior
Commandments,” p. 50 Prophet”, p. 92
Leviticus 19:18, “Eye for an eye,” Judges 6:13–15, “Gideon: A
p. 164; “The Good Samaritan,” Reluctant Hero”, p. 101
p. 224 Judges 13:3, “John the Baptist
Leviticus 24:17–20, “Eye for an Preaches in the Wilderness”,
eye,” p. 164 p. 70
Numbers Judges 14–15, “Samson Brings
Numbers 13:1–33, “The Spies Down the House”, p. 52
Return,” p. 6 Judges 16:17–19, “Samson: A
Numbers 20:1–11, “A Snake Is Flawed Superhero”, p. 134
Raised,” p. 7 Judges 16:22–31, “Samson Brings
Numbers 21:4–9, “A Snake Is Down the House”, p. 52
Raised,” p. 7 Ruth
Numbers 22:21–34, “A Donkey Ruth 1:16–18, “Ruth: Loyal Friend”,
Speaks,” p. 8 p. 133
Deuteronomy 1 Samuel
Deuteronomy 6:5, “The Good 1 Samuel 1:12–16, “Hannah: The
Samaritan,” p. 224 Desperate Pray-er”, p. 102
Deuteronomy 8:2–3, “Man shall not 1 Samuel 3:7–10, “Samuel: Prophet
live by bread alone,” p. 178 and Priest”, p. 136
Deuteronomy 10:18, “Oil and Flour 1 Samuel 13:1, “Saul: Flawed First
Keep Coming,” p. 10 King”, p. 138
Deuteronomy 14:29, “Oil and Flour 1 Samuel 13:13–14, “A man after
Keep Coming,” p. 10
his own heart”, p. 154
Deuteronomy 19:21, “Eye for an
1 Samuel 13:14, “David: A Man
eye,” p. 164
after God’s Own Heart”, p. 90
Deuteronomy 32:9–10, “Apple of
his eye,” p. 155 1 Samuel 16:6–7, 12–13, “David:
Deuteronomy 34:10–12, “Moses: The A Man after God’s Own Heart”,
Reticent Deliverer,” p. 124 p. 90
1 Samuel 17, “David Defeats
Joshua Goliath”, p. 55
Joshua 1:1, 6–9, “Joshua: The 1 Samuel 18:36–39, “Elijah: Israel’s
Conquering Hero,” p. 111 Greatest Prophet,” p. 94
Joshua 3:1–17, “Elijah Rides in a
Fiery Chariot,” p. 11 2 Samuel
Joshua 6, “The Walls of Jericho Fall,” 2 Samuel 1:19, “How are the mighty
p. 51 fallen”, p. 174
Joshua 10:1–15, “The Sun Moves 2 Samuel 2:1–4, “Solomon Builds
Backward,” p. 16 the Temple”, p. 56
Joshua 10:7–14, “The Sun Stands 2 Samuel 5:1–5, “Solomon Builds
Still,” p. 9 the Temple”, p. 56
Joshua 14:6–9, “Caleb: The Faithful 2 Samuel 7:12–16, “Solomon Builds
Spy,” p. 87 the Temple”, p. 56
Judges 1 Kings
Judges 3:7, “Samson Brings Down 1 Kings 3:7–13, “Solomon: Wise
the House,” p. 52 and Foolish King,” p. 142

250 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
1 Kings 6– 8, “Solomon Builds the 2 Chronicles
Temple,” p. 56 2 Chronicles 3–6, “Solomon Builds
1 Kings 8:10–11, “Solomon Builds the Temple,” p. 56
the Temple,” p. 56
1 Kings 10:14–29, “Solomon: Wise Ezra
and Foolish King,” p. 142 Ezra 9:5–6, “Ezra: God’s Man in
1 Kings 17:13–14, “Oil and Flour Troubled Times,” p. 100
Keep Coming,” p. 10 Nehemiah
1 Kings 18:20–21, “Elijah Defeats Nehemiah 1–6, “Nehemiah Rebuilds
the Prophets of Baal,” p. 57 the Walls of Jerusalem,” p. 58
1 Kings 18:24, “Elijah Defeats the Nehemiah 5:14, “Nehemiah: The
Prophets of Baal,” p. 57 Wall Builder,” p. 123
1 Kings 18:27, “Elijah Defeats the Nehemiah 6:15–16, “Nehemiah
Prophets of Baal,” p. 57 Rebuilds the Walls of Jerusalem,”
1 Kings 18:38, “Elijah Rides in a Fiery p. 58; “Nehemiah: The Wall
Chariot,” p. 11 Builder,” p. 123
1 Kings 19:12, “Elijah Rides in a Fiery Nehemiah 13:26, “Solomon: Wise
Chariot,” p. 11 and Foolish King,” p. 142

2 Kings Esther
2 Kings 1:10–14, “Elijah Rides in a Esther 4–7, “Esther Defeats
Fiery Chariot,” p. 11 Haman,” p. 59
2 Kings 2:1–12, “Elijah Rides in a Esther 4:13–17, “Esther:
Fiery Chariot,” p. 11 Courageous Queen,” p. 98
2 Kings 2:9–10, 13–14, “Elisha: The Job
Man of God,” p. 96 Job 1:1, “Job: The Tested Man,”
2 Kings 4:18–37, “A Dead Man p. 107
Touches a Prophet’s Bones,” Job 1:3, “Job: The Tested Man,”
p. 14 p. 107
2 Kings 5:1–14, “Naaman Is Job 1:20–22, “Job: The Tested
Healed”, p. 12; “A Dead Man Man,” p. 107
Touches a Prophet’s Bones,” Job 19:20, “By the skin of our
p. 14 teeth,” p. 158
2 Kings 6:1–7, “An Ax Head Floats,” Job 42:10, “Job: The Tested Man,”
p. 13 p. 107
2 Kings 6:18, “A Dead Man Touches Psalms
a Prophet’s Bones,” p. 14 Psalm 8:1–2, “Out of the mouths of
2 Kings 13:20–21, “A Dead Man babes,” p. 183
Touches a Prophet’s Bones,” Psalm 107:23–27, “At my wit’s
p. 14 end,” p. 156
2 Kings 19, “An Angel Defeats
185,000,” p. 15 Proverbs
2 Kings 20:1, “Put your house in Proverbs 13:24, “It’s in There
order,” p. 185 Somewhere, Right?,” p. 203
2 Kings 20:1–11, “The Sun Moves Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns
Backward,” p. 16 away wrath,” p. 190
Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before a
1 Chronicles fall,” p. 184
1 Chronicles 22, “Solomon Builds Proverbs 29:18, “When there is no
the Temple,” p. 56 vision, the people perish,” p. 202

Scripture Reference Index | 251
Ecclesiastes Daniel 3:22–27, “Shadrach,
Ecclesiastes 1:9–10, “There’s nothing Meshach, and Abednego: Men
new under the sun,” p. 195 Tested by Fire,” p. 140
Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there Daniel 5:5–6, “Handwriting on the
is a season,” p. 197 wall,” p. 173
Ecclesiastes 8:15, “Eat, drink, and be Daniel 5:26–28, “Weighed in the
merry,” p. 163 balances and found wanting,”
Isaiah p. 200
Isaiah 2:4, “Hammer swords into Daniel 6, “Daniel Is Thrown into the
plowshares,” p. 170 Lions’ Den,” p. 62
Isaiah 6:6–8, “Isaiah: A Handpicked Daniel 9:20–23, “Daniel: Man of
Prophet,” p. 104 Prayer,” p. 88
Isaiah 11:6, “It’s in There
Somewhere, Right?,” p. 203 Jonah
Isaiah 25, “The Great Feast,” p. 230 Jonah 1:1–3, “Jonah: The Reluctant
Isaiah 38:1, “Put your house in Prophet,” p. 110
order,” p. 185 Jonah 1:1–2:10, “Jonah is
Isaiah 40:15, “Drop in the bucket,” Swallowed by a Great Fish,”
p. 161 p. 65
Isaiah 48:22, “No peace for the
wicked,” p. 182 Zechariah
Isaiah 57:20–21, “No peace for the Zechariah 2:8, “Apple of his eye,”
wicked,” p. 182 p. 155
Zechariah 9:9–11, “Jesus Enters
Jeremiah
Jerusalem,” p. 72
Jeremiah 9:1, “Jeremiah: The
Weeping Prophet,” p. 106 Matthew
Jeremiah 13:22–23, “Can a leopard Matthew 1:1, “Abraham: Friend
change his spots?,” p. 159 of God,” p. 82; “David: A Man
Jeremiah 29:11–14, “Jeremiah: The after God’s Own Heart,” p. 90
Weeping Prophet,” p. 106 Matthew 1:5, “The Walls of Jericho
Jeremiah 31, “The Wise Men Follow Fall,” p. 51
a Star,” p. 68 Matthew 1:18–19, “Joseph, Son of
Ezekiel Jacob (NT): Earthly Father of the
Ezekiel 2:1–3, “Ezekiel: God’s Son of God,” p. 115
Visionary,” p. 99 Matthew 2:1–12, “The Wise Men
Daniel Follow a Star,” p. 68
Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by
Daniel 1:3–5, “Shadrach, Meshach,
bread alone,” p. 178
and Abednego: Men Tested by
Matthew 5:13, “Salt of the earth,”
Fire,” p. 140
p. 186
Daniel 1:20, “Shadrach, Meshach,
Matthew 5:17, “Peter Has a Vision,”
and Abednego: Men Tested by p. 26
Fire,” p. 140 Matthew 5:38, “Eye for an eye,”
Daniel 3, “Daniel’s Friends Survive a p. 164
Fiery Furnace,” p. 61 Matthew 7:6, “Don’t cast your
Daniel 3:16–19, “Shadrach, pearls before swine,” p. 160
Meshach, and Abednego: Men Matthew 7:13–14, “Straight and
Tested by Fire,” p. 140 narrow,” p. 189

252 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Matthew 7:15, “False prophets, Matthew 19:13–15, “Jesus Blesses
which come to you in sheep’s the Children,” p. 18
clothing,” p. 165 Matthew 20:1–16, “The Workers in
Matthew 9:9–13, “Matthew: The the Vineyard,” p. 216
Tax Collecting Disciple,” p. 122 Matthew 21:28–32, “The Two
Matthew 12:24–25, “A house Sons,” p. 245
divided,” p. 153 Matthew 21:33–46, “The Evil
Matthew 12:39, “Jonah: The Farmers,” p. 246
Reluctant Prophet,” p. 110 Matthew 22:1–2, “The Wedding
Matthew 12:39–40, “Jonah is Feast,” p. 247
Swallowed by a Great Fish,” p. 65 Matthew 22:1–14, “Many are called,
Matthew 13:3–8, “The Soils,” p. but few are chosen,” p. 177;
207 “The Wedding Feast,” p. 247
Matthew 13:5–6, “Fell on rocky Matthew 24:6–7, “Wars and rumors
ground,” p. 166 of wars,” p. 199
Matthew 13:24, “The Soils,” p. 207 Matthew 24:24, “False prophets,
which come to you in sheep’s
Matthew 13:24–30, “The Weeds,”
clothing,” p. 165
p. 208
Matthew 24:45–51, “The Faithful
Matthew 13:31–32, “The Mustard
and Sensible Servant,” p. 239
Seed,” p. 209
Matthew 25:1–13, “The Ten
Matthew 13:33, “The Yeast,” p. 210
Bridesmaids,” p. 242
Matthew 13:44, “The Treasure,” Matthew 25:14, “The Loaned
p. 211 Money,” p. 217
Matthew 13:45–46, “The Pearl of Matthew 25:14–30, “The
Great Price”, p. 212 Nobleman’s Servants,” p. 219
Matthew 13:47–50, “The Fishing Matthew 28:1–15, “Jesus Is Raised
Net,” p. 213 from the Dead,” p. 76
Matthew 13:55, “Jesus Is Born,” Mark
p. 66 Mark 3:3–5, “Jesus Heals a Crippled
Matthew 14:29–31, “Peter: The Hand,” p. 19
Restored Denier,” p. 130 Mark 3:13–14, 17, “John: The
Disciple Jesus Loved,” p. 108
Matthew 15:10–14, “The blind
Mark 3–8, “The Soils,” p. 207
leading the blind,” p. 157 Mark 4:9, “Stories Jesus Told,”
Matthew 16:1–3, “Signs of the p. 205
times,” p. 187 Mark 4:10–20, “The Soils,” p. 207
Matthew 16:11–12, “The Yeast,” Mark 4:19, “The Soils,” p. 207
p. 210 Mark 4:26–29, “The Growing
Matthew 16:13–19, “Peter: The Seed,” p. 214
Restored Denier,” p. 130 Mark 4:30–32, “The Mustard Seed,”
Matthew 16:23, “Peter: The p. 209
Mark 4:35–41, “Jesus Stops a
Restored Denier,” p. 130
Storm,” p. 20
Matthew 17:1–13, “Jesus Is
Mark 5:21–43, “An Ax Head
Transfigured,” p. 24 Floats,” p. 13
Matthew 18:12–14, “The Lost Mark 8:15, “The Yeast,” p. 210
Sheep,” p. 233 Mark 9:2–13, “Jesus Is
Matthew 18:23–25, “The Transfigured,” p. 24; “John: The
Unforgiving Debtor,” p. 244 Disciple Jesus Loved,” p. 108

Scripture Reference Index | 253
Mark 12:1–12, “The Evil Farmers,” Luke 8:2, “Mary Magdalene:
p. 246 Resurrection Eye-Witness,” p. 121
Mark 13:7, “Wars and rumors of Luke 8:5–8, “The Soils,” p. 207
wars,” p. 199 Luke 9:10–17, “Jesus Feeds 5,000,”
Mark 13:22, “False prophets, p. 23
which come to you in sheep’s Luke 9:28–36, “Jesus Is
clothing,” p. 165 Transfigured,” p. 24
Mark 13:26, “The Traveling Home Luke 10:30–37, “The Good
Owner,” p. 240 Samaritan,” p. 224
Mark 13:34–37, “The Traveling Luke 10:33–36, “Good Samaritan,”
Home Owner,” p. 240 p. 169
Mark 14:33, “John: The Disciple Luke 10:38–42, “Mary and Martha:
Jesus Loved,” p. 108 Sisters, and Friends of Jesus,”
Mark 14:50–52, “Mark Runs Away p. 120
Naked,” p. 22 Luke 11:5–8, “The Friend at
Midnight,” p. 222
Luke Luke 11:13, “The Friend at
Luke 1:1–4, “Luke: The Missionary Midnight,” p. 222
Doctor,” p. 116 Luke 11:17, “A house divided,”
Luke 1:5–20, “John the Baptist p. 153
Preaches in the Wilderness,” Luke 12:15, “The Rich Fool,”
p. 70 p. 229
Luke 1:6, “Elizabeth: Joyful Mom,” Luke 12:16–21, “The Rich Fool,”
p. 93 p. 229
Luke 1:16, “John the Baptist Luke 12:42–48, “The Faithful and
Preaches in the Wilderness,” Sensible Servant,” p. 239
p. 70 Luke 13:6–9, “The Unproductive
Luke 1:20, “John the Baptist Tree,” p. 248
Luke 13:18–19, “The Mustard
Preaches in the Wilderness,”
Seed,” p. 209
p. 70
Luke 13:20–21, “The Yeast”, p. 210
Luke 1:27, “Jesus Is Born,” p. 66
Luke 14:1, “The Wedding Feast,”
Luke 1:28–34, “Mary: The One Who
p. 226
Said Yes to God, p. 119
Luke 14:7–11, “The Wedding
Luke 1:39–45, “Elizabeth: Joyful Feast,” p. 226
Mom,” p. 93 Luke 14:15, “The Great Feast,”
Luke 2:1–20, “Jesus Is Born,” p. 66 p. 230
Luke 2:25–28, 38, “Simeon and Luke 14:16–24, “The Great Feast,”
Anna: Faithful Believers,” p. 139 p. 230
Luke 2:33, “Simeon and Anna: Luke 15:3–7, “The Lost Sheep,”
Faithful Believers,” p. 139 p. 233
Luke 6:39, “The blind leading the Luke 15:8–10, “The Lost Coin,”
blind,” p. 157 p. 234
Luke 7:11–15, “An Ax Head Floats,” Luke 15:11–32, “The Lost Son,”
p. 13 p. 235
Luke 7:37, “The Forgiven Debts,” Luke 16:1–9, “The Shrewd
p. 237 Manager,” p. 231
Luke 7:41–43, “The Forgiven Luke 17:7–10, “The Servant’s Role,”
Debts,” p. 237 p. 218

254 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
Luke 18:1–8, “The Unjust Judge,” John 13:23, “John: The Disciple
p. 221 Jesus Loved,” p. 108
Luke 18:9–10, “The Proud Pharisee John 14:6, “What is truth?” p. 201
and the Corrupt Tax Collector,” John 18:37–38, “What is truth?”,
p. 227 p. 201
Luke 18:9–14, “The Proud Pharisee John 20:14–16, “Mary Magdalene:
and the Corrupt Tax Collector,” Resurrection Eye-Witness,”
p. 227 p. 121
Luke 19:11–27, “The Nobleman’s John 20:17, “Mary Magdalene:
Servants,” p. 219 Resurrection Eye-Witness,”
Luke 20:9–19, “The Evil Farmers,” p. 121
John 20:24–29, “Thomas: Honest
p. 246
Doubter,” p. 146
Luke 22:7–20, “Jesus Has the Last
John 21, “Peter: The Restored
Supper with His Disciples,” p. 73
Denier,” p. 130
Luke 23:26–49, “Jesus Is Crucified,”
p. 75 Acts
Luke 23:46, “Jesus Is Crucified,” “He Acts 1:6–11, “Jesus Ascends to
gave up the ghost,” p. 171 Heaven,” p. 77
Acts 2, “Ananias and Sapphira Meet
John the Truth,” p. 25; “Jesus Ascends
John 1:42, “Peter: The Restored to Heaven,” p. 77; “The Holy
Denier,” p. 130 Spirit Comes,” p. 78; “Peter: The
John 1:19–28, “John the Baptist Restored Denier,” p. 130; “The
Preaches in the Wilderness,” Mustard Seed,” p. 209
p. 70 Acts 2:1–4, “The Holy Spirit
John 1:51, “Jacob Has a Dream,” Comes,” p. 78
p. 3 Acts 5:1–11, “Ananias and Sapphira
John 3:14–15, “A Snake Is Raised,” Meet the Truth,” p. 25
p. 7 Acts 6:1–7, “Philip: The Evangelist,”
John 3:27–30, “John the Baptist: p. 131
The Forerunner,” p. 109 Acts 6:5, “Stephen: First Martyr,”
p. 144
John 3:30, “John the Baptist
Acts 6:8, “Stephen: First Martyr,”
Preaches in the Wilderness,”
p. 144
p. 70
Acts 7, “Saul Becomes a Follower of
John 8:7, “He that is without sin Jesus,” p. 79
among you, let him cast the first Acts 7:54–60, “Stephen: First
stone,” p. 172 Martyr,” p. 144
John 8:31–32, “The truth shall set Acts 8:29–31, “Philip: The
you free”, p. 194 Evangelist,” p. 131
John 11:16, “Thomas: Honest Acts 9:1–22, “Saul Becomes a
Doubter”, p. 146 Follower of Jesus,” p. 79
John 11:1–44, “Lazarus Is Raised Acts 10:9–33, “Peter Has a Vision,”
from the Dead,” p. 71 p. 26
John 11:1–46, “An Ax Head Floats,” Acts 11:24–26, “Barnabas: More
p. 13 Than a Sidekick,” p. 86
John 12:12–19, “Jesus Enters Acts 12:6–19, “Peter Escapes from
Jerusalem,” p. 72 Prison,” p. 28

Scripture Reference Index | 255
Acts 14:8–18, “Paul Shakes Off a 2 Corinthians 11:19, “Suffer fools
Deadly Snake,” p. 35 gladly,” p. 191
Acts 14:19–20, “Paul Survives 2 Corinthians 11:23–29, “Paul
Capital Punishment,” p. 31 Survives a Shipwreck,” p. 36
Acts 16:1–5, “Timothy: Protégé 2 Corinthians 12:1–4, “Paul Survives
Pastor,” p. 148 Capital Punishment,” p. 31
Acts 16:13–15, “Lydia: Convert at 2 Corinthians 12:7, 10, “Thorn in
the River,” p. 117 the flesh,” p. 196
Acts 16:19, “Paul and Silas Sing in 2 Corinthians 12:7–10, “Paul
Prison,” p. 32 Survives a Shipwreck,” p. 36
Acts 16:25–34, “Paul and Silas Sing
in Prison,” p. 32 Philippians
Acts 18:3, “Paul Survives a Philippians 3:13–14, “Paul: The
Shipwreck,” p. 36 Great Missionary,” p. 128
Acts 20:7–12, “Eutychus Is Brought Colossians
Back to Life,” p. 34 Colossians 4:14, “Eutychus Is
Acts 20:35, “More blessed to give Brought Back to Life,” p. 34
than to receive,” p. 180
Acts 21:8, “Philip: The Evangelist,” 1 Thessalonians
p. 131 1 Thessalonians 1:2–4, “Labor of
Acts 27:1–44, “Paul Survives a love,” p. 175
Shipwreck,” p. 36
1 Timothy
Acts 28:3–6, “Paul Shakes Off a
1 Timothy 6:9–10, “The love of
Deadly Snake,” p. 35 money is the root of all evil,”
Romans p. 193
Romans 2:14–15, “A law unto 1 Timothy 6:10, “It’s in There
themselves,” p. 152 Somewhere, Right?” p. 203
Romans 5:17, “Adam and Eve 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good
fight,” p. 167
Disobey God,” p. 42
Romans 16:3–4, “Priscilla and 2 Timothy
Aquilla: Behind-the-Scenes 2 Timothy 1:3–4, “Timothy: Protégé
Workers,” p. 132 Pastor,” p. 148
2 Timothy 1:5-7, “Timothy: Protégé
1 Corinthians
Pastor,” p. 148
1 Corinthians 5:7, “The First
Passover Is Celebrated,” p. 48 Hebrews
1 Corinthians 15:52–53, “Twinkling Hebrews 11:11, “Sarah: Unlikely
of an eye,” p. 198 Mother,” p. 137

2 Corinthians James
2 Corinthians 3:6, “Letter of the James 2:23, “Abraham: Friend of
law,” p. 176 God”, p. 82

256 | B i b l e Fi n d I t
About the Writers
Kent Keller, DMin
Kent Keller, DMin, is the senior pastor of Kendall Presbyterian
Church in Miami, Florida. A graduate of the University of Montevallo
(Alabama), Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), and Covenant
Theological Seminary (St. Louis, Missouri), he resides with his wife,
Heidi, in Miami. They have four children. He has written for and been
published in numerous popular and scholarly works, including the
Student’s Life Application Bible (Tyndale House) and 500 Questions &
Answers from the Bible (Barbour).
Jonathan Ziman
Jonathan Ziman is a community life pastor at Wheaton Bible Church
in Wheaton, Illinois. He has an MA from the University of Chicago
and an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield,
Illinois). Jonathan and his wife, Kari, have four young daughters. He
wrote The Life of Jesus (Baker) and has contributed to many other
publications, including The Apologetics Study Bible (B & H).

Contributors
Writers
Kent Keller
Jonathan Ziman
Project Manager
Dave Veerman
Interior Design
Larry Taylor and Tom Shumaker
Compositor/Typesetter
Tom Shumaker
Additional Help
Katie Arnold
Joel Bartlett
Linda Taylor
Dave Veerman
Linda Washington

A b o u t t h e Wr i t e r s | 257
For inquisitive
readers of any
age—adults and
students alike—
here’s a book to
shed light on
the Bible’s great
questions.

 W
here did…
the scripture
come from?
 
What is…
God really
like?
 
What do…
some of those confusing Bible pas-
sages really mean?

Scores of questions are answered in user-friendly language,
based on sound Christian doctrine. Arranged in canonical order,
500 Questions & Answers from the Bible is an excellent resource
for regular Bible study.

Its open design presents a wealth of information in an
appealing, accessible format—and it’s fully illustrated in color!

ISBN 978-1-59789-473-9

Trade paperback • 256 pages • $9.99

Available wherever Christian books are sold.
258 | B i b l e Fi n d I t 

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