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Isaiah 40:21-31 1
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? 22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. 23 He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. 24 No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. 25 “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. 27 Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Background

So who is asking the questions? Is it God? Is it Isaiah? Chapter 40 is the beginning of the 2nd Book of Isaiah and separated by the 1st book by 150 years. Therefore, it is an excellent probability that a remnant, converted through the teachings of Isaiah are relating to others still captive, what they were taught by Isaiah. Most of us are told never to ask leading questions or to make sure our questions are open-ended. We are also told not to ask more than one question at at a time. Yet, here we have a series of questions, interspersed with teachings on the very nature of our God.

These verses tell us that it was God who created the world and  God has also created all that is in the world (see Genesis chapter 1).  We are reminded that nothing in human society is as temporary as political power. God can take it away in a moment. Nothing can ever compare with God’s power (verse 12); His wisdom (verses 13-14); His greatness (verses 15-17); His control (verses 22-23); His authority (verse 24); or His holiness (verse 25).

In Babylonian times, observing the heavens and tracking the stars was an important practice. The Israelites were captives of the Babylonians for several generations.  As a result, the practice became attractive to God’s people. They could see the bright stars but they could not see their God. So as a reminder, the verses restate that it was God who created the stars and remembers those stars all by name. So the God of Israel will certainly remember His own people, all by name too.

Because of the many generations of slavery and oppression, God’s people began to believe that their God has left them, thinking that God no longer cared about them. It is still a common experience today.  This, however, is not true. In fact, God continues to care about His people, especially when they suffer and will bring comfort and aid to them.

Staring at the stars can get people to forget the very character and nature of their God. Both God’s patience and his perfect knowledge are greater than human beings can ever imagine. God’s own strength is without limit. He is always ready to give new energy to weak and tired people who trust Him. That energy is a gift from God that will help His people to  find God’s ways.

Items for Discussion

  • Why is a question often an effective way to teach?
  • As the Book of Isaiah relates a series of questions from God to His people, what is God’s point that he is trying to make?
  • How do we, today, learn about the character of our God?
  • What are the questions that we should be asking our current generation?

 

Mark 1:29-39
29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. 32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. 35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Background

Mark does not use the name “Peter” until he finally gives the complete  list of the 12 apostles (Mark 3:16). Jesus gave Simon the name Peter when they met in Judea. John tells us that (John 1:42).

Peter was married. After the resurrection, he and his wife travelled together in God’s service (1 Corinthians 9:5). They told Jesus about Peter’s mother-in-law’s illness. Perhaps they were explaining why a meal was not ready. They may have hoped that Jesus would help her.  While normally, people who recover from an illness feel very weak after they have been ill, Jesus cured this lady completely. She was able to get up at once and she prepared a meal for them.

Jewish law stated that people could not carry their sick relatives on the Sabbath. The scribes said that to carry something was work.  Since the Sabbath ended when the sun set on Saturday, it was then that they brought their sick friends and relatives to Jesus. Here we have somewhat of an exaggeration.  Mark probably did not mean that all the inhabitants of Capernaum were outside Peter’s door. He meant that there was a large crowd.

Before we look at the rest of the verses, it is worthwhile to consider our beliefs when it comes to demons. The Bible describes them as beings that have invaded the innocent. What we know is that Jesus had power over demonic forces or demons.   In today’s language we modify the Biblical definition slightly by calling demons any source or agent of evil, harm, distress, or ruin.

Jesus would not allow the evil spirits to speak. They knew that he was the Messiah. Jesus did not want the endorsement of demons or evil spirits but wanted people to discover for themselves who He was. They could follow him for the wrong reason if they thought of Jesus as a political leader or only a healer. Jesus was the Messiah who came to this world as a Servant and would suffer to free them from sin.

After helping crowds of people, Jesus needed to pray to God in order to receive new strength and peace of mind. He also needed God to guide him. He must decide whether he should continue to work in Capernaum. He needed to know if it was right to move to other places. Simon and his friends realized that Jesus had gone. The people who were searching for Jesus probably hoped for more healing miracles. However, Jesus knew that His first task was to preach the good news He brought.  Jesus had come into the world to teach as many people as possible about God’s Kingdom.

Items for Discussion

  • What are the modern day demons that are controlling and destroying lives?
  • How can the Christian of today, repeat the kinds of healings that Jesus did in the world?
  • What do you think of the fact that Peter was married and yet, the Apostle who Jesus would build His Church upon?
  • What do you think we should learn from the fact that Jesus was praying for daily guidance?  On what types of things?
  • Where are your quiet places?
  • If Jesus always made time to invite people into His kingdom, then what priority must we place on also extending the same invitations?

Discussion Challenge

  • What does an invitation to God’s Kingdom sound like?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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