In the Merry Old Land of Uz?

For many of us the first things we think about when we hear “the Land of Uz” is a yellow brick road and magic shoes. But that is the Land of Oz. The Land of Uz was a real place, filled with real people, who lived real lives (and they didn’t need to click their heals to get there). When the Bible lists a location it’s for a reason, for context. If there is a place we don’t know about it’s a great opportunity to do some additional study to understand why that location is important to the story.

Read from the Swindoll Study Bible to learn about Uz, the land Job called home.

Job lived in “the land of Uz” (Job 1:1). The location sounds as strange to our modern ears as the Land of Oz.

Determining the location of the land of Uz is no easy task. The presence and ancestry of various people named Uz in Scripture could suggest an Aramean location for the land of Uz (Gen. 10:23; 22:21; 1 Chr. 1:17). Jeremiah makes a connection between Uz and Edom, the land of Esau (Lam. 4:21). But at the same time, the prophet maintains a distinction from it (Jer. 25:20-21). The geographical and etymological references seem to place the land of Uz somewhere in northern Arabia, in close proximity to the wilderness as well as to land that could sustain livestock and agriculture (Job 1:3, 14, 19; 42:12).

Our unfamiliarity with Uz—as with many other geographical sites referenced in Scripture—might make this part of the text easy to dismiss. But mentions of these places are not throwaway statements. References to “the land of Uz,” as well as to other places mentioned in the Bible, do more than merely locate biblical events, as valuable as that can be. Naming specific places upholds the truth that biblical accounts are not mere fables or myths. They are history. The places where the people in the Bible lived and met God tie their lives and experiences to a particular context that is important for properly understanding their encounters with God. The place name of the land of Uz gives credence to the life of Job.

Understanding the historical details of Scripture helps us grasp the actual truth of the Bible and see its principles as grounded in real life. Even in cases like Uz, where the specific location is difficult to pin on a map, the reality of knowing that biblical stories happened to real people in real, named places in the world helps us to recognize the tangible truth that God is alive and active in the places we live today.

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A Sign for Me

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). ” Isaiah 7:14, NLT

Activity from the Hands-On Bible

Check out Isaiah 7:14 to see what Isaiah said a sign of the coming Savior would be. Hey! It all came true—Jesus was born of a virgin, and he is God.
Isaiah had his way to tell people about Jesus. Now you can have your way!

Here’s how:

  • Get a 3-ring binder that has a clear plastic pocket on the cover. On a sheet of paper, write, “God is with us.”
  • Decorate the page, and put the paper into the pocket.
  • In the binder, collect pages that will help you tell others about Jesus. You could draw pictures, interview other Christians, or write favorite Bible verses.

Keep your binder with you when you go to school, the mall…wherever! If your friends ask you about your binder, tell them about Jesus, just like Isaiah told the people he knew!

Learn more about the Hands-On Bible

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 5

“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem thirty-one years. His mother was Jedidah, the daughter of Adaiah from Bozkath. He did what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and followed the example of his ancestor David. He did not turn away from doing what was right…When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair. Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan, Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the court secretary, and Asaiah the king’s personal adviser: ‘Go to the Temple and speak to the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the Lord’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.'” 2 Kings 22:1-2 AND 2 Kings 22:11-13

Josiah: Note from the Christian Basics Bible

Only eight years old when he came to the throne, Josiah became one of Judah’s most godly kings. At the age of sixteen he “began to seek the God of his ancestor David” (2 Chronicles 34:3). By twenty, he was purging the land of idolatry and destroying shrines to Baal and all idols (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). But it was when Josiah was twenty-six (2 Kings 22:3) that the biggest transformation took place.

During renovations in the Temple, “the Book of the Law” (22:8) was discovered—probably the book of Deuteronomy. As it was read to him, Josiah was appalled at how far God’s people had fallen from his ways; he immediately led the nation in a covenant renewal ceremony (chapter 23) and completed his spiritual reforms in the land. He died in battle, trying to stop Egypt from marching to Assyria’s aid (2 Kings 23:29). Josiah shows us that we don’t understand everything about God at the beginning, but if we keep our hearts open, we can keep growing, changing, and having a powerful impact.

Learn more about Christian Basics Bible

Why the Good Samaritan Story Looks a Little Different in the NLT

I live in the Chicago area. And there are certain common experiences and ideas that are understood when I talk to fellow Chicagoans. For instance, when someone starts talking about the “Ike” without any further explanation, I know they are talking about a highway that goes into the city from the west. It’s also called 290. It’s always busy (even at 3 am), and there will be a backup around the Austin exit. This is context that I just know because it’s part of my everyday experience.

I’m sure you have places and things in your life that don’t require additional explanation for listeners who share common experiences, places, activities, etc. This was true in Bible times as well. When Jesus spoke to the crowds, some references he made were simply “understood” because they were part of the everyday lives and shared experiences of his audience. But for us, who aren’t Jews living in a Roman dominated world, what was common knowledge can easily get lost in the centuries of separation and cultural differences.

This is an area where meaning-based translations are extremely helpful. Meaning-based translation views and translates the words of the Bible text through the lenses of the Bible’s contexts—culture, politics, geography, literary genre, and other elements of common knowledge for the original hearers. Accounting for the ancient contexts in translation ensures that the translated text’s meaning isn’t as likely to be missed by readers today who aren’t experts in the Bible’s world. As one of our translators says, “We’re not just translating words, we’re translating worlds.”

We received a great question about a choice the NLT translation committee made when translating the story of the Good Samaritan.

Question: When I checked Luke 10:30 in the NLT, I saw that the victimized man was described as Jewish. I saw that the ESV described him as just “a man.” Interesting. So I went to my online parallel Bibles and found that all the versions except NLT describe him as “a man” or “a certain man.” Is there any particular reason why the NLT identifies him as Jewish?

Answer from Mark Norton, member of the NLT Bible translation: This is a good question, and it does involve contextual interpretation, not just a simple argument from the wording in the Greek text. In a sense, it doesn’t really matter if the beaten man is Jewish. And as he lay there by the road, it would have been hard to tell if he was or not. But there are some reasons to presume that Jesus (and his listeners) had in mind that the beaten man was Jewish, and this presumption does strengthen the force of the story a good deal, especially for a Jewish audience.

Jesus was telling his parable with a radical surprise in it, and that surprise was clearly racially loaded. His listeners would have assumed that a traveler on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho was almost certainly Jewish. Why? The Jerusalem-Jericho road was the primary route Jews used to travel between Judea and Galilee. The reasons for this were various—the route straight north from Jerusalem, though shorter, led through Samaria (where Jews weren’t welcomed and didn’t feel safe), and it was a rough, mountainous route. The alternate route (and the route most taken) went east from Jerusalem to Jericho, then north up the Jordan Valley. The road between Jerusalem to Jericho was fairly mountainous too and it did make the journey longer, but then the journey north to Galilee followed the Jordan River, which had a good water source the whole way and was relatively flat.

The number of Samaritans on the Jerusalem-Jericho road would have been few. If they wanted to go to Jericho for trade, they likely would have taken one of their own roads to the Jordan and traveled the Jordan Valley south to Jericho, avoiding Judea altogether. The Samaritan hero in the story would have been an exception to the rule.

The other reason for assuming the wounded man to be Jewish is that Jesus didn’t identify the race of any of the first characters in the story—until the Samaritan. Here is the radical surprise in Jesus’ definition of the term “neighbor.” The person who culturally and historically had every reason not to stop was the one who in the story stopped to help the wounded man. If the wounded man had been a Samaritan too, it would have undermined the truth that Jesus was teaching, and no one would have been surprised at the attitudes of the Levite and priest, who might easily ignore a wounded Samaritan.

The BTC scholar team (and other commentators support this) believed that identifying the wounded man as Jewish was supported by the historical, geographic, and literary context. When translating the meaning of a text with clarity from one language to another, translators are forced to weigh contextual concerns along with the grammatical. Clear translation doesn’t only involve simple grammatical equations. This is clearly the case here. After close review, the BTC scholars saw the best equivalent for the literal “a certain man” to be “a Jewish man.” It is what the original listeners would have heard Jesus saying as he told the story.

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 4

“‘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.'”

Then Jesse told his son Abinadab to step forward and walk in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, ‘This is not the one the Lord has chosen.’ Next Jesse summoned Shimea, but Samuel said, ‘Neither is this the one the Lord has chosen.’ In the same way all seven of Jesse’s sons were presented to Samuel. But Samuel said to Jesse, ‘The Lord has not chosen any of these.’ Then Samuel asked, ‘Are these all the sons you have?’

‘There is still the youngest,’ Jesse replied. ‘But he’s out in the fields watching the sheep and goats.’

‘Send for him at once,’ Samuel said. ‘We will not sit down to eat until he arrives.’

So Jesse sent for him. He was dark and handsome, with beautiful eyes. And the Lord said, ‘This is the one; anoint him.'” 1 Samuel 16:7-12, NLT

David: Profile from the NLT Study Bible

David is one of the monumental figures of biblical history. His reign was a high point in God’s plan for Israel, and it had great and lasting significance.

David was born in Bethlehem as Jesse’s youngest son; his lineage is traced back to Judah (Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Chr 2:3-15; Matt 1:3-6; Luke 3:31-33). At the time, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites, and large parts of the Promised Land were still occupied by foreign people, most notably the Philistines. God would use David to complete the conquest of the land.

As a youth, David was a simple shepherd, watching his father’s sheep (16:11; 17:15). His life took an unexpected turn when the prophet Samuel came to Jesse and anointed David as the next king of Israel. However, David’s kingship was not initiated by a coup or an assassination. Indeed, David became a faithful servant to King Saul. David first entered Saul’s service as a musician, playing songs that soothed Saul’s tormented soul (16:14-23). This service anticipates David’s role as the composer of many of the psalms. The youthful David also helped Saul by famously defeating the Philistine champion Goliath in individual combat (17:32-51). This victory anticipates David’s role as a victorious military leader.

Although David was loyal, Saul grew deeply suspicious of him, and David had to flee. He was able to escape with help from Saul’s own children, Jonathan and Michal. David led a virtual kingdom in exile. He had a standing army of 600 men. The prophet Gad and the priest Abiathar were also with him, providing direction and guidance from the Lord.

God’s long-suffering patience finally ran out with Saul, and Saul was killed on the battlefield. Yet it was still not easy for David to establish his rule over all Israel. Judah immediately proclaimed him its king, but at first the northern tribes chose Ishbosheth, a son of Saul, to be their leader. Ishbosheth was not a powerful or good leader; he only stayed in power because of the protection of his father’s military leader, Abner. However, Ishbosheth foolishly insulted Abner, so the general helped turn the kingdom over to David.

As king over a united Israel, David proceeded to solidify the kingdom. He and his men captured Jerusalem from the Jebusites and made this central city his capital. He also expelled the remaining Philistines from the land. He then brought the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. David wanted to build a permanent temple to God in Jerusalem to replace the Tabernacle. God denied this wish, but he showed his love for David by entering into a covenant with him that established his descendants as a dynasty (2 Sam 7).

David’s life soon took a turn for the worse, however (2 Sam 11–12). At a time when he probably should have been on the battlefield with his army, he was lounging around on the palace roof. He saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba taking a bath. He wanted her, so, like a Near Eastern despot, he took her. She became pregnant, and his attempt to cover up his adultery failed. In a desperate attempt to keep things secret, he had her husband, Uriah, killed. But not even a great king like David can keep secrets from God, and God sent his prophet Nathan to confront David. David repented (see Pss 32, 51), but the consequences of his actions plagued his family and the rest of his reign.

From that point on, David’s family fell apart. David’s son Amnon raped his half sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:1-14). Her brother Absalom then murdered Amnon (2 Sam 13:20-22, 28-29). Absalom later created a civil war as he tried to steal the throne from his father (2 Sam 15–18). Another son, Adonijah, tried to take the throne from David by having himself proclaimed king while his father was still alive (1 Kgs 1:5-10). But David was able to muster enough strength to ensure that Solomon would succeed him (1 Kgs 1:28-40). David died, Solomon was proclaimed king, and David’s long dynasty began (as promised in 2 Sam 7).

David’s successors rarely measured up. Only rarely did his descendants lead the nation to worship God faithfully; the united monarchy did not even outlive Solomon. In the centuries that followed, the descendants of David ruled only Judah in the south. Finally, the kingdom of Judah was destroyed. Never again did a descendant of David reign as king in Israel.

What, then, of the promise to David that “your throne will be secure forever” (2 Sam 7:16)? The NT points to Jesus. He was the descendant of David, and God proclaimed him the Christ, or Messiah—the anointed king (see Matt 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; Mark 10:48; 11:10; 12:35; Luke 18:38-39; 20:41; John 7:42; Rev 5:5; 22:16). The life and rule of David foreshadows the messianic reign of Jesus Christ, which will last forever (see Luke 1:33; Rev 11:15).

Look inside the NLT Study Bible

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 3

“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!’

The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.’ Judges 6:14-16, NLT

Gideon: Note from the Africa Study Bible

The Israelites needed help. Because they had done evil, God handed them over to their enemy, the Midianites. The Midianites were so numerous and so relentless that they robbed Israel of its food and ruined their crops. The Israelite army that had previously been victorious over its enemies was now hiding in mountains and caves.

Then the Israelites cried out to God. His response to the distress of his people was to use the least significant person in the smallest clan of Manasseh to deliver them—Gideon. Gideon thought he was the lowliest of a lowly people, but God called him a “mighty hero.” God did not tell Gideon to seek help from Israel’s generals and strong men. Instead, God told him to use the strength he had (Judges 6:14). And God promised to be with him.

Do you need help? Do you think you are too weak to fight the battles you are facing? When we are weak and crushed by the enemy like the Israelites were, we must cry out to God for help. We should trust and depend on God just like Gideon did. God’s help is what we need. His power works best when we admit we are weak. When we recognize our weakness, we can find strength in God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Look inside the Africa Study Bible

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 2

“‘Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.’

But Moses protested to God, ‘Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?’

God answered, ‘I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.'” Exodus 3:10-12, NLT

Moses: Notes from the Wayfinding Bible

Moses escapes Pharaoh’s death decree and is adopted into the royal household. There he grows up, all the while knowing that he is a Hebrew. At thirty years old, embroiled in a murder scandal, Moses flees Egypt and settles in far-off Midian. He spends fifty years there herding sheep before God takes action, lights a fire, and calls Moses to be the leader of the Hebrews. It will require Moses to return to Egypt and face a new pharaoh.

Without his realizing it, Moses’ whole life had him trained for leading God’s people. He was educated as a royal prince in the palace of Egypt. He showed compassion for his own people and tried to help, but he failed. He intimately knew the desert land of Midian, where he would later lead the Israelites. At eighty years old he was well equipped to be a leader, but he protested again and again that he was not the right person. Sometimes God calls people who don’t think they are ready for the task. He sees potential that we can’t see, then strengthens us with his power.

Look inside the Wayfinding Bible

God Uses Unexpected People Reading Plan Day 1

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’ So Abraham said to God, ‘May Ishmael live under your special blessing!’

But God replied, ‘No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.'” Genesis 17:17-19, NLT

Sarah Personality Profile from the Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition

There probably isn’t anything harder to do than wait, whether we are expecting something good, something bad, or an unknown.

One way we often cope with a long wait (or even a short one) is to try to help God get his plan into action. Sarah tried this approach. She was too old to expect to have a child of her own, so she thought God must have something else in mind. From Sarah’s limited point of view, this could only be to give Abraham a son through another woman—a common practice in her day. The plan seemed harmless enough. Abraham would sleep with Sarah’s servant, who would then give birth to a child. Sarah would take the child as her own. The plan worked beautifully—at first. But as you read about the events that followed, you will be struck by how often Sarah must have regretted the day she decided to push God’s timetable ahead.

Another way we cope with a long wait is to gradually conclude that what we’re waiting for is never going to happen. Sarah waited until she was 90 for a baby! When God told her she would finally have one of her own, she laughed in disbelief, not so much from a lack of faith in what God could do, but from doubt about what he could do through her. And when she was confronted about her laughter, she lied—as she had seen her husband do from time to time. She probably didn’t want her true feelings to be known.

What parts of your life seem to be on hold right now? Do you understand that this may be part of God’s plan for you? God may give us something else to do while we wait. But sometimes what we need to do is trust God, pray for patience, and wait for his perfect timing.

Learn more about the Life Application Study Bible

How Can I Love Someone I Don’t Like?

We often think of love as a feeling, but if we look at Scripture we see love is a choice. Let’s get a definition of love from the HelpFinder Bible and then read what the Bible has to say about loving even when we don’t feel like.

Taken from the HelpFinder Bible

A healthy definition of love is crucial to understanding the central message of the Bible. According to the Bible, love is not confined to sexuality, and it isn’t primarily a feeling either. The Bible teaches that love is a commitment. As a commitment, love is not dependent on good feelings but rather on a consistent and courageous decision to extend oneself for the well-being of another. That commitment then produces good feelings, not the other way around. Jesus became the perfect demonstration of God’s unconditional love for us by laying down his life for our benefit.

Must I love other people? What if I don’t want to?

• JOHN 13:34 | “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”
• 1 JOHN 2:9 | If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is still living in darkness.
• JOHN 13:35 | “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
• 1 PETER 4:8 | Love covers a multitude of sins.
• 1 JOHN 4:12 | If we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Being a Christian comes with certain expectations, and one of them is that we will love others. Our Christian conduct is proof as to whether we love each other, and loving each other is proof that we belong to Christ.

How can I love people I don’t even like?

• 1 JOHN 4:19 | We love each other because he loved us first.
As you reflect on God’s love for you and receive it for yourself, you will grow in your ability to love those you do not like.
• 1 PETER 4:8 | Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.
Love is an act of spiritual maturity, based on the eternal significance of each person and on what God is doing in your life. When you learn to love the unlovable, you have developed the ability to see others as Jesus does.
• ROMANS 12:20 | “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink.”
Even if you don’t like certain people, you can still choose to do tangible acts of love for them.
• ROMANS 12:3 | I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves.
Before you are too quick to dislike or dismiss someone, remember that you, too, have qualities that others may find unattractive.
• MATTHEW 5:43-44 | “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!”
Only in Christ’s love can we love our enemies.

Learn more about the HelpFinder Bible

Loving One Another

Note from the Swindoll Study Bible

“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.” 1 Peter 1:22, NLT

A central command of the Bible is to love one another. As Peter turns to this command, he reminds his readers of some important factors that go into the deep love we should have for each other.

He knows that we need to develop unity and community in the midst of trials. What makes this possible? First, Peter speaks of purity of soul: “You were cleansed from your sins.” Second, me mentions obedience to the truth. Third, he calls us to a lack of hypocrisy: “Show sincere love to each other.” These things make it possible to pull together.

We are to obey the truth, not our inner urges or the counsel of others who would like to turn us against each other. We are to do away with ulterior motives and deal in integrity.

Look inside the Swindoll Study Bible