Challenge 10 God’s messengers

CONTENTS

 The story shown in bold is explored in full in the Big Bible Challenge book www.scriptureunion.org.uk/shop

 Stories in this challenge

Isaiah              Isaiah 53:1–12

Jeremiah        Jeremiah 1:4–10

Daniel            Daniel 6:11–23

Jonah              Jonah 1:15–17; 3:1–10

Malachi           Malachi 3:1,13–18 – 4:2

 

COMMON tips for this and every challenge

  • Always have a Bible in a child-friendly translation available, as you take the Big Bible Challenge. Even when the Bible verses are printed in the Big Bible Challenge book, find them in a Bible as well. This will help the child gain confidence in handling the Bible and become familiar with its size and number of pages.
  • Finding your way around the Bible can be a challenge in itself! Each reading from the Bible is shown in a certain way, like this:

Genesis 2:15–22.

  • Use the Index or Contents page of the Bible to help you find the book (or books) in the Bible for the readings in this challenge. In this example, the book title is ‘Genesis’.
  • Each book of the Bible is in chapters. In this example, the reading is in chapter 2.
  • Each chapter is split into verses. In this example, the verses are 15–22. In most Bibles, the verse numbers are printed very small.
  • Many of the challenges have five readings from the same part of the Bible, so use a bookmark to keep your place and it will be easier to find the Bible reading next time.
  • The Bible consists of many ‘books’ collected together and presented as one. See if you can work out what sort of ‘book’ you are exploring: is it history or is it a letter? Are you reading words spoken by a prophet or written as a song?
  •  Spend time looking at and chatting about the artwork in the Big Bible Challenge. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’
  • When you have finished this challenge, use the simple evaluation sheet [here: hyperlink]. Find out more online in ‘How does the Big Bible Challenge work?’

 

COMMENCE: your introduction to this part of the Bible

The prophets call God’s people to the wholehearted worship and single-minded obedience that he looks for and none of the prophets had an easy calling. Their role was multi-faceted and not for anyone seeking an easy life.

Isaiah gave hope to Israelites in exile with a promise of restoration, but he looks beyond to a greater restoration. God will send a Saviour to save his people. Despite being spoken 800 years before the birth of Jesus, we discover many of Isaiah’s prophecies fulfilled in his life. The figure of the servant in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 has occasioned much debate, but the New Testament tells us that only in Jesus do these prophecies come to complete fulfilment (Acts 8:32-35).

In Jeremiah we hear the call of God to a people who have forsaken him. God took this young man beyond his human ability, giving him the confidence to declare God’s warning plus his desire to forgive. We need to hear the pain and the longing that God expresses as he longs for his people to return to him.

Daniel had a fundamental commitment to developing his relationship with God no matter what the consequences. Whatever his role, he sought to serve his God, knowing that trust in him would be honoured.

Jonah reminds us that God’s nature is to forgive and the scope of his love is not limited by national boundaries. Although Jonah delights in God’s grace for himself, when it is shown to the Ninevites, he is far from happy.

Malachi, writing at the end of the Old Testament period, probably a little over 400 years before Jesus, touches on similar themes. Worship was still lacklustre, obedience to God patchy. And, like Isaiah, he projects the hope forward to a new age in the future. The Old Testament closes with a sense of longing and expectation.

CONNECT: the five stories in this challenge

In this challenge, you’ll meet 5 of many prophets whom God trusted to communicate his message to the people. Chronologically, these prophets span more than 300 years:

  • Jonah 770 BC was given a message for the people of Nineveh, which was the capital of Assyria, one of the countries that later conquered God’s people.
  • The other 4 in this section were all given messages for God’s people in the kingdoms of Israel – but at different times (the dates are approximate):
    • Isaiah 740-770 BC
    • Jeremiah 627-580 BC (Jeremiah lived through the capture of Jerusalem.)
    • Daniel 605–530 BC. Daniel was amongst those who were taken away from Jerusalem to live in Babylon. His family had been an important Israelite family. But he continued to worship God and stand up for what he knew to be true.
    • Malachi 433 BC. Malachi lived amongst those who had returned from exile to the land of Israel.

There are several ways that you could move through this challenge:

  • You could take each of these stories in the above order.
  • You could simply go through them in the order in which they are presented in the challenge (keeping in mind that the Jonah story is different from the rest because he is the only one whose message is not to the people of Israel). This is the order in which they appear in the Bible.
  • You might find it easier to begin with the stories of Daniel and Jonah since children are most likely to be familiar with these.
  • You could leave the section from Isaiah to the end since it sets the scene for the coming of Jesus in Challenge 11.

Whichever route you choose to take, begin by looking back at Challenge 8 to remind yourselves of how God allowed other nations to conquer his people because they continued to turn their backs on him. And yet, God does not allow Israel to disappear – each of the prophets mentions the hope that God’s people will be restored. Malachi’s message is to those who have returned to Israel after exile. He, and Isaiah, set the scene for Challenge 11 when God in Jesus comes to earth to save his people. 

CONSIDER: what this challenge means today

It might be tempting to get too involved with the detail and forget the over-arching themes of this challenge – themes that apply to our lives in the twenty-first century.

 

  • Consequences: because God is just, he will not turn a blind eye when we deliberately do things he doesn’t want us to do.
  • Repentance: even when we have put ourselves into a painful position because of our sin, God will always forgive when we repent.
  • Hope: right from the beginning, God’s plan was to send the person who would rescue us from the mess of sin that we can’t get out of.

It is this hope that needs to be a recurring theme throughout this challenge. In every section there is the assurance that God will act on behalf of those who are wanting to follow him. As you use the Big Bible Challenge book, you might like to highlight the promise of hope each time it occurs: Isaiah 53:11b; Jeremiah 1:8; Daniel 6:22; Jonah 3:10; and Malachi 3:17.

 

CLARIFY: issues that may arise from this challenge

Does God change his mind?

A child who is familiar with the whole of Jonah’s story might wonder how God sends Jonah with a message that Nineveh is to be destroyed – and then relents. Certainly this was a perplexing problem for Jonah, who clearly thought that God should destroy as he had promised. Jonah may have recalled Numbers 23:19 – ‘God is no mere human! He doesn’t tell lies or change his mind. God always keeps his promises.’

What Jonah did not understand is the heart of God. God always responds to people who are genuinely sorry for the wrong that they have done. He always chooses to forgive when this happens. It is not that God changed his mind. The people of Nineveh changed their minds – and God responded in the only way he can, as a God of love and justice.

This is also the context for any questions that might arise from the warning of judgement to come at the end of Malachi. There are two sides to the character of God and people make their choice. God acts with love and compassion to all who choose him, but cannot withhold judgement for those who refuse.

 

COMMUNICATE: talk with God

For many hundreds of years, God sent messengers, his ‘prophets’, to speak to his people. Sometimes they had encouraging messages, but often they spoke unpopular messages, which were difficult for the prophets to pass on to the people.

Ask your child to think about how we can hear from God today. Say that God speaks to us through the Bible and also through those who teach us at church, school and at home. Help your child to make a list of those who tell them about God. Pray for each of them by name, that they may listen to God and pass on his messages faithfully.

Remember that you, as a Bible Coach, are one of those people. Pray for yourself and ask God to help you listen to him and put into practice what he says.

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